Day 16 Geetaji and Rajalaxmi
Woke up this morning bright and early and got a rickshaw to a nearby hall where Geetaji was due to teach at 9.30am. We arrived in good time a little after 9 but there were already many there before us. We were politely asked to move back so that the Russians could be at the front (it was their intensive we had cordially invited along to after all). Geetaji entered the room with her walker to rapturous applause and I saw more than a few wipe a tear from their eyes (much later we were wiping tears of a different sort!!). When the applause finally subsided she began her talk by explaining the reasons why she has ended up with such difficulty in walking, in case we should think that we may end up like her. She explained that she had tremendous weakness left from childhood when she had many, many diseases such as typhus, influenza and malaria. She said that for several years she was teaching children in the schools which involved repeated and strenuous work as well as assisting many people using her own bodily strength before there were props etc to help. She also mentioned that she has a connective tissue disorder.
Geetaji asked what we would like to learn about and the response from the Russian group was that they were open to anything at all she wanted to teach , so Abhi explained to Geetaji that both with the Russian Group and the regular institute people, she had observed that our legs are weak and also that so much conditioning was present that we weren’t enjoying our poses.
Geetaji commenced an explanation of the vayus. The legs and pelvis are the earth element and above that in the abdominal region is the water element. The world and the universe outside are reflected on the inside and just as the ocean has at its base a bed of earth so to, do we. Without our solid foundation the structure cannot function. The legs and spine are totally interconnected.
She spoke of the solar plexus and the heat and fire (agni) required for digestion. Without this heat even the sense of touch is lost – if you place your fingertip on something very cold, it can no longer feel. Just as in our universe our planet revolves around the sun, the whole solar system (and perhaps endless other universes) are contained within us.
She spoke about the build up of rubbish in the oceans and in our cities and explained we also have this build up of rubbish inside – we have the practice of asana to throw this rubbish out to cleanse every part of ourselves. The practice of asana makes us CLEAN.
Ardha Chandrasna with Raya demonstrating. She made the point that we can’t just look at the photo of ardha chandrasana and recreate the picture but we have to use awareness and discrimination to bring the life to the pose. Russians are tall. Raya has long legs short body. Japanese have short legs long body. Each one of us is different and will need to adjust accordingly. She gave Raya the brick so that he could fully elongate his torso and bring the openness and expansiveness to this chest. The full expression of the pose was hindered by him keeping his foot in line with the hip and he was able to better expand with the leg higher.
AMVirasana and AMSvansana and Uttansana
We also looked at Raya in tadasana and she showed how to bring the life to the back of the legs. How to bring the life to the dark areas of the body so that every single pore of skin has to be open and have that life. At the front of the leg he had to press skin to flesh to muscle, muscle to bone – at the back of the leg the contents had to move away from the bone towards the skin. He showed Uttansana Concave Back with the spine HAMMERED into the body – dorsal area (not lumbar). In tadasana we looked at how taking the feet a little (4 inches) apart allowed us to feel each heel distinctly so that all parts of the heel had to press.
Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana CCB “HAMMER your spine!” we worked with whole palms down and on tips of fingers and also lifting the palms completely up off the floor to find the space. Full uttansana and still taking the dorsal inward.
In these simple poses Geetaji used her words and energy to make us work intensely hard and the sequence written on paper can't do anything to capture the experience in the flesh. At one point she said "You can catch the words, the points I am making, but can you translate it into action in your own self?"
We looked at a student on the stage how she couldn’t get a lift in the apana vayu water area – her abdominal region was collapsed. She could easily join the inner seams of her legs but nothing was happening there to bring that action. She gave her a brick between her thighs and she had to squeeze that brick tightly, whilst also opening the back of the leg. It was visible how her whole torso extended and the abdominal fold was opened. She got Abhi up into sirsasana and instructed her to take the legs apart to better extend the inner seam of the leg upward and then join the legs retaining that upward stretch. Abhi reported that although the legs were extended, above that area there was no sensation only dullness, so Geetaji gave the brick between the thighs and Raya used his hands like a belt to contain the outer shins inwards and then Abhi gave a contented exclamation that signalled she was much happier with the life that was now in the pose.
We looked at Abhi in trikonasana , how she had to maintain the work of the front thigh to the back thigh in the back leg to keep the life in the pose. We did some standing poses with the work explained above in mind, but as we stood in parsva utthita hasta padasana ready to go into trikonasana, she repeatedly said “Open the heart!” and we had to keep the heart open as we went into the pose. She observed that for many the weight was going into the front leg, so we had to work the back leg more and take the brick for the front hand to take the weight back.
Trikonasana – she was very insistent that we looked up and focussed on the top hand and ceiling with the lower (left) eye.
Vira 2 (“Bend the front leg fully otherwise that is holding”)
Parsvakonasana – extending the lower torso to go down. Loooong stay here.
Vira 1 – the buttocks were not moving in properly. She got one of the Russians to come up and demonstrate – buttocks were back and trunk was slanting forward. Abhi and Raya had to make lots of adjustments to her pose, moving the buttock forward and lifting the frontal abdomen upward. She implored them to be very direct in their adjustments and reminded them how fearless Guruji was in order to bring about monumental change in his students.
We observed the correction of the same Russian student that we had looked at with the brick between the thighs in tadasana, this time in Vira 1 where they worked to help her get the lift of the back thigh and the upwards extension of the torso and arms. Abhi also showed Vira 1 and Geetaji started joking about how Abhi’s buttocks were like pumpkins so much she was pumping the buttock / thigh crease forward. We stood in tadasana feet apart and worked on pumping the buttock crease forward (as if we were going to drop back) and Geetaji rooted out the people who were not yet understanding the action. Then we repeated Vira 1 with the understanding of this action. She gave a message to the seniors that they have to be able to come to this level of the students. That is the difference between a teacher and a Guru. Guruji was able to come down to the meet people at the lowest level or elevate himself to the highest level of any pupil so that he could reach them.
Upavisa Konasana – Invocation eyes open
Baddha Konasana on the brick, hands holding the feet / ankles – with every Om the knees have to descend downwards. Repeat Invocation eyes open.
Geetaji was in good form throughout – bright eyed and sharp minded and she said her heart was full from the enthusiastic welcome she had received. She left the hall to the same continuous applause.
There were no rickshaws around when we left so we ambled back through some of the back streets of Pune, which were so different to the ‘main drag’. Narrow