27th October - Geetaji Pranayama
Our penultimate women's class and it was inspirational. From the very start, Geeta taught with clarity, depth and beauty. As we sat for the invocation we adjusted our bodies very precisely in order to lengthen and align the throat "Find out what is the well at the base of the throat. Find out what is the space there, how it goes on and on. Stay there and experience it" then we chanted and it was the most beautiful chanting I have ever experienced, as it emanated from this great space. Truly a beautiful moment.
She was in great form today, eyes sparkling and completely engaged with her teaching. After the sarvangasana she taught a strong urdhva mukha paschimottonasana . Here she used her voice with incredibly powerful effect to motivate us into full spinal extension and concavity. "Maha Mudra action – lower back IN! Raise chest UP! LIFT ribcage! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! Go UP with the back GO! GO! GO! And now release – how I had to shout for you to get the concavity, but actually did you not enjoy the concavity?" We repeated once again – "Maha mudra action – sacral region concave! Lumbar region concave! Back rib concave! Dorsal concave! Sternum chest lift up! GO! GO! GO! 32 times I could say GO!" (for each one of the spinal vertebrae has to lift and become concave). There was a time I might have felt intimidated or stressed by the vehemence of her instructions, but now as a teacher I just felt the pure energy she was channelling into us, compelling us to go beyond. I found myself grinning like a cheshire cat with the sheer brilliance of it and then realised I'd probably better stop, in case she saw me and thought I was being flippant and goodness knows I did not want to incite the wrath of Geeta!
Sadly I could not recall the detail of the Pranayama, so will have to buy the recording to get that - I guess it's a good sign that really I'm absorbed as I should be at these moments, but I would have liked to be able to share it too. Numbers in the hall have massively dropped as many have already left for home - it'll be interesting to see how it is on Wednesday ...
After lunch we had a walk around the grounds of the Agricultural College, which is amazingly quiet, considering its proximity to the huge and busy Ganeshkind Road. You can feel the peace almost as soon as you slip through the roadside rusty gate. Lunch digested, we returned to teaching practice and finished off the day with an excellent meal at Charu's. Pune is gearing up for the approaching Diwali celebrations (see above pic) and below Sarah making us giggle sashaying around displaying the latest batik apron designs from Dimpex. Marriot tomorrow, to make the most of the sunshine before we return to the chilly UK after class on Wednesday.
27th October – Geetaji Pranayama
Swastikasana When the throat becomes tight we make a blockage there, energy is blocked. Release the inner walls of the throat. Length of the throat, clarity of the throat. Don’t look down with eyeballs into the chest as this will close the throat. Find out what is the well at the base of the throat. Find it open it and experience it. Find out what is the space there, how it goes on and on. Stay there and experience it – then we chanted and it was the most beautiful chanting I have ever experienced as it emanated from this great space. Carefully aligning the throat and finding the length meant that we were sitting very, very tall, straight and light.
AMV Hands wider to open armpit chest. Side trunk bring forward.
First attention has to be given to the legs. Open the legs, lift the thighs, extend the sides of the trunk, lift sit bones higher. Do not let the neck hang there! Whole spine has to elongate away from the neck and then cervical neck has to extend for the head to release down.
Place the palms by the sides of the feet. Outer leg has to find the opening. CCB Uttanasana Come onto the finger tips and open the side chest. Whole spine concave.
Sirsasana 10 mins (Menstruation DPVD on the bench)
Open the windows of the armpits. When you press the forearm bone fully down, fleshy area has to go down, find out what happens to the upper arm, shoulder blade and armpit. Upper arm ascending, armpit opening forward. Even on the Viparita Dandasana bench, where usually we keep the elbows folded, take the arms over the head and put the palms on the floor to get that armpit opening.
Feet ascending up. Tailbone forward, maintain space in shoulders, don’t clench the teeth, mouth can be free. Jaws separate, space in there. Junction between top of leg and trunk – open there – it’s not the joint, it’s the skin that has to spread. To open it you have to take the legs back (beginners can’t do this, but once you are experienced you can go on spreading there, taking the legs back to open that area)
Do not look up in sirsasana – look at the floor and do not bring gaze of eyes too far forward, eyes slightly back. After some time in the pose notice how the weight distribution changes, be attentive to that so that you can make correct adjustments – it won’t be the same after some time in the pose, you have to go on refining. Small misalignments may not matter so much right now, but later they come to matter very much, so we have to pay attention to that.
Spread buttocks apart and bring head to the floor.
Sarvangasana (Estimate 5 mins in halasana and 8 mins in sarvangasana) (Menstruation setu bandha using the benches and Viparita Karani box).
