Yesterday Lynda sent me a video from Goa all about the different birds in the region and I found that as I tried to commit to memory all the different distinguishing features and calls I was soothed into a peaceful and restful sleep. Sadly I was awoken at about 5.30am, only 5 hours after I had so optimistically dropped off. However, I found that the film worked a second time and unusually for me, I was able to fall asleep again until a more decent hour - finally some of the jet-lag fuelled exhaustion is subsiding. I woke up feeling good from yesterday's excellent class.
Morning practice on the terrace in the sunshine and I kept a close eye on all the visiting birds, spotting a drongo (distinguishable by its long forked tail) and a couple of red vented bulbuls (though honestly, I think they could more accurately be called a red bottomed bulbul). Inspired by tips in the video, Deeraj has agreed we can install a birdbath as this really attracts the birds in, if it is not situated too close to human activity. I am disproportionately happy about this!
I arrived at the packed practice hall expecting Raya and was surprised to see Abhi. As ususal her manner was friendly and relaxed and we started off with a laugh. As she sat down she said "Why is that the very second I sit down there is silence!! Everyone is talking and suddenly it is cut dead!! Aren’t you in the middle of your sentence? What happens to all those conversations? Do you resume afterwards or are all those questions left unanswered??!!"
The class was exceptional and as I sit and type up the notes, I can hardly believe that all of this was achieved in an hour and a half. The sequence was beautifully put together and she managed to give us a genuine taste of prayatna shaithilya or effortless effort. The class was taught to the background noise of her children playing happily outside and at one point they came up to see their mother, who managed to seamlessly keep the class flowing, while listening to the problem and I heard her say sotto voice "Say sorry!!" - a moment that any of us mothers can instantly relate to. Without wishing to gush, I think she is an absolute marvel.
After class I went for a 'peaceful' evening stroll, see video below for a taster.
Abhijata - February 6th 2020 - Standing Poses
Swastikasana for the invocation - Keep the eyes lifted to the eye level and then raise the inner body to the level of the eyes. Maintain, it is not that there is no work, maintenance work has to be there.
Uttanasana feet apart Now be on the outer edges. Inner foot to outer foot and look with your eyes and see that the inner and outer ankle bone are level. Inner foot to outer foot, inner knee to outer knee, inner thigh to outer thigh. Feel how in uttanasana the inner knee stretches more easily backward, but how much can you feel the stretch on the outer knee? Make it equal.
Prasarita Paddottonasasna be on the outer foot, inner legs to outer legs. Cut the outer edge of the feet down. Get that sharpness of the edges, so that every part of the foot, every part of the legs talks to you!!
Sirsasana to urdhva dandasana – to sirsasana – to urdhva dandasana – sirsasana belt tied tightly around the widest part of the calf, exactly where you curve outward and tie it TIGHT! Now ideal scenario you would have two belts, one around calves and one around thighs, or 3 belts, 4 belts – imagine I had taken the thick ceiling rope and tied it tightly around both of your legs, now even more tightly, squeeze your legs together and stretch them UP. Now feel how that togetherness of the legs enables you to lift up the inner leg better, reach for the ceiling with the inner leg! From your inner groins to your inner ankles, lengthen upward! Now kneecaps suck them into you! Extend your heels AND lengthen your toes, but do not make the toes hard. Lift up through the dorsal spine and move it into you! Urdhva Dandasana – legs straight, we are working the legs like this to prepare for the standings. Roll inner heels to outer heels and feel where does the heel begin? From the arch to the heel extend and from the arch to the toes extend. In both those directions you have to extend, whole sole of the foot open. Grip the knees and thighs, GRIP! Back up to sirsasana. Urdhva Dandasana – backs of the knees and thighs UP!, but toes like savasana and keeping them that way back up to sirsasana. It felt like a long stay and just before we came down, she said now you have shown me the work of the legs / feet, the physical, muscular work that has to be done but before you come down, can you show me the grace of the pose? your face should not show stress – brain, eyes, throat, tongue all have to soften.
