Workshops are the best thing, like Star Wars

I love going to workshops. You get to spend way more time picking apart certain aspects of yoga practice, you get to do lots of fun partner work, and you come out feeling elated and exhausted and like you’ve done something super productive with your day. But the best bit – better than playing around a learning new things, is the chance to do partner work with other really enthusiastic people. I was at an arm balance workshop yesterday with Finlay Wilson, a brilliant Forrest yoga teacher from Heart Space Dundee. Go check his studio out if you’re in Dundee – it’s got a beautiful upcycled-church feel going on.

Arm balances: the shoulder/arm connection

We did a lot of shoulder stuff – working on using the whole shoulder girdle, recruiting all the muscles around the scapula and the chest to take the stress out of the traps. That was all wonderful – and I really felt the difference going into things like turbo dog and dolphin before fine-tuning crow. Then he hit us with the transition from crow to handstand, using the help of a partner to take some of the wieght out of the hips as you press up.

Arm balances: the balancing and not-balancing bit

It was fun to play around with arm balances, to set my legs free from their usual daily grind of stomping around. There were moments – brief moments – when in my head I could almost feel like my legs were floating around from balance to balance. Then I’d think ‘oh wait did that just happen, is this happening?’ and BAM it wouldn’t be happening anymore. It’d just be me face down in a sweaty heap on the floor. It’s a bit like when Luke Skywalker is training with Yoda and he almost gets his X-wing out of the swamp, then he looses concentration and everything crashes down around him. Something like that. Actually, more like this:

‘I swear this was a handstand a minute ago.’

And the really really good bit:

But even more fun than all the crazy arm balancing, better even than seeing Finlay’s effortless demonstrations (he makes it all look completely possible, like the most natural thing in the world is to slip your head behind your leg and float into a wrapped-up arm balance) – better than that was working with Bill, my partner for the morning who hadn’t been doing yoga for that long – a couple of months, maybe a year. Nevertheless he was giving everything a try, boldly going where he hadn’t boldly gone before (wait are we killing Star Trek with yoga, too, now?), and not letting the fact that there were quite a few teacher-cum-students in the room to put him off with flexible hamstrings. The best thing about the whole morning was helping him into handstand – his first handstand – and seeing his enormous smile as he came out of it. He felt seven foot tall, he said, with this big grin and a glint in his eyes.

Which is why I love teaching. Or rather, I love helping. I love practising, too, but helping other people practise is a whole other level of awesome. And that’s why workshops are like the best thing, because you do a bit of both.


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