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Tristana Ashtanga Yoga Workshop at Shanti Cape Town (Review)

November 2, 2012

Review: Tristana Ashtanga Yoga Workshop.

On 20 October 2012 I went through to Ulrike’s new studio location of Shanti Cape Town on Roeland Street in Cape Town. Ulrike, who started Shanti Cape Town a few years back has just moved around the corner from her old premises to this new bigger studio space which is dedicated to the practice of ashtanga yoga. The workshop I attended was called Tristana, which I hadn’t yet come across in my yoga studies. Apparently tristana can be seen as a system or a state of three components or parts. In ashtanga yoga these three components are breath, dristi and asana.

We started off the workshop exploring the first part, the breath, in a seated position, the classic ujjayi breath, victorious breath, where we discussed the idea of this breath being a practice on its own and not incorporated into an asana session. We also discussed and worked with the three bandhas, exploring the location and use of mula bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha when working with ujjayi pranayama, and then how to incorporate these, (except for jalandhara bandha), into one’s asana practice when one starts to move dynamically. In other words, how to incorporate a smooth sounding breath, (not ujjayi breathing), with mula bandha and uddiyana bandha when moving through a vinyasa.

We also looked at the idea of dristi, the second component, which plays a pivotal role in ashtanga yoga. Dristi is a gazing point which helps to keep the mind focussed when practising. In ashtanga yoga there are 9 such points, nasagrai, tip of the nose; broomadhya, third eye; nabi chakra, navel; hastagrai, hand; padhayoragrai, toes; parsva dristi, to the right or left; angusta ma dyai, thumbs; urdhva or antara dristi, upwards to the sky. Michael suggested that even though these are actual focal points, one should try and gaze without strain and imagine the gaze coming from the ears instead of the eyes so that it becomes more of an internal dwelling place than external.

We then looked at the idea of asana, where we spent just over half an hour moving through part of the ashtanga primary series, being cued on where to focus our dristi, how to engage the bandhas and move with the breath smoothly from one asana to the next.
Even though it wasn’t a workshop where we spent two hours practising the ashtanga primary series, the time we spent, sitting and working with the breath and locating the bandhas and discussing how to use them in the practice of yoga was definitely well worth it as it can take one’s practice to a much deeper level. A perfect workshop for those students who are looking to take their practice further and a way of bringing more awareness to these yogic concepts into our daily life.

My deepest gratitude to Ulrike and her team for inviting me to join this workshop and for sharing their time and abundance of knowledge. It definitely was a super workshop and I hope that you will be holding more in the future.


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