We had been invited to another extra session at a local hall along with the Russian intensive today. Jenny had to stay home as she is recovering from a chest infection. The hall was busy – it’s a large rectangular space which lends itself well to this type of extra large class. We weren’t entirely sure who was going to be teaching us but I was expecting Abhi, as she is the one taking the Russian intensive. In fact it was Raya who entered the room and said simply “Turn your mats to the front, there has been a change of plan” and there was a collective gasp as Geetaji arrived in the hall to take the class. And my, was she in fine fettle today! She came in twinkling and smiling to continuous applause and said “I used to tell Abhi what to do, now she tells me what to do and she has told me I must come here and give you a second class!”
There were no note takers and I was absorbed in the class, so these notes are really just a few impressions I came away with. Much will have been missed and the sequence may be jumbled, but I will share with you the snippets I remember. We started with an explanation of Kriya Yoga – the yoga of action is the only way to achieve kaivalya freedom . We need tapas (sustained effort)-svadyaya (self-study) -ishvara pranidhara (surrender/ devotion). With a smile she told us it doesn’t really matter whether we do or don’t believe In God – our belief or lack of, cannot affect what simply is. We do not control the life force – for example when a couple is married and wish to conceive a child, science and even yoga can only go so far to make this happen, ultimately the decision is not ours but a gift we are given.
She spoke about how westerners may perceive that strength is making the muscles strong and focussing on the andamaya kosa . Indians concentrate more on strengthening the organs – the inner body is where true strength lies. She said “My legs have lost their strength and do not function properly but I can still do asana and pranayama to work on the internal strength and energy”. Whatever she has been doing since her recent stay in hospital, has clearly been tremendously beneficial. There was a lovely atmosphere between Geetaji, Abhi and Raya and they worked as a team to teach, demonstrate and perform adjustments on the students that Geetaji invited onto the stage. At one point as Geetaji was in full flow I could see Abhi smiling away at the side of the stage and she caught my eye and raised her eyebrows as if to say “Now that she’s got going, there is no stopping her!” and you could really see the pure pleasure at having Geetaji back in such amazing teaching form.
She spoke of our work in asana which is to see that consciousness is brought to every cell in the body. We should understand that there is a Universal Consciousness and that the second we take ownership of (for example) achieving an asana, we say “I did it” this understanding of the Universal Consciousness is lost.
The asana work began with tadasana weight on the heels and from the arch the balls of the feet and toes have to lengthen forward, backs of the legs spread as per the work we did on Monday
Urdhva Hastasana Palms face forward (Looooong time) - Tadasana - Urdhva hastasana – Tadasana
Tadasana – Urdhva Hastasana – Utkatasana (join the palms in urdhva namaskarasana)– Uttanasana
In the utkatasana thighs have to grip together, the groins, the vaginal area, the uterus has to suck upwards into you and from the groins extend the arms up.
Then we worked on keeping legs bent from the utkatasana as you take the trunk down into uttanasana and from there straighten the knees - just feel how this allows the abdomen to soften and spread as opposed to going down to uttanasana with straight legs. She talked here about intelligent sequencing we have to know the basics of sequencing trikonasana – parsvakonasana - vira 1 - vira 2 etc etc but we have to understand with more depth how and when to sequence in certain ways.
She gave a lecture on how to work during menstruation. Then the strong abdominal work should not be done. Legs apart improves so many conditions –including osteoarthritis. During menstruation the body has to throw out the waste product – it is an impurity that the body has to expel so we do not do the postures in such a way as to hinder this outward flow at this time - the work that we looked at in utkatasana should not be done. Let the men get on with being men – it is futile to attempt to compete or copy their work – for what purpose??
She spoke about how women sometimes suffer with the intake of air when they are upside down in the inversions and so we observed Abhi in sirsasana – thighs have to grip, buttock has to reach upward and vagina / uterus draw into you. Anal mouth will close.
We continued with AMS - Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (longest ever stay of my life here) in a single UMS we worked on toes tucked under, then tried bending the knees and observe how this gives the freedom for the sacrum to move forward and abdomen to lift upward and then maintaining those actions straightening the legs and being on the tops of the feet- AMVirasana (“They are tired already!”)
