AMY’S WEEK WITH SHIVA REA AND DEMETRI VELISKAKIS – Prana Danda Intensive
I am so impressed and proud of Yoga Sol’s teachers for their commitment to advancing their education – making tremendous effort in time, energy and resources to train with today’s greatest instructors. Our Amy Valdez (who has been with us at Yoga Sol from the first day we opened), has just returned from Prana Danda Vinyasa intensive training with Shiva Rea and Demetri Veliskakis at Exhale in Venice.
Some of you may have wondered about those “sticks” that Amy has brought to Yoga Sol. They are called Dandas – staffs. I asked Amy to share a little bit about the Dandas and her recent intensive training. Interesting reading below! But to get the full experience, come to her classes – she usually brings them out at her Wed 7am and Friday noon classes.
The sanskrit word “Danda” means staff or club. We hear it in the words dandasana, staff pose, in which one sits tall with legs straight out front and arms along the side body and palms pressing into the earth. We also hear it in “Chaturanga Dandansa” which is lowering the body from a high to low push-up. In both of these poses the “Danda” suggest a long, strong straight alignment of the spine and limbs. Prana Danda Vinyasa is a unique practice created by yogis Shiva Rea and Demetri Veliskakis as part of the Prana Flow system. In Prana Danda we use a literal staff made out of modern day PVC pipe and rubber chair leg tips to grip the earth. The “Danda” is used both as resistance and support and as reference for alignment. But that only begins to suggest the creative potential of the “Danda”. When we free the danda from the ground the practice harkens to guardian disciplines of warriors from various traditions.
Two weeks ago I trained in the practice of Prana Danda Flow. On the first day we practiced for four hours. I certainly felt my body that day and the next when we had six hours of practice. For the next three days we talked more and moved less. By the fifth day we were quite familiar with the movements of danda flow and the last practice of training done in the circle of stones in Carol Canyon as video rolled felt as natural as the mountain we stood on.
Our teacher kept talking about the mind. I didn’t know he is mainly a meditation practitioner having spent hours in his seat at various meditation retreats. The danda, or staff, was a tool for meditation for him. There was deeper meaning to the movements, meanings that were hinted, at but were more deeply infused into the practice than I had realized. I went to the training expecting to learn more and more new, even “cooler”, moves. Even our teacher said, “The Danda is cool.” It gets people’s attention. When we walked from the yoga studio to the grassy knoll by the beach where we had outdoor sessions there was always at least one person who asked me what I was carrying.
The first day of “talking” our teacher shared writings from a Samurai Training Manual and various meditation texts. The coolness of the outer danda transformed to an awakening awareness of the inner danda. One of our first discussions was, “What does the Danda mean to you?” To me it represents my belief system. I came about this idea as a by-product of wanting to help my 11 year old son learn the importance of making good choices. I told him the danda represents what is right and that we need to hold on to what is right no matter how hard it is to do.
By the last practice the moves had not changed but the life inside me, my inner danda, had deepened and rooted. The movements were infused with wisdom and a greater desire to walk the righteous path.