Day 3 Women's Class Abhijata - Freedom!

Delightful morning light in the park

Still groggy and disorientated when I woke this morning - when possible I like to arrive a few days early so that I can recover from travel in Goa before arriving in Pune refreshed and ready for classes. This time though it was a toss-up between that and missing out on family time at Christmas, so I opted for a New Year's Eve flight - the tiredness does seem to wipe out half of the first week. Pune is cooler than I ever remember it being before, I've been needing a blanket on the bed at night and cardi at times during the day - unheard of!

We had a pleasant stroll through the park to the institute feeling a little nervous anticipation for the class to come - you never know who or what you are going to get until the very last moment and I was definitely feeling that I hadn't really got into my stride yet practice wise. The hall was already pretty full when we arrived and I managed to find a good space not too close to the back where the traffic noise can make things difficult to follow. I found myself in the esteemed company of Swati Chanchani and Gulnaz and had to remind myself that we are all just here as humble students to learn from the excellent teaching, it's not about your prowess or ego.

Raya took to the stage for the invocation and afterwards began a lecture about studio protocol, which they are very hot on here - but with such large numbers to manage, things have to be done in a very organised manner so that the teaching is not eclipsed by equipment issues. It can genuinely take a good 10 minutes just to get the chairs out in a big class! I felt pleased when Abhi unexpectedly appeared in the room - I really get a tremendous amount from her teaching which is very focussed and dynamic and delivered with great gusto -and we were not to be disappointed! First though she put us in upavista konasana while she added her two pennith to Raya's lecture. She told us not to go out alone late in the evening as there have been incidents of ladies being 'teased' (a quaint expression which made me smile). We were to let her know of any incidents and she will see what is to be done - I imagine she is quite a formidable force to have on your side!

The class reminded me of the 'love your parsvakonasana' class we did last time we were here (see This time the theme though was 100 different ways to improve your trikonasana. We started by getting rid of the mats and just working on the stone floor. Here we did some jumpings from AMSvanasana (full sequence below). Abhi worked in a team with Raya who demonstrated how long and high we were to jump, generating the lift from the hips to get that lightness. When we jumped into ardha chandrasana she made us do in two groups so that we could jump high, uninhibited by the fear of hitting a neighbour. The jumpings were immediately followed by full arm balance which I found felt incredibly light and dynamic - a link I had never particularly made before.

I do feel that there is a very special energy here in Pune - somehow the body becomes more responsive - I swear my leg bones become longer! I have wondered before whether it's the heat that causes this improvement in receptivity and of course there is the increase in available practice time and classes, but we've hardly begun here and already I'm feeling it. The class continued in a fast paced sequence, building and building our perception of different actions in trikonasana until the the whole pose felt liberated - all the clonky and stiff bits had become well oiled and alert.

After class we sat on our balcony taking notes and then headed to the Marriott for a well earned swim and rest in the sun. Annoyingly it was not the relaxing experience it usually is. There was a large wedding taking place and there was a bit of a rowdy crowd of male guests in the pool, to the point where I felt too inhibited to actually get in until 5pm when most of them had gone. Add to this the fumes from the extra generator they had put on to cope with the wedding and the annoying techno music they always pipe out of the speakers (grrh!) and you have a decidedly aggravating experience. The three of us that were there all mentioned this to the management and they apologised and gave us the visit free (it's 800 rupees, about £10 during the week and 1200 rupees at the weekend or 12000 for unlimited use of spa and pool during the month). They advised not to come back for 3 days when the wedding would be finished which may mean we have to skip our normal day off swim on Sunday.

Wednesday 3rd January – Abhijata Women’s Class

We started seated in upavista konasana and then baddha konasana while we had a lecture on studio protocol – don’t take equipment that you are not immediately using. Don’t bring big bags. Don’t bring food or drink. Don’t unfold the blankets. Don’t put hard wooden props on sticky mats (inc bricks), take a mat piece instead. Don’t answer door to strangers – no sellers or massages. Don’t go out alone at night. There have been a few incidents of women being “teased”. Please inform Abhijata if this happens and she will see what is to be done.

  • Get rid of the mats. AMSvanasana jumping UTT Utkatasana malasana, uttan, utkat, tad.

  • AMS repeatedly jumping to trikonasana – jump long and high, keep your hand where it was for dog pose, you have to jump so much forward that your foot jumps beyond your hand and keep the hand inside the leg.

  • AMS repeatedly jumping to parsvakonasana

  • Split into 2 groups to allow extra space 1 ) standing at the back vrksasana / ardha baddha padmottonasana 2) repeatedly jumping from AMS to ardha chandrasana. To get the lightness the hips have to lift up HIGH. The jumping leg has to bend but the up leg should remain straight so that you can throw that leg. Raya demonstrated the lift and height and lightness.

