I had the opportunity recently to attend two classes/workshops with Brock and Krista Cahill. The married California-based yogi team ventured to Omaha for a weekend of workshops at my home studio and made a BIG impression. I have to admit, before they came I had preconceived notions about the class and the teachers in general. I had heard a little about their style from other yogis and the online videos gave me the impression that their practice was mostly about showmanship and tricks. I am happy to say I was very wrong.
Both classes started with just natural discussion and interaction. There were no prepared speaches or diatribes, just getting to know one another. I was impressed immediately that they quickly learned the students names and became invested and rooted in our yoga community. When they talked about their practice it all made sense. Brock and Krista both put a lot of focus on handstands in their physical practice. From an outsider this can look like just tricks and show boating, but to hear them talk about it I realized that it was about focus and intention. It is very easy to allow your mind to drift during yoga, but with handstands you have no choice but to constantly focus on and scan the body for harmony and of course, to breathe. All of your energy has to go toward that practice, there is no room for partial effort, partial thought or partial presence.
The classes were incredibly challenging and loaded with lots of arm balances and core work. During the classes both Brock and Krista were extremely encouraging in their feedback, queuing and assisting. At one point or another they assisted every yogi in the room. My favorite assist was from Brock in scorpion. For scorpion you find handstand and then bring your heart forward, reaching past your hands, then you bend the knees and reach the toes towards the crown of the head. It is very easy (like most backbends) to collapse into the small of your back as you try to achieve a deep backbend. I was playing with this pose at the wall, when Brock placed his hand on the top of my feet allowing me to press into them, alleviate the low back collapse and extend the spine for a fuller backbend. It felt so good and so secure!
Spending the weekend upside-down in handstand made me think about my practice differently. First, the alignment, I've never focused so much on pulling my front ribs in and resisting my arms forward, but I have found more integrity and focus in my practice. Second, I realized that those ultra-challenging poses and transitions do keep me incredibly focused on alignment, breath and intention. And finally, the weekend was very humbling and encouraging. I left feeling like there was still so much to learn (and very, very sore). Later I found out that the classes we participated in were “level 1”. Maybe in ten years or so, I'll be ready for “level 2”.
If you have the opportunity to practice with Brock and Krista, I highly recommend it. You can follow these gravity-defying yogis on Facebook (BrockandKrista Cahill) or via their websites below.
Photos courtesy of Mary Clare Sweet.