Day 4 - Raya

A quiet day spent at home practicing after a terrible night's sleep last night. Was curiously wide awake after spending the whole day feeling sleepy and each time I was close to dropping off I was disturbed till eventually it was 3am and I was still awake. It's truly astonishing how noisy an Indian city is at nightime - first we have 'the night howl' a nightly show put on by a pack of local dogs who live in the farm opposite. It usually lasts 10 mins or so and they make one heck of a racket. This was followed by what sounded like a barrage of bombs going off (I'm assuming fireworks but have no explanation for what or why and bearing in mind that all the shops were closed because of rioting in Pune yesterday, a tad unsettling). I'm praying that I can get into a better groove sleep wise soon - I do NOT want to get home after a month off, more tired than when I left.

We headed to the institute for 6pm class, not sure who was going to take it. It turned out that Thursday eve is now Raya and it was busy with both students and observers taking notes.

It was undoubtedly the hardest class we've done so far. Right from the first second he went off like a firecracker and at times the instructions came so thick and fast, he reminded me of a horse racing commentator! I felt his teaching was much more focussed than 2 years ago although he did make time to lecture us on a few points.

I must have had a sixth sense, as in the 5 or so minutes before class started I did some good padmasana preparation. I injured my knee in 2014 and it has taken 3 whole years for it to get better and I have just recently got back into a consistent padmasana, but I definitely have to take the time to prepare for it properly. He gave padmasana for the invocation followed by a creative and engaging sequence of shoulder work, ardha matsyendrasana 2 and prone padmasanas. We did padmasana in sirsasana with gorakasana as an alternative. I am pretty good with knowing the names of poses but had never heard of goraksasana and there were a

lot of blank looks all round. Jenny bravely asked what goraksasana was but he wasn't interested in explaining so we had to skip it (we know now!) The theme of the class was to understand how the poses are all interlinked and how the actions learned in the basic poses are repeated in the advanced poses, but also how you can work back from the advanced poses to the 'basic' poses - so after the prone and inverted padmasanas we did a single Virabhadrasana 2 which came so beautifully with the openess of the front groins and inner thighs and the chest lift from the simhasana. More details about the class and the lectures in the sequence below. I did feel a bit sad at his parodies of our behaviour and our poses - I feel sometimes that he is completely contemptuous of us and although I kind of get it - I don't doubt there are many visiting students and teachers that are ignorant and egotistical - but among them there will be many humble, genuine and hard working students.

We finished the day with friends Kari Ann and Susana over for supper - after Jenny managed to communicate with our cook Sushila using her Marathi phrase book that we wanted her to cook enough food for lunch and dinner, she cooked enough for 6 so we needed a bit of help to get through it!

Thursday 4th January – Raya Intermediate 6pm

  • Those that can sit in padmasana for the invocation (Poss alternative swastikasana / virasana)

  • Lie on mat in supta padmasana – release groins towards the knees, lengthen (alternative supta virasana / supta baddha konasana)

  • Supta Tadasana – arms overhead. Outer ankles and legs closer and closer, inner legs widen. Long spine.

  • Roll over lie prone. Walk toes in (like chaturanga) keep forehead on the floor. Lift arms up and stretch them forward. Extend heels away and extend arms forward. Elbows higher, arms higher X 3 with rests in between (this was HARD work).

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana

  • Urdhva Baddangullyasana widen back upper arms

  • Release arms and take them back as if you were holding a brick, take the arms closer and closer without closing off the outer back chest, here you spread even though arms come closer. Make sure both shoulders moving equally.

  • Ardha Baddha Hastasana with left hand catch right elbow and keeping the right arm straight, take it further and further backward, without pulling the side chest back. Armpit chest lift and face front, arm further and further backward. Elbow goes easily, can you make the shoulder roll back? Repeat other side.

  • Urdhva Hastasana palms facing backwards can you feel how this widens the shoulder blade? Now without changing anything, turn the palms to face each other.

