Worse night's sleep so far - there were various animals attacking and eating each other outside my bedroom window and a fight to the death is never going to be a quiet affair. It was so noisy and close that it felt like I was actually out there amongst them, until eventually I realised that one of the large sliding windows in my bedroom was still wide open and got up to close it. Still smiling this morning though as we had women's class to look forward to. As much as I love my own practice, it is nice sometimes to just hand the reins over to someone else and let them decide for you and even better to have that strong motivating energy to propel you further and deeper and to lead you down paths you rarely think to tread. It's most especially delicious when it's normally your gig to do exactly that.
Class was fab - still standing poses and as there were apparently some newer beginner level students (as well as plenty of senior students who should know better but needed a kick up the backside) we went back to basics, though it was still very challenging and engaging. She talked about why Iyengar yoga is so incredibly valuable – Yes it brings strength, balance, healthy body but much more than that: Yoga Philosophy is abstract. Body is concrete. What Guruji did was bring the two together so that we can use the body to experience the truth of yoga philosophy within ourselves, not as an act of faith, but on a personal experiential level. Concrete.
In Prasarita Paddottonasana she said we get the head down and we are satisfied. We have a visual image of the pose in our minds and we aim to make that picture. Head on the floor is a shallow aim! Your mind has to go beyond this. You have to search each asana to find what is happening. You can never understand the magic of the asana if you are only making the image. After we had worked to bring life into the outer thighs she explained that life has to be felt in every pore of the skin so that the entire embodiment is filled with that sense of equanimity. That is our aim in the practice of asana.
She also focussed today on the students that had been using the wall for sirsasana - showing the class as a whole how to teach the balance so that it is really understood, rather than prematurely forcing someone to go up in the centre of the room without that understanding, without allowing the natural ripening process to take place.
It was one of those classes that kept going full tilt right to the very end and whilst we were in sarvangasana my blood sugar finally got the better of me and I had to come down and take some lucozade. As a type 1 diabetic it can be hard in a strenuous class to manage keep the blood sugar levels stable but within seconds I was ready to go again, so I didn't miss much.
I arrived home to a strong smell of burning and Sushila called me in to the kitchen to show me that she hadn't infact burnt our lunch, but was intentionally smoking
an aubergine directly on the gas flame to make a rather delicious smoked aubergine dish. Yum. We had dinner out this eve on the top floor of Charu's to celebrate Susana's birthday, which sadly Kari Ann had to miss as she's succumbed to a horrible flu type illness again. Will visit tomorrow with some supplies. As we walked down the steps from Charu's I realised that for the first time ever in my entire yoga career, I could feel the work from the class in the backs of my thighs. Up early tomorrow as Abhijata has given me permission to film the children's classes as training material for teachers in the UK.
Saturday 6th January – Women’s Class Abihjata
'Equanimity throughout the embodiment'
Swastikasana for invocation 1) Keep pelvic girdle level – no part of pelvic girdle should touch the thigh, if it does you are leaning forward. 2) Coil back armpit forward. We will be chanting for 2 minutes. It is not long so you should be able to maintain the concentration on those 2 points for at least this long. After the invocation was complete she asked us to levelise the pelvic girdle and coil the back armpit forward. Did you do what I asked? Was there movement? Most agreed and she pointed out that if they were able to make this adjustment, then somewhere along the way they must have lost their attention and released the action. 2 adjustments for 2 minutes and not even this we can manage. This is what Guruji called the monkey mind. Like a child in a room full of toys. Our job as students of yoga is to learn a sustained concentration where we can learn an action and maintain it, even when we go on to learn other actions. We have to be doubly, triply attentive.
AMV AMS 1) Ascend root of thighs upward, push the front of the knee to the back of the knee. She told us the thighs were dropping forward. Fold the top corners of the mat inward and grasp the outer edges of the mat with the hands so that there is no fear of slipping. Can you take your heels down and lift your toes up so that the ball of the foot is down but the toes are raised up? If you can’t do this it is because the thighs are dropping downward. 2) Demonstration on stage to show the difference between just plonking your heels on the floor, where the buttocks get dragged down with the heels and the legs are lifeless, versus lifting the heels and drawing the thighs upward and then extending from the arch to the heel to take the heels down whilst maintaining the height of the buttocks and the root of the thighs sucking upward. Can you see the difference in the leg? We tried this ourselves to experience the difference in the extension of the legs. 3) Repeat same action, but add to it the front of the ankle moving backward, cutting the metatarsels back. This further refined the extension of the legs.
Can union happen if there is no communication / coordination?
Repeat AMS all of the above elements combined.
Prasarita Paddottonasana We get the head down and we are satisfied. We have a visual image of the pose in our minds and we aim to make that picture. Head on the floor is a shallow aim! Your mind has to go beyond this. You have to search each asana to find what is happening. You can never understand the magic of the asana if you are only making the image. Tadasana and uttansasana feet apart and rolling onto the outer edges of the feet, so that the inner foot comes completely off the floor and the outer edge cuts down into the floor to make a seal. What do you feel? Various answers came back – more life on the outer leg, more extension on the outer knee etc, these are physical sensations. What is sensation? A touch of intelligence /energy / awareness from within. It is not learned but a gift we are born with. The life that we felt when we bought the awareness to that area? That life has to be felt in every pore of the skin so that the entire embodiment is filled with that sense of equanimity. That is our aim in the practice of asana.
When you place the inner feet down again so that whole sole of foot is on the floor, do you still have that heightened sensation on the extension of the outer leg? No? It is lost? So now lift the inner edges of the feet completely up and come onto the outer edge of the foot. You see that the gap between the top of the legs is less distance than the gap between the feet? Roll the inner thigh back and hit outward there the inner thigh as if you were making the gap between the thighs as big as the gap between the feet AS you place the inner foot back down. Better?