  • AMVrksasana x 3 – this felt very light and high after the jumpings. On the 2nd one we took our hands 6 inches away from the wall. Suck the buttocks and ribs upward and make the heels light on the wall.

  • Trikonasana – feel how when you lift the kneecap the back of the thigh shrinks and becomes hollow? Slightly bend the leg so that entire heel plate opens and presses the floor. Completely maintain that contact as you straighten the leg – feel the back thigh (I didn’t tell you to lift the quadricep) Inflate where the buttock meets the thigh - so this is how trikonasana must be done in the case of a hamstring injury, when done in this manner it will help the hamstring injury to recover.

  • Trikonasana – when you turn the back foot in, the back hip also rolls in and pelvic opening is lost. Keep the back foot slightly turned out and do trikonasana with the mind solely focussed on keeping that outer back thigh back. Now how much pelvic opening?

  • From Upavista: 1 leg marichyasana 1 leg upavista konasana 1) Elbow bent inside knee – elbow pushing knee back whilst simultaneously sucking buttock forward 2) Both hands behind, lift the buttocks up off the floor and cut buttock forward x 3. Mariychasana foot should be in same turned out position as trikonasana – fully turned to align with front edge of mat.

  • Trikonasana IN BETWEEN marichyasana sides so that you got the immediate understanding of the freedom it brings on the side you were working on.

  • Prasarita Paddottonasna – she noticed that many of us did not have the seal required on the out edge of the foot as you cut down there. She made us come up to tadasana with the feet apart and roll up completely on the outer edges of the feet. Then same action going down to Uttanasana, feet apart. Can you remember this much you have to press to really get that seal? Cutting the outer edge of the foot completely return the sole of the foot to the floor maintaining the action at the outer edge of the foot.

  • Trikonasana with that sealing of the outer edge of the foot.

  • Bharadvajasana 1 LEGS TO THE RIGHT FIRST SIDE (no props) complete focus on turning the outer back body.

  • Trikonasana IN BETWEEN Bharadvajasana sides – half way down into trik only, elbow bent and bring the bent arm forward to bring the lower side trunk forward (the exact place we had just been working on in the bharadvajasana). Held us in the half way stage for 60 seconds or so and then hand down. Tremendous improvement in rotation of lower side trunk.

  • Sirsasana, (periods and rope sirsasana people do chair viparita dandasana) those using the wall had to be about a foot and a half away. Virasana in sirsasana knees apart. Knees back, toes pointing towards buttocks, circular action as if you were going to drop back. Coil the buttocks inward simultaneously lengthen the knees up and take them back to open front groin 4 sets of 3 with straight sirsasana in between to ‘rest’. Then split the legs one leg back, the other leg forward, restraining the front leg to the same angle as the back. Lengthen the INNER legs away.

  • Trikonasana – How is the intelligence in the buttock and lower back?

  • Paschimottonasana – whatever your normal range is, bend the knees and increase your range – so if your normally catch the fingers catch the wrist, if you normally catch the wrist catch the elbows etc repeated several times bending the knees, going further and then straightening the legs without hitting the back body up and making it hard. Keep the front body moving forward to straighten the legs.

  • Parivrtta Paschimottonasana – Don’t immediately catch the foot or you will get stuck. Employ all the techniques to better get the turn of torso. Bend the legs and bring the arm forwards to bring the lower torso forwards. Maximum rotation. Many times working on the techniques to improve the turn.

  • Trikonasana - go quickly and don’t do with the MIND let your BODY lead the way.

  • Here she gave a talk about how we are being too rigid in our approach, both in our own practice and in our teaching. Iyengar yoga is not meant to be a rigid dogma and should not be pinned down to only one way of doing. NO! Guruji himself was prepared to say at the last China visit that for many years he had been teaching baddha konasana wrongly using the bricks. The buttocks are round and the bricks are hard, better to use the chumbals which are circular in shape. If BKS Iyengar himself was prepared to be so open, who are we to become rigid and dogmatic.

  • Chatushpadasana x 5

  • Halasana – you are so straight and lifted up that you are too straight and lifted up. Walk your feet further away from you so that the buttocks slightly roll over and feel how this softens diaphragm.

  • Sarvangasana (Periods x bolsters setu bandha) Do you know how much of your neck should be on? The whole neck off with the shoulders on the edge of the mat is only intended for beginners. Feel under your neck with your hand – the neck is completely unsupported. Now come onto the supports more. Neck has to learn, just as in the beginning your neck pained you in sirsasana so you have to tolerate this discomfort in the beginning.

  • We rested for a few moments when we came down and then finished with uttanasana.

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