October 10th - Geetaji
This morning normal classes at the institute were suspended and instead we joined students from Bulgaria and South Africa who are visiting for a 2 week intensive at a nearby venue, about a 20 minute walk away (though we jumped in a rickshaw, as energy in this heat is easily sapped). Notes below filtered by my memory and understanding. The class was taught by Geetaji, assisted by Abhi and Raya with a host of other RIMYI teachers available to help. Geetaji entered the room to applause and took the stage with a helping hand from Abhi. She humbly said that she was not sure it would be a ‘special’ class but that she would teach what she could to help. She explained that she is not in good health and that because of illness she had become older than her years. She has asked Guruji that she can stay well at least long enough for the Centenary celebrations in December. After that, we’ll see …..
She began by asking the students who had arrived for the intensive, what they would like to learn, what would they like her to teach? One woman said restorative as she was unable to sleep due to heat and new environment. Geeta asked us what we meant by restorative and various answers were given – depending on whether physical or mental tiredness, asanas which refresh the body / mind and bring back a sense of balance and generate peace of mind and peace of soul.
Geeta explained that for the body energy to recover, we have to choose asanas that allow us to breathe. The circulatory system is paramount – the network of nadis or channels which reach to every part of the body must have freedom for the energy to circulate. Blockage can be caused by physical or emotional factors – if you receive a huge emotional shock the physical effect can be felt in the body, you may say “My feet went cold and I just had to sit”.
She spoke about peace of mind – how this is generated not by external forces (Geetaji looking at your pose and judging whether it is ok or not) but by our own conscience – we ultimately are the judges of ourselves. When we are looking at ourselves and are genuinely satisfied that we are working to the best of our ability, then our conscience is satisfied and then only we have peace of mind.How do we access the soul? From our hearts which are physically closest to our inner soul. The heart is our emotional centre. We don’t say that we thank someone from our head – our gratitude emanates from the heart.
Virasana In order to create the freedom we took the knees wider and the feet could turn in a little. We looked at someone whose knees were dropping down on the inner and Geeta instructed Abhi how to adjust to get the correct rotation and then a belt was placed to continue lifting that inner up. We had to make the separation of the calf muscle out to the side to reduce the compression there and she had us rotate the thigh up and out, all the way up to the groin. Place fingertips by hips, press down and coil the spine in, inhaling to look up – lifting the chest but also stretching and opening the throat.
AMVirasana Extend forward and surrender your head to the Mother Earth. Today is the first day of the nine nights of the Navratri Festival, worshipping the Goddess Devi (Durga) Mother Earth. On this day we are supposed to wear blue to honour her, tomorrow is yellow see https://www.mumbai77.com/city/2537/festivals/9-colors-dress-navratri-days/) There was some confusion about whether we were going forwards or upwards and she told us not to have doubt. Don’t look here and there, but listen to what is said and make up your own mind. Don’t let doubt sway you and don’t look to others who may be wrong anyway.
Swastikasana Rolling the calf muscle out and rolling the sole of the foot up, so that big toe mound rolls closer to the ground. Press the finger tips down, coil the spine in, inhale to lift the chest and look up BREATHE!
Urdhva Hasta Swastikasana she explained that really this work was parvatasana in padmasana but for the group in front of her this was more accessible – at least the knees get some stretch here. Let your knees BREATHE! Keep space between the shoulders and ears and draw upwards.
Janu Sirsasana head supported. She observed our first attempt and said that it was clearly evident that forward bends are not practiced. Abhi selected a few of the group who were having problems and we observed as they were corrected. First thing was to give everyone folded blanket under the buttocks. Then the institute helpers manually lengthened them forwards and quite physically pushed them down and along the legs several times until progress was made.
Repeat Janu Sirsasana head supported. We rocked from side to side, lifting one side buttock up to fully ground the other side buttock down and then swapping until both sides were fully grounded and spine had freedom to move forwards. Elbows up, surrender the head down.
Baddha Konasana she took the group that could not get their knees down at the front of the room so that all could observe the teaching.
1) Pressing the hands down, lifting the seat off the floor and pressing the knees downward. 2) Taking one knee right down to the floor, stabilising with the hand on that side and using the other hand to PUUUSSSHHH that knee down. Many times rocking from one side to the other and pushing the opposite knee down. Here they sat on 3 folded blankets and carried on with this work.3) Repeating but instead of using the other hand to take the knee down, the knee itself had to press towards the floor - again several repeats. 4) Brick between feet narrow, middle repeating above work and then full width repeating above work. 5) Sliding the buttocks forward off the blankets bit by bit until the buttocks themselves come to rest on the heels. She joked that in 10 minute of intense work they have made more progress than in 6 months of daily baddha konasana. We observed the improvement in them and then everyone went back to their place and did the some of the same work (not the brick work).
Upavista Konasana How we can use some poses to recover from or complement other poses. Cup the fingers next to the hips, inhale to lift the chest up, coil the spine in and look up towards the ceiling.
Prasarita Paddottonasana We looked at someone who was working unevenly – she was dropping inward and downward on her right side. This was the same person who had the knee problem in Virasana. Abhi took the rope to her top thigh and lifted directly up to levelise the sacrum and Gulnaz held a rope on the other side for the sake of eveness, not unduly pulling. When the student came up after this support, she reported that as well as making the legs work more evenly it removed the pressure and pain from that side of her sacrum / lower back. Geeta explained that we need this alignment in the body for the pose to become restorative.
Then we looked at the student who had originally requested that the class focus on restorative as she was fatigued and observed her Prasarita Paddottonasana. There were different suggestions as to where her problem was, you could see there was tension in the neck, but Geeta identified that her problem came from how the ribs were tightly closed together. She had Abhi (and explained that this adjustment was ok for a woman to give to a woman, but not a man) take her fingers to draw the ribs away from each other, literally pulling the ribs away from the centre line as she descended down. Abhi reported that once her torso came to a certain level the chest disappeared inside and she could no longer hold the adjustment. Geeta asked her to be exact about at what point this happened and the supported her abdomen and chest at this height on the platform with a stack of pranayama pillows so she was held at the level where she could maintain the chest and ribs spreading. Arms were also elevated in same way so that they did not drop and cause the chest to close.
Our job as teachers is to observe these problems and correct them in our students. she spoke of Pattabhi Jois and Ashtanga yoga. How in the old days, Guruji used to practice and teach in this way, jumping between the postures. Later though, he realised that somewhere this was going wrong – strength and agility was improved but elsewhere things were going wrong. And so he developed the method that we call Iyengar Yoga and the props that enabled those that couldn’t do to do
Sirsasana We didn’t get much instruction here as Geeta and Abhi were concentrating their efforts on the bad neck group who I think did neck curvature over the edge of the platform and bharadvajasana 1.
Sarvangasana - Halasana arms over head - Savasana
As the day progressed the heat has got more and more intense. We headed to practice in the afternoon to help Wendy with her programme and I found myself just lying on the floor radiating heat from my face. Seriously struggling to put one foot in front of the other and climbing the stairs feels exhausting. Not sure if I'm getting ill, but felt so done-in that I came home and spent a long time in chair sarvangasana, supported halasana, bhismacharyasana and viparita karani before falling asleep, fully clothed on top of the bed.