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Backbend Workshop

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Recorded in May 2010 at Studio Bamboo in Virginia Beach, Virginia.There are three recorded sessions in this workshop including Menopause, Inversions and Backbends. This 3 hour session warms the body with Inversions and standing poses, concentrating on lengthening the torso and opening the chest and shoulders before delving into several backbends culminating in Urdhva Dhanurasana and Drops Backs. Included with this class is a 7 page pose list illustrated by Bobby Clennell.

The class is geared toward Intermediate and ongoing practitioners of Yoga and is not recommended for Beginners. The props required for this class are: A Wall, 4 Blankets, A Chair, A Strap and 2 Blocks. This is an audio recording, but please view our video playlist of poses from the workshop.

by: Beth Cholette
This 3-hour session is the third in the series of workshops recorded when Iyengar Yoga instructor Bobby Clennell visited Studio Bamboo in Virginia Beach during May 2010. When you order this audio, you will also receive a PDF file containing an illustrated pose list drawn by Clennell herself, a former professional film animator; this file provides a helpful supplement to Clennell’s audio instruction (although as noted further below, the illustrations are sometimes incomplete). In addition, at right you can find a link to more information about this series, including video samples from this workshop (to see all of the video clips available, you need to play the second video and then scroll through the mini images which appear below it). Clennell suggests that this workshop is intended for intermediate students, and during the class itself, she notes that backbends are not appropriate for beginners; this recommendation is further supported by the fact that Clennell mostly uses Sanskrit when cuing the postures. Finally, this workshop is prop-intensive: a mat, chair (ideally, a folding chair without a back), and free wall space are a must, and several blankets, blocks, and a strap may be necessary as well. Clennell has her students begin seated on folded blankets—she jokes that as an Iyengar instructor, she is “obsessed” with blanket folding. Once in a comfortable seated position, the group chants three rounds of “ohm” together before moving through child’s pose, down dog, and coming to standing. Clennell then does some brief focused work in standing forward bend to open the hamstrings. Next, Clennell states that she wants to do a “short” headstand sequence—this actually turns out to be a 5-minute hold of the posture, although Clennell notes that coming out of the pose early is acceptable. In addition, Clennell encourages the class to perform headstand using a channel, or thin blanket support of the head, a variation which she first taught in her Inversions workshop. Child’s pose concludes this sequence.For the next series, Clennell instructs her students to set up their mats lengthwise against the wall for Sage Marichi versions 1 and 3, using the wall to aid in the twist. This same twisting action is then used for revolved triangle (extended triangle is performed first). In what seems like a bit of odd sequencing, Clennell then cues several rounds of her own version of sun salutations. Following this series, she has her students stretch the thighs with half and full frog pose as preparatory work for bow pose/revolved bow. Another backbend, camel pose, follows. Clennell then takes the group through some shoulder-opening work, having some of the students lie back through a chair (pictured) while some practice cow-face arms. This ends Part 1 of the workshop at just under 1 ½ hours.Part 2 begins with continued shoulder work, including further exploration of cow-face arms as well as reverse prayer and use of a shoulder harness (pictured). The entire remainder of this section (52 minutes total) consists of preparatory work for upward bow using a chair at the wall. Unfortunately, none of these postures are illustrated in the accompanying guide, and given that the prop setups are sometimes complicated, it can be very difficult to follow along with Clennell’s audio instruction alone. As mentioned above, there are some video clips available on the iHanuman web site: the four video clips offered do cover sequences that are included in this section, yet Clennell teaches many variations which are not shown in these few clips.The last segment of this workshop (Part 3) starts with upward bow posture. This is an approximately 8-minute sequence in which Clennell provides detailed form pointers and encourages individual students to come up in different ways, including rising from bolsters if needed to provide extra lift. Following upward bow, Clennell leads the class through some brief preparatory work for drop-backs at the wall; as students finish, she has them perform a side standing forward bend as a counter-pose. Finally, with about 18 minutes left in the class, Clennell announces that it’s time to start quieting the body with half plow. Ironically, although the final two pages of the PDF file are devoted to half plow/shoulderstand, the version that Clennell teaches is actually not pictured, as she instructs her students to rest their thighs (i.e., as opposed to their toes) on the seat of the chair. After a long hold of this posture, Clennell brings the class into savasana for a final rest; she concludes with a brief lying twist before bringing the group back to seated to finish.Clearly, Clennell is a competent, engaging instructor, and I would be very interested in taking a live workshop with her. But I have to admit that I felt somewhat frustrated when trying to follow along with her audio instruction here. She tends to say things like “press your hands like this” or “move this way”—directives that simply do not translate well to the audio-only format. Her illustrations were very well-done and were definitely helpful, but still, they would have been more useful if they had been better synced with the audio. I think the best audience for this workshop would be intermediate to advanced yoga students who already have significant experience using props for backbends in class and would like to bring these methods into their home practice.
 

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