  • Gomukhasana here he gave a demonstration how the shoulder rolls forward as we take the arm further back. Beginners yes, but intermediate practitioners have to bring the elbow forward to take the arm up the back.

  • Here he gave a lecture about how we are viewing the poses as isolated actions – like digital which is made up of lots of completely separate dots as opposed to analogue which is a continuous wave. All these arm actions link from the basic poses to the advanced poses – He pointed out Guruji’s poses on the wall Padangustha Dhanurasana – arms are in urdhva hastasana, Paripurna Ardha Matsyendrasana – do you recognise the arm movement here? Don’t imagine that the so called ‘basic’ poses are to be overlooked. They are the jigsaw pieces to put the advanced asanas together.

  • Ardha Matsyendrasana 2 Spine lengthening, back ribs in and rotate, rolling top shoulder backward. Now stand up quickly and repeat ardha baddha hastasana – which hand will you catch? Meaning that as it was the left shoulder we were working on in ardha matsyendrasana this would be the shoulder that repeated the action in ardha baddha hastasana, so we caught the right elbow with the left hand. Repeat Ardha Mat 2 with left leg in padmasana, working on right shoulder, repeat ardha baddha hastasana working on right shoulder, catching left elbow with right hand. See how much more comfortable ardha baddha hastasana becomes?

  • Here he gave a lecture to the non-indian students. He had heard that some senior teachers were instructing that their students should only practice up to 2 levels above their current certification. He emphatically told us that this was COMPLETE RUBBISH and said if we are told this, we should ask for it in writing and send it to him at the institute. Practice whatever you like, play and see the whole glorious panorama of poses. If you must work to any syllabus at all, there are only 3 you should choose: Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama and Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

  • Repeat Ardha Matsyendrasana 2 right leg padmasana. We bent the left leg a bit like a half swastikasana leg. Here he talked about how if Geeta was teaching this she would be instructing everyone to THROW the arm back many times to break the stiffness in the shoulder and catch further and further. He encouraged us to try this energetic throwing repeatedly, but space was a bit of an issue so he told us to try this in our own practice when we have a 3 foot circumference of space around us. QUICKLY STAND UP and Parivrtta Trikonasana right leg forward. Do you recognise that the left arm / shoulder going to the floor, is the same as the left arm catching the foot in ardha matsyendrasana 2? Cut the left forearm into the outer right calf to aid with the rotation. Move forwards into Parivrrta Ardha Chandrasana if possible whole palm on the floor in line with the right foot. Repeat whole sequence on the left side.

  • Gomukhasana

  • Lie on the back and place hands like urdhva dhanurasana, now turn the hands 180 degrees so the fingers point towards the stage, not towards your shoulders as they normally would - this is surprisingly difficult to do and I had make visual contact with my hands to gauge which way the fingers were facing. It was very difficult to get the palms down. Now lift up into Urdhva Dhanurasana x 4 this is very difficult if you can’t get palms down sufficiently to push the floor and lift up.

  • Gomukhasana mirroring the actions of the urdhva dhanurasana – back ribs coiling in, open the thumb.

  • Padmasana lie prone pump outer hips down makes the abdomen hard, instead work on lifting the knees and lengthening them away to open and lengthen the frontal groin. The alternative for non padmasana people is bhekasana, can you see why?

  • Padmasana in Sirsasana (alternative padmasana up on the knees facing pillar opening the groins that way goraksasana).

  • Simhasana lengthening the knees away and descending the groin area/

  • Vira 2 Gave a lecture here about understanding the crossovers between poses. The openness of the front groins after the simhasana poses was amazing. The lift of the chest like simhasana etc. See the whole panorama

  • Paschimottonasana -Lecture here about students who use smart phones and alarms to time their poses. Have you ever fallen in love with your paschimottonasana so that you don’t want to spend time apart? How can you have bright digital screens flickering at you when you are in sirsasana?

  • Use the last 5 minutes to Repeat Paschimottonasana, Janu Sirsasana and Savasana in your own time.

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