Day 17 - Abhijata Backbends
Woke up feeling yoga-licious , yesterday’s classes making their mark on all the systems of my body. Backbends and inversions this morning with Abhi. She continued the theme from yesterday, focussing on the strength and cohesion in the legs. We spent 15- 20 minutes in sirsasana on 4 different attempts, three at the beginning of the class and one close to the end, so that we could experience the effect of the drop backs on the back body (and also the amazing strength and extension of the legs, not to mention buttocks of steel!). She allowed us to sample the sirsasana she had shown up on stage yesterday with Geetaji, using the brick between the thighs and belt around the shins (since we didn’t all have Raya to contain the outer legs for us!!) and this really helped our longevity in the pose. As ever she worked us hard, but with compassion, so after 12 minutes in sirsasana she asked if we could do more and when she didn’t get much of a response she said “Alive or Dead!!?” and we chorused back “ALIVE!” and the intense work carried on.
She prepared us for dropping back from tadasana to urdhva dhanurasana thoroughly, with plenty of ustrasana and standing back arch facing and back to the wall. She showed the correct action of drawing or pumping the buttock crease deep inward and explained that when this action was done properly the fear was removed. She was right! I have never even been able to release the arms over the head, but found that I could do it with ease using this technique. When it came to dropping back in the centre of the room, she called us over to look at someone who was ready to go, but the fear was holding them back, which on her body was manifesting itself as a drop on the front pubic skin. Once she got the lift there, we all stood and watched as with trembling legs and words of encouragement from Abhi (“GO!!”) she managed her first independent drop back and everybody spontaneously clapped. Abhi made her get straight up and do it again and again so that she really cemented the feeling. She explained that the fear may show differently in different people – you may have a drop of the chest or the back ribs. I found in my own body that the lift of the pubic skin really made me stand much more firmly on my heels, instilling still more confidence. She explained that fear has a physiological root in the body and this is why Guruji said that backbends were given to remove fear. The root, the seed of fear is there within us and we have to remove it from it's root in the body to attain kaivalya - freedom.
We were given a bolster on the mat behind us as a reference point, so that if you were bending far enough back to see the bolster, you were ready to drop back. She cautioned us not to think at that point- as soon as thought comes in you open the door to fear. We finished with twists and dropping back from eka pada sarvangasana into eka pada setubandha and parsva padmasana in sarvangasana. An excellent class. At the end Abhi invited us all to another extra session with the Russian clan in the morning.
In the afternoon I got a rickshaw over to the Marriott. I’ve noticed that although all rickshaws look broadly the same from a distance, they vary hugely in class and style. Some of the drivers take tremendous pride in their chariots, polishing and shining and adorning them with flowers and trinkets. Warning bells were ringing when the driver didn’t even know where the Marriott was (it’s the biggest and poshest hotel in Pune and only 5 minutes away) but I said I’d direct him so he agreed to take me. The engine was incredibly noisy and smelly and I was getting asphyxiated on the fumes as we clattered and rattled our way through the traffic. Once we pulled up outside the hotel, I hurriedly made my exit and the driver leaned out of the window and made a tremendous noise gobbing on the pavement at my feet. Charming!
Day 17 – Abhijata Backbends
AMVirasana – AMSvanasana - Prasarita Paddottonasana
Sirsasana We went up briefly and started to instruct the work of the legs before deciding to get us down and instruct in tadasana first. Roll the top thighs in, suck the thigh muscles up and open the backs of the knees strongly. Now you know the work of the thighs – skin has to press muscle, muscle has to press bone and the contents of the back thigh have to move back to open the back thigh skin there. Once we had the work of the legs we went back up into sirsasana. Spread the legs a little apart, roll the top thigh in to spread the back thigh and lengthen the skin on the inner thigh upward to the inner heel. Keep this action as you slowly bring the legs together “Ascend and Close!! Ascend!! Close!! Ascend!! Close!!” “Do you want to try with the brick and belt?”
