Each retreat brings new teachers, students and a brand new energy. January in itself beckons a new start and it seems that Purple Valley is always ready to greet new batch of guests and teachers with friendliness and of course, fresh flower displays.
Starting the year in Tim Feldmann’s company was not only a gift, but a true learning experience. Kino’s presence in the Shala half way through the first course was a buzz of excitement and enthusiasm, but the background energy felt constant and smooth.
Although I believe that one should spend time with one teacher, there should also be space to seek for understanding, and keep the learning process open on a constant basis. All teachers are passing down to us -students- what they have learnt, and this can be a real gift, when one is open to receive. Not all teachers choose to impart their knowledge with as much generosity and kindness, but those two certainly did….
During these two weeks with Kino and Tim, the focus was on guiding students – regardless of level or ability- and time was always given for a helpful tip or adjustment to take each person where needed into the practice.
Kino has had a lot of bad press for being such an exposed personality in social media, but in real life, she has a discreet, quiet and yet strong presence: none of this hyper-energized online persona came through in the shala. Her knowledge is incredible and she is constantly giving and sharing information. That is quite a feat for someone who travels so much and knows that she will probably not come across some of the students again. Many teachers choose to give a little and leave people figure things out for themselves, on their own and in their own time. Not here. Kino is wholly implicated in each person’s practice, and does like to push people beyond their limits – or rather the limits they have imposed on themselves. She is a firm believer that one can do more – try harder, do better- and why not? This may be the best place for most people. There are no commitments, work to get to, nothing to rush to nor stress about, so this is THE place and time where each student can give their full energy to the practice. It is a nice thing to observe and experience. I would never bother to try tricky arm balances so many times (either because I know what is coming next or I feel I should save myself for the rest of the day) or try tic tocs with so much dedication. But after all that efforting, she also clearly reminds everyone, that yoga is not a destination but a journey to be experienced and explored….
Some words that would normally make me cringe (‘squeeze the abs’… ‘really pull that foot…’ etc.) stayed with me for a long time and worked more effectively that anything else. Simplicity and clarity. Full stop.
On the other hand, Tim’s humorous, soft and yet incredibly strong presence simply seemed to make everyone feel at ease and relaxed. So relaxed in fact, that one would actually want to believe the impossible could be possible. His adjustments were (are) intense but with a gentle, deep slowness that makes one able to relax into postures. After all there is no rush.
One thing that struck me and stayed with me until now, was the act of softening into asanas, whether tricky strength-based postures or simple, basic, asana. By relaxing fully and allowing the body to sink into a position, this creates space for the muscles and bones to align themselves, to then allow the asana to reveal itself in its fullest. Let’s say you are trying to lift your entire body off the floor in Kukutasana – before using brute strength to push up, try sinking down and then lifting up.
So this all mostly stayed with me – even after returning to a cold climate with less leisurely time to practice – as did the attempt to find that soft balance between effort and subtle steadiness in asanas… As Tim rightly noted, one of the keys is “not getting tricked by the relative toughness of these asanas and to approach exclusively from effort, but balance the abhyasa and vairagya” (practice and non attachment… Yoga Sutras, 1.12 – 1.16)
His focus on the slowness of the breath and his consistent slow counts when adjusting, is a reminder that all ‘this’ is a breathing, energetic practice. Perhaps it is also a way to soften that stiff, muscular shield we all tend to build and carry through our lives and on our mats.
All in all, it made practice a whole lot more interesting. Becoming aware of the vastness of things to work on and to let go of. Going deeper into poses without a sense of rushing and hardening. Softening and allowing the body to fully release into postures.
Both their inspiration and full commitment to the practice of yoga as a whole transpires and really makes them shine as teachers. Beyond Kino’s seamless glow there is deep knowledge and faith. Beyond Tim’s playful character, there is immense love and desire to share.