Judith Richards’ Workshop – A Students Experience

I recently attended a course at Yog-Ganga with the Chanchani’s where we were asked the question, “What is the purpose of every single asana that we do?”

A few muttered replies came from the floor, from those who were brave enough: “To strengthen the body … to become more flexible … to quieten the mind … to cure (this that and the other).”

The reply came: “Wrong! Those are bonuses, but every asana that we do is to strengthen the spine so that we can sit for pranayama.”

What better way to drive this message home than SWLSIY’s workshop with Judith Richards in April this year?

We gathered for a civilised 10am start in a sunny and airy hall in Long Ditton, sat on our mats and waited for what was in store – and it was a treat. We spent the morning deconstructing and reconstructing back-bends – which I think I should now call back extensions. The deconstruction involved an analogy of the structure of a back extension. Judith compared the spine to bricks cemented in place to build an archway. As we paid attention to each vertebra being held in place, the spine therefore being strengthened, rather than just dropping back, we were able to go deeper into the poses, appreciating the extension and the strength in equal measure.

What better way to drive this message home than SWLSIY’s workshop with Judith Richards in April this year?

I remember well the first time I realised that backbends involved hard work for the front thighs – and this workshop held a similar surprise as we focused on the back of the thighs extending up to meet the paraspinal muscles. Judith also gave a beautiful analogy as we extended our spines, quoting Geetaji, of the “sternum as a leg for the head”. Starting with uttanasana, followed by parsvottanasana, we progressed through to ustrasana and a fair few invigorating urdhva danurasana’s before a break for lunch.

When we resumed Judith took a good look around the room and clearly thought that we still had a lot more work to do before our spines were strong enough to sit for pranayama. She let us off the hook and we enjoyed two hours more of restorative poses and pranayama – supine! The whole day was a treat and we were very lucky to receive individual attention and expert tuition. A very big thank you to Judith from us all.