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My home practice…Flight School

I walked into Flight School with Raghunath at Living Yoga yesterday with two feet solidly on the ground and within, literally, minutes I was upside down in an assisted Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) and learning some arm balance transitions that made me feel like I was breakdancing.

Raghunath is professor of flight, and Flight School is his famously popular anti gravity workshop for bona fide asana geeks. Advanced asanas are dissected, while experiments with variations and transitions are taught. You will catalyze your own dynamic signature practice, melt your fear, push your edge and realize your potential, no matter what level you are at. Take your practice to its highest. The workshop will be interlaced with chanting and stories from classic Indian texts; rooted in down to earth spirituality, and instructions for living a contemporary yogic lifestyle. Fasten your seat belt, Flight School is in session.

Living Yoga workshop flyer

My longest handstand to date does not even last one breath, but the workshop description welcomed all levels of practice so I eagerly signed up.  I have been focusing on my handstand practice at home over the last few months, so it was perfect timing- as so many things in my life end up being.  The workshop was all that was promised and more.  I have NEVER done so much upper body asana “work” in my life.  He started by announcing that the only way you will learn to practice handstand without the wall is to practice handstand without the wall…duh!  So, no walls.  Just great demonstrations and assists coupled with incredibly skilled sequencing and teaching.  He taught several different arm balance transitions (no sage left behind…Vasisthasana, Astavakrasana, Koundinyasana, Visvamitrasana, etc.) and broke them down for all the levels in the room.  We entered handstand from every direction possible, played with different leg variations, and somehow got ourselves to Chaturanga and a vinyasa each time.  We ended with Sirsasana (headstand) II, III, IV (I didn’t even know some of these variations existed!).  Then, a three minute Sirsasana I, while he played harmonium and chanted to Radhe and Govinda before settling us into Savasana.  Raghunath has such an everyday guy way about him, but then he starts to share his wisdom and you soon realize he is anything but.  There was a lot of humor and fun, but a clear purpose and intent to his words.  YOGA.

Here are my top 5 yoga pearls of wisdom from Raghu (in my own words):

  • Surround yourself with people and experiences that raise you up, avoid those that bring you down.
  • It’s easy to “like” those who are “like” you and who “like” you, learn to “like” those who are not and do not.
  • Look people in the eye.  Very rarely do we actually make the effort to look at people.  For some, it may even feel uncomfortable to make eye contact.  Make the connection.
  • Two men were walking down the street when they heard another man screaming, “help me, help me!”.  As they approached the screaming man, they saw that he was holding on to a large tree.  He called to them, “help me, help me,  I am stuck to this tree!!!”.  They looked at each other, then looked back at him and said…  “Then, let go”.  A beautiful story to clearly illustrate that often we perceive things to be holding us back or keeping us down, when really we are holding on to them, all we need to do is let them go.
  • The difference between forcing vs. working really hard at something is EGO.  If ego drives you to want, you are forcing.  Don’t force.  Just practice.   It may take hours, days, or years.  It doesn’t matter.  Don’t force.

My pre-flight school handstand

I will spend lots of time in my home practice putting all of this knowledge into action and see what happens.

I hope to be flying solo (no walls, no assists) soon!

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