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Rajaxlaxmi - 17th February 2020 - Backbends

The temperature is really hotting up - forecast is 36 degrees and sunny for the whole week and suddenly the ceiling fans are required night and day - there is no Spring season as such between Winter and Summer, though of course it will get hotter still as it heads closer to Monsoon. We've had a busy few days, with an early start on Sunday morning for Gulnaz. As we sped along the highway just after sun up, the other carriageway was closed for the Pune Marathon. Every kilometre or so there were drummers, dancers or singers on a small stage to motivate the runners on their arduous journey. We had a bit of a philospher for a rickshaw driver, who took great delight in stating repeatedly and emphatically in rich Indian baritone "In life don't seek answers, because if you find the answer, life will change the question!" and then laughing heartily.

After Gulnaz, I headed home for practice on the terrace - I'm now finally set up with both yoga chair and halasana stool, so all is well in my small yoga world. I spent some time enjoying preparing for backbend week. In the afternoon we did a little shopping and took the advice of the Facebook group to try out the Fab India Experience cafe. It was wonderful - light and bright and deliciously cool and the menu was, erm.... Fab! Loads of gluten free, healthy and vegan options and reasonably priced too. They make their own almond milk daily, so I had to have the obligatory almond milk hot chocolate and a delicious quinoa salad - I was totally spoiled for choice, which is a rare situation for a coeliac, diabetic vege!

Sadly we got back just a tiny bit too late for me to make it to the talk on bird photography, so I vowed to get up in time for the last guided bird walk of the Pune Bird Festival at Empress Gardens, another 6am start but it was well worth it. We were a group of about 10 and the guide provided us with a pair of binoculars each. As the sun came up and the birds awakened all around, we were led through the gardens with the guide helping us to spot many different species of birds, ranging from the everyday (in India) parakeets, common mynas, drongos, koel and hornbills to (the highlight of the trip) a white plumed bird of paradise flycatcher. We also saw pale billed flower pecker, red breasted flycatcher and indigo bunting. The last picture in the gallery is a tiny flower pecker poking it's head out of a hanging nest, which took me absolutely ages to spot, even though it was only a couple of metres in front of me. If you look at the big picture of Judy looking through her binoculars, you can see the two hornbills, centre tree, on the bare branch near the top that sticks out on the right side. Our guide advised me I could leave out sliced banana (skin on) and cut grapes along with my bird bath, to attract birds onto the terrace. I'm hoping the bolder birds will alert the shyer birds to the food situation, so far I've only seen myna birds daring to take the risk.

Class with Rajalaxmi this evening was backbends and we were treated to her usual feast of long held poses, slightly chaotic at times, but always great learning. I employed my great yogic detachment to not mind, when after 10 minutes of getting shoved from pillar to post, losing my spot and my halsana stool, I finally got up into ardha halasana, just as she said the words "Back row, come down!". Sigh.

Rajalaxmi – 17th February 2020 - Backbends

Thanks to Amita and Yaron for sharing notes

Swastikasana invocation – Sit on the tops of your thighs, not the buttock bones. Back ribs moving lift up and move towards the sternum chest. Feel the space between the two and inhale into that space. Move the back ribs in and feel how the shoulder blades stay down.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana – very long stay – Separate the legs – Open the backs of your knees - Cut outer corners of the thighs downwards to the floor. Get that separation where the trunk ends and the legs begin. Move the sitting bones towards the platform (ie away from the lumbar spine) so that the end of the spine extends. Do not bring legs towards you, they have to stay at 90 degrees otherwise the bone cannot move into the socket. Kneecaps straight and press the thigh bone into you and feel how that spreads the back thigh – from the middle thigh to the outer and from the middle thigh to the inner, whole thigh has to spread like that. Hit outer heel to inner heel and lift inner heel up to the ceiling.

Adho Mukha Svanasana – From the palms press and MOVE BACK! The skin on the buttock bones has to TEAR so much you push back there! Stay on the legs and walk back to

Uttanasana –Guruji used to give uttanasana standing on a stool with a weight suspended from the forearms so folded elbows as if you had the weight suspended from the forearms hanging towards the floor, how that weight would help you to release downward. The very tops of the thighs have to go IN and lift UP so that you get that separation there for the side trunk to go further and further downward, lower abdomen has to unfold, whole width of the abdomen has to move towards the spine.