AMVrksasana jumping up with 2 legs (optional) – same tightly tied belt around the calves, jumping up into full arm balance (bolster is permissible if you need it for the head). Now your legs have to show off! Squeeze them together and pull the body upward with the legs. As if Guruji was here watching, the legs have to show off! Imagination is a form of knowledge, so use your imagination to improve your pose. Ankle bones, ascend! Squeeze the legs tightly together and LIFT UP! Those waiting while the other group uses the wall for AMVrksasana, go through all the poses that belt helps to improve the work of the legs: Navasana, ardha navasana, dandasana, urdhva prasarita padasana etc
Now fold the sticky mat in half, long ways so that we all had a long, thin strip of mat to maximise the space.
Tadasana – check are your big toes really together. Now imagine you still had the belt tied tightly around the shins. Inner legs tightly together. Suck your kneecaps upward, suck your thighs upward.
Parsva Utthita Hasta Padasana – Turn the back foot in and turn the front leg out. Did you notice the difference in language between the back side and front side? The back FOOT has to turn in, but not the whole leg, knee, thigh still faces front. Now from the right frontal ankle suck the energy UP and the back leg hit from the inner to the outer, outer edge of the foot has to press, so that you could not even get a piece of paper under it. Cut down there. Now be tall in the pose and lift the pubic bone up towards the navel. Now before you go down, make sure that the inner leg is hitting to the outer leg, that resistance has to be there as you go down to Trikonasana.
Tadasana - Lift the front of the foot up to extend from the arch to the toes and then lift the heel up to extend from the arch to the heel.
Parsva Utthita Hasta Padasana – Thigh has to turn in it socket and those of you that were in the class yesterday, hip has to grip and back leg has to remain sharp, going for Virabhadrasana 2 – Parsvakonasana – you have all gone to heaven, too early!! Back leg has to resist, pelvis has to turn from right side to left side, first of all keep the top arm straight up and get the work of the back leg, pelvis rotation and then left outer foot STAMP and take the arm over the ear from that back foot to the left fingertips, stretch! The left outer foot has to press so much into the mat that it leaves a mark!
Tadasana- it is easier to feel the lift of the inner knee, but can you also feel the lift on the outer knee? Can you stretch there equally?
Ardha Chandrasana – Now exactly where that belt was, you have to hit down there. Inner leg wants to lift, but outer leg has to say NO! I am staying down. And then with that density from the inner groin to the inner heel lengthen and open the sole of the foot from the arch to the heel and from the arch to the toes, from the upper foot to the upper hip draw back towards you.
Virabhadrasana 1 – Raise the arms and turn. Take the weight to the back leg and cut the outer foot down. Now the 2 legs have to take on a completely different character. Make the back leg active, strong, dense push back there and the front leg has to submit passively, root of the thigh DOWN to bend the leg. We stayed for some time and then before we came up we had to submit even more, the root of the right thigh deep downward.
Tadasana – Swallow your saliva, don’t push the neck forward, eyes in a passive state.
Virabhadrasana 3 – Arms stretch back (due to lack of space) Now here you have to make the density of the raised leg. Make the calf, the heel, heavy and as they press down, the kneecap and the thigh have to LIFT UP. Heel down, thigh UP!
Tadasana - We have to learn to take ourselves into the back body. When we are in our frontal brains too much – like when something exciting comes on the news we instinctively lean forwards in excitement. Now take your eyes back, your face back, your throat back, body weight on the heels and feel how this is a completely different meditative state.
Parsvottonasana – the weight of the trunk tends to fall on the front leg in parsvottonasana and when we are beginners this is unbearable, that thigh stretch is too much. We as experienced students have learnt to bear that stretch, but for beginners it is hard. So, start by stretching upward to take the weight off of the front leg and look upward, not from the flexibility of the neck but with the lift of the body look upward and look with the outer corners of the eyes so that you are awake there, so that you bring the life - take the load off the front leg and be in the back leg – give the front leg some respite, pull from the front ankle the leg energy upward so that the front leg is ready and the front leg must do its duty and stay straight as you extend the torso forward. Move the front of the right thigh, the right knee back and stretch into the outer edge of the back foot.
