I had the pleasure to attend to a couple of workshops in Limerick on Saturday taught by the inimitable Carol Murphy. I did my 200hr teacher training with Carol last year in Gort, Co Galway. She runs teacher trainings and workshops all over Ireland and abroad, which you can dip into at Green Lotus Yoga.
The workshops were held at Power & Flow Studio on O’Connell St in Limerick. This is the studio of Sara Cory, my fellow countrywoman, and Kev O’Riordan. Sara and Kev are not too shabby at the ol’ workshops themselves, and I would highly recommend trying out the Budokan classes or workshops, especially if you are interested in the hybrid of yoga and martial art movement.
Anyway, back to the workshops. Simply put, they were great. Carol is one of Ireland’s experts in anatomy as it relates to movement, specifically in terms of yoga but also as it relates to functional movement. Not only is she a great yoga teacher but a yoga therapist as well, with a special interest in myofascial release. As a result, her cues are spot on and can really unlock spaces in the body that you never knew were there. So it is appropriate that the first two and half hour workshop was called ‘Space’. The basic idea behind this workshop was to open out the hips and work towards splits (Hanumanasana).
No one can build up to a pinnacle pose like Carol. It is a pleasure to watch this unfold, especially now that I am teaching and know how challenging it is to create a truly pertinent sequence. It’s like an artist who lays down layers of colour to create a rich masterpiece. Or maybe it’s more like the conductor who starts out with the flutes, bringing in the brass and strings to deepen the sound and finally allowing the tympani to round out the whole symphony.
Carol started us out with an easy flow. When I say easy, I must add that there were no complete beginners in this workshop. A certain level of ability and mobility was required. This wasn’t your everyday sun salutation kind of flow. Carol worked in Lizard (regular folk call this a lunge) and Anjaneyasana and standing splits and switch kicks, aiming to warm us up well and get the hip area fired. We then moved into the deeper poses with the pinnacle being Hanumanasana, spending a good while on Pigeon variations as well. Carol provided lots of adjustments and variations to accommodate those already able to do the pinnacle pose, and those working towards the pose at different levels.
I have to admit my slight obsession with doing the splits. I blame it on America’s obsession with cheerleaders during the time I was growing up there. Those of you who know me know that I am the farthest thing from a cheerleader. But I still covet being able to do the splits. However, the crucial lesson for me has been realising that the work to get into splits is much more important than the final pose. I found this out after injuring myself trying to do the splits a few years ago (an audible ‘pop’ was heard). I was extremely sore and range of motion diminished for a full year. That was a seriously important lesson for me and my enormous ego. I now subscribe to the ‘get over yourself’ philosophy (though sometimes I still catch myself trying a little too hard – old habits are hard to break). God knows what else I would have done to myself if I hadn’t learned this lesson.
What Carol offered were key techniques for building up to Hanumanasana. She mentioned the value of repetition and the different types of stretching (static, PNF or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation). I believe that if I had been aware of these techniques a few years back I would have saved myself a year of trouble after my run in with trying to force myself into splits. I think this is a great lesson for teachers: to try and create appropriate and effective build up to poses in a very conscious way.
The second workshop was called ‘Treats’ and was mainly focused on backbending. We had a good laugh about three quarters through the session when Carol reminded us that these backbends are delicious treats for ourselves. A collective groan went up in the room. Backbends can really bring out what I call a good-bad feeling. You know that feeling. It hurts so good.
Again, we started with a flow to warm ourselves up. Carol brought the attention to our spines, extending before bending. She 0pened out the shoulders and the chest (often the source of stuckness in backbends – and most definitely true for me). Carol gave me two great adjustments. I was delighted to see the photo of myself being ‘urged’ into mermaid (see the old mermaid below – that’s me! Please note Carol smiling and me crying…). I never thought I’d look like this as my upper body is super tight. But Carol has the knack of knowing how to push me over (or through) that wall of stuck.
This brings me to the other adjustment she did for me. It was Dhanurasana done with a partner. You are on your belly with you knees bent and the partner sits on your feet. You have your elbows up over your head with the intention of trying to work the hands back (eventually, next century maybe) to reach your feet. My partner was Amy who I trained with last year and is great craic and she’s a strong woman. But I think she felt like she was going to break me. She asked Carol to help her out. Yikes! I was scared. I feared for the life of my super tight shoulders. But Carol knows bodies and she knew that I was able to do a lot more than I thought I could. The backbend was so intense that tears actually sprang out of my tear ducts. I have proof because Amy saw it happen.
Backbend workshops always unsettle my emotions for a short time. But after an hour I felt calm, clearheaded and very energetic. I have to admit I was sore as well but I think that had a lot to do with my very irregular practice recently as much as it did with the delicious intensity of the workshops.
One of the great things about going to workshops is meeting other yogis and yoga teachers, likeminded folk. I had a lovely lunch and met some new people who I hope I will meet again.
Carol’s workshops are outstanding. She’s worth traveling for, especially if you are a yoga teacher in need of some inspiration, or a yogi / yogini looking to ramp up your practice.
Yin Training with Josh Summers is next on the agenda. This is part of Carol’s 300hr Teacher Training in Gort, Co Galway. Watch this space for my journal entry about this yin training. I am really looking forward to it. It should be just the antidote to my super yang Saturday!