Happy Days – Women’s class on Wednesday mornings. I would love to be able to tell you that I greeted having to be in ‘ladies corner’ with a dignified sense of complete equanimity. However this would not be true – it felt like having my nose pressed against the window of the world’s greatest party, but not being allowed to join in with the fun. Abhijata’s classes truly are a celebration of excellence in Iyengar Yoga.
We sailed a little close to the wind, only just arriving in time for the class to start and I ended up taking the only remaining space in the room, in the men’s enclave, exactly the wrong place for me to be. I peered over at menstruating ladies area and saw a lone clueless male there who probably didn’t know he was supposed to sit in a particular place with his fellow men. I saw the opportunity and went over and whispered to him to ask did he want to swap. Once I’d got him to understand, he was quite amenable so I settled down in his spot, but in the 30 seconds or so it had taken me to explain, an even later latecomer had swooped into his spot. Sigh. The Institute is a bit of a nightmare for this kind of thing and you do have to have your wits about you. It was especially busy today as there had been a sudden influx of students who had just finished an intensive in Bellur with Patricia Walden.
Class was brilliant from the word go. We began by working in pairs, taking it in turns to hold bricks at the buttock / thigh junction in Adho Mukha Svanasana. I worked with Gulnaz. The helper does not push the bricks, but just holds them there with a steady, even force. Then we had to lift the buttocks / back thighs up and push back into the bricks. PUUUSSSHHHH!!! For me, this made me feel the thigh bone with great clarity at the top of the leg – it penetrated that area so that the sensation became clear and sharp, but you had to lift up at the root of the thigh and push with tremendous force to get that sensation. Inner and outer thigh equally pushing back. We had to feel both sides of the brick. Abhi has great skill at using her voice and language to motivate us to fervently seek out an action so that you go much further than you normally would and ultimately gain much more benefit than you normally would. I was grateful that at least this part of the class I was able to join in with.
This high definition awareness was carried through the whole class, where we journeyed through going up into 2 legs sirsasana, an intense forward bend sequence encompassing krounchasana, urdhva mukha paschimottonasna and kurmasana and ended with a sarvangasana sequence which included parsva sarvangasana - not just a simple matter of turning to one side and then the other – a much more complicated affair where the legs are stretched back and off to one side and the weight is born on the hand and wrist on one side. Photo below. Abhi’s sequencing and teaching built everyone up so nicely, that I’m quite sure there were many that had never dared / hoped to achieve these poses but were able to give it a really good go today.
I’ve written the full sequence blow, but of course to write good notes you have to have had the experience of performing the actions you are talking about – then you can write with understanding. Today as I was in ‘ladies corner’ I had a limited experience of the class. Many thanks to Claudia for sharing her notes so willingly and I will do my best to give you at least some understanding of the class. The uttanasana after the forward bends really reminded me of an epic forward bend class class Geetaji taught, where so much improvement in mobility was brought that the uttanasana was completely transformed. Fluid, flowing and deep.
Lunch and notes was followed by a trip to the Marriott to catch up on internet necessary work and there I met the northern lassies reclining on sun loungers in blissful recovery from the morning’s exertion. All three of our flu-ey friends had finally managed class this morning so spirits were high.
Photo courtesy of Marie Kristensen
Wednesday 10th January – Abhijata Forward Bends
•AMS – Remember the work we did last week to bring the work of the legs. At least that much you have to remember so that we have a starting point, otherwise I have to teach you the same thing again – it is easy for me. Don’t make it easy for me.
•Uttanasana – Feet apart – feel the distance between your feet – thighs are less, feet are more? Now make the same distance between your thighs as you have between your feet – hit out. Expand the back of the knee.
•AMS – the root of the thigh lift up and push back. Now press the buttocks back as if they continue further and further.
•Prasarita Paddottonasana – Open the back of the thigh, open the back of the knee.
•Uttanasana / Padangusthasana. I am not happy with how you are opening the back of the legs. Come up!!
•AMS in pairs x 3 goes each your helper taking the 2 bricks to the buttock / top back thigh junction. The helper does not push the bricks, but just holds them there with a steady, even force. Now lift the buttocks / back thighs up and push back into the bricks. PUUUSSSHHHH!!! For me this made me feel the thigh bone with great clarity at the top of the leg – it penetrated that area so that the sensation become clear and sharp, but you had to lift up at the root of the thigh and push with tremendous force to get that sensation. Inner and outer thigh equally pushing back. You have to feel both sides of the brick.
•AMS in pairs bricks to the back of the knees – now you have 2 sets of bricks, 1 imaginary pair as you have just done at the top of the back thighs and another real pair at the back of the knees. Get the action at the top of the legs and then work on pressing the knees back against the bricks. Inner and outer! The outer knee has to touch the brick!
•Prasarita Paddottonasana head down Imagine those bricks were there, bring that awareness to that area. Getting the head down should not dictate the distance between the feet. The buttock must spread, it should not be like a mountain standing up tall there – it has to spread, so take the legs wider – in any case if you look in Light on yoga you’ll see Guruji is on the back of the head not the top of the head. So Spread the buttocks and if the head is pressing the floor tuck the head slightly under and be on the back of the crown of the head.
•Uttanasana roll the inner thighs backward and hit the top thigh outward.
•AMVrksasana imagine the bricks are there at the top of the back thigh – open up there and LIFT UP!! LIFT UP!! LIIIFFFT UUPPP!!! X 3 Alternating with Parsvottonasana Head up or head down, I’ll leave it up to you whichever position allows you to work on the legs better. Outer hip has to roll back without making the inner thigh roll forward. Same awareness in the backs of BOTH legs.