Parivrtta Trikonasana – As if you have no left hand come down, not with the hand, but from the turn of the hip and then when you bring the hand down, bring it closer and closer to the leg so that you can use the wrist / elbow, whichever is in contact there, to push the outer shin and create a resistance to turn the torso. Move the sternum towards the chin to create the length to turn. Press the font of the right thigh to the back of the right thigh and see how this creates the space to turn further. With the stability of the legs, come up.
Tadasana – swallow the saliva, release the throat, front of the face to the back of the face WITHOUT dropping the chest, eyes stay in the eye level. We live mostly in our frontal cortex – this is partly what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom who can just BE, we have to learn to be more in the back brain, to create a more meditative state and this changes our body’s biochemical state. Are you feeling that change?
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana – Those of you that can keep the back heel down, the inner part of the back heel first of all. Lift up and go over the leg and turn. Press the inner back heel to rotate further and further and extend from the left hip to the left ankle. To come up stamp the inner edge of the back heel.
Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Now we have one more standing pose we must do, that was invented by Guruji) We have to recollect Vira 3 here. Little toe down! Heel heavy! And lift the thigh UP!
Uttanasana – Feet together and those that can learn to take the whole palm down, wrist down. Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana – raise the right leg, catch the left heel with the right hand, front thigh long and take the navel downward. Repeat left side.
Now come up and listen. The poses so far have needed a lot of power from you, a lot of muscular strength and as practitioners of yoga, this we have to begin with, as in the first instance we have to build a relationship with the body, we have to communicate with the different parts. But just like in teamwork where you reach a point in your relationship where you don’t need to tell each other everything, certain things are just understood, they just ‘get it’ – in the same way the poses have to become more effortless, we get a taste of prayatna shaithilya effortless effort.
Eka Pada Bhekasana – now before you bend the leg fully, lift the knee slightly up and from the top thigh, stretch the knee away from you, And then with this stretch, you have to press the foot down, and down and down, rotating the hand so that the fingers point in the direction of the toes. You can use the left forearm to lift the chest a little up, to press further.
Full Bhekasana and those that can, rotate the palms, press the feet down and lift the chest up and press the middle buttock down.
Now jump up to repeat urdhva prasarita eka padasana and make that same stretch from the frontal thigh to the knee to raise the leg. It was immediately apparent that this was a completely different raising of the leg. The leg had been ‘cultured’ and was much lighter and yes, it was a more effortless, more graceful lifting of the leg. She cautioned us though, not to teach this way to beginners. It is a requirement first of all that the communication has to be there, before this taste of effortless effort can be achieved.
Virasana (vajarasana) – The younger you are, the closer your heels have to be together! All heels tightly clamped without another word needing to be said! Here she talked more about Patanjali’s sutra on effortless effort. Sutra II.47 of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says: prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam which Guruji translated as Perfection in an Asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached. She said for this to be realised within an asana it has to be in a dynamic state, full effort is required before it can be effortless. First stage though is communication, without this progress cannot be made.
Sarvangasana – instead of using belt around the elbows, tie the belt tightly around the shins and you’ll realise how all this time you have been neglecting your legs! In sirsasana it is easier to bring that dynamic state to the legs, to make them sharp, but in sarvangasana not so easy and the belt really helps with this. Now unlike the sirsasana you can see your legs, however if you can see your feet, the heels, then your legs have come too far forward. Suck the sacrum in and take the legs back until the heels are no longer visible. Squeeze the legs tightly together and from the frontal thighs stretch them UP! Now look at your feet, what is happening there? They have to be like identical twins!! Not one doing one thing, the other another – they look like they have been separated at birth!! Do not lengthen the toes by shortening the heel, heel has to keep its length AND toes have to lengthen. Do not makes the toes hard.
Do not press the back of the head into the floor, there has to be that chin lock, jalandhara bandha helps you to create that state that I was talking about. Eyes have to soften and gaze towards the chest, temples passive, throat has to release back into the neck. Passive, reflective state. Notice how the belt makes the pose more restful, you can stay.
Halasana – High calibre legs!
Savasana Like rainfall the brain cells have to descend from the head towards the heart. Guruji said this union between the head and the heart, that is yoga.