I had the pleasure of attending a yoga workshop with Sri Sudhir Tiwari at ashtanga.ie last weekend. Tiwari, visiting from Lonavala India, comes from a rich yogic heritage and is an expert in traditional yoga practice and Ayurveda, meaning that he is as versed on the ancient teachings of the gurus as he is on how it applies to modern living.
The shala was packed to capacity but quiet as I arrived for a full day immersion. In truth, it was a 3 day workshop but my schedule over the last few weeks had been hectic and I had to make do with just one day. To open, we started with a beautiful chant for Peace, which seemed fitting for the times we live in. Each of the participants was then invited to have their pulse checked to ascertain their Ayurveda dosha (or constitution) which determines what foods you should eat and with Tiwari’s guidance the type of asana (postures) and pranayama (breath) practise you should pursue. Having visited an Ayurvedic centre in India some years ago, I wished I had more time to have gotten a better assessment of the state of my doshas, over the three days, but alas time was against me and I had to make do with a partial reading. But the day was not in vain and there was still so much to be learned from this great master.
In a calm unhurried voice, Tiwari explained to us that in line with tradition, we should not hold poses for longer than possible and in addition we must try to breathe normally for the duration of the practice. We then completed a series of Sun Salutations, leg raises and shoulder stands before moving into a more intense series of poses for the back. These sequences included various holds in Lotus, Cobra, Snake, Cat and Cow poses, which were all great for releasing the block of tension in my back. Interestingly, Tiwari explained to us that the Lotus pose is unique in that the chin touches the floor instead of the forehead, which allows for the entire back to be relaxed as well as the lungs, giving instant benefit to any stored up stress in the body.
The day drifted on with an instruction in pranayama (or breath work), with a reminder to allow the breath to slow as it moves through the upper chest. Tiwari was also able to share with us some beliefs from ancient yogis about the function of the left and right nostrils for cooling and heating the metabolism. He urged us to consciously relax our foreheads while breathing as he gently explained that past emotions tend to come into the mind during meditation causing the forehead to tense up. This, in addition to a tendency to hold the abdomen in as opposed to relaxing the belly and letting it hang out, allows the breath be more natural and benefiting in the body.
To close, we then moved into a series of uplifting chants, before settling into a calm and beautiful meditation. A final prayer for peace rounded off the day with a series of 11 strong rounds of OM creating such a vibration in the room that I could feel it right into my heart. I left the workshop feeling calm and serene, with a deeper awareness around the functioning of the breath and a renewed commitment to integrate more back postures into my practise along with a reminder to not furrow my forehead! OM.