Just to keep us on our toes, we had a totally unexpected class from Navaz this morning. Navaz doesn't look as if she's going to be the world's best yoga teacher and yet everyone I saw and spoke to really enjoyed the class. She was totally able to hold her own, in what surely must have been a slightly intimidating class to teach - jam packed full of teachers both foreign and local - but I genuinely don't think anything would ruffle her feathers. Firm but kind, calm, steady and clear and plenty of stories to tell about Guruji.
When we were in Sarvangasana she talked about the old days, before Guruji was able to afford props, how they used to each bring a single blanket from home for their Sarvangasana "And now look, you have 5 thick mats and you still complain about this pain and that pain". She told us that Guruji may have at times appeared fierce, but he had the heart of a lamb and an excellent sense of humour too (full sequence below).
In the evening we regathered in the main hall for the 42nd Annual Day celebration, where Geetaji took centre stage. She chose to talk about the Iyengar Yoga journey from the point of view of her mother Ramamani, for whom the Institute is named (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yog Institute). She told us that Guruji was not especially keen to get married and was unintentionally late for the first meeting between them, that had been arranged by the two familiies. Ramamani had been awaiting his arrival since early morning and her family had encouraged her to sing while she waited. Upon arriving Guruji felt that after being so late, he couldn't be so rude as to also refuse to marry her, and so he agreed to the marriage without either of them having ever set eyes on each other! Ramamani arrived in Pune to a very basic lifestyle - they had 1 cooking vessel, 2 plates and a fire to cook on. Guruji had 2 carpets to sleep on - he slept on his two dotis and she slept on her sari (she had 2 but one was her wedding sari) in Geetaji's words " In an unknown place, with an unknown language and an unknown human being, except he is now called Husband and no idea what he is doing except he is standing on his head!!". As she got up at 4am to make his coffee, she learnt quickly from observing his practice and used to accompany him when he went to teach in the girl's schools. First she developed a way to tie the sari with a special knot so that they became like pants to allow the girls to be able to perform the asanas and then realising that still poses such as Hanumasana would not be possible, she designed yoga shorts that came below the knees that Guruji called Hanuman Pants. She took instinctively to yoga and her touch was exact.
When Guruji was struggling with Pranayama (Krishnamacharya had told him he would never practice pranayama in this lifetime, presumably because of his TB scarred lungs) she made the suggestion that he stopped trying to commence the practice with Ujayii breathing, but to relax and ease his way in with normal breathing and allow the practice to develop from there.
Her death was sudden and shocking - she performed the puja for the open ground where the institute was to be built, on the Thursday and died on the Sunday. Geetaji rounded off the discourse by telling us that some years after she died, the family were speculating as to whether she would have taken rebirth yet and Guruji said "Absolutely not!! she is waiting for me there and then we will decide together when to take birth".
Navaz - Inversions
AMVirasana – Begin seated upright on the heels. Ankles press the floor. Big toes together, knees apart so that the waist can descend. Extend the arms upward and elongate the torso fully with the arms. Keep the head up and extend forward from the hips to the fingertips, the four corners of the waist extend. Head UP!!
Repeat AMV same method – “If you’ve come to have a rest, you are in the wrong place my friend, as you are here prepare to work hard” Head up, gaze of eyes forward and seek out the hump on your back. Spread the palms wider so that the muscles of your back spread, fingers open on the floor.
AMSvanasana –Right foot in line with the right hand, left foot in line with the left hand. You are approaching the end of your month here (sob!) so bring together everything you have learned here to improve your pose. Move your dorsal spine in to move your chest forward, how we have to adjust the front of the body by working on the back of the body. We call the tailbone ‘the monkey bone’ as this is where the monkey’s tail is. Lift your monkey bone up! And then spread the buttock bones wide apart. Root of the right thigh, root of the left thigh lift up!! Pelvic bones lift up!!
Demonstration on stage 1) the feet. You know the difference between a chapatti and a puri right? Arches of your feet have to be a puri and then from the arch of the foot to the inner groin. Outer edges of the feet cut down stamp down and toes lift up LIFT UP!! 2) Mango – your muscles have to be like a green unripe mango – tight! You know as the fruit ripens it becomes looser – as we age so also muscles become loose on the bone. So we have to make those muscles tightly cling to the bone like the green mango. Can we do?
