Day 3 IYNAUS Zoom Intensive - 9th May
Another beautiful Spring day today and different location for a swim. Apologies for camera angle, this is what happens if you give camera to a teenager! Much cooler weather tomorrow, so felt we should make the most of the sunshine today and lovely to be out in nature after Abhi's beautiful pranayama where she reminded us that our inner nature and the outer nature are all manifestations of the same Universal Energy.
For those who are reading this that are unable to attend the intensive, I'll set the scene a little. It feels like a very intimate meeting with Abhi - kind of stripped down and maybe (on the first day at least) a little vulnerable and exposed. She is teaching from a bedroom at home, camera up close, so that most of the time her image fills the screen (my friend Ulpa in New York commented that she felt like Abhi had been to her house after the first workshop!) Family life goes on around her and more than once we've had a mischievous Satvika peeking out from behind Mum, though she soon tires and goes off to find something else to do as Abhi seamlessly continues with her teaching.
Although Abhi can't see most of us, there is a team of 6 panelists who she is observing and will often spotlight their image to make a point about a pose, or show how something is to be done, much as she would have her teachers on the platform in Pune. I get the sense that lock down in India (and perhaps in the States too?) is harsher than here in the UK, where we encouraged to get out in the fresh air for at least an hour's exercise daily. Consequently her teaching focus is to provide comfort and reduce trauma for her unseen audience and to give us each a grounding connection to Iyengar Yoga and our community.
Day 3 IYNAUS Zoom Intensive
Swastikasana Invocation - Sit straight, raise yourself up and sit tall. From the front of your armpits ascend up. Asana is a ‘seat’ – it needs to be comfortable to give you freedom. Demo from side – Top of the shoulder blades have to be descended down and the back armpit has to be coiled from the back to the front. We mentioned yesterday armpits are the storehouses of energy. You get a certain sharpness to bring your mind into the present the first Yoga Sutra is – atha yoganusasanam – NOW begins the exposition of yoga. This NOW is auspicious. “A brooding mind has dull shoulder blades” Activating the shoulder blades bring you to the NOW. Receive the inhalation and see the exhalation go – the breath is what separates between life and death, have gratitude for this auspicious breath. A state of alert passivity.
AMVirasana Let the abdominal area move forward and spread the diaphragm from the centre to the sides.
Tadasana Observe the width of pelvis.
Observe how access to the legs and feet is diminished without support of the floor – they are lacking sharpness – watch this in following 3 poses.:
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana
Jathara Parivartanasana straight legs
Something is amiss! Same problem in inversions. Understand that the legs don’t work alone to straighten – whole structure - legs, pelvis and hips have to work as a team to generate firm, straight legs. To understand this stability of the hips we will work with belts – as many as you have, 4 ideally – but if only 2 then 1 around the hips and 1 around the shins, 3rd belt if available around the thighs. Bend the knees slightly to cinch the belt tighter in and then straighten.
Supta Tadasana with belts Open and stretch the back of your legs. When the hips are reinforced into the body you get firmness in the legs. Use your exhalations to deflate the thighs, like air being let out of tyres until they become flat. Maintain that level of deflation when you inhale and then with the next exhalation, deflate further.
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana with belts (health conditions do with back of legs against the wall) Move the hips towards each other and with your exhalations imagine that the outer thighs and outer hips are being sucked downwards into the ground. More control over the legs? UPP becomes a seat as we become more comfortable in the pose. Guruji said “I am neither a slave of my body, nor a slave of my mind”. We do not yet have this mastery and mind and body control us rather than the other way round.
Anantasana with belts (without raising the leg) so that the lower hip is pushed into the body while she continued her discourse. Extend the inner legs and pound the top hip down for the legs to lengthen.
Tadasana with belts Back edge and front edge of pelvis belt should be parallel. The neighbour of the hip is the groins. Place a 4 folded blanket between the legs.
Supta Tadasana with belts and 4 fold blanket Use your exhalations to deflate the front thighs and extend the back thighs towards the heels. Maintain the deflation on the inhalation. Pranayama detour – as you exhale abdomen deflates, maintain abdominal deflation and inhale and notice how the rib cage moves. Compare with the previous attempt where there was no blanket – see how it gives a sense of ease and comfort in the groins. To prevent the groins becoming tense we have to learn to keep the groins moving away from each other but the hips moving towards each other – here the belts and the blanket teach this action and feel the ease in the groins this creates.
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana with belts and 4 fold blanket Along with the exhalation draw the blanket down to the floor, take a few breaths this way – exhale and draw the blanket downwards, synchronise.
Chaturanga Dandasana leg work with belts and 4 fold blanket (do NOT lift up) toes anchored and palms placed beside the chest. In order to lift the thighs and knees connect from your hips to the outer ankles, groins to the inner ankles X 2 Middle buttock down. Can you see how this brings the refinement, the flow to the action so that it is not aggressive muscular grip? Did this not make your legs beautiful?? (it did!!) Beginners poses may need the brute force, but no true asana is like that – no asana is done with aggression or anger – a smooth flow to the legs, a yogi understands the flow of this universal force so that he is in harmony with nature.
Remove belts from bottom belt upwards.
If we can understand these actions in simple asanas – groins apart and hips closer – arm balances, back bending, inversions, forward bends are all going to become your friends. Human mind creates divisions. Corona Virus creates an opportunity to bring us back together. The same energy flows in all of us, the same breath, the same air is shared by all of us – humans, animals, trees. Understand the flow of energy.
