Abhijata - 27th February 2020 - Restorative and Pranayama
After yesterday's lack of confidence, woke up today feeling depressed and lacklustre and even seriously considered changing my flight to come home tonight. Gave myself a talking to and what a difference a good practice makes! I opted for backbends to lift my mood and realised that despite waking up feeling like an old croc, that actually my body is in a prime state to work on asana. As soon as I got going, I could feel how responsive everything has become after my intensive month of practice here. Go home early? are you kidding!! No, no, no! a couple more days of sunshine and yoga. 5 hours of practice on the terrace followed by a wonderful pranayama class with Abhi.
Dheeraj arrived up to see me at 11am, having spent his morning at the post office sorting through parcels along with 3 other people until he found my parcel containing my arm sensor. At the risk of repeating myself - what an absolute star!! This reminds me of a memorable meal out I had with a group of friends once in Bulgaria, where we eventually realised the only way the food was going to get to the table, was if we cooked it ourselves, so one of our friends got up and did just that and went into the kitchen to muck in.
Abhi's teaching this evening was as wonderful as ever and Satvika came up to visit, so that during our sirsasana the two of them were playing quietly in the corner together and while we lay down for savasana, she was skipping amongst the corpses! This was not in any way disruptive, in fact I only knew for sure that this happened because a friendly note taker who was observing told me. The class focussed on how we bring the mind from a scattered state to a cohesive, one-pointed mind and how this focussed mind reaps benefits in both our yoga and our everyday lives. Throughout the class we paused to feel the state of the body, mind, breath created by the pose we had just completed, so that each stage of the transformation could be observed and understood.
Abhijata - 27th February 2020 – Restorative and Pranayama
Swastikasana Invocation – Without shrinking the lower back, lift up – the lumbar should not narrow when you lift the sides of the body up.
Prasarita Paddottonasana – 4 – 5 mins - Head supported on bolster / blanket etc if it does not rest on the floor. Hit the inner thighs outward and lift the shoulders upward, so that there is not a dead weight on the neck. Widen the back of the thighs so that the legs are stable to hold you there. Breathe in such a manner to relax and quieten – legs have to hold you firmly for the brain to release. Fold the elbows in baddha hastasana so that you are resting on the folded wrists – wrists should be in front of the head where you can see them.
Uttanasana – 4-5 mins - backs of the palms resting on the floor – crown of the head releasing towards the floor, the back of the ears (the area behind the ears) has to roll down from the bottom to the top. Exhale softer for the backs of the ears to roll down. Don’t push the eyebrows or the eyes towards the hair line - descend without resistance, the way a flower or a leaf falls from a tree. If I was going to adjust you, I would put my index fingers in your ears and draw directly down towards the floor. Release yourself as if I was giving each of you that adjustment. Now when you come up, don’t open the eyes and spring up. At the moment the chin is rolling towards the chest for the ears to roll? Then maintaining that head position, I want you to come up slowly so that the chin remains downward. And then slowly raise the head up and open the eyes and release the chin lock.
AMSvanasana – head supported.
1) Support the forehead so that the face is parallel to the floor. Raise both sides of the lumbar. 7th cervical, lift up into the body so that the upper back is concave. Open the armpits. Press the eyebrows more and more.
Now release and observe what is the mental state? Compare to when you came up from your long stay in uttanasana, what is the state of the brain? The uttanasana was quietening, but the AMSvanasana when done in in this way, is not quiet – infact this AMSvanasana makes the mind ‘fresh’ – observe that. Now repeat AMSvanasana
2) 4 – 5 mins - Back of the crown supported – you may well need less height under the head than the previous variation. Sides of the neck drop down, eyes closed. Head and neck like sirsasana.
Now come up and observe the state – we were very, very quiet.
So as practitioners of yoga we have to understand the different modes of doing. If we are in a dull state, the first method we should choose. If we have just had a big argument which method will we choose?
We know that pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses – here we learn how the sense organs have to be adjusted to bring about that state. The angle of the ears, eyes, forehead, eyebrows can be adjusted to bring a certain state of mind.
Janu Sirsasana – Head supported – I don’t want your back to be a hump so that your head ends up lower than your back body – in that case take more height, a chair if needed, upper back and back of the neck should be in one line - the back of the neck should be parallel to the floor. First of all, go for the physical freedom – lift up and move forward, chest forward, sides of the waist forward, move the back of the body to the front of the body and the front of the body forward. Now maintain that position of the back and stomach, but lessen the pulling of the arms, release the head down, widen the shoulders away from the sides of the neck. Exhale a little longer to move the trunk little forwards. Now if we were in the therapy class, I might put a weight on your upper back / dorsal closer to the ground. Take a few exhalations in that area to release down, as if I had put that weight there. So we begin that process of cleaning the brain.
