Yogi Kick

Yoga and Martial Arts World


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What does Ashtanga Yoga teach us?

On the other day, I asked my students what do they thought the goal of Ashtanga Yoga was. What do you think? Every day, you unfold your mat, you do the same set of postures and then you carry on with your daily life. What is it teaching you? Why do we do this? Well, it is certainly not just making you physically stronger and more flexible!

It is teaching you Patience and Faith. Every time you surrender to the practice, something changes inside you, not just physically, but at a much deeper level. Every time you practice, and you see your practice improving, it gives you confidence and faith to carry on. However, other times you practice and it does not go so well, but that teaches you to be patient.

And then with patience, and faith comes Courage. Practicing new challenging postures takes courage. But when we do them, again something at a deeper level clicks and tells you “hang on; I have the courage to do what needs to be done”.

And when the time comes, courage helps you to do what you need to do to be happier and find your inner peace. Finding inner peace is like finding a good restaurant, you walk that extra mile to have that delicious dish, right?! The same for Peace. Once you find that inner peace, you will want it all the time, and you will get rid of what no longer is serving you!

So the Ashtanga Yoga practice is basically giving us the transferable skills to have a more balanced and peaceful life.

Keep practicing everyone!

Namaste.

parsvatonasana

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Ashtanga Yoga Led class – Easter Special

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of Yoga developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the city of Mysore, South India. Ashtanga Yoga means “8 limbs” in Sanskrit. It is a reference to the 8-part method of practice in the ancient text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In Patanjali’s method, the practice of asana or postures is one part of a comprehensive discipline of self-knowledge and care including physical and mental training.
Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic method which links postures with breath and concentration techniques that aim to give practical experience of the 8-limbed method.
In this Easter Special class we will go through the Full Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga. This class is open to all levels of practice.
When?
Good Friday (30th March), 9-11 am
Where?
YMCA, Queen Anne House, Gonville Pl, Cambridge CB1 1ND
How can I secure my place?
You can book the class here.
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Trikonasana A (Utthita Trikonasana)

Trikonasana A, the Triangle Pose

Typically you get into this posture from the front of your mat and inhale as you step out to the right. The distance of your feet should be about three feet apart or a bit shorter (about one leg’s length). This means that if you are taller you are going to have a longer distance and if you are smaller you are going to have a shorter distance between your legs. Don’t try to emulate someone with a different shape that you are. If you are tall and try to copy a short person, you will end up with a stance that is too narrow.

Then allow the external rotation of the hip-joint, the belly draws in and find the access point into the empty space of the pelvis. Find the right hip-joint and external rotate it, then pick up the right heel and spin the ball of the right foot to external rotate the hip-joint. Draw the belly in as deeply as  you can and begin to pivot into the empty space of the pelvis, moving into an external rotation. Avoid pivoting from the ribcage and avoid arching the back, but keep the navel drawn in. Keeping your hips stacked as much as possible, avoid turning your hip too much forward and instead find that line between the hips.

Then dangle your right arm. If you feel that your arm is too far away from the ground you have two options: the easiest option (number 1) is to reach the hand down to the shin. If when you press down on your shin you feel a pain at the back of your knee, maybe you are pressing down too much, so reach down and grab a block and press your hand down on the block as your foundation (option 2). Depending on how far down you go to the ground you can put the block either up or sideways. However, don’t go down too far too soon and let yourself get comfortable pivoting into the hips. If you can reach the floor easily, hold the right big toe with two fingers (option 3).  Take the left arm up and spread the shoulder blades away from each other.  The full expression of the Trikonasana pose is when you hold the big toe and gaze to the left thumb. Press down on the base of the big toe, base of little toe and heel, and keep the belly drawing in. Take five breaths and then look down, inhale to come up and do the left side, spreading the arms, turning the right foot in and then pull in the left hip-joint as you spin the left foot. The alignment is between your left heel and the arch of your right foot. Exhale reach down to the big toe (option 3),  the block (option 2) or the shin (option 1). If you hold the big toe, avoid rolling your body forward or resting too much on your thumb; instead,  keep the wrist active and align yourself up so that you can press down through the base of the big toe; belly sucked in. Take five breaths and then inhale to come up,  spread the arms to the side and exhale back to the front of the mat (Samasthitihi).

In the video you will first see the full expression of the pose and then option 2 using the block. Remember to let yourself go in stages and never jump the game. If you need to use the block, fine but treat the block like a training wheel, just like you use to learn how to ride a bike, not like something you would use forever. Those of you that come to my classes know that I tend not to encourage the students to use the block for too long, and  that is because progress happens faster without using props, but using modifications with the own the body (in this case grabbing the shin). Also, some people tend to get addicted to the block, and can get stagnated in a modification for a long time. So, although students are advised not to rush too soon, they are encouraged to work with modifications using their own body.