Dandasana – Urdhva Hasta Dandasana – Urdhva Mukha Paschimottonasana - 8th/9th/10th thoracic vertebrae DEEP inward – the importance of this movement should not be underestimated . When this area is dull and does not go in problems will follow – depression, breathing problems, mental dullness. Then releasing down into full Paschimottonasna. A serpentine movement of the spine from the sacrum and tailbone moving forward, the spine to go deep in and propel the body forward, side ribs forward, abdomen forward. We worked extremely intensely here after Raya demonstrated the action with Geetaji’s stick stuck in his spine and her words like arrows stuck in his heart! Boy, is she back on form!! Raya reported that when he worked very strongly in this area it brought a sense of lightness and Geetaji spoke of how with this development of the pramana vayu the ancient yogis were able to make themselves light enough to walk on water.
Sirsasana dorsal deep inward. Legs apart and lift the buttocks upward – do not allow the pelvis to disappear backward. The teachers were instructed to go around adjusting any errant dorsals. Heels out, big toes together to soften the abdomen.
We looked at Geetaji working with a Russian student who had fairly continuous jaw pain for the last 6 months. The communication was a little difficult as it was via a translator and it took Geetaji a while to get to the heart of the problem. She had been given neck curvature and Geetaji was wondering why she was not doing Sirsasana. She questioned her closely about her symptoms - she had mentioned pain in her heart which Geetaji was strongly sceptical about. She instructed her to go up in sirsasana and when she came down she gave facial work as is done in simhasana, which we all tried. We had to put our fingers in our ears so that we could feel any blockage on either side ear canal. She mentioned that dried ginger root placed just inside the ear could be useful, especially in cold countries. Then she gave chair halasana with thicker rolled blanket under shoulders and thinner rolled blanket under the skull then on into Karnapidasana toes on the chair and Akunchanasana (legs bent knees towards chest not down in ears) which the student found gave her relief from her constant pain.
She showed with Raya how salamba sarvangasana was improved by the practice of nirlambe sarvangasana with the arms over the head and also arms extending up alongside the trunk, so that the legs come a little forward and the buttocks have to lift upward – the back has to learn the lift of its own accord. Then he put his hands on the back in salamba sarvangasana and we could observe how the lift and uprightness was improved from his first attempt.
Sarvangasana no belts (this is why Guruji said not to give the belts to the beginners – the arms are made stable but the body has not understood the lift) – 1) In Halasana walk the feet away and rock the hips /buttocks forwards and back several times (releases the root of the spine so that it is not tucked under you) 2) Shoulders one at a time walk under – make the throat a pit, so that you should not talk during sarvangasana. Hands in the back and go up. Nirlambe sarvangasana (from halasana) extend the arms over the head and lengthen them away, lengthen from the root of the arm. Press the hands into the floor and from there lift up one leg at a time. Each time we went to halasana and did the work and went up again we were taller. We then did the nirlambe variation where the arms ascend straight up alongside the torso with palms facing the thighs, but we stayed in halasana for this one.
Janu Sirsasana concave back, long stay - Look up, serpentine movement of the spine, dorsal deep inward “lift up, lift up LIFT UPPP!”
Paschimottonasana concave back – look up repeat actions
Paschima Namaskarasna looking up
AMVirasana lift eyes up, roll shoulders out and release them away from the neck.
She asked is there head pain, neck pain? And there was a laugh of acknowledgement, that no – no one had neck pain after this adjustment.
Virasana – Invocation to Patanjali and the Guru
Savasana – From the centre line of the body, spreading outwards - no earth element at all, the body has to be as if made entirely of water – how when the water is spilt on the floor it spreads. Like a thin cloud not a thick cloud how it disperses.
This was a very special session and I felt huge gratitude for being part of it. Once again Geetaji exited to continuous applause.
In the evening it was Raya’s intermediate 2 class and I was tempted not to go, as going to Geetaji’s session had meant that I hadn’t done my own practice today. But I’m a sucker for a yoga class and I was also curious to see what would happen after last week’s unbelievably fast and dynamic jumping class. The answer was another unbelievably tough and dynamic class, this time the entire class was inversions - aside from the 5 minutes at the beginning and the savasana at the end. As with last week, after the initial work the ‘early retirees’ were sent to the back of the class to make more space for the strong, brave and determined to continue with the work. After the first 12 minute sirsasana and variations I had a huge hypo which had to be treated. The decision whether you were to retire or stay on was dictated by whether you had managed to stay the full course for that sirsasana so I had to join the bulk of the group at the back of the room, which I wasn’t entirely sad about. The hypo was severe and I needed a bit of time to recover an even keel and it was a very fast, tricky and arduous journey for those that were doing – 45 minutes of extreme variations? Hats off to the lot of you!! We did get to join in for the similar work in sarvangasana, which was some comfort. After class Raya asked how I was doing as he remembers me from the visits where I was working with Guruji in the medical classes where he often came and helped, which made me feel a little better that at least he knows why I am sometimes compromised in class.