•Paschimottonasana Sensitivity in the buttocks and thighs. The floor is the brick TOUCH IT!!
•Ardha Sirsasana in pairs (Upavista Konasana for periods) 2 people 2 mats, one spread open so the feet don’t slide and one folded under the head for your sirsasana. Walk in and lift the heels so that the shoulders get lifted and dorsal inward. Do not make the dispragm hard by pushing in there, the diaphragm has to spread. Bricks in the same position at the top thigh / buttock junction. How hard it would be to get that lift and spread there with the heels on the floor as Guruji did. So lift the heels up to get that height and lift and spread the back thighs pushing them into the bricks – inner and outer equally.
•Urdhva Dandasana in Sirsasana with the wall. Measure the distance by sitting in dandasana so that the feet touch the wall, place the hand next to the hip and keep the place as you turn round and place the head in that exact spot. A very clear demo of how the the top thigh has to lift up to the ceiling and the flesh has to get drawn towards the buttock. Imagine the bricks were there, hit up and now move that flesh to the buttocks. It is this precise action we have to learn to come up and down with 2 straight legs in sirsasana.
•Sirsasana in centre coming down with 2 legs x 3 (wall ok for those that cannot balance) Go up, back ribs up, shoulders up be tall, dorsal inward. Learn the action by coming down first of all with the two legs together. Inflate the backs of the thighs and draw that flesh to the buttock to come down. Outer thighs to outer hips. Legs apart ok but legs must be straight. Knees should refuse to go down as the leg comes down, KNEES MUST REFUSE!!
•Sirsasana in centre going up and down with 2 legs x 3 – if neck is paining go now for bharadvajasana and virasana. Flesh of the buttocks should move to lift up. Soft diaphragm, soft abdomen. Each degree you come down the back thighs should be lifted.
•What life did you charge the legs with when you had the bricks? Could you maintain that life when you were coming up and down into sirsasana? There was general agreement that they could not. So here you have to take the props. There was demonstration using the viparita karani box or edge of the platform – taking as much height as you need only to bring that life to the legs, gradually reducing the height until you can do from the floor with that sharpness. No room to do in class, but try this in your own practice.
•AMVrksasana to release the neck
•Navasana (unless menstrual problems or fibroids) “Life in the backs of the legs!”
•Ardha Navasana to Paschimottonasna x 2
•Urdhva Prasarita Padasana arms over the head to Navasana to Ardha Navasana to Paschimottonasana
•Ubhaya Padangusthasana to Paschimttonasana x 2
•Paschimottonasana feet hip distance apart
•Urdhva Mukha Paschimottonasana – Adjust the catch according to where you can reach, if you can interlock the fingers, interlock the fingers, if you can catch the outer edges of the feet only, catch the outer edges of the feet. Side walls of the abdomen UP Lumbar lift UP! To come up first crawl with sides of the abdomen and navel up the thighs, then extend the legs up. Bend arms and come closer as you keep on lifting.
•Trianga Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottonasana There is better execution of the legs in this pose than in Janu sirsasana, that is why she skipped it. Blanket if need under the buttock.
•Krounchasana Bring life on your back. Use arms, knee solid, don’t bend the knee just to come closer.
•Paschimottonasna Roll the blanket tightly. Sit on the roll blanket at the buttock thigh junction with the buttocks coming slightly over the back edge. Go forward and press the roll with that area. How is the lower back working? What is the range? Do with the roll do without the roll, can you feel what the blanket gives?
•Uttanasana legs together Keep sensitivity in the junction and roll this area forward. Hold ankles, lift the buttock / thigh junction up and roll there to go further and further down. Catch heels and exhale to draw down further and deeper.
•Kurmasana ok for periods if no menstrual problems. If you are stiff then sit up on the front edge of the bolster. Fix the first leg under the shoulder very thoroughly using the other hand to fix it into position, then take the other arm under as best as you can without the assistance of another hand. Second time doing alternate so that it is the other shoulder that gets this careful treatment. So that separately the shoulders learn how they are supposed to be. Arms outstretched to the sides, not backward.
•AMS This one comes as the dessert after the forward bends, so enjoy it! Take head down from the side ribs, pump x 3
•Halasana thick mats. To go up to Sarvangasana 2 legs straight gather the thighs to the buttocks. See how the forward bends work for sarvangasana, are you straighter?
•Eka Pada Sarvangasana x 3 touch and come up. Second time back leg back, front leg up. Parivrrta Eka Pada Sarvangasana
•Parsva Sarvangasana – she brought people down for demo. 1) Start from previous parivrrta eka pada so that you learn the balance first of all keeping one leg forward. Learn to place one hand in sacrum and take the weight back onto that hand and wrist while the other remains in sarvangasana position. There is no fear of falling as one leg is forward. 2) Repeat previous steps, but this time bend the leg that remains forward slightly and then see can you bring it back to join the other leg – spread / turn / shift weight so that the back leg moves more back.
•Savasana Eyes to the chest. Skin of the forehead, nose, cheeks move downward. Eyes passive, ears perceptive. Skin of the temples moving towards the ears. Trace your tongue to its root and become thin there, jaws soft. Swallow your saliva and let the throat rest on the bed of the neck. Soften your teeth as if they have changed from solid matter to something soft. Sensory organs get adjusted - there should be an energy fall from the brain into the body and that energy has to get diffused there. I would like to keep you there longer so that you can savour the quietness but the class must end and a few moments are available only for you to get a taste, a flavour, of that quietness.