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Our journey to India and first class with Rajalaxmi

We set off from a grey, wet and windy Heathrow at 4pm on New Years Eve, celebrating the arrival of 2018 with a rather limp round of applause on the aircraft, led by an over enthusiastic air hostess who definitely needed to be out clubbing somewhere and not stuck at work. The 10 hour flight seemed to whizz by - I read a bit and watched the whole of Gone with the Wind and miraculously we were preparing to land. Sadly getting through customs was the opposite extreme, how could it take this long ? After almost an hour of queuing we finally got to the front and discovered the cause of the delay. Immigration officials have installed new time saving technology - a scanner that scans your fingers and thumbs to verify your identity, which doesn't work well. Lots of wiping the scanner and repeated attempts to make it work for each person passing through. When we finally made it to the other side, it had taken so long that our chance to claim baggage had gone and the next flight had taken over our carousel. After several tense minutes we gratefully located our suitcases which had been dragged off for us and left in an abandoned heap. India is the only place I know that your baggage has to be scanned before you're allowed to leave the airport so with resignation I joined yet another queue for the scanner. Jenny left to pick up her connecting flight to Pune while I had opted for a pre booked taxi with Roots and Wings, which thankfully was still waiting even after our extended delay. We sped off through Mumbai as the red orb of the sun rose in the sky on the first morning of 2018.

This was at 2am UK time so I was tired but as usual too excited to sleep as the first sights and sounds of India arose around me. A hotch potch of humanity: people, animals, tumble-down shacks next to glittering car showrooms, dusty piles of rubble and a heap of abandoned cars piled one atop the other. It seems there is no formal infrastructure in place to gather rubbish so it is piled all around with only the inedible plastics, rubble and metal left by the animals to gather dust.

Upon arrival at our apartment I managed a couple of hours sleep before heading off for the 6pm class at the institute.I wasn't sure if this was crazy as I was a bit deranged from lack of sleep and probably had little stamina for a class but decided to go for it anyway. I still get a little thrill when first arriving at the institute, although of course Guruji is no longer there to greet us, his presence is all around. I had tentatively arranged to meet my friend Kari Ann at class and sure enough there she was making the most of her first shopping opportunity in the lobby.

The medical class was just finishing in the main hall and it was heart warming to see Geeta there looking a little frail but well enough to be giving a local man a bit of a dressing down so all was well there!

I was relieved to see Rajalaxmi was taking the class - probably the least intimidating prospect when you're feeling a bit wobbly. Class was great (sequence below) and I thought Rajalaxmi's demonstrations of her teaching points were explicit and easy to grasp. It was a busy class despite being early in the month, with a mix of local students and visiting teachers enjoying the quality of the teaching.

After class Jenny, Kari Ann and I headed off for supper and note taking.

Monday 1st January 6-7.30pm - Rajalaxmi Standing Poses

Invocation to Patanjali and Guru – instructed to keep our eyes open.

X legs twist x 3 each side – Don’t lean onto the back hand, lean slightly forward toward the knee and see how this helps you to turn more. Focus on shoulder blade action, taking the shoulder blade forward on the side where the hand catches the knee and slightly backward on the hand behind side, so that the shoulder blades are evenly working.

Urdhva Hastasana in Swastikasana – Take arms further backwards and shoulder blades forward into the back. Top shoulder blade moving downward and lowershoulder blade pressing inward to take the arms further back.

Urdhva Baddangullyasana in swastikasana – starting from palms together, fingers pointing forwards and take the right little finger outside. Bend arms and put back of hand on top of head, fingers interlaced. Stretch the arms upwards as if a heavy weight was pressing down on the palms, pushing upward through the resistance this creates. This made the wrists really stretch and the forearms lengthen.

AMVirasana into AMSvanasana – lift the shoulders away from the ears, press the shoulder blades into the back resisting the bottom elbow upward. Walk back into uttansana feet as wide as the mat. Walk forward into AMSvansana feet together leg raises, not lifting so far that the leg becomes as if dislocated. Lift the inner and outer leg and knee equally. Walk back to uttanasana feet together and stand up.

