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Day 20 Navaz Women's Class

Just to keep us on our toes, we had a totally unexpected class from Navaz this morning. Navaz doesn't look as if she's going to be the world's best yoga teacher and yet everyone I saw and spoke to really enjoyed the class. She was totally able to hold her own, in what surely must have been a slightly intimidating class to teach - jam packed full of teachers both foreign and local - but I genuinely don't think anything would ruffle her feathers. Firm but kind, calm, steady and clear and plenty of stories to tell about Guruji.

When we were in Sarvangasana she talked about the old days, before Guruji was able to afford props, how they used to each bring a single blanket from home for their Sarvangasana "And now look, you have 5 thick mats and you still complain about this pain and that pain". She told us that Guruji may have at times appeared fierce, but he had the heart of a lamb and an excellent sense of humour too (full sequence below).

In the evening we regathered in the main hall for the 42nd Annual Day celebration, where Geetaji took centre stage. She chose to talk about the Iyengar Yoga journey from the point of view of her mother Ramamani, for whom the Institute is named (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yog Institute). She told us that Guruji was not especially keen to get married and was unintentionally late for the first meeting between them, that had been arranged by the two familiies. Ramamani had been awaiting his arrival since early morning and her family had encouraged her to sing while she waited. Upon arriving Guruji felt that after being so late, he couldn't be so rude as to also refuse to marry her, and so he agreed to the marriage without either of them having ever set eyes on each other! Ramamani arrived in Pune to a very basic lifestyle - they had 1 cooking vessel, 2 plates and a fire to cook on. Guruji had 2 carpets to sleep on - he slept on his two dotis and she slept on her sari (she had 2 but one was her wedding sari) in Geetaji's words " In an unknown place, with an unknown language and an unknown human being, except he is now called Husband and no idea what he is doing except he is standing on his head!!". As she got up at 4am to make his coffee, she learnt quickly from observing his practice and used to accompany him when he went to teach in the girl's schools. First she developed a way to tie the sari with a special knot so that they became like pants to allow the girls to be able to perform the asanas and then realising that still poses such as Hanumasana would not be possible, she designed yoga shorts that came below the knees that Guruji called Hanuman Pants. She took instinctively to yoga and her touch was exact.

When Guruji was struggling with Pranayama (Krishnamacharya had told him he would never practice pranayama in this lifetime, presumably because of his TB scarred lungs) she made the suggestion that he stopped trying to commence the practice with Ujayii breathing, but to relax and ease his way in with normal breathing and allow the practice to develop from there.

Her death was sudden and shocking - she performed the puja for the open ground where the institute was to be built, on the Thursday and died on the Sunday. Geetaji rounded off the discourse by telling us that some years after she died, the family were speculating as to whether she would have taken rebirth yet and Guruji said "Absolutely not!! she is waiting for me there and then we will decide together when to take birth".

Navaz - Inversions

  • AMVirasana – Begin seated upright on the heels. Ankles press the floor. Big toes together, knees apart so that the waist can descend. Extend the arms upward and elongate the torso fully with the arms. Keep the head up and extend forward from the hips to the fingertips, the four corners of the waist extend. Head UP!!

  • Repeat AMV same method – “If you’ve come to have a rest, you are in the wrong place my friend, as you are here prepare to work hard” Head up, gaze of eyes forward and seek out the hump on your back. Spread the palms wider so that the muscles of your back spread, fingers open on the floor.

  • AMSvanasana –Right foot in line with the right hand, left foot in line with the left hand. You are approaching the end of your month here (sob!) so bring together everything you have learned here to improve your pose. Move your dorsal spine in to move your chest forward, how we have to adjust the front of the body by working on the back of the body. We call the tailbone ‘the monkey bone’ as this is where the monkey’s tail is. Lift your monkey bone up! And then spread the buttock bones wide apart. Root of the right thigh, root of the left thigh lift up!! Pelvic bones lift up!!

  • Demonstration on stage 1) the feet. You know the