Woke up this morning bright and early and got a rickshaw to a nearby hall where Geetaji was due to teach at 9.30am. We arrived in good time a little after 9 but there were already many there before us. We were politely asked to move back so that the Russians could be at the front (it was their intensive we had cordially invited along to after all). Geetaji entered the room with her walker to rapturous applause and I saw more than a few wipe a tear from their eyes (much later we were wiping tears of a different sort!!). When the applause finally subsided she began her talk by explaining the reasons why she has ended up with such difficulty in walking, in case we should think that we may end up like her. She explained that she had tremendous weakness left from childhood when she had many, many diseases such as typhus, influenza and malaria. She said that for several years she was teaching children in the schools which involved repeated and strenuous work as well as assisting many people using her own bodily strength before there were props etc to help. She also mentioned that she has a connective tissue disorder.
Geetaji asked what we would like to learn about and the response from the Russian group was that they were open to anything at all she wanted to teach , so Abhi explained to Geetaji that both with the Russian Group and the regular institute people, she had observed that our legs are weak and also that so much conditioning was present that we weren’t enjoying our poses.
Geetaji commenced an explanation of the vayus. The legs and pelvis are the earth element and above that in the abdominal region is the water element. The world and the universe outside are reflected on the inside and just as the ocean has at its base a bed of earth so to, do we. Without our solid foundation the structure cannot function. The legs and spine are totally interconnected.
She spoke of the solar plexus and the heat and fire (agni) required for digestion. Without this heat even the sense of touch is lost – if you place your fingertip on something very cold, it can no longer feel. Just as in our universe our planet revolves around the sun, the whole solar system (and perhaps endless other universes) are contained within us.
She spoke about the build up of rubbish in the oceans and in our cities and explained we also have this build up of rubbish inside – we have the practice of asana to throw this rubbish out to cleanse every part of ourselves. The practice of asana makes us CLEAN.
Ardha Chandrasna with Raya demonstrating. She made the point that we can’t just look at the photo of ardha chandrasana and recreate the picture but we have to use awareness and discrimination to bring the life to the pose. Russians are tall. Raya has long legs short body. Japanese have short legs long body. Each one of us is different and will need to adjust accordingly. She gave Raya the brick so that he could fully elongate his torso and bring the openness and expansiveness to this chest. The full expression of the pose was hindered by him keeping his foot in line with the hip and he was able to better expand with the leg higher.
We also looked at Raya in tadasana and she showed how to bring the life to the back of the legs. How to bring the life to the dark areas of the body so that every single pore of skin has to be open and have that life. At the front of the leg he had to press skin to flesh to muscle, muscle to bone – at the back of the leg the contents had to move away from the bone towards the skin. He showed Uttansana Concave Back with the spine HAMMERED into the body – dorsal area (not lumbar). In tadasana we looked at how taking the feet a little (4 inches) apart allowed us to feel each heel distinctly so that all parts of the heel had to press.
Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana CCB “HAMMER your spine!” we worked with whole palms down and on tips of fingers and also lifting the palms completely up off the floor to find the space. Full uttansana and still taking the dorsal inward.
In these simple poses Geetaji used her words and energy to make us work intensely hard and the sequence written on paper can't do anything to capture the experience in the flesh. At one point she said "You can catch the words, the points I am making, but can you translate it into action in your own self?"
We looked at a student on the stage how she couldn’t get a lift in the apana vayu water area – her abdominal region was collapsed. She could easily join the inner seams of her legs but nothing was happening there to bring that action. She gave her a brick between her thighs and she had to squeeze that brick tightly, whilst also opening the back of the leg. It was visible how her whole torso extended and the abdominal fold was opened. She got Abhi up into sirsasana and instructed her to take the legs apart to better extend the inner seam of the leg upward and then join the legs retaining that upward stretch. Abhi reported that although the legs were extended, above that area there was no sensation only dullness, so Geetaji gave the brick between the thighs and Raya used his hands like a belt to contain the outer shins inwards and then Abhi gave a contented exclamation that signalled she was much happier with the life that was now in the pose.
We looked at Abhi in trikonasana , how she had to maintain the work of the front thigh to the back thigh in the back leg to keep the life in the pose. We did some standing poses with the work explained above in mind, but as we stood in parsva utthita hasta padasana ready to go into trikonasana, she repeatedly said “Open the heart!” and we had to keep the heart open as we went into the pose. She observed that for many the weight was going into the front leg, so we had to work the back leg more and take the brick for the front hand to take the weight back.
Trikonasana – she was very insistent that we looked up and focussed on the top hand and ceiling with the lower (left) eye.
Vira 2 (“Bend the front leg fully otherwise that is holding”)
Parsvakonasana – extending the lower torso to go down. Loooong stay here.
Vira 1 – the buttocks were not moving in properly. She got one of the Russians to come up and demonstrate – buttocks were back and trunk was slanting forward. Abhi and Raya had to make lots of adjustments to her pose, moving the buttock forward and lifting the frontal abdomen upward. She implored them to be very direct in their adjustments and reminded them how fearless Guruji was in order to bring about monumental change in his students.
We observed the correction of the same Russian student that we had looked at with the brick between the thighs in tadasana, this time in Vira 1 where they worked to help her get the lift of the back thigh and the upwards extension of the torso and arms. Abhi also showed Vira 1 and Geetaji started joking about how Abhi’s buttocks were like pumpkins so much she was pumping the buttock / thigh crease forward. We stood in tadasana feet apart and worked on pumping the buttock crease forward (as if we were going to drop back) and Geetaji rooted out the people who were not yet understanding the action. Then we repeated Vira 1 with the understanding of this action. She gave a message to the seniors that they have to be able to come to this level of the students. That is the difference between a teacher and a Guru. Guruji was able to come down to the meet people at the lowest level or elevate himself to the highest level of any pupil so that he could reach them.