Garudasana – First time just did our own way. 2nd time, those that could not do, sat on the platform and wrapped the leg around in a seated position and some were then able to stand up from there. Instructed to bend the standing knee and stretch the other leg straight out infront and then whip it into position. Press the bottom knee upwards as if to lift the top knee and then press the top knee downward. 3rd time interlacing the elbows 1) Extend arms a little out to the side, bend at the elbow and roll the elbow in, without closing the side chest (like you have to do in digital pranayama). 2)Creating the same resistance as with the knees – press bottom elbow up and top elbow down and see how this works the shoulders.

Utkatasana with feet apart descending the top buttock downward as if you were sliding down the wall. 2nd attempt – go from utkatasana straight into garudasana.

Tadasana holding brick between the palms behind. Lifting the brick slightly up and rolling shoulders back and down to scoop the shoulder blades deep into the upper back.

Angular Trikonasana x 3 she let us do one making all the mistakes and then demonstrated how the inner ankle and big toe lifts while the outer ankle gets crushed and drops outward also causing the upper leg to lose its connection into the socket. We have to press the big toe mound firmly into floor and lengthen it. Here we came up to tadasana with the feet apart to learn the action. Roll the fibula (bone in outer calf area) towards the tibia (shin) and see how this presses and lengthens the big toe mound making it very steady on the floor. Someone pointed out that this rolled their inner knees too much inward and she said the knee has to have its own mind – outer calf rolling in and inner knee resisting that action created even more strength and dynamism in the lower leg and foot. Then we repeated angular trikonasana hand on brick. Shoulder blades working as they were with the brick between the palms, so taking top arm back to get that fixing and then bringing it up maintaining the firmness of the shoulder blade into the back.

Angular Vira 2 into Parsvakonasana as you take the bent leg knee back make same action of rolling fibula towards tibia to create resistance and see how this fixes you strongly at the socket of the leg. Here she demonstrated 2 points 1) The lower side trunk should lay along the thigh, so flat brick or no brick to get that contact 2) Many of us were rolling the back thigh in to get down. She showed us how much that leg has to resist backward. 3) There is no life in upper breast area, she showed how to take the top arm backward to fix the shoulder blade in and then take that arm up. Repeated Angular Vira 2 into Parsvakonasna.

Angular Ardha Chandrasana – using all of these techniques to get an ardha chandrasana where the buttock / upper thigh are strongly fixed forward and no wavering on the big toe side of the foot as you roll the outer leg bone inward around the centre shin and lengthen the big toe mound. Again she showed that if the back ankle was allowed to collapse backward , the hip would also collapse backward.

Baddha Konasana – she showed from behind how we tend to let the sacrum drop backward. We had to lift slightly off the floor and press the sacroiliac strongly forward to open up.

Upavista Konasana same action.

Paschimottonasana feet apart and head on brick between lower legs. She got us up and geave very clear demonstration from behind, how we have to drive the pose forward from the sacrum and this moves the front ribs further along the legs. Repeated Paschimottonasana with this action.

Sirsasana – Many of you, your ribs are pressing into your t shirt at the front. This means that you are pressing the ribs too much forwards. Take the ribs back away from the tshirt and spread them to the sides towards the elbows. Widen the bottom ribs don’t push them forwards.

AMS – lifting the shoulders and pressing the shoulder blades into the back to release the neck.

Chatushpadasana on shoulderstand set up

Sarvangasana – Move pubic bone forwards and legs backwards otherwise the pubic bone disappears behind the legs. Use hands to lift skin of the upper back towards the buttocks and create a firm support for the shoulder blades to move in.

Halasana Rolling down so so carefully so that the head does not get jerked upwards when you land. How you have to use the legs and spine to avoid that jolt. X Legs or bent legs (she said I can’t call it savasana, just a few moments lying quietly).

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