Raya – Inversions
• Invocation in padmasana
• Dandasana and parsva dandasana x 2 each side
• AMS and eka pada AMS
• Parvsottanasna - Outer edge of back heel, inner edge of front foot. Learn to press the back heel down.
• 3 people to one thick mat, making sure you move in sync with each other so you don’t collide. Sirsasana – thighs back, take back body to front body. When doing the variations keep the centre of gravity stable even when the weight shifts.
• Parsva Sirsasana – move thighs back, buttocks suck in – turn so much that your left hip has to completely face the front of the room x 2 both sides.
• Left leg down Eka Pada Sirsasana, turn to right side, parsva rock back and forth swing allowing back leg to go a little back, raise spine and buttocks and release the back leg back to parsvaikapada sirsasana repeat other side.
• Bring right leg forward Eka pada sirsasana . Bring left leg to join the right leg so that you are in urdhva dandasana, bring left leg back up, bring right leg back up to sirsasana, both sides many repeats.
• Here Raya said “Those of you that came down early from sirsasana go to the back of the hall and do long twisting sequence – parsva swastikasana, bharadvajasana 1 and 2, marichyasana1 and 3, ardha matsyendrasana 1 and 2, parsva upavista konasana, parsva baddha konasana”.
• The rest of the group spread out and give yourself more space for the legs. Now we are going to work with more speed.
• 1) Eka Pada x 6 each side super fast - hit the floor with force so that I can hear the thump of the foot as it hits the floor
• 2) Parsva eka pada x 6 each side superfast and with force
• 3) Eka Pada up and down alternate sides superfast
• 4) Eka Pada into parsva eka pada into parsvaikapada into parsva many repeats
• 5)Eka pada into parsva eka pada into parsvaikapada swing round into parivrtta eka pada swing between many times
• 6)Baddha konasana in sirsasana into parsva baddha konasana – don’t let the feet go back, keep them directly above the perineum and keep the spread of the thighs even, not one thigh forward one thigh backward. Do not press the feet hard together as this hardens groins.
• 7) Baddha konasana in sirsasana – parsva baddha konasana – parsva upavista konasana
• 8) Upavista konasana in sirsasana into parsva upavista konasana – here he brought people down to look firstly at correct method of upavista konasana i.e don’t take the legs so wide with the feet turning out, but only go as far as you can go without losing the feet and toes pointing forward. Secondly he showed the use of the belt around the feet in an attempt to stop people scissoring the legs as they turned. Then back up again to do.
1) Right leg down, left leg down, right leg up, left leg up x 6 fast
2)Left leg down, right leg down, left leg up, right leg up x 6 fast
3) Right leg down, left leg down, left leg up, right leg up x 6 fast
4) Left leg down, right leg down, left leg up, right leg up x 6 fast
5) Eka Pada sarvangasana take foot to the floor fast and with force x 6 each side
6)Parsva Eka Pada foot to the floor with force x 6 each side (allow top leg to go a little back, but keep it straight).
7) Halasana, parsva halasana to right, raise right leg up straight (this is like a parivrrta), come down and raise left leg up straight (this is like parsva eka pada so turn pelvic to face forward) x 2 on 2nd repeat go into parsva sarvangasana so take left leg much further back, Take left hand to support sacrum, bring right leg up a little and bend the knee, then see how far you can go towards straightening the right leg so that the two legs stretch back and the weight of the body is born on the left hand and wrist. Same pose we did with Abhi last week where I posted a pic. Repeat each side x 2
9)Parsva Karnapidasana the knee that is furthest away from the ear easily touches the floor, but can you stretch both knees down to touch?
• Savasana – let your physical body become quiet. Abdomen like a lake, navel sinking down, spreading towards the side of the lake. Face spreading, brain quietening. Become quiet physically, intellectually, emotionally.