Day 4 IYNAUS Zoom Intensive - Foward Bends 10th May
I started the day with an early pranayama class taught by Rajiv Chanchani, followed by my own practice, followed by Abhi's class - a lot of yoga! so only a little time to get down to the allotment in the chill of a grey windy day before a virtual Sunday dinner with my children, sisters and parents, all in our various homes eating and chatting together. It is gratifying to see how my parents, who are in their eighties, have got to grips with the technology so that we're now able to continue our tradition of Sunday dinner online, as if it's the most natural thing in the world.
In class today we worked intensively on forward bends and explored the concept of ichhati the desire to do, the desire to learn. We ended with more beautiful pranayama to send us off to our various days peaceful and sparkling from the inside out.
Day 4 IYNAUS Zoom Intensive
Swastikasana invocation - Change the order of your leg crossing. Sit straight, sit tall and widen the chest, palms folded. Have a firmness in your sitting. Is this a physical or a mental adjustment? it is not possible to demarcate between the two. If the mind wavers the body wavers. No oscillations in your sitting position.
Uttanasana extending forward - Head resting on a chair or stool, elbows folded. For a few moments just be there – don’t do anything.
See that the feet are aligned, soles of the feet spread and open. Spread the back of the calf, the back of the thigh – widen. With each inhalation can you increase the distance between the thighs – receive the sensation on the outer thigh, outer calf, outer hip. Now resisting the thighs backward, can you move forward from pelvic area – pelvic area has to be ejected forward. Many times repeated with emphasis “From the pelvic area move forward”
Seated posture of choice while she spoke – Because of this unusual time, we are taking the opportunity to increase our sensitivity and understanding of the asanas.
We have taken up and stuck with the practice of yoga because of our interest in the subject. Guruji used to use the word ‘Zeal’ – he said the zeal to learn has to be there. What is the mental fabric of the word ‘Zeal’? Guruji lived from moment to moment in his asana -the difference between Guruji’s practice and ours was that he didn’t take anything for granted. Though you may have seen him with a watch, this was not to tell him how long to stay, but it acted as a chronometer – he took cognisance of time AFTER he did what he had to do in the asana. This desire is a very important part of it.
इच्छति ichhati – The desire to do, the desire to learn
Trikonasana – Do you have the inner desire to correct your mistakes in trikonasana? For example, in all of us the lower side of the torso is constricted as compared to the upper side of the body. If we are lacking in ichhati we will not be motivated to correct.
Uttanasana extending forward to chair and bolster – Extra height on the chair so that trunk is parallel to the floor. Uttanasana translates as ‘Intense Stretch’ for it to be intense there has to be a fullness to the action. Spread thighs, knees, calf muscles. No part of the abdomen should contact the thighs. Keep your buttocks back and use your hands now to draaag yourself forwards – your skin, your muscles, your tissues, your bones – they should all move forwards and shift your elbows still more forwards. Now with your exhalation, your lower most abdomen, move it forwards.
Uttanasana extending downwards – place elbows on bolster forearms apart not folded (or other height to suit your flexibility) here she gave a very clear demonstration of flowing down, releasing down from the lower spine so that we could understand the action she was looking for. From the lower spine, move downwards, descend the abdomen, descend the lower spine, go on moving downwards. Reduce the height if you’re reaching easily. From the sides of the navel mooove downwards and feel that mobility from the lower back. Your ichhati has to be with you every moment to go on an on releasing further down.
Seated pose of choice (upavista konasana / baddha konasana / virasana). Patanjali lists 9 obstacles to the path of yoga. We need desire, we need tapas to overcome these obstacles. Is this desire always present? Do we meet our satisfaction point very easily?
Trikonasana - Root of the right thigh drawing back and EJECT the right side pelvis away from the legs. If there is something there you can grasp hold of with the right hand (trestle, bed frame, piece of furniture) then hold it and root of the thigh moving one way PULL the pelvic, the right side of the body the other way. This is not a physical adjustment but a manifestation of your desire ichhati, to complete the execution of what you started.
Pras Pad With the same intention - goal is not to get the head on the floor, nor to rest since we have not done so much physical work yet. Do not put the crown of the head on the floor and make a full stop, but keep the elbows down and move the lower back down, pelvic, sides of the navel – take them down. Move the eyes down, nose, ears, chin, sternum all flowing down.
We are using forward bends to teach the concept of ichhati – the honest execution of that concept. In a class we have a sequence to get this release of the lower back: we start with standing poses, then standing forward bends (uttanasana, parsvottonasana, prasarita paddottonasana) and step 3 is seated forward bends. After the initial rapid improvements we experience as a beginner, we reach a plateau where progress is slow – we begin to neglect. Today let our resolution be to mobilise the lower back for forward bends.
Adho Mukha Paschimottonasna buttock bones on the edge of the chair X 2 – bolster against the soles of the feet if flexible or a second chair to move forwards to like pavanmuktasana if you are stiff – do not move from hands or chest or stomach MOOOVE from the lower back. Look at your feet and let the lower back slide towards your feet. Let it glide forward. Without your hands use your lower back itself to move forwards. Exhalation will not help you go forward, it will help you to go down - inhalation will help you to move forwards towards the feet. Rest for a few breaths and then repeat. Find out what you need to become comfortable (a chair? another bolster?) – if you can become comfortable with asanas, they are going to come running to you.
Paschimottonasna head supported on bolster continuing this movement forwards from the lower back. Height under the buttocks if not managing to mobilise the lower back. Hold onto your feet but don’t use the muscular grip to pull forwards. Your aim is to take the pelvic girdle forwards – NOT the head NOT the chest NOT the stomach! Pelvic girdle forwards! Moment to moment we are going to face this intense stretch honestly.
