I think for many of us at the Confluence who aren’t from Australia, Dena Kingsberg was a new, unfamiliar name among the senior teachers. When I set my schedule prior to San Diego, I decided on doing led primary the first day before jumping into mysore, and I picked “Spirit of Breath” as my Saturday workshop since I’d already taken David Swenson’s “Flying, Floating and Handstanding” workshop in Austin before. I’m so glad I set my schedule this way because both the Friday led class and “Spirit of Breath” introduced me to my new yoga teacher girl-crush.
Dena has this airy, feather-light way of speaking that makes you lean in to catch and absorb every word she says. It’s hard to imagine her being “strict” and “mean” as she described her earlier years of teaching before she had children. Her observations are deep. Her emotions are raw and real. This is a woman who has a clear connection with her inner self.
When I walked into the led primary class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The opening OM filled the room and vibrated in my ears. And while we had a hiccup starting the chant, not all realizing we were to do call-and-response, Dena kindly stopped us, apologized for the misunderstanding, and we began again. With call-and-response, we got our first taste of her lovely voice. She doesn’t just chant. She sings. It was beautiful.
Her workshop was part pranayama and part chanting. We did a few exercises that helped us to really fill the lungs with breath – into the bottom of the lungs, the sides of the ribs, the back of the heart and all the way up through the chest. This was all done while holding uddiyana and mula bandhas, which Dena described as sucking in the burrito gut and trying not to pass wind. I liked the idea of filling the lungs fully. I found that I spent a lot of time counting the lengths of my inhales and exhales when meditating, but that always leaves me in a panic and short of breath. I think this visual gives me more to work with.
The chanting part felt foreign to me at first. I don’t do a lot of chanting as part of my practice in general, so I was almost having out-of-body experiences while listening to and observing everyone else around me. But I was glad to be a part of it. Like I said, Dena’s voice is lovely.
My favorite part of her workshop might have been when we closed with 8 Om’s, all done in our own time and at our own length of breath. The sound carried and moved like waves as people ended one Om and started the next with quite a bit of overlap.
And finally, while I’m blubbering all about my new teacher crush, I wanted to point you to her piece on parenting on her website, which is so beautifully written. Being a new parent (does 18 months still count as new?), not only does this responsibility over another human change my view of life, but my yoga practice has changed and impacted so many different aspects. Dena wrote, “Daily practice will make us fitter parents.” I agree wholeheartedly.
She was definitely one of the greatest and most pleasant surprises about the Confluence. And if given the chance to practice with her again, I absolutely will.