No pause sequence: Trikonasana into Vira 2 into Ardha Chandrasana back into Trikonasana each side
Demo on stage where she had 2 cylinders, a large one and a smaller one that fitted inside. The contents and the container. She brought the smaller cylinder to touch the inner surface of the bigger one. Standing in Tadasana we learn as beginners to take the thighs back as a gross action. (and it pushes the buttocks back). Now can you take the CONTENTS of the thigh back? Feel the difference? – it was a subtler, more refined action.
Trikonasana – Root of the thigh turn, bend right knee slightly to straighten energy sucking up from ankle and contents of the thigh moving to the back of the thigh, then content of left thigh moving back too.
Tadasana – Pelvic girdle back. Contents of the knees / thighs back
Parsvakonasana 1) Own pose, just go right side up and down x 3 repeat left side – get that buttock down. How do we know the distance is correct? Because the shin is vertical. Beginners should not learn the resistance of the back leg but intermediates have to have that understanding (in later years Guruji said that Parsvakonasana should be learned before trikonasana because they learn the movement without the resistance, whereas with trikonasana the straight leg creates a resistance in the pose). 2) So now with the resistance in the back leg go, but still cut the right buttock down x 3 each side. 3) Now make the back thigh like the work we did in AMS where the inner content of the leg has to go to the back of the thigh. We had to go more slowly to get this. While we were in the pose she asked the question had we learned something or not? Had the pose improved? People said yes, so then she asked them to look at the back foot and see was the inner ankle lower than the outer ankle. For most it was and she pointed out that we had been pleased with ourselves thinking we had learned something, but there was the concrete evidence that we in fact had not. She said this not particularly as a criticism, but more to show us how our minds work and how easy it is to deceive ourselves.
Upavista Konasana – Lecture here. Why Iyengar yoga is so brilliant – Yoga Philosophy is abstract. Body is concrete. What Guruji did was bring the two together so that we can use the body to experience the truth of yoga philosophy within ourselves, not as an act of faith, but on a personal experiential level. Concrete.
Ardha Chandrasana 1) Just lift up, do your own pose 2) Hit the bottom seam up of the leg upward and make the top seam of the thigh incredibly heavy so that as the bottom leg wants to lift, the top of the leg won’t let it. With that density lift the leg. Right buttock pressing forward is a given. Improved? 3) Repeat the top thigh down bottom thigh up AND extend from the inner groin to the inner ankle and from the outer ankle to outer hip, draw backward. Better still?
Vira 1 Mat folded in half long ways. X 5 each side up and down. Then we made a fist at the buttocks so we could really feel what was happening there, otherwise the area is too distant from your mind to really know. Right leg forward, left leg back. Bending up and down the right leg x 5 each side. Demonstration to show that the left buttock stays back and the right buttock rolls forward (incorrect action). She showed on her own body how this must be reversed – the bent leg buttock, that outer thigh has to cut back to bring that buttock backward and back leg buttock has to both press in and roll forward. She could see that we were not getting this action, so we put that mats to one side and used the vertical line on the floorboard. Both feet on the line is classical pose right? I want you to take the right foot to the right of the line and the left foot to the left of the line until you can feel that you’re able to get the buttocks symmetrical. I will leave it to your judgement how much wide you go. Repeat pose x 5 each side better? You have to make a sandwich as if you are contained within 2 walls and the outer thighs and outer hips come towards each other. Seniors you should also get the action of the tailbone moving forward.
Vira 3 fingertips on the floor. Without disturbing the even line of the hips raise the right leg up. (demonstration to show difference between urdhva prasarita eka padasana where the leg is raised higher than the hip and the trunk descends down and vira 3 when the leg is kept parallel to floor and the trunk extends forward). Lower back should be symmetrical and the leg that is raised should be firm and straight – keep the heel down.
1) Place hands for sirsasana, lift knees and walk in for ardha sirsasana (do NOT lift feet off the floor, be on the tiptoes) Lift head completely off the floor and keep dorsal in x 3 change interlock of fingers and repeat.
2) Repeat head lift and raise right leg up, keep left tiptoes down x 3 each leg.
3) Head on the floor ardha sirsasana, dorsal inward.Raise right leg up and lift left toes off the floor only as much as you need to to get the right leg completely vertical x 3 each side
4) Change interlock. Ardha Sirsasana. Raise right leg up, let left toes come up off the floor only as much as is necessary to get right leg vertically straight and see what is the angle between the legs? Now maintaining that angle take the right leg further backward (so left leg will come up 1 degree for every 1 degree the right leg goes back) Keep the dorsal in. Feel how the balance is felt? This is the method for the teachers to teach their students to balance – not to bring them prematurely into the centre of the room before they have understood how to balance
Now everyone that was using the wall come into the centre of the room to repeat sirsasana. Everyone that was already balancing in the centre of the room, go to the wall and do full arm balance and pinca mayurasana. Students in the centre of the room take a thick mat and be at the front edge of the mat (so that if they fall they do not land on the hard floor). Repeat same method of left toes on the floor and right leg up straight, letting the left toes lift only as much as is necessary for the right leg to be vertical. Now maintaining that angle take the right leg further backward and left leg further upward. Repeat Several times and then come up to full sirsasana balancing in the centre of the room.
eka pada toe touch floor and come up (even if the top leg comes forward the toe must touch the floor). Don’t sink dorsal set of 6 x 2
Legs together up and down to halasana set of 6 x 2
Karnapidasana rolling the buttock forwards and backwards x 6 then back up to sarvangasana.
Virasana suck the buttock forward, take the knees back and maintaining that buttock suction straighten the legs upwards x 6
Halasana 10 second rest.
Eka Pada top leg back, down leg lifting up maintaining the angle of the legs.