20th October - Geetaji Backbends
Today was the final day of the Bulgarian / South African intensive. When we first arrived in the hall, we caught the tail end of a question and answer session with Abhi and the intensive group. One student asked about the change in teacher training arrangements. Abhi explained that Guruji did not want teachers to be mechanically churned out in large groups. Each teacher trainee has a different make up – one may be physically strong, another may be mentally weak – how is the teacher trainer going to properly develop both of those students in a large group setting? There is so much that can only be passed on properly in a Guru / Shisya relationship. Teacher training courses can teach the mechanics of yoga only – for the teacher to get properly developed there has to be a relationship, a long period of observation and learning. Guruji said that if he had developed just one student to follow him, he would have been satisfied. This is how we should be thinking – in a whole area there may be one student who is fit to learn to teach. However there may be unique situations - in Bulgaria for example - where the opportunity is not there for this mentorship, where there are no senior teachers and in this case, please write to Abhi and she will see what is to be done.
Geetaji arrived to take the class to applause and taught a sequence which took into account the fatigue that she observed in the group on their final day, as well as the level of the students she was seeing in front of her. She cautioned against advanced teachers getting carried away with their level of practice and losing touch with the real experience of beginning level students.
After class we had some food and recovery time and then continued our teaching practice with each other. We rounded the day off with a dusk session where we climbed up the ladder to the very top of the roof and settled down with a cup of tea to watch the 'fly over' where the birds and bats return to the park to roost. Lots of great fruit bats, green lorikeets, rooks, black kites, koels and many more that we couldn't identify in the gradually darkening evening sky, set in silouhette against the bright moon. Then we took a stroll around the busy park, just a little too late to join our favourite singing ladies, who sit on the bench in a smiling group of four or five, holding hands and chanting. I thought I recognised the the Yoga teacher / student prayer:
OM saha navavatu saha nau bhunaktu saha viryam karavavahai tejasvi navadhitam astu ma vidvishavahai
OM shanti, shanti, shanti
May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we create strength among one another. May our study be filled with brilliance and light. May there be no hostility between us. Om peace, peace, peace.
20th October – Geetaji
AMVirasana – Open the body out, extend forward, open all of the ribs, open the armpits, open the palms, reach forward fully. Hands as wide as the mat to get the opening the space.
AMSvanasana- Continue opening, lift the buttocks up and descend the heels down and fully open and broaden backs of knees and thighs. Hands and feet as wide as mat.
Uttanasana – Continue with the spreading – manually take your hands to spread the backs of the knees. We know we need to lift the muscles upwards, but also they have to spread outward.
This is called starters! When you go for a meal, you like to have starters, make pleasant conversation with those around you. So here you have to have starter course in your practice. Hello knee, how are you? Only one side is opening? Shoulders, armpits whole body you have to observe and have that awareness and communication with.
She observed our breathing and could see that for many energy was low – last day of 2 week long intensive for that group. Yawning comes when brain does not get sufficient oxygen, lungs have the laziness where they do not breathe properly. Also if you hold the jaw and neck muscles tight, result is the same, breathing is restricted and yawning follows.
Parsvottonasana with uttanasana folded elbows in between sides for recovery. In Parsvottonasana if the hamstring is tight, consider keeping the foot up on the brick, so that the hamstring finds the length there. Started from tadasana jumping legs apart, turning to right side and raising arms up. Extend up, extend forwards, fingers on floor CCB stage and head fully down, let the neck hang freely.
In Uttanasana there are different ways of catching the elbows. When you are working for recovery, do not make a tight fold. Elbows wider, create space and make sure you keep the windows between shoulders and neck open.
She observed that some were keeping the area under the breast closed, so we stood in tadasana and lifted the head, coiling the dorsal in to look up and completely opening the underside of the breast. Eyes have to follow the movement of the chest. Find out what happens if you keep the eyes downward when the chest and head lift upwards. She spoke about how Guruji never answered her yoga questions directly. She always had to find the answers for her questions herself.
Prasarita Paddottonasana - We always want to be taller, right? We wear high heels to feel prettier? So make yourself tall, make your pose tall. Arches of the feet beautiful. How we use the make-up to make the eyes seem bigger and wider? So open up your eyes, make them wide.
