Monday, April 4, 2011

Mysore at Kino's workshop, Part I: Kapo drama

I am sitting here in Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, waiting for my connection. There's more than 2 hours to go before my flight, so I thought I'll take the time to blog some more.

I'll share some observations here from my mysore experience at Kino's workshop this past weekend. A lot happened during the mysore sessions at this workshop (which is why this post is only Part I; Part II is coming soon :-)) There were two sessions, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Which is really cool, because I felt that I got to work with Kino more than during the Chicago workshop back in October, which had one mysore session.

Generally, I felt more grounded and at ease this time around, probably because: (1) Ashtanga Yoga Richmond is a much smaller studio than Moksha Yoga in Chicago, so there wasn't so much of that kind of crazy energy that you get when you have, like, a hundred people trying to do mysore at the same time. Things somehow felt more relaxed and laid-back here (being in the South helps too, I guess), (2) I have already worked with Kino previously, so there wasn't such a strong drive to impress (for more details about this, see my guest post on Claudia's blog detailing my experience at the Chicago workshop).

Anyway, on both days, I did what I usually do in my home practice (full primary and second up to pincha mayurasana). The really nice thing about having practiced by myself all these months is that my pratyahara (ability to withdraw my senses from the external environment) is much stronger than before. For most of the practice on both days, I just went through whatever I was doing, with a few adjustments from Kino here and there. Mostly, I was able to focus on my breathing and drishti, and not get distracted by what others were doing around me.

Except when people around me were experiencing kapotasana drama. To be sure, kapotasana is a very challenging posture, and most of us experience drama of some sort or other when we get to this posture in the practice. But I cannot help thinking that some people's kapo-dramas are more obvious and, uh, dramatic than others'. At this workshop at least, it seems that there were a few cases where the kapo-drama was so obvious and dramatic that I just couldn't help noticing it (or maybe my pratyahara needs more work...). So even though it's kind of sacrilegious to be talking about one's observations of other people's practices during mysore, I'm going to just report what I couldn't help observing despite my best pratyahara efforts. This is what happened with at least a few Ashtangis during mysore this weekend when they got to kapo:

(1) Ashtangi gets to kapotanasana, and basically freezes there in a kneeling position.

(2) Kino comes by, and asks, "Kapotasana?" Ashtangi nods or says yes.

(3) Kino then asks, "Have you tried getting into kapo by yourself?" In more than a few cases, the Ashtangi would say, "no". In one case, the Ashtangi actually said, "I've never ever gotten into kapo by myself before." In this particular case, the Ashtangi in question was right behind me, so I think my pratyahara failure can be excused :-p

(4) Kino: "Why don't you try getting into kapo by yourself a couple of times first? Then I'll come back and help you." Ashtangi agrees (like she has a choice, right?), and gingerly tries kapo a couple of times on her own.

(5) Kino comes back, and assists the Ashtangi in kapo. I couldn't see what was going on, but I can certainly hear the drama. Basically, this consists of Kino assisting and giving verbal instructions ("bring your hips/pelvis forward"), and repeating in a deeper-than-usual and powerful voice, "Crawl your fingers, crawl... keep crawling." Sometimes, this is also punctuated by grunts on the part of the Ashtangi. On one occasion, I can almost swear that I heard giggling (Gee, it's actually possible to giggle in kapo? I guess I'm learning something all the time...)

I know this is kind of evil, blogging about other people's kapo dramas. Actually, I have my own kapo dramas as well, but most of it is in my head. Personally, I try to externalize as little as possible; in my personal experience with postures, the more you externalize your internal dramas, the bigger and worse it gets.

I later learnt from Kino that her policy of adjusting in kapo is that she insists that people give the posture at least two tries themselves before she steps in to adjust. The reason, she told me, is because she believes that ultimately,the strength and flexibility to do the posture needs to come from within. If people get adjusted all the time, they won't have opportunities to cultivate this strength and flexibility.

Which means that I never got any kapo adjustments from Kino. On both days, I simply hung back and opened my chest for a few breaths until I could see the tips of my toes in the edge of my vision, which is basically the same thing that I do during my home practice. And then I dove and got my heels. Which means I didn't have to do kapo a second time. In fact, on both days, Kino barely even noticed that I did kapo. On the first day, for instance, as i was preparing for Supta Vajrasana (the posture immediately after kapo), Kino asked, "Have you done kapo?" I said yes. And then she asked, "You grabbed your heels?" I said yes again, and smiled in a way that probably came across as being more than a little smug (ego...).

From reading this post, you might easily get the impression that my mysore experience at this workshop was very effortless. Well, this is far from the truth. In an upcoming post, I will relate my mysore struggles in this workshop. Stay tuned. 


  1. Loved the inside scoop on mysore practice. I am no where near Kapo right now but hear from others their aversion to it. :)
    Have a safe flight home.

  2. Really interesting. I have never done a Mysore classes before but sounds like it'll be really different from a led class. I am really curious what a kapotasana adjustment feels like. Does the teacher grab you in the mid back and deepens the arch, while pulling your hands towards your heels? Right now I can only grab my toes and my head cannot really touch my feet. But I'm not at the intermediate series yet so I guess I'm not supposed to be working on it :P

  3. ha ha pratyahara needs more work, I don't think so, classes like this can be distracting! give yourself some credit!

    Sorry you did not get kapo adjustments...

    by the way there is a whole lot of pictures in Facebook that Kino posted from her Richmond workshop, I thought I saw you ....