Ardha Parsvottonasana hands to wall or chair Left groin to left hip and right groin to right hip and the hips have to come towards each other – if the right ankle or shin is bulging to the right, hip has not moved in, hit the right outer shin IN and press the inner foot to the floor. Maintain the hip inward but move the groin outward towards the hip (move feet wider, right foot to the right side, left foot to the left if you are not able to access this action). “Groins AWAY hips CLOSER” If you get back pain or have gynaecological issues you need this action in twistings – if the groins harden, abdominal organs harden and there is strain, so keep the groins separate and abdomen softer.
Parivrtta Trikonasana at wall After turning you should be facing the wall. Groins AWAY hips IN and turn. Outer shin, outer calf cut IN. Spread the buttock bones away from each other and TURN without dropping the back hip – right hip and left hip in one line, have that precision. Groins AWAY hips IN, groins AWAY hips IN!!
Prone Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana Lie down on front body and take the right leg across the body right foot, right hip in one line and the foot raised on brick / block / blanket. Left foot on skirting board / brick / blanket so the hip doesn’t push upward. Lift the body up and use your arms to revolve the chest and abdomen to face the floor. Bring the left side of the chest, left abdomen to rest on the floor. Exhale and turn. As if there was a weight on the right inner thigh and groin, descend DOWN towards the ground. Turn with that flow.
Asana becomes a laboratory for you to understand your own mind
Parsva Upavista Konasana Raise your rib cage up and turn further with that flow, eyes soft. Bring your intention to your bottom dorsal to turn in that area. As if the belt was tied tight around your hips, keep them firm and turn.
Like Arjuna only see the ‘Eye of the bird’ precision in perception. Your intention may be to turn – but see how the flow is uneven (shows her chakra t shirt which has the chakras in a single line in the centre and how that line is turned into a zig zag when she turns). When we turn to the left, left waist goes in and right waist goes out. See that you keep them parallel.
Janu Sirsasana right heel touching left groin As you come forward bring hips closer together and from the lower back let the flow of your body come forward. Maintain the contact of foot into the thigh to keep the hip firm and use your exhalations to flow forwards.
Paschimottonasana head supported (Bolster / blanket / chair as required). Imaginary belt around the hips to keep them form, weight on the inner edges of the buttock bones, with the exhalation let the back body descend downwards and move forwards, reduce the muscular effort of the arms.
Let go of judgements and biases, the mental fabric changes - and you can feel this in the softness in efforts and tenderness in action. Forward bends are the ultimate expression of surrender. Requires faith, tenderness, valour and acceptance to surrender. Where there is no acceptance there can be no surrender. Rest on your own lap. Now is the time. Watch how the breathing becomes slower.
Choice of twisting / supported ardha halasana / setubandha / viparita karani according to your own situation. Settle down in terms of your body, your breathing, your mind. Those in setubandha widen the middle breast area and infuse yourself with positivity, coil the armpits and you will notice how this generates that positivity. Those in half halasana from the lower back move forward and roll over towards your feet, let the sternum relax towards the back body – now is not the time for willpower. All groups adjust the head and neck so that it is elongated away from your shoulders, let the throat rest at the base of the neck. Throat shrinking effects not just the thyroid, but also the vagus nerve – much depends on the vagus nerve so use your hands to lengthen the back of the neck and skull. Revisit this often. When the adjustment is correct, you notice you can swallow your saliva easily. Observe how the breathing settles down into a rhythm - with each exhalation quieten the abdomen, anxiety causes the abdomen to harden which in turn affects the digestive system and once that goes wrong, all the other systems suffer.
Those that are feeling a beautiful calm continue, do not stay just to increase timings. Those that have come down Uttanasana - Prasarita Paddottonasana.
Swastikasana back to the wall, height under the buttocks. Lean forwards and use your hands to draw buttock bones back to the wall. Don’t fight to sit tall and sharp, we have come from half halasana, let there be some softness, lumbar wide, floating ribs wide and feel the touch of your back at the wall – the wall ‘has your back’ – sit upright emotionally, not skeleto muscularly.
Ujayii inhalation. Welcome your inhalation as a special guest. Inhale and receive your guest – if the guest is someone you love, how do you receive that guest? With open arms and a wide smile we embrace our guest. As you inhale, something inside you comes up to embrace that breath – have that exchange and then slowly exhale. With open arms receive that inhalation and hold that embrace for a while longer and then exhale softly, slowly, smoothly.
Now when it is time for your guest to leave, you don’t just open the door and throw them out. You want them to stay but you understand and accept that they must go. So after that warm embrace, say a gentle farewell to the exhalation but retain the warmth of that embrace. The guest may physically have departed, but mentally, emotionally you retain that connection and you still feel the warmth the energy of your time together. Slowly exhale.
Savasana. Observe the vibrations of your breath, become your own mirror and witness yourself. You get a taste of a certain state, where you just ARE – no identity, no name – glimpse the state of just being. Be in sync with the environment around you, be in sync with the vibrations around you. We love to enjoy the beauty of the outside world – now enjoy the beauty of your inner world. You are but a part of nature – the energy within you and the energy outside of you are both manifestations of that Universal Energy. With that understanding, it flows naturally that we will act and react with kindness and compassion for everyone around us.