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50hour Rocket Training with Steve Pyka

A week ago I had never practiced Rocket Yoga, today I have a totally unexpected 50hour Rocket Yoga certification.

How did that happen?

I was passing through Antigua for a couple of nights and on Wednesday evening I asked a friend if she could recommend a class for Thursday morning. She recommended 9am Rocket II with the wonderful Lauren, co-founder of Shakti Shala Antigua, and I went.

Just before the class I saw this flyer and by the end of the practice I wanted to know more about the training.

The practice with Lauren was challenging and I couldn't do everything but I loved it. It included arm balances I hadn't tried in a while and what felt like a million chaturangas (high plank to low plank for any non yogis reading).

At one point we were rolling back and forth (from navasana to halasana and back up to Ubhaya Padangusthasana while holding the toes and I felt my lower back tweak. It didn't feel good but I knew it was because I wasn't activating my bandhas (engaging my core muscles in plain english).

Despite my inability to do all the poses and the sudden lower back pain, I asked Lauren if she could tell me more about the training, and if she thought it would be ok for me to take part despite having only ever practiced Rocket once, with her.

Lauren was very warm and encouraged me to take the training and what she said about Steve convinced me to sign up.

About Steve

Lauren shared with me that Steve was her teacher and that he was very unassuming.

As soon as I met Steve I got what Lauren meant and over the few days of the training I fell in love with his playful soul.

Steve is funny, warm and very knowledgeable. He learnt from Larry Schultz - the founder of Rocket Yoga, who studied with K. Pattabhi Jois - founder of Ashtanga Yoga.

Although I never had the joy of meeting Larry, I sense that Steve wonderfully transmits the philosophy of Rocket Yoga, which I would translate as "practice as you want", which seems quite far removed from the strict Ashtanga approach to Yoga.

Although the Rocket sequences include many advanced poses (arm balances, splits and funky transitions), the "practice as you want" approach feels welcoming to yogis like me, who despite having practiced for many years, do not regularly practice challenging asanas (postures).

My yoga journey

I was initially inspired to try yoga for the physical aspect of the practice.

At the time, I went to the gym every day, lifted weights and didn't stretch much. I looked good if I may say so, but I didn't feel so good. My body felt tense but my 6 pack was worth it to me then...

When I started practicing yoga I enjoyed the challenging classes most. I needed to push myself before I could surrender in the final relaxation - shavasana.

I would always try advanced versions of poses in class, even if I was tired and the pose felt like a struggle. I heard the teachers say 'listen to your body', but my mind's voice was louder than my body's.

I would also spend time outside of practice to try some of the poses I wanted to 'master'.

That was over 12 years ago now and things changed A Lot in the meantime.

Through regular practice, I developed a healthier relationship with my body. I started enjoying slower and more gentle styles of yoga (Hatha, Slow Vinyasa and Yin) and the more I studied the philosophy of yoga the less I wanted to push myself on my mat.

8 years ago I started meditating and since I have become devoted to this aspect of the practice. Just a couple of months ago I took part in a 17 day silent retreat during which I reconnected with my love for Hatha yoga. During the retreat I became very aware of how the sequence of postures prepared my body and made meditation more easeful.

"This kind of yoga is not for me"

There was a time when I thought more physically challenging practices were 'less yoga' than other forms of yoga.

Who thought this..? My ego of course. The ego is relentlessly looking for evidence that it is better or worse than others, but most importantly special.

I smile at these beliefs now as I have a deeper understanding of Yoga. Yoga means union and I now believe that it does not matter so much how we get to this 'state' of Oneness.

Asana in Sanskrit simply means seat.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali - known as one of the "Fathers of Yoga", only dedicates 3 of the 196 sutras (aphorisms) to talk about postures and all he says is:

  • 2.46 'sthira sukham asanam' - The posture (asana) for Yoga meditation should be steady, stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable

  1. sthira = steady, stable, motionless

  2. sukham = comfortable, ease filled

  3. asanam = meditation posture (from the root ~as, which means "to sit")

  • 2.47 'prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam' - The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite.

  1. prayatna = tension or effort (related to trying to do the posture)