Slept deeply and soundly last night and woke up feeling rested. Jenny had got up early to go to Prasant, so I had the flat to myself to play some music with my phone and bluetooth speaker. Nice cheery start to the day. Every year my lovely niece records a song to send out instead of a Christmas card which is getting gradually more sophisticated each year as she now approaches her teens. This year she recorded a hauntingly beautiful version of Hallelujah which I have witnessed making grown men cry, so I was wiping a tear from my eye when Jenny got back.
Class this evening was taught by Rajalaxmi. I won't say much as I've posted the full sequence below. When we arrived for class I noticed the big clock on the wall was 20 minutes slow, so as she was relying on the clock she was still in full swing when the class was supposed to have ended. One of her local students got up to whisper to her to let her know and we were hastily told to support the head in paschimottonasana on a blanket and let the head rest as though we were in savasana. Aside from the pranayama class we haven't had a single savasana to date!
The blog may become a bit more sporadic now as I have been having terrible problems with the internet at the apartment. I have taken out a month's membership at the Marriott hotel so that I can continue to work, but I can only be there in the afternoons and will try to post then. I am also having to publish the posts via my phone, which has limited functionality so I can't delete the mistakes below 🤤 or amend the size of the photos.
Tuesday 9th January – Rajalaxmi Twists
•Swastikasana for the invocation. Coil the back armpit forward.
•Adho Mukha Swastikasana – she looked at our poses and immediately called us to come up for an explanation. “How do you understand skin and muscles? What is your understanding of those?” A student gave a very good answer which was “Muscles are used to perform an action and skin is to give the sense of touch / sensation”. Rajalaxmi liked this answer and also added that muscles are limited, they start somewhere they end somewhere, whereas skin covers the whole body. She had us repeat the pose extending the arm upward and lengthening forward from the skin – from the hips to the very tips of the fingers a tremendous lengthening to come forward.
•AMVirasana – Have you understood the skin part? Frontal thigh muscle moving back, everything else reaching forward , move the skin to reach forward.
•AMSvanasana – Again she got us to come down and gave a demo. The bottom ribs press easily downward and the shoulders and thoracic don’t move at all. In her demo she showed firstly the wrong action of bottom ribs sinking and then the correct action of spreading the bottom ribs to the sides. Spread the diaphragmatic band. You could see very clearly on her back how the whole spine worked more evenly, it was a much better pose. Repeat AMS with this action.
•Uttanasana Heels as wide as mat and parsva uttansasana she demonstrated that the hips shouldn’t shift, nor should the body twist, the pelvic rim has to turn. The whole torso has to shift to the right leg as one unit, without shortening the sides of the trunk. Catch the ankle from the front not the back.
•Parsvottonasna step right foot forward, left foot back. Raise the arms upward and extend the skin out through the fingertips, lengthen from the waist to extend forwards half way only and then lengthen further forwards. Hold and then then hands down. Concave back to get the length forward, dorsal in for 2 mins then head down. The torso has already learnt the shift from the parsva uttansana. Extend arms back towards the legs with the palms facing the ceiling so that the arms don’t act as a brake to prevent you descending down. Push thighs BACK!
•Uttansana feet together step right foot forward, left foot back. Called us up to look at a student whose right hip was rolling toward the right armpit, shortening the right side of her waist. She manually drew her hip back so that we could see how this lengthened her lower waist area and evened up her hips – how it would be if we were in the rope, hooking that hip backward and keeping it lifted up. Back leg inner thigh lift up.
•Uttanasana feet together repeat parsvottonasana stepping.
•Uttansasana feet apart elbows folded. Armpit skin to elbow - extension of the skin allows the muscles to work. Release elbows and hold the heels and go to concave back, maintain the length and draw down to full pose head down.
•Dandasana – into Parsva Dandasana Extend legs, extend side trunk. Lift up spine as you inhale and exhale to turn – the exhalation makes the space to turn the body – as the air is pushed out you become light and can turn more easily. Use the bank hand to lift the back body up, don’t slump onto the back hand. She showed from behind how the skin fibres that cover the sacrum must lift up to turn.
•Parrivtta Trikonasana (menstruation forward bend sequence) From the rib cage on left spread the skin to go down, roll armpit forward, the armpit has to cross over the leg. Do not let the back thigh drop down, lift the skin of the inner thigh up towards the ceiling. From the back of the inner thigh you have to spread to go down. Thigh turns to bring arm down. Head you have to push back, so that both shoulders align. Hand on the waist, roll the top elbow and shoulder further back. Take the back ribs in to take the head further back.