Upavisa Konasana – Invocation eyes open
Baddha Konasana on the brick, hands holding the feet / ankles – with every Om the knees have to descend downwards. Repeat Invocation eyes open.
Geetaji was in good form throughout – bright eyed and sharp minded and she said her heart was full from the enthusiastic welcome she had received. She left the hall to the same continuous applause.
There were no rickshaws around when we left so we ambled back through some of the back streets of Pune, which were so different to the ‘main drag’. Narrow
streets with higgledy piggedly two storey houses intermingled with shrines and basic shops, often just a downstairs window opening out onto the street and the whole area bustling with life; people, bikes, chickens and goats. The real Pune.
We were pretty exhausted after Geeta this morning, but managed to drag ourselves out for Rajalaxmi this evening. I was so glad we did – she taught shoulder work, inversions and backbends – exactly what I needed to balance out the strong standing poses we did with Geetaji this morning. We have been blessed today.
Day 16 Rajalaxmi – Backbends
•Swastikasana bend forwards both sides – extend side trunk, make arms long.
•AMV - AMS Catch the outer edges of the mat so that you can push back to the legs UTT
•AMS feet as wide as the mat, AMS leg raises (I had to bring my feet closer) UTT
•AMS – UTT – Uhastasana
•Gomukhasana – top elbow only, many repeats extending the arm out to the side, turning the palm to face the ceiling so that the thumb side rolls down more and then maintaining that rotation as you fold at the elbow and place the hand on the shoulderblade (not on the spine). Then tried going from arm extending straight forward and folding at the elbow to place hands on the upper back. Every time using the other hand to take the elbow further back.
•Gomukhasana – Bottom arm first and catch
•Tadasana – Gomukhasana Left hand down, right hand up -right leg forward, left leg back Upright Parsvottonasana take tailbone in, lift pubic plate up and coiling the back spine in look up towards the ceiling. We did both sides gomukhasana catching on the right leg and both sides gomukhasana catching on the left leg. So 4 repeats in all.
•Tadasana – Paschima Namaskarsana right leg forward, left leg back Upright Parsvottonasana take tailbone in, lift pubic plate up and coiling the back spine in look up towards the ceiling x 1 each side. Take the shoulders back but resist the elbows slightly forward so that you don’t overdo.
•Sirsasana think of gomukhasana, armpit has to come to the front. Eka pada sirsasana take the back leg back as the front leg comes forward. Parsva eka pada sirsasana First turn the foot so that the heel comes to the instep and then take the leg down straight.
•Come down from sirsasana and stand up in tadasana interlock the fingers behind, roll the shoulders back and down and moving the dorsal in look up. Change interlocak and repeat.
•Repeat Sirsasana change interlock of fingers. Take right leg to virasana and then bend the knee in towards the chest. Keep the thigh where it is and then extend the shin straight out so that you are in eka pada sirsasana x 2 each side. Bring right leg to vrksasana and then extend the leg out to parsva eka pada sirsasana. X 2 each side.
•Urdhva Mukha Svanasana 5-6 repeats. 1)Lying on the front body extend the legs out from their roots, turning thighs from the inside out. Palms beside the rib cage. Press the tailbone in towards the pubic bone so that when you lift you scoop forward with the pelvis from this action. Chest has to come in front of the arms and upper chest has to lift and spread. 2) Toes tucked under repeat. 3) We looked at 2 different students: one who was doing against the column and getting a great lifting and spreading of the chest with the trapezius and shoulder blade moving down away from the neck and the other doing on the floor – he was getting a great bend but trapezius was up into the base of the neck. Here we all did at the column or grill with feet about a foot and a half away from the wall to learn the action of cutting the trapezius and shoulderblade downwards. 4) Repeat on floor maintaining these actions.
•Dhanurasana 4-5 repeats. We lifted up a couple of times and then she got us to lift one leg at a time so that we could learn to extend from the outer hips to the outer knees (so that the knees are kept inside) and then take the heels straight upwards towards the ceiling. Don’t just lift the chest, but allow the lift of the heels to dictate how much the chest comes up. On last repeat from dhanurasana straight into salabhasana so that the chest remains lifted.
•Ustrasana 6-8 repeats
1) First keep head looking at chest, then cut trapezius away from the neck downward, shoulderblades moving away from neck and however much you can maintain that action, dorsal deep inward, you can take the head back
2) Do not over turn the elbows – the shoulders have to roll back but the elbows have to resist so that the bony elbow points directly back and the inner elbow looks forward, not out to the side.
•AMVirasana into AMSvanasana
•Sarvangasana – eka pada - parsva eka pada – virasana – legs straight but thrown back- parsva karnapidasana variation where the toes do not touch the floor.
Eka Pada: 1)Bend right leg to virasana 2)Bring knee forward to touch chest 3) Keep thigh in same position and extend shin out straight so that big toe touches (or comes close to floor). First time she felt our big toe was not coming close enough to the floor so we repeated and she made us bring our knee further down and closer to the chest. Then when we exended the leg, the big toe actually touched the floor.
Parsva Eka Pada: 1) Bend right leg like vrksasana but take knee further down towards the armpit 2) Extend leg ut straight into parsva eka pada sarvangasana.
Virasana: Take the palms firmly into the upper back, bend the legs back into virasana and coil the buttocks forward as if you are going to drop back to setu bandha. Knees further backward and cut the mid buttock forward. Parva karnapidasana variation: Bend the legs and take them to the right ear. Come up and do to the left side.
Sarvangasana: Take the legs so much backward that you can’t see them and as the legs go back suck the buttock in.