Sirsasana brick between top thighs and belt around widest part of shin (Soft brick unless you are experienced at this) and tight belt around widest part of shin. If you feel that the brick is loose come down and tighten the belt, it is not effective if the belt is not tight enough. Use wall if unsure about balance. Now squeeze the brick and “Lift the brick UP!! LIFT!!” The back of the thigh that is closer to the brick should rotate out. Rest in sirsasana then “The knee has 4 corners upper and lower, inner and outer Express all 4 corners of the skin on the back of the knees fully . Press there, open and maintain the full opening of the back of the knee MAXIMUM!! 6 seconds HOLD!!” Rest in Sirsasana now “Skin on the sole of the foot completely spread, express it fully” Rest in sirsasana then “Inner hip should ascend up, outer hips go up, – the small area of skin between the ankle bone and inner heel is dropping, “From inner ankle to inner heel lift it up, LIFT!! LIFT!! LIFT!!” 6 seconds maximum spread of the soles of the feet. 6 seconds maximum opening of the 4 corners back of the knee. “Can you stay a little bit more? Alive or dead?? “ Answer “Alive!!” Choose any 3 of the actions we have worked on and simultaneously work on them together 6 seconds maximum “HOLD!” Come down straight legs
Tadasana – Can you feel the effect of the sirsasana work in the legs?
AMVrksasana – Soft brick between thighs and belt around shins. Jumping up with two legs, those that need it a bolster for the head.
Pinca Mayurasana – Now get the same leg work in pinca mayurasana but without brick / belt – inner seam of the legs straight up and backs of the knees completely open and see if that leg work enables you to balance (it gave a very stable balance).
Ustrasana – Don’t be in a hurry to catch the heel. First hands to the buttocks and get the actions.
Preparation for dropping back 1) Facing the wall a) Hands to the wall beside the chest b) Arms extending over the head – find out the distance your feet need to be – if they are too close you will not have the space to coil. If you are too near your abdomen will fall to the wall. You need to lift the abdomen up and press the pubic bone to the wall, “lift up there!” Heels have to lift up off the floor, don’t do with a flat foot. Cut the buttock crease in and coiling the upper back spine in, lift and spread the chest and take both arms back simultaneously – going down and coming up both arms together, do not twist. 2) Back to the wall, standing a few feet away – same actions, but taking hands back to the wall. You should not drop for the hands to reach the wall, the control has to be there both going back and coming up.
Whilst waiting for wall space – Salabhasana x 3 - Dhanurasana x 3 - Ustrasana x 3 - Urdhva Dhanurasana (carry on repeating these during waiting times)
Dropping back from tadasana to urdhva dhanurasana. To lose the fear you have to cut the buttock crease forward. When the buttock crease cuts in, there is no fear. She showed on one student how the flesh on the pubic was dropping down – this is where the fear was showing in her body – for someone else it might be that the chest is dropping or the back rib not lifting. When I tried this adjustment on myself, it really grounded me on my heels and made dropping back a much more realistic prospect.
Take thick mat and bolster, with a sticky mat underneath to prevent it from sliding. Bolster is a reference point for the eyes. Stand with feet apart, suck the buttock crease in, lift the pubic up and coiling the back spine in, take your hands to the backs of the thighs and look back. Further increase the coiling action, bending the knees with resistance and when you can see the bolster behind you, then only, release both hands at the same time and drop back.
Those that are ready to drop back, you have to disengage the mind – the moment that thought comes, the fear is there and you can’t do. To have Kaivalya – freedom - the seed of fear has to be removed, the very root has to be destroyed.
Kapotasana (for the seniors not really taught) – from ustrasana, reach back and down , both hands on the mat like urdhva dhanurasana, pump the buttock forward, coil the upper spine deep inward, catch one foot at a time for final pose
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1
Sirsasana – just briefly so that you can experience the suction of the buttocks after the dropping back. Is there more intelligence in the back of the body, the buttocks? Definitely!
Sarvangasana – dropping back to eka pada setubandha from eka pada sarvangasana
Sarvangasana – urdhva padmasana – parsva padmasana in sarvangasana
Prone Savasana – arms in right angles either side of the head, resting on forehead of side of the face as suits.