•Bharadvajasana 1 – Seated on folded blanket. Legs to the left side, turning to the right side. Do NOT sit on any part of the feet, otherwise the left buttock cannot descend down. “Which buttock drops down?” The right? Then the right buttock only should be on the blanket so that the left can go down and the right can get lifted slightly up. See that no part of the blanket is under the thigh – the blanket only under the buttock bone itself. Lift the side trunk and turn. 3 times lift and turn! Bend the left elbow so that the arm is not blocking the turn of the side rib. Push the back ribs into you! Become tall! Skin on the back of the left shoulder has to spread towards the elbow.
•Bharadvajasana 2 – Belt for those who could not catch the foot. Clavicle must open! Throw the arm back from the shoulder. Repeat the 3 head positions.
•Bharadvajasana 1 - On this repeat she showed how we had to turn from the inner corners of the eyes. We worked with 3 different head positions – legs to left, turning to right 1) From the inner corner of the right eye, look over the left shoulder 2) From the inner corner of the left eye look over the right shoulder 3) Move your back ribs deep inward and look up towards the ceiling, lifting the chest towards the chin, from the pubic plate look up.
•Marichyasana 3 – Push knee more to left side to lift the body over the leg and turn, bend both legs and hook the armpit over the thigh, then straighten extended leg. Descend the outer hip / root of the thigh on the bent leg side. Take the arm over so thoroughly that the next day it is black and blue!
•Parivrtta Parsvakonasana – The turn has to come from the rotation of the back leg thigh, so you hit the inner seam of the thigh up towards the ceiling. The hip can roll down but the back thigh must resist up. Same descent of the root of the bent leg thigh as in Marichyasana 3. Draw the outer thigh of the bent leg back to get the turn.
•Dandasana to Paschimottonasana Concave back skin extension, then come forward so that the side ribs have to rest on the thigh. Don’t shorten yourself anywhere. At this point someone quietly whispered to her that the clock on the wall was 20 minutes slow and class was supposed to be finished. Support the head on the blanket and rest the forehead like savasana. Chin to the chest to come up.
Jenny Jones notes from Prasant's wonderful shoulders class this morning.
I managed to get to bed early enough for this class. Certainly worth getting up for, quite apart from the dawn chorus in the Park. Older lady in a hoody taking her exercise. Men working out at the outdoor gym. Older men and women chatting in small groups on the benches. At class I found a place at the back. It doesn’t much matter where you start out since there is plenty of reshuffling as we move from mat to ropes, ropes to bars, bars to single rope etc.
The theme of the class was the arms, their work, their connections, the possibilities of arm work for themselves and for the internal body. Prasant drew our attention to the fact that arms have their roots in the shoulders but they can also reach all the way down to the pelvic floor. He said our arms will become longer with the extended time working in the asanas - not physically longer but longer in terms of their penetration or influence.
Asanas: we majored on arm work in twists, rope dog pose and rope 1, 2 etc for arms. So sukasana twist, padmasana twist, deepen twist by using arms, reflect on what is happening in the arms, belt in sukasana to simulate work of hand to foot in Padmasana. Many repetitions. Concentrate on exhalation - deep not sharp. Kumbhaka after exhalation, with uddiyana Banda. This could be applied in all asanasas. Centre rope hanging holding brick up and behind to roll the shoulders back and press the shoulder blades in, tremendous opening on from body. More twists: bharadvajasana 1 and / or 2, marichyasana 1, 2 with catch - as if shaking hands with someone who is reluctant to shake hands with you, experiment with head turn, head back. Rope 1, 2 prolonged. Centre ropes, take brick and hold behind with extended arms. Dog pose on single rope with brick held behind and head on bolster ( interesting !). Window bars one arm behind bent like twists - across lower back ribs, other arm stabilising. Sirsasana. Parsva and any other variations. Notice what the arms contribute. (I felt a real support and solidity in the arm / shoulder area that gave a very firm base for parsva. Finish in Janu sirsasana or brick setubandha. If the latter end by back on the floor, knees bent, allow back to release into floor. Prasant said this class was a 20 hour class reduced to 2 hours. In another aside he said that our arms should be stretching as if for chocolate that is just out of reach. He has a sense of humour, also he insists that we should be QUICK, QUICK when changing sides etc as if he can’t bear for us to waste a second of this precious practice. A little of these classes goes a long way for me. I am still digesting a Prasantji class from my first trip to the Institute.