IYNAUS Autumn Sangha with Abhijata Day 1
The focus of today's workshop was moving from tamas guna to raja guna after our extended period of lockdown. We worked on a dynamic sequence of poses, designed to lift us out of of our langour and into a state of mobility and clarity. She endeavoured to keep 'lectures' to a minimum so that our minds were engaged with the body throughout - it was a tough propostion and at one point she laughingly observed:
“You were all eagerly waiting for for the class to begin and after the class has begun, you are eagerly waiting for the class to end (chuckling) ... long pause ... Human Beings are really funny aren’t they?!”
Her teaching is an absolute master-class in how to use the voice to inspire action and effort. She manages a tone which is simultaneously warm and yet completely commanding. The conviction she has learnt from her Grandfather radiates out of her voice to fire us along and as usual there was a lot for us to learn - sequence below. Because we have a recording of the class to view, these notes are almost a transcript of the class. On the minus side this means they are long and perhaps not as clear as a summary, on the plus side these are Abhi's words and teaching as she said them, not so much of my own interpretation / memory.
Day 1 – IYNAUS Autumn Sangha with Abhijata
Focus of this series of workshops is moving on from tama guna (inertia) to more rajas guna (mobility). The yoga sutras mention this state of languor as an obstacle on the path of yoga, but we can’t just reach into the mind to flip a switch to move out of this. We can use Guruji’s teachings with the body to access the mind, to shift from this state. Let’s try to understand this guna management that can be done with the help of asanas. The normal cautions that we need to take care of ourselves, given that the teacher cannot see all the students. Do not hesitate to take care of injuries etc.
Swastikasana Invocation – Do not look at the device, eyes at eye level. With an inhalation raise your chest up, be tall. The centre area of your chest, ascend it higher up. Trapezius muscles have a lot of ‘nagging energy’ pent up stress, frustrations and irritations that get accumulated there. Learn to descend this clearly down, such that there is a good clarity for the neck.
AMVirasana – Raise your head up, lift up onto the fingertips and from the bottom chest area MOOVE FORWARD – now the fingertips are on the floor, the head is up, chest is up, now from the pelvic girdle, exteend forward and as you extend from the pelvic girdle, move your fingertips further forward. Descend the shoulder blades down, descend the bottom of the sternum (NOT the top sternum) down, exhale and descend it down further, further, further the bottom chest and finally take the head down. See that you can lengthen the inner arm and outer arm together, equally extending forward. Exhale a little sharper and descend the back further down. Roots of the thighs down.
AMSvanasana – Raise your heels up and ascend the entire spine up. Learn to shift the body weight from the front leg to the back leg, from the metatarsels GO BACK, exhale, from the arches to heels go back, shin bones BACK, kneecaps GRIP, exhale and place the heels down. The floating ribs, descend them downwards, shoulders, shoulder blades ascend them upwards.
Jump to uttanasana, feet apart width of mat and concave back. From the pelvic girdle extend forward, from the sternum, move forward. Now the chin has to come up, not just from the chin, but from the bottom ribs. From the bottom ribs look forward and now from the bottom ribs, palms on the floor descend downwards.
Jump back AMS Ascend the shoulders, shoulder blades higher up, push your metatarsels back, frontal ankles hit back. Raise your fingers up and lift the upper arms, pull them higher up. Pressurising your thumb side wrist down, descend the trunk further down, bottom of the sternum has to be pushed towards the legs. Place the fingers down, lift the head and look in front, bend the knees, high jump to
Uttanasana feet together. From the pelvic girdle descend down, plug your kneecaps and thighs.