 


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Padangusthasana and Padahastasana

Padangusthasana and Padahastasana – Deep Forward Fold
First standing poses of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series
How to come into the postures:
Padangusthasana:
Move the feet hip width appart and enter this pose in the same way you enter the second position of Surya Namascar A, by pivoting from the hips, sucking the belly and finding the inner space of the pelvic floor. Lift the knee caps up and find the basis of the big toes, the little toes and the heels. Pressing down to the ground and with the arches of the feet lifting. Then, hollowing out the pelvis, slowly bringing the hips back and pivot down as you exhale. Wrap your fingers around your big toes. If you cannot grab your toes, you can bend the knees and then straighten the legs. Pause for a moment and suck the belly in, then inhale and straighten the arms and then as you exhale fold forward sucking the belly in. Dangling the arms to the sides and bringing the crown of the head to the matt. Gaze at the tip of the nose. Only if you are proficient at the forward bend, slowly pull the rib cage in and fold in a little bit more.
Padahastasana
These two postures are linked together. Inhale straighten the arms and place the hands under the feet, and then again inhale, lengthen, belly sucks in, and exhale fold. You can also bend the knees if you need.
Don't pull on the hands and don't pull on the feet, instead focus on strengthening the legs, bringing the belly in and relaxing the back. The key in the forward bend is relaxing the back. Once the back is relaxed you can engage the ribs and pull the ribs in to fold forward.
Then if you want to take the posture to another level, bring the sacrum forward. It will feel that you are falling, so suck the belly as deep as you can to balance.
Then inhale look up, exhale release the hands and inhale come all the way back up and bring the feet together into Samasthihi.
These are the foundational forward bends of the practice. If you need to bend your knees a litle to reach the feet, no problem, just put your effort into straightening the legs as much as possible.

 


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Is Yoga and Martial Arts compatible?

You may be thinking, Yoga and Martial Arts, how does that work? I often get this question or the strange look when I tell people that, being a Yoga teacher, I also practice Martial Arts. It is like if Yoga and Martial Arts were incompatible!

The truth is that all these techniques, Martial Arts, Tai Chi, Yoga, they all have one thing in common: to lead the mind into silence! The goal of Martial Arts is not learning to kick and punch to hit other people! The goal is to bring the mind into quietness through the warrior’s path, by stimulating the values of a warrior such as honour, honesty and courage.  The goal is to be able to control the mind under stressful or dangerous situations. By controlling the body we learn to control the mind! Each tradition has developed its own variations which aim at stilling the mind and reaching the silence within. Performed in the context of different faiths and techniques, they may differ in expression, but in essence they are one. Without the philosophy and spirituality, Martial Arts become a meaningless and dangerous sport!

Tai Chi is moving meditation and Martial Arts in slow motion. I find it quite funny that some people seem to get shocked when we say that Tai Chi is Martial Arts. It is like if they felt disappointed as they thought that it was something else, something magic maybe.. However, Tai Chi is the purest Martial Art, and by practising those movements in slow motion they become a lot more refined and when used in the context of a combat, each movement is perfect and effective  – “one step one kill”.

But also the beauty of Tai  Chi is that we  learn to work with the energy of our body, what we call the “Chi”. And it is the slow movements and the energy created within the body that brings the calm and quietness in the mind. This is the part that people like to hear: Tai Chi with its slow movements brings serenity and inner peace, like magic. They don’t like to hear it is a Martial Art, but it is indeed.

All these different techniques, either Yoga, Martial Arts or Tai Chi they are methods of purifying the nervous system so that it can reflect a greater  degree of consciousness.

So, in answer to my original question, yes, Yoga and Martial Arts are perfectly compatible.

Yogi Kick teaches PaKua Martial Arts, Tai Chi, Yoga and AcroYoga.

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Surya Namascar B

Sun Salutation B
Surya Namascar A is the easier sun salutation in Ashtanga Yoga. Surya Namascar B is harder as we integrate two extra movements:
Utkatasana, the chair pose and Virabhadrasana, the warrior pose.
Start nice and slow and then as you become more familiar with the movements bring it up to its full pace.
Tune into the inner body and feel the heat and fire 🔥 created in your body. If you’re sweating, great! Feel the sweat, don’t resist it and breath deeply!
Traditionally, the Ashtanga practice includes five Surya Namascar A and three Surya Namascar B.
As you begin to move into a consistent practice of sun salutations you will become familiar and will start to memorise these movements: nine movements in Surya Namascar A and seventeen in Surya Namascar B. Once you do, you will find a sense of peace and tranquility and the practice will begin to be yours!