Darby Day 1

Last night I had the first of my three workshop sessions with Darby. I almost didn’t go because I’m sick with a cold again. I felt miserable in the morning but as the day went on I felt progressively better and decided to go.

It was very different from Lino’s workshop that I attended last November. Lino’s was basically a led practice with stops every now and again to focus on common problem areas. Darby on the other hand is going through this asana by asana (and in the case of Surya A and B, breaking down the asanas into their components) and focusing on establishing correct alignment and ways of opening (for example in the hips or lower abdominals) to get further into the pose. It’s about details – the correction position of hands and elbow in Chatarunga or the state of the neck in Up Dog, or the hands in Down dog for example

There was also a lot of subtle insight on the ‘focus’ of an asana – for example, a reminder that in getting into Ardha Badha Padmottanasa, it’s about ‘the hip not the knee’ – the point is to open the former to facilitate the pose and to not put undue pressure on the knee in doing so.

Whenever a question came up about really little details, (for example somebody asked how far up do you want to take the hands in Parsvottanasana), he asked, rhetorically ‘What is the fundamental point of any asana?’ Answering himself, he said, to open the body (and particularly the chest) facilitate breath. Breath is the key, the fundamental premise being that asanas are ‘meditation in motion’.

On a lot of details he said ‘it depends’ on the teacher. He frankly admitted that poses vary from teacher to teacher. Jenna mentioned she got corrected by Lino in Prasarita Padottanasana C when she went down palms out (and so did I). Darby actually insisted on us doing it palms facing in. Why? Because if we’re still relatively new (meaning we’ve only been doing this for a matter of years rather than decades), then palms in makes it easier to open the chest and facilitate breath.

I enjoyed it and am looking forward to today’s marathon 5 hour session. Darby’s a Montrealer but originally an Aussie – one thing I found remarkable for somebody who’s been teaching so for so long and has his own shala is how hard he found it to bring the class to heed him; we’d break up into pairs to try stuff and after a while there’d be chatter, the way there is when you’ve got a room full of 30 people the overwhelming majority of whom are femail ;-P . Then he’d go, very softly ‘ok now if I can just get your attention for a moment, I’d like us to move on to….’ and nobody would pay any attention. One such time I was sitting on my mat cross-legged leaning back on my arms, waiting for whatever was coming next and after trying to get everyone to listen, he just looked down at me and we both started laughing. It was odd. Because when the focus was on him, as when he had us gathered around for a demonstration, the room was totally captivated by him – you could hear a pin drop (and you had no trouble hearing his softly spoken slightly-Aussie voice).

Beyond the yoga. It was my first time in the Danforth Yoga Sanctuary – I’ve been to their College location a few time (in fact I got introduced to Ashtanga there). It’s a classic urban North American shala – nice to look at – the typical wood floor and very old exposed brick – and looking out from it’s corner unit to the constant stream of traffic of a major thoroughfare (in this case Danforth Avenue). It’s on the third floor juxtaposing oddly with a Brazilian Steak restaurant and bar on the second floor.

At the ground level entrance, one set smoke cigarettes (presumably after devouring their meat) while another set pass through carrying mat bags and Nalgene bottles. A brunette acknowledged me as I walked past her and into the building (with mat bag and Nalgene bottle), and after I passed, I heard her say to her friend, ‘I feel bad now. I’m eating meat and smoking cigarettes and he’s doing yoga’. I looked back and we both laughed.

I also have to take back some of the things I said about yoga ‘fashion’. Go ahead. It’s hard on my yoga and on my drishti in particular, but damn it’s all so good to look at. For someone who practices at home 99% of the time, the inside of a typical yoga studio is freakin’ revelation.

As for myself, I found yesterday that, while I don’t care what I wear practicing at home (since nobody sees me), as much as I’d like to, I can’t replicate that indifference in a public space. I looked a bit scruff in my black Old Navy shorts and ripped orange T. I want new gear.

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