Dandasana Observe how the thighs roll in. The moment we go forwards to paschimottonasana the thighs roll out. Spread the legs apart to teach the inner thighs to move from top to bottom.
Paschimottonanasana Lower back FORWARD, lower back FORWARD, lower back FORWARD!
Here she told us the story of teaching a strong uttanasana to the women’s class while Guruji was practicing in the corner. She was determined to build motivation and enthusiasm for the forward bends so she was teaching with great gusto and working them intensely. Guruji stopped the class and asked her what she was doing? He told her to do uttanasana like a flower falling from a tree! Does the flower tell the tree ‘I don’t want you! I am leaving? Does the tree push the flower away? Does the earth grasp at the flower, claiming that the flower belongs to me? None of this happens! There is no ego in the flower, the tree or the Earth. When the time is right, the flower simply falls.
Beginners need this maximum effort, otherwise the flower will not ripen at all – but beyond that beginner’s stage, we need to understand what is this surrender? You can see the evolution of paschimottonasana in Light on Yoga from padangustha holding the big toes, holding the feet from top, front, interlocking and holding the wrist. But the last photo, the hands are just resting on the floor. The trunk has independently learned to move forwards and rest on the lap of the legs – that is the ultimate paschimottonasana.
Repeat Paschimottonasana No hand force and move from the pelvic area forwards, mobilise the lower back forward.
Janu Sirsasana - Slight holding of the foot, but do not move forwards from the arm force. Meditate on lower back – that is the SOURCE of your trunk, that is the SOURCE of your spine. GO! If you’re stiff USE your exhalation, those who are getting more movement, use your inhalation also 3,4,5,6 times go for that mobilisation.
Sit in baddha konasana / upavista konasana - Any asana can be learned by anyone. We put limitations on ourselves – we say we are no good at backbends, or balancings or inversions – but if we learn to communicate with all the parts of the body any asana is going to come to you. Don’t think about the end point – practice all the modes of doing the poses, develop a communication to gain access.
Ardha Padma Paschimottonasana (or repeat Janu if not possible) Knee should be lower than the groin, if you need to, raise the seat – Speak nicely to your lower back! listen and communicate, chat with your body as you would with a friend. Stiffer? Extend upwards to the top bar of a chair for example – the baby has to first learn to stand up before it can walk forwards.
Trianga Eka Mukha Pada Paschimottonasana – Right leg virasana, take a height under the left buttock. Cajole your lower back into coming forward. Understand the idea behind this – developing access to the lower back, by learning to communicate with your lower back.
Paschimottonasana - Energy flows together, if your dandasana thighs roll out, the lower back is going to get retarded. Roll the inner thigh down to the floor to move forwards. If you get pain in the lower back in the forward bends, it is because the abdominal muscles fail to support the back. In that case you should support the abdominal muscles to support the spine – use a bolster or folded blankets to support the abdomen. If there is still pain, sit higher (even sitting on the chair and extending forward to a second chair or the wall like pavanmuktasana).
Janu Sirsasana longer stay (4 minutes each side) Head supported, hold the foot Hamstring injury? Support the hamstring on a blanket. Hyper extending knees? Put a 3 folded blanket under the knee. Has your janu sirsasana improved with all the communication? Bent leg thigh rolling backward and downward. Straight leg thigh, from the hip to the foot, pull forward. Let the brain chatter be quiet now, let it SHUT UP (loud stage whisper!). The brain always wants to take the lead roll. Let the brain feel how the back is dissolving into the leg, which each exhalation, let the back move down. Instead of being a doer, let the brain become an observer. Janu Sirsasana nurtures the ability to accept – it teaches that motherly nature – kind, accepting, tolerant like a mother. See how the breathing automatically becomes slower with this surrender.
Paschimottonasana or twisting if the back is paining.
Sarvangasana (option to do with the chair if you wish) What better way to learn acceptance and tolerance than to do the Mother of all asana? Lift the right side and left side back. The centre knee, centre thigh, lift them up in one line. Lift the side body, side buttocks up. Entire being going in the direction of sarvangasana. Let the lower back lift up, back edge of your hip sockets ascend up. If the thighs and groins roll out, the back becomes heavy, adjust as we did in paschimottonasana. Pelvic girdle, lift up. Once the optimum pose is reached, you are free to observe the other aspects of sarvangasana. Enjoy the support and participation of your lower back, how it is holding the pose so beautifully. See how the respiration feels more fulfilling. As you raise the body higher and higher up, this lightness that you feel in the body and mind, enjoy that. Oneness of the body of the mind, of the breathing, of the body, of you – taste that integrated state – how communication is leading to absorption. Savour the taste of this.
Supported Savasana ujayyii inhalation - Take a wide support for the torso – flat pillow or the folded blankets the same width as they were for sarvangasana. Feel the breath touch the side walls of your chest left and right side. The side walls of your chest have to receive the inhalation as a gentle breeze stirs the sides of the leaves. Relax the temples as though they are your eyes – like the eyes of a deer which are on the sides of the skull. Let the vision move towards the ears. Eyes moving inwards, ears becoming receptive, tongue passive. Let the inhalation be embraced by the side walls of your chest, at the end of the inhalation let that nourishment happen – let that gaseous exchange happen, give it a moment or two. What is respiration? after the inhalation you have to give that time, that stillness for that gaseous exchange to happen. After the end of the inhalation – wait (but not until you are short of breath) – in that comfortable state, wait for a few moments and then exhale and breathe normally. After the pranayama finished, we observed how the breath now wanted to stay with us, the breath itself is reluctant to leave. The same breath which is keeping you alive now, has nourished generation and generations in the past. Its universal force enters you, nourishes you, sustains you. Enjoy this attachment the breath has developed with you. Let the silence permeate. Take a dip into the silence.