  4. Thanks, Flo. I hope I am not spreading aversion to kapo by blogging about it. But I really think there is no other posture that evokes such strong emotional reactions in practitioners.

  5. Yyogini, in the standard kapo adjustment, the teacher grabs the student's hips and pulls the student's hips forward while encouraging the student to keep walking the feet towards the heels at the same time. So even with the teacher's assistance, the posture should require a lot of work on the part of the student. I have heard that some teachers are more aggressive in adjusting, and basically crank the student into the posture. I'm not sure I agree with this kind of adjustment, but I guess whatever works for people works...

    You should try a mysore class if you can. It will change your relationship to the practice :-)

  6. Yyogini, in my previous comment, I meant to say "walk the hands towards the heels", not walk the feet towards the heels. It would be really something, wouldn't it, if somebody could walk their feet towards their heels? :-)

  7. Thanks, Claudia. Wow, Kino works fast, doesn't she? Well, if you see an Asian guy with glasses in those pictures, it is me. I was the only Asian guy there. Now I'm really curious about how I look in those pictures... Gee, do I have to break my no-Facebook rule just to see a picture of myself? This is so wrong... Maybe you can, uh, smuggle those pictures to me via email? [evil smile]

  8. I was there! At the front desk, on Fri night. I didn't get to do the whole workshop due to some financial issues but was able to do Primary Led and one Mysore. Nobel, I think I was 2 mats over from you on Sunday Mysore. I had my own Kapo drama, nothing terrible. I did it once, but she made me do again, grabbing my heels before I hit the floor. I hadn't been practicing that way because of recent sacral issues. It was nice to have someone encourage me to get back into the swing of things. I finished early and watched your leg behind head postures. Nice work!

  9. What's even more interesting to observe is some people's kapo anti-drama. At my shala there is a lady who does the kneeling procrastination you observed for a bit and then does a lame kapo with supta virasana exit. She will then gossip with her friends (who are finishing their practice) for a good 10 minutes, casually giving it a few more tries, and finally doing a beautiful deep kapo. The strange thing is that she gets away with it, since our teacher is very strict for the most part and I'm sure I would get scolded right away for kapo repeats.

  10. Nadine, were you the person I handed the waiver of liability form to at the front desk before the beginning of led primary on Friday night? And you were two mats away from me on Sunday mysore... Trying to recall how you look like... drawing a blank. Sorry, too many things were going on at the workshop. Should have carried a hidden camera somewhere on my body. That way, I can replay it and see :-) But it was great meeting you (even though I cannot recall how you look like!).

    Nice dropback picture! Yes, sacral issues are a pain (literally). I recently went through a period of SI joint pain too. At one point, I had to scale back my practice to primary only. Working on broadening across the lower back and creating more space for the sacrum to sit more comfortably between the ilia in forward-bending postures like Janu Sirsasana is very helpful for this condition.

    Also, working on opening the front body more in backbends and trying to grab the heels from the air instead of crawling towards them on the ground is also very healing for the back. Not sure why this is so, but it's helped me a lot.

    I hope you don't mind the unsolicited advice. But there's already so much suffering around, it's good to try to reduce it whenever we can.

  11. Interesting, Dhr Bibberknie. Kapo anti-drama... Well, I suppose whatever works for people works for them. Maybe some people need to do what that lady does in order to psyche themselves into kapo mode. And maybe your teacher realizes that. I know if I were to do that, I will definitely lose momentum.

  12. Hey Nadine, are you Nadine Stepp? I was just looking at the list of teachers on Ashtanga Yoga Richmond's website, and saw what I think is your profile. Very cool! If that is you, that is...

    Gee, I still don't really remember seeing that particular face in the picture. Please don't take this personally; I'm pretty bad at remembering faces that I'm not introduced to :-p

  13. Yes, that's me. There are a bunch of photos of me that turned up on the facebook album - I'm getting adjusted in danurasana, and am wearing green halter/burgundy capris in primary. I was running around crazy chasing my daughter Fri. night, so didn't have a chance to really do anything other than say hi and ask for liability waivers. Of course I don't mind advice, everyone learns something different along the way that is of value and worth sharing. I have been dealing with the sacrum stuff off and on for as long as I can remember - before Ashtanga even. I have been working with a rolfer for the past three years and it has been very helpful, especially since he's an ex-ashtangi rolfer. Nice to unknowingly meet you too. I just put the puzzle together when I popped in on Claudia's blog and saw your entry on the blog widget. I have read your blog before and enjoy it. I tried to blog but I have accepted that I'm a failed blogger. Perhaps when the kids are older. :)

  14. Hey Nadine, it was nice to unknowing meet you too, although I still think it is too bad that we couldn't have met knowingly :-) I actually met somebody else at the workshop who has also read my blog; she recognized me by my name. But well, I guess these things happen (or not); short of wearing a badge that says, "I am Nobel. I have a blog that you may or may not have read." I don't think there is any way to control these things, is there?

    I don't think you are a failed blogger. You just have to devote more time and energy to your family right now. I'm sure the right time will come for you to enter the blogosphere :-)

  15. This is too funny! I love how you talk about "Kapo drama"--I have yet to see or hear anyone else describe it this way. Whenever I hear grunting during a Kapo adjustment, or even notice someone stalling (on their knees, "praying to God"), all I can think--and it's been this way for well over a year--is "Dramotasana". HA! I can't help it. I wish I could make it stop, but no such luck. :-)

  16. That's really funny, 'on their knees, "praying to God"'! Well, then again, maybe not... it feels kind of evil to be laughing about other people's suffering...

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