Between sides: Most of the time the mind is scattered and when we have a scattered brain, productivity is less. Here the brain is channelled. Can you detect the difference from your mind of 6pm when we sat down to begin the class? Consciousness is of different types and we have to move from the dull mind to the restrained mind.
Asanas arranged in this manner make the brain quieten and when the brain is quiet, we are better able to perceive what must be done. When we are involved in an action, there is no place for a scattered mind. We should not be thinking about the fruits of an action – for beginners – ok fine, it is motivating, but as advanced practitioners ….. within an asana, when the brain is quiet, we can receive the signals from the body – this side or that side is short, this hip is dropping etc and we develop skilfulness in action. Yoga is skilfulness in action and this has to translate into our everyday lives too. When the situation is stressful and many demands are placed on you all at once, the yogi needs to be able to take a step back from the situation and see it from all sides.
Sirsasana – using wall if the effort of balancing is going to be distracting – buttocks into the body and thighs back, be on the exact crown of the head. Come down!!
Repeat Sirsasana - Now this time you are going to place the head in such a manner that you roll the back of the ear from the bottom to the top, towards the chin side, as you place the head (so we were coming more towards the back of the crown). This may be uncomfortable in the beginning when you are learning this (n.b make sure the head still goes right back into the palms). Lips, cheeks, eyebrows – let them drop to the ground. Observe how the back body comes to the front body as you inhale and goes back as you exhale. Can your mind watch that action with the inhalation and be in sirsasana without that loss of the back ribs moving forwards? As you exhale, you can relax the face better, skin of the temples has to be thin and soft. Don’t make the root of the tongue, the jaw thick. After 6 minutes now of sirsasana the brain won’t be so fresh – body is tired, sense organs are starting to protest. The brain is programmed to protect you from discomfort, but if we always go for ease, lying in the bed all day – there is no progress. So the intelligence has to make the right choice. As we stay the breathing may become laboured, so consciously we have to relax the breath (a few minutes more). Now I won’t tell you when to come down – if there is physical pain and you are holding yourself there with willpower alone, then come down. "For breath awareness to fade IN physical efforts have to fade OUT".
Now sit in vajarasana and observe the state (don’t move too much or you won’t be able to observe, if you make too many changes that observation is lost).
Ardha Halasana or full halasana – definitely a blanket under back of head – Start by interlocking the fingers and stretching them back to pull the shoulders back. Move the chest forwards so that chin comes into chest – ladies especially can lift the breast with their hands so that the chin can come into a better jalandhara bandha. Take your fingers to the base of the skull, slightly lift the head and lengthen the neck so that ear gets that same rotation again. Press the sacrum forward towards the stool to give a better chin lock, the throat has to rest at the base of the
neck. Eyes closed and let the eyes move deeper into their sockets. Place the wrists on the eyes, drawing them slightly downwards, but not too much pressure on the eye – not a single cell of the eyes should get squashed – fingers on the forehead – like a simple sanmukhi mudra – this is learned before sanmukhi mudra as less skill is required. Before you place the palms, see that the eye has already receeded. Feel how the brain quietens and there is a kind of tranquilising effect – not tranquilised as in dull, but peaceful, calmer, relaxed – it changes the brain chemistry.
Sit quietly and observe the state.
Bolster / blanket savasana – As you place the head, circularise the ears from bottom toward the top. This savasana becomes the ground for the seeds of the pranayama to sprout. If we had taken savasana at 6pm, what vrittis would have manifested? Take the centre of the forehead down and then spread it to the sides – if we take the lump of dough and press it down, it spreads outwards? – so in that way release the forehead down, sides of the eyes towards the ears.
Take the inhalation in such a way as to spread the skin of your chest. Now earlier we only spoke of inhalation and exhalation, but here we have to observe 4 segments of breath – the inhalation, the small pause at the end of inhalation and before the exhalation, the exhalation and the pause after exhalation before the inhalation commences. I am not talking about a kumbak here, only the natural pause that has to be there. Observe. Guruji said that just by observing the breath, the breath itself changes (like a child that knows you are observing them).
Now after the inhalation and that slight pause, take a further inhalation, like an echo, though the supplementary inhalation will be less and it will come a level lower – the first inhalation on the surface of the skin and the supplementary inhalation will begin a layer deeper. Watch that.
As you become a better observer of your own body and breathing you become a better observer in other life situations, your perception improves, your reflection improves, you have focus, self-discipline - you no longer have that scattered mind.
Return to normal breathing and you will notice how even though the breathing is ‘normal’ the breath itself wants to stay with you, it is reluctant to leave (I also observed that it was reluctant to begin, the pause at the end of exhalation was also noticeably lengthened).
Roll over to the right side, coming completely off of the bolster. Normally we would have taken some time to lie flat in savasana, but in this case in order to undo that curvature of the back, now we’ll roll to the left (a few moments) but to come up, we have to roll back to the right, always coming up from the right side because of the nadis.