Roll over to halasana fingers interlocked behind and take the shoulders well inside, base of the skull on the edge of the mats so that cervical spine gets extended. Ascend chest, ascend back body. Hands placed in dorsal not lumbar! Thumb and index finger digging in, so that the skin has to LIFT, not the skin sitting on flat palms, that is not the action, you have to climb up. Lift up skin repeat again! Create the freedom, freedom of mind, freedom of intelligence. Sarvangasana – Bring legs slightly forwards to raise dorsal spine, Lift up! Now legs back and don’t allow lumbar to fall. Take the legs apart so that you get a better sense of the weight distribution. Legs together gives you a sense of the height. Legs apart helps you to feel how the two sides are performing, it gives you a clearer perception of what is happening. Exhale to come down.
Sit on edge of mat for Dandasana feet apart and use your hands to move the buttock bones well back and then hold outer edges of the feet, pull small toe edge towards you. Urdhva Mukha PaschimottonasanaHere she used her voice with incredibly powerful effect to motivate us into full spinal extension and concavity. Maha Mudra action – lower back IN! Raise chest UP! LIFT ribcage! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! Go UP with the back GO! GO! GO! And now release – how I had to shout for you to get the concavity, but actually did you not enjoy the concavity? We repeated once again – maha mudra action – sacral region concave! Lumbar region LIFT UP! Back rib concave! Sternum chest lift up! GO! GO! GO! 32 times I could say GO! (for each one of the spinal vertebrae has to lift and become concave) Pain from sarvangasana is released? This is sequential action. This strong concavity / maha mudra action is a counter action (obviously not the maha mudra chin lock as this would make your neck worse) We know that bharadvajasana in the chair will release catch, but this is sequential action – a counter action rather than just releasing the pain. It’s different. Here she spoke about quality versus quantity. She cannot teach us sirsasana / sarvangasana hold for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour. She cannot take that risk, each individual’s capacity is different – a beginner who has the weight on the neck - 3 minutes stay or 1 minute stay - but we can do this in our own practice and find out what happens, what mental change can take place. That is for us to explore.
Take thick mats, 1 bolster, 3 blankets and a belt. Keep plenty of space between mats. Supta Baddha Konasana with bolster spine wise. First she gave us blanket for head and neck, but then she explained that this wasn’t right for everybody. We pressed forearms down, lifted spine up and moved it into the back, rolling outer corners of shoulders down, trapezius extend down and extend cervical neck spine – with correct adjustment blanket is not required for everybody. Same work for legs - open thigh to knee, pull thigh away – move right leg, right thigh from the joint, move left leg, left thigh from the joint. Raise the buttocks up and move the sacral coccyxeal region into the body to descend thigh down.
Roll shoulders back and raise armpit chest up, rotate the upper arms. Close the eyes, divide forehead, right to the right, left to the left. Eyes closed but eyes remain central, if you bring eyes downward, depresses the forehead. Space inside jaw. Slowly inhale and exhale, no force – only the areas where it is possible – don’t force. Bottom ribs have to widen like calipers for the breath to come inside. Feel where the separation is between abdominal body and lower ribs. Aereation happens everywhere – organs, abdomen, back body.
Savasana on bolster. Let go, you are not going to fall!
Push fingers into bolster to lift chest, spread right buttock to right side and left buttock to left side. Ascending the sides of the trunk, back skin moves upward and inward, look up coiling and lengthening dorsal – the top dorsal / bottom cervical has to extend up and move in - and keep it there as you bring the head level, otherwise that area sticks out – then carefully take head down to keeping back neck long, adjust cervical as head comes down into Jalandhara Bandha, rest hands on thighs.
The root of the tongue has to release, the upper palate has to move back to make a gap, a space there - keep laryngeal area spacious and quiet – gradually inhale, chest comes up without closing the throat – keep space in laryngeal area. Slowly exhale and keep throat clear. As you inhale widen ribcage as you exhale keep space in the throat (There is one sutra which mentions the throat - Sutra 3.30 Samyama concentration the pit of the throat, brings cessation of hunger and thirst)
Use the tips of the fingers which have the sensitivity. The nose should not move – musicians among you, you know the instrument doesn’t move remains stable. Inhale right, exhale right (so left completely blocked, right partially blocked). Then inhale left, exhale left, recovery breaths, completes one cycle. When I looked this up in Light on Pranayama later I was expecting it to be Surya Bhedana and Chandra Bhedana, but in these pranayamas you inhale through the right and exhale the left (surya) or inhale the left, exhale the right (chandra). So either I have remembered wrongly what we did, or it was a variation that was taught today.
We raised the head to observe as she brought our attention to the very tip of the nose. Now direct the inhalation only to the very top inner nostril, next to the tip of the nose and find out what happens? It was a very fine breath that travelled along the septum bone and filled the front upper lung (in contrast to the earlier ujayyii which was much deeper inside and more towards the back). We also observed that the inhalation was very fine along the inner septum bone, but the exhalation automatically went to the outer nostril. We brought the hand up in the pranayama mudra to partially close the nostrils and make this narrow channel on the top, inner nostril, and used the little finger on the outer nostril to refine the exhalation flow there.
She talked about how we can identify these different channels that the breath can follow for different effects.