John Renshaw led a Kumbhaka course at Lekdanling on the weekend of the 6th and 7th of January 2018. So soon after the New Year festivities, I was unsure how many people would be in the mood for some intensive practice but, to my surprise, the course was well attended by 14 aspiring yogis.

John has been studying and teaching Yantra Yoga for more than 30 years and is also qualified in Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and many other complimentary therapies. John’s insight into these various healing modalities gives him a unique advantage in that he’s able to combine diverse approaches and frameworks of knowledge while still maintaining a sense of clear focus when communicating the most essential points.

We began the weekend looking at the theoretical and anatomical aspects of Kumbhaka. After a bit of warming up, we went on to apply both the canonical and more ‘tailor-made’ techniques for identifying the physical components of the practice. The tailor-made techniques are a great example of John’s ingenuity and insight into the deeper principles of Yantra Yoga, since they can be accessed more readily by those of us who may find some of the traditional techniques difficult or even impossible to apply with our physical conditioning.

On the second day, at the request of a practitioner or two, we spent a nice stretch of time on some hip-opening exercises to make sitting practice a little easier. I was expecting these to be pretty hardcore and unforgiving but afterwards my hips and psoas muscles felt better than ever before so I’ll definitely be adding these to my warm-ups from now on.

The whole weekend went smoothly but we underestimated the serving time (and maybe the portion sizes!) in a local hipster foodery. We were a bit full after lunch and pressed for time, so we had to tread lightly with some of the practices to ensure that we had covered everything.

Two days is really not enough to cover all the bases but, at the very least, we all left with a much clearer idea of our relative limitations and which components of the practice we need to work on.

I’ve actually been on this course for a few years running and have managed to fill in different theoretical and experiential knowledge-gaps each time. In other words, I’m quickly running out of good excuses for not applying the practices, but I’m sure Samsara will find me some soon!