Repeat AMSvanasana with these points
AMSvanasana to UMSvanasana –x 6 hands wider to make the space for the chest to come forward. Synchronise your movements with the breath to get the proper breathing. Inhale and EXHALE as you swing forward. Sacrum, pubis move forward and flesh of the buttock towards the heels. Pull the navel forward. Inhale and EXHALE to move back to AMSvansana.
Uttanasana – heart in the prone position promotes recovery, this is why the dogs lead a good healthy life, rarely suffering from heart attack. Apart from the muscular work AMSvanasana also restful, because of this prone position.
Eka Pada AMS x 2 feet together – synchronise the movements with the breath, inhale preparatory and exhale to THROW the leg up. HIGHER! HIGHER! This is not a ballet class, so don’t point the toes. See that down leg hip should not drop. Lift up the pelvic bones.
Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana – keep root of the thigh upward, leg higher.
Virasana while we watched demo on the stage.
Ardha adho mukha vrksasana. Measure your distance from the wall using dandasana and use your hand to keep the place. 1) Without belt 2) With belt around the elbows. Spread the fingers, press the palm and lift upwards, shoulders upward! Keep dorsal in and take navel to the spine, “Dipped lumbar is very fashionable in the West I see! It will do more harm than good”. Legs working, thighs lifted to the roof of the legs, open the backs of knees and thighs.
Paschima Namaskarasana and coiling spine in and look up, taking the eyes further back than the forehead.
Urdhva Dandasana x 3 at wall– Thumbs must cross NOT touch. I don’t know where this habit has come from but it is WRONG Guruji said the thumbs must cross and told the teachers he would take away their certificates if he saw them doing it, which sorted out the problem quickly enough! Dandasana distance from the wall 1) Head on sticky mat only 2) Head on tri fold blanket 3)Head on tri fold blanket and belt around the elbows to create a resistance. On third go raise right leg and down, left leg and down and then those that can balance both legs up.
Sirsasana in centre with belt around elbows and tri folded blanket. Good method for neck problems to help you lift the shoulders and elongate the neck so that the cervical spine is not compressed. Press the triangle of your base into the ground and lift your shoulders upward. Take your monkey bone in, do not hit diaphragm forward. Spread the fee 6 inches apart, roll top thighs inward and lengthen from the groin upwards to the inner ankles. Spread still further apart, lift the buttock flesh up and take the monkey bone deep inward. Join the legs maintaining the lift of the inner thigh upward to the arches and the tailbone IN. Practice sometimes with the mirror. The mirror only reflects what is.
Adho Mukha Virasana
Swastikasana – arms upward – Adho mukha swastikasana – aim forward to elongate and lengthen, spread the palms to release the shoulders – the shoulder accumulate stress so soften them and spread there. Each one of us knows where the lump on their own back is, so move there and release that lump.
Chatushpadasana x 3 Stamp heels down, chest to chin, chin to chest. Widen the clavicles and press the outer shoulders down. Lengthen the buttocks and move the monkey bone into you. Buttocks like pumpkins – they are no longer lemons! On third attempt, get the belt ready and from chatush go to halasana.
Sarvangasana – as we are the ladies class, open your t shirt at the back and take the hands inside the t shirt onto the flesh of the back as this gives a better grip. 1) Virasana in sarvangasana – knees back and monkey bone forward 2)Eka Pada Sarvangasana right leg, half way only and then to the floor those that can do without disturbing the vertical leg, vertical leg buttock reaching upward.3) Parsva Eka Pada Sarvangasana – first turn the right foot out, right heel to left instep to prepare the leg..
Halasana fingers interlocked behind – bend the arm and press the little finger down X 4 “Press!! Nothing comes easily my friend!”.
Karnapidasana – roll the buttocks over the heart, release any strain in the back.
Savasana Frontal brain goes downwards. Let your abdomen quieten – no hardness there, you are not on the catwalk, hardening the abdomen will cause harm, learn to soften and spread there. Widen, quieten the temples and let the exhalations go down into the abdomen.