The temperature is really hotting up - forecast is 36 degrees and sunny for the whole week and suddenly the ceiling fans are required night and day - there is no Spring season as such between Winter and Summer, though of course it will get hotter still as it heads closer to Monsoon. We've had a busy few days, with an early start on Sunday morning for Gulnaz. As we sped along the highway just after sun up, the other carriageway was closed for the Pune Marathon. Every kilometre or so there were drummers, dancers or singers on a small stage to motivate the runners on their arduous journey. We had a bit of a philospher for a rickshaw driver, who took great delight in stating repeatedly and emphatically in rich Indian baritone "In life don't seek answers, because if you find the answer, life will change the question!" and then laughing heartily.
After Gulnaz, I headed home for practice on the terrace - I'm now finally set up with both yoga chair and halasana stool, so all is well in my small yoga world. I spent some time enjoying preparing for backbend week. In the afternoon we did a little shopping and took the advice of the Facebook group to try out the Fab India Experience cafe. It was wonderful - light and bright and deliciously cool and the menu was, erm.... Fab! Loads of gluten free, healthy and vegan options and reasonably priced too. They make their own almond milk daily, so I had to have the obligatory almond milk hot chocolate and a delicious quinoa salad - I was totally spoiled for choice, which is a rare situation for a coeliac, diabetic vege!
Sadly we got back just a tiny bit too late for me to make it to the talk on bird photography, so I vowed to get up in time for the last guided bird walk of the Pune Bird Festival at Empress Gardens, another 6am start but it was well worth it. We were a group of about 10 and the guide provided us with a pair of binoculars each. As the sun came up and the birds awakened all around, we were led through the gardens with the guide helping us to spot many different species of birds, ranging from the everyday (in India) parakeets, common mynas, drongos, koel and hornbills to (the highlight of the trip) a white plumed bird of paradise flycatcher. We also saw pale billed flower pecker, red breasted flycatcher and indigo bunting. The last picture in the gallery is a tiny flower pecker poking it's head out of a hanging nest, which took me absolutely ages to spot, even though it was only a couple of metres in front of me. If you look at the big picture of Judy looking through her binoculars, you can see the two hornbills, centre tree, on the bare branch near the top that sticks out on the right side. Our guide advised me I could leave out sliced banana (skin on) and cut grapes along with my bird bath, to attract birds onto the terrace. I'm hoping the bolder birds will alert the shyer birds to the food situation, so far I've only seen myna birds daring to take the risk.
Class with Rajalaxmi this evening was backbends and we were treated to her usual feast of long held poses, slightly chaotic at times, but always great learning. I employed my great yogic detachment to not mind, when after 10 minutes of getting shoved from pillar to post, losing my spot and my halsana stool, I finally got up into ardha halasana, just as she said the words "Back row, come down!". Sigh.
Rajalaxmi – 17th February 2020 - Backbends
Thanks to Amita and Yaron for sharing notes
Swastikasana invocation – Sit on the tops of your thighs, not the buttock bones. Back ribs moving lift up and move towards the sternum chest. Feel the space between the two and inhale into that space. Move the back ribs in and feel how the shoulder blades stay down.
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana – very long stay – Separate the legs – Open the backs of your knees - Cut outer corners of the thighs downwards to the floor. Get that separation where the trunk ends and the legs begin. Move the sitting bones towards the platform (ie away from the lumbar spine) so that the end of the spine extends. Do not bring legs towards you, they have to stay at 90 degrees otherwise the bone cannot move into the socket. Kneecaps straight and press the thigh bone into you and feel how that spreads the back thigh – from the middle thigh to the outer and from the middle thigh to the inner, whole thigh has to spread like that. Hit outer heel to inner heel and lift inner heel up to the ceiling.
Adho Mukha Svanasana – From the palms press and MOVE BACK! The skin on the buttock bones has to TEAR so much you push back there! Stay on the legs and walk back to
Uttanasana –Guruji used to give uttanasana standing on a stool with a weight suspended from the forearms so folded elbows as if you had the weight suspended from the forearms hanging towards the floor, how that weight would help you to release downward. The very tops of the thighs have to go IN and lift UP so that you get that separation there for the side trunk to go further and further downward, lower abdomen has to unfold, whole width of the abdomen has to move towards the spine.
Adho Mukha Svanasana – push back there, PUSH back, the frontal thigh has to go deep into you – tear the skin over the buttock bones so much you spread and move back there. Jump forwards to
Sirsasana 10 minutes – The fairer skin (inner) has to push towards the darker skin (outer) but the elbows have to PRESS down and the outer elbow rolling to the inner elbow to resist that movement and feel how that makes you strong there.
