Managed to drop off to sleep at 2.30am - I have realised that I am on extremely civilised UK timings, going to bed at 9pm UK time and getting up at 5am, but pretty hopeless Indian time. My body felt luxuriously good after Raya's brilliant class last night - you arrive in Pune feeling like a Weston Super Mare donkey after all the travel and leave feeling like a thoroughbred racehorse - all legs and muscles with a proud chest and marvellous deportment! Perhaps not the glossy coat though, the pollution here is terrible at the moment.
Kept it low key today, a quiet practice at the apartment - the yoga chair and wooden bricks we bought last time we stayed here had survived the stripping that the maid does after we leave and we were able to buy a couple of blankets and a bolster extremely inexpensively at the institute shop which is run by Raya's lovely parents.
Pranayama class this evening was packed to the rafters, mat to mat (though not half-mat to half-mat as it was one memorable occasion that I attended in 2014!) When I arrived for class Geetaji was there with a group of onlookers, giving a lesson to correct some teachers who had been assisting in the therapy class immediately beforehand. I couldn't hear clearly what was being said but there were a few laughs and she was clearly in good form. So heartening to see.
The teacher Navaz who came in to teach the pranayama was new to many of us and there was a slight sense of apprehension in the room as we all wondered what was to come. We needn't have worried - her manner was kind and her teaching clear and effective. Many students commented afterwards that they enjoyed the timbre of her voice and her delivery. I have put lots of the teaching points in the sequence below, but because the mind is not in 'front brain' mode in pranayama class I cannot claim to have remembered it all. I was also definitely asleep at certain points - typical!! I can't sleep in bed at night for love nor money, but my brain decides a pranayama class that I really want to hear, surrounded by 100 yoga students, is a good place to drop off effortlessly. To this end if anyone is here and observing classes and taking notes, it'd be super great if you'd allow me to take a picture of your notes (even if they're 10 pages long and the hand writing is terrible). I'll still be writing about my own experience in my own words but it means I'm less likely to jumble the sequence up.
I found that my breathing was unusually tight and restricted probably as a result of the high levels of pollution, although in the past I have found that after the initial shock, my lungs find a way to adjust and the breathing becomes clear again. Interestingly despite struggling with control / rhythm / ease during the class the effect of the pranayama was still very positively felt and looking around at the faces after class there was that kind of pranic glow all around.
After class we had the delightful Kate from upstairs join us for supper and help us eat the bounty left by Sushila. My only worry is that if we keep on eating all the food that she might keep increasing the quantity!
Friday 5th January – Pranayama Navaz
Take 1 bolster 1 blanket. Invocation in swastikasana. Lift up and open your emotional centre so that there is no place for negativity to dwell in you.
Preparing carefully for the supine pranayama - start seated in front of bolster with legs bent. Press hands down to lift chest and lengthen over the bolster in such a way that the spine goes down vertebrae by vertebrae with the head coming last of all. Take hands under buttocks and move the buttock flesh away from the centre, left buttock to left side, right buttock to right side and lengthen away from the bolster. Lift the head up in the hands to lengthen the neck and tilt the forehead downwards, so that the head rests on the 2 occipital bones at the base the skull. Extend the legs one by one, legs apart to soften the abdomen, the western women particularly tend to suck the abdomen in and make it hard and this is the source of many of your problems.
Supine several cycles of observing the breath followed by cycles of Viloma on exhalation. Cycles of Viloma on inhalation. Long kumbhak after inhalation. She taught this with a very fast pace so 7 or 8 inhalation pause and then complete the inhalation. This meant that the breath had to be taken in small sips. Long duration kumbhaka , though adjust according to individual capacity.
The seated pranayama was given in virasana to give you the advantage of more lift in the spine - if knees are aggravated in virasana, then swastikasana fine. Heels of hands on heels of the feet, palms of hands on palms of the feet. Lift the sternum and spread left side of sternum to left side, right side of sternum to right side. Take navel towards the spine and that will take care of the lumbar. Take the thumbs into the armpit and use the fingers to lift the bottom rib upward and you should feel that at the back the bottom rib moves downward. No need to make this action with force. The palms are open to receive the cosmic energy. The energy comes from the cosmos.
She showed 4 methods of jalandara bandha. 1) Insert the index fingers into the ears and rotate the fingers in such a way as to roll the head forward and downwards. 2) Holding thumbs into the skull behind the ears and using the hands to roll the head downwards 3) Pinch the septum lightly between thumb and forefinger and roll the head down. 4) Bandage widthways between the collar bones. She had us try each of the methods (except the bandage as we didn't have them) and then told us to select the one that was most effective for us to bring the head down into jalandara bandha. All seated pranayama should be done with jalandhara bandha to seal the prana in the chest cavity.
Here we repeated the same pranayama as previously but seated and she explained seated viloma inhalation is anti-gravity and more difficult than supine. Viloma exhalation seated not so bad as it’s going with the flow ie from top to bottom. Swastikasana ujayii – has it improved in length / ease / quality from the previous practice of divided inhalations and exhalations? Don’t inhale with the throat and make it hard, inhale from the diaphragm. Throat soft, temples soft. She relayed Guruji would have explained not to pull or suck the breath inwards, but to receive the breath in as a gift from divinity. Inhale as if you are breathing in the Lord himself, embrace the Lord and hold the Lord within you (kumbhak). Lift and spread the upper chest.
Lying down flat savasana with bolster on the thighs. The bolster weight to get the nervine release. Brain cells flowing downward like the Ganges River that flows within you. Let it flow. Surrender the spine down into the mother earth.