Sirsasana and Parsva Sirsasana
Everything we do is pushing the head forward. Whether you are teaching or sitting at the computer or dining table. See that the adjustments you learn here in the yoga hall, stay with you so that you start to remember when you go out into ordinary life. So many of you have problems in the sacroiliac. Take the evenness that you learn here in yoga, into your life so that degeneration is less, so that when you are sitting at the dining table you remember what must be done (not to sink into one side or the other).
Standing in tadasana a few times rolling the shoulders forward, upward, backward downward getting that complete rotation of the shoulders and as you roll them down, take the trapzezius and shoulder blades downward. Remember that movement of the trapezius downward. It’s the same in all the poses we do as shoulder preparation for sirsasana. Do gomukhasana (not meant to be for long hold, we do not stay in gomukhasana for 5 minutes). Do Paschima Namaskarasana action is the same. When in tadasana natural movement of the shoulders is downward. When you go up into sirsasana see that natural movement of shoulders moving towards the buttocks is maintained.
Go up into Sirsasana maintaining shoulder / trapezius action. Make the skin on the cervical neck concave – where the skin moves muscle will follow. All 7 cervical vertebrae concave.
We looked at various institute teachers going up into sirsasana, after Geeta had seen someone in the group going wrong with their eyes. Geeta asked the teachers where did their eyes look as they were going up and once they were up. They found it difficult to give a straightforward answer. She taught us, we should never be looking upwards – that is wrong – it upsets the balance and is fear state. Beginners can look at the floor, more experienced straight ahead. She went on to say that we should not be in a ‘looking’ state at all in sirsasana. You should be with you, be with your sirsasana, with your brain, with your eyes with your breath. Guruji said, the eyes are the windows of the brain.
We looked at teachers helping students in parsva sirsasana. Using their knee to take the dorsal in and drawing the whole body up (and slightly back into you) so that they are not sinking into the neck. Turning with them as they rotate and taking care not to disturb the weight distribution on their shoulders when you turn them. Also taking care with placement of your hands so that you avoid touching them in personal area.
Standing back arch – Feet apart, hands to back thighs. Keep legs straight, resist thighs back, coil spine in and lift the whole body to go up. Make sure the eyes don’t resist the movement, eyes have to follow the chest over. Do not keep the chin on the chest, that is also resisting the movement. To come back up to standing – come up with front thighs, pelvis and pubis move forward and lift up from there. Dorsal IN to stand up.
After a few repeats we looked at bending of the knees to coil further. Knees don’t bend for the sake of bending. They don’t bend straight away. Knees bend only when the body tells them to bend.
Urdhva Dhanurasana x 4 or 5 (Beginners / stiffer method) Hands not too much under the shoulders, only take them where they easily go, more in line with the ears. Feet as wide as mat.
Teachers when assisting, holding the shoulder blades gives a certain amount of support and is ok for someone who is lifting fairly easily, lightly. But stiffer / heavier / injured shoulder require more support – your fingers should wrap right underneath the shoulder and that way rolling the shoulder blade in to lift them up.
Ustrasana x 4 from virasana and knees could be a little apart. Outer foot, outer knee, outer thigh – press outward. When you make the width the bone can move inside. Emphasis on spreading from the spine outwards. Hands to the back thighs, coil spine in maintaining the spread from the centre to the outside and the eyes have to follow the movement.
We looked at Rajalaxmi assisting a stiffer student in ustrasana. They faced the pillar and she had been in a navasana position using her two feet, one pushing each shoulder blade. Geeta asked her to adjust so that she just kept one foot directly in the dorsal spine and the student reported this gave a much better lift.
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana x 3 Come to urdhva dhanurasana and coil the spine in, to place the head on the ground according to capacity (Prachi showed on stage and she got her to do a little less to show a more realistic pose for the group). We kept legs bent and feet apart.
She explained that this was all she would take us for today. How it is important for the teacher to observe the level of the students. This is why it is difficult for an advanced student / teacher to teach beginners. They get carried away with what interests them and are completely out of touch with the experience of the beginning student in front of them.
Brick setubandha She observed that the pose was going wrong for many, so she got the intensive group to take 8 blankets each instead of brick, to have a broader support, whole pelvis supported and institute group did with brick and feet raised at the wall (and feel immediately how it lessens the pull).
Savasana trifolded blanket for spine, folded blanket for head and neck Whole cervical neck supported. Chest has to open from the bottom to the top and from the centre to the sides with the breath.