Virasana in sirsasana - knees apart, now suck the buttock bones deep into you and lengthen the thighs upward and kick the buttocks with the heels X 3 now maintaining the buttock bones digging downwards extend the legs straight up to sirsasana (repeat these actions). Come down with 2 legs, sucking the thighs towards you, open the arches of the feet.
AMVrksasana X 2 – The fairer side has to hit towards the darker side. Resist the elbows towards the wall and move the shoulder blade away from the wall. Elbows has more than one side! Move the elbow into the elbow. Suck the buttock deep inward so that the feet leave the wall and you are balancing and then come down 2 legs.
Pinca Mayurasana brick and belt – Middle buttock into you and go up! go up! GO UP!
Standing Back Arch – Feet apart – Resist the legs and lift the sitting bones up to go. Do not throw the head back yet. Hands to the back thighs and lift the back ribs UP! Dorsal spine coiling IN to arch back.
Now class divide in 2 - Half the class get the chairs, half standing back arch.
Group 1 - Chair Back Arch – 3 fold blanket over centre of chair for spine - 4 stages:
1) Hands pushing back rest of chair to coil spine in, legs extended, knees completely straight.
2) Arms extended, legs extended and understand how the buttock bones are making opposite action to standing back arch group. Chair group buttock bones have to extend towards the leg side, standing group, buttock bones have to get sucked up into the body.
3) Take hands inside front legs of the chair and catch back legs of the chair, legs extended
4) Elbows folded, legs extended and use the weight of the elbows to coil upper spine deeper in.
5) Come further off and move more towards forehead
Group 2 – Standing Back Arch – Be on the heels, suck buttock bones upwards and deep into you, moving palms down and down. Descend down further and further. Stay on the feet. Keep the height, absolutely no pinching, head extends away from the tailbone.
(Everyone )Ustrasana X 3 – Don’t be on the patella, be on the shin bone. Thighs have to push forward (as if to a wall).
Supta Tadasana – 1)extend the legs, join the feet. Release the lumbar down, move shoulder blades in. 2) Bend the legs and extend the arms over the head
Chatushpadasana X 2 – Stamp the outer edges of the feet and move the shoulder blades and back ribs in. Catch the front ankle properly! Thumbs catching on same side as the fingers – it’s a different catch, a different extension.
Urdhva Dhanurasana preparation X 3 – Bend up the legs, place the hands so that they come towards the shoulders NOT the ears. Come up half way and roll onto the forehead. ROLL! Nose towards the floor and roll like that (forehead stays on the floor) and coil the back ribs in, they have to move INTO you! Pressurise the wrist and lift the shoulders and place the crown, rolling action comes from the back ribs, connect them into you and come onto the nose.
Urdhva Dhanusrasana X 4 – 1st attempt - Hands keep them near to the shoulders and lift up from the tailbone, tailbone has to make the lift. Stay on the legs side, Stamp the outer feet. Pause on the crown of the head and lift up from the legs side. Move the fairer side of the forearm to the darker side of the forearm and roll the top chest towards the platform (so arms resist in one direction and chest rolls in the other). 2nd attempt – This time lift the heels and walk in and maintaining the height, suck the arch energy up, to keep the lift of the buttocks as the heels extend down.
Tadasana dropping back to Urdvha Dhanurasana. Those that can, do in the centre of the room, take the bolster. Those that need to use the rope, go to the rope wall. Here we watched a demo. Stand with the bottom rope around the mid buttock keeping it taut and hold an upper rope in each hand. Hold onto the upper ropes to coil back, then fold palms into namaskarasana at the sternum to coil the chest back and when you’re sufficiently arched, extend the arms over the head to the floor. Rajalaxmi wasn’t happy with the first student as she was weak on her legs. She got a second student to show, starting with straight legs, coiling back hands folded in namaskarasana at chest, now staying on the LEG SIDE, knees can bend a little, with resistance, firm on the feet to stretch the palms over to the floor.
Same actions in the centre of the room and if you can coil back enough to see the bolster behind you, then you are ready to drop back (Rajalaxmi went around the room, assisting people who needed help to drop back).
Kapotasana 2 methods 1) Start from ustrasana and sucking the buttock bones deep in, press pelvis forwards, coil back ribs in and extend arms over the head to the floor. 2) From supta virasana – take the palms over the head like urdhva dhanusrasana and push the palms to lift the chest and hips up to place the crown of the head on the floor.
Parva Virasana twist – how you have to LIFT UP to turn.
Virasana forward bend, knees together – it’s a different AMVirasana and still very good to release the back.
Ardha Halasana – rest the thighs on the chair or the stool.
Half uttanasana – Bolster on the chair or stool. Fold the elbows, rest the head and feel how that savasana like state can descend on you.