Frank Jesse Workshop Reflections

Yarraville Yoga Centre has a long tradition of inviting Senior Advanced Iyengar Yoga Teachers to lead workshops for the local yoga community. Each teacher brings a fresh take on the teachings of Mr. BKS Iyengar drawing on their own extensive practice experience and teachings received over 30-40 years, at RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute) in Pune India.

Frank Jesse is one such teacher, from Griffins Hill in Western Victoria. He was the founder of Clifton Hill Yoga Centre who  trained the four founders of YYC as well as both Peter (2002) and Geraldine (2008) of our current group. This past weekend he focused on back bend practice.

Backbends take us in to the unknown. We explore parts of our body that we are less familiar with, and we bend in ways we are unused to and thus feel vulnerable.

Simpler backbends such as Up-faced dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), camel (Ustrasana), cobra pose (Bhujangasana) help us to move past our fears and become familiar with moving the spine in new ways.

The key to avoiding injury in back bends is to work intelligently and listen to our body, to work evenly and not overdo it.

Flexible shoulders, upper back and hips are essential to doing backbends. Frank started working on the opening of the chest by lying over a brick drawing thoracic spine and C7 vertebra in to the body, extending the neck, opening and lengthening the armpits, differentiating between movement of shoulder blades and action of the upper arms.

With preparation and guidance, backbends are uplifting and energizing. They give us back the energy we put into them, leaving us feeling invigorated and happy.

Inversions practice was a key component of the workshop with attention to chest broadening and opening, side body extension and spine extension from tail bone to nape of neck. We worked to the wall, with chairs, with partners, with bolsters to experience integration of various actions of hands, feet, arms, legs, thoracic spine and shoulder blades, and hips.

Hip opening and frontal thigh lengthening by forward cross leg position, lying down hero pose (Supta Virasana) on varying degrees of height under chest or under sit bones, and a variation of Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) facing wall coming from kneeling bent back knee to full extension. Then preparation for Eka Pada Rajakapottasana by bending back leg knee to hold ankle with extended arm as in bow pose (Dhanurasana) and drawing heel towards buttock with bent elbow as in frog pose (Bekasana).

Franks signature warmth and good humour, “Did I say one more minute?” inspired students to stay longer in a difficult pose, to try different use of props, to go deeper into experience of the bow pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) and courage to drop legs back to floor in Setubhanda from Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand). Confidence and competence were key ingredients.

“…emotionally there is no chance for a person who does backbends to get depressed or distressed”

We all felt invigorated by the practice and inspired by the firm but gentle teachings of Frank, whose own practice demonstrates elegance and grace. We look forward to his next visit.