Tadasana – Feet together, inner heel and outer heel contact the floor evenly. The back of the thighs – inner thighs and outer thighs they should be held firmly, do not have any looseness there, so push your inner back thigh back and let it independently do tadasana. How in tadasana you stand tall. Imagine you are only your thigh, there is no other part of the body, you exist only as a thigh – so can your back thigh inner and outer, equally stand upright in your tadasana and be firm? Maintain that skin of the back thigh there firm and raise the hands into Urdhva Hastasana. From the armpits to the fingertips extend upwards. The moment the back thighs get held firm, you’ll see the arms don’t get swung behind. Bring your hands down to tadasana, forget the backs of the thighs and just take the hands up - see what an oscillation there is. If you forget the backs of the thighs, the hands go back and the thighs project forward – don’t allow this distraction in the body to happen. Hands down. So back of the thighs tadasana, maintain the impression of the inner heel, the outer heel firm on the ground and raise the hands up – notice the control, the grace which comes when you raise your hands up. Now we have to speed things up -not to make slow, careful movements which means you are ‘thoughtfully’ going up. Demo - maintaining the control in the back of the thighs, swift movement to take the hands up.
Swiftly, with control - Urdhva Hastasana – Uttansasana – AMSvanasana – Feet together Eka Pada AMSvasana right leg - from the root of the thigh go towards the right ankle – inner thigh, outer thigh extend to the ankle. Left leg Eka Pada AMSvanasana – left inner thigh, left outer thigh EXTEND to the ankle, now raise the fingers up so that you get a good PUSH away from the ground! AMS – UTT – UHastasana – Tad
Demo - UH – UTT – AMS – Jump right leg forward between the arms to right side Trikonasana – AMS – AMS – Jump left leg to Trikonasana – AMS – UMS - UTT – UH – Tad
For those that can’t jump from AMS to UMS they can roll from one to the others keeping the toes tucked under. Stepping to trikonasasana for those that can’t jump.
Your jumping from AMS to trikonasana has to be with bent legs. There is a style where this can be done with the arms straight and a high jump. Now we are not going for this but now the movement focus is in the hip and thigh, not about the biceps (which would be more suitable as preparation for the arm balances) but now we need the lightness from the hip and the thigh to go between the legs.
Attempt 2 – 3 to 5 repeats according to your capacity. Tad – UH – UTT – AMS – Right side Trik – AMS- Left side Trik – AMS – Right side Trik – AMS – Left side Trik (x 3 to 5) – AMS – UMS – AMS – UTT – UH – Tad.
See that you do your trikonasana properly – don’t be in trikonasasna with the arm down, head down, chest down – full pose done properly, open the body up and legs, arms firm.
Now repeat sequence x 3-5 repeats with Virabadrasana 2 instead of trikonasana– but omitting UMS in this cycle. See that you don’t come up to Vira 2 and THEN correct by bending the leg more. Can you come from AMS to Vira 2 maintaining the root of the thigh fully down as you raise the arms and chest up.
Tad – UH – UTT – AMS root of the thigh down, down, down VIRA 2 right leg – AMS – VIRA 2 left leg x 3-5 repeats – AMS – UTT – UH – Tad.
Uttanasana legs apart, elbows folded. Side trunk, elbows extend down, down, down.
Same sequence but Parsvakonasana x 3-5 Root of the thigh has to remain down when you jump forward. Arm straight, dorsal spine in – ‘dutiful’ arms.
Tadasana - If your throat is dry swallow your saliva – as if you are swallowing your own tongue – roll your tongue.
Same sequence but ardha chandrasana. Raise the leg much higher with the toes up, otherwise the pose becomes heavy. Throw the thigh up. When you jump back to AMS THROW the thigh higher up. THROW THE LEG! X 3-5 repeats.
Tad – UH – UTT – AMS – Right side Ardha Chandrasana, leg high – THROW the thigh up AMS – Left side Ardha Chandrasana – AMS x 3-5 repeats – then AMS – UMS – AMS – UTT – UH – Tad
Because the legs are straight and the spine is up, you will benefit from UMS because the chest opens and you feel the lightness – whereas in vira 2 – parsvak the legs were bent UMS seems to be a ‘stranger’ there.
Uttanasana – dynamic – roll the buttocks forward and pull the waist corners down. Look down towards the floor and pull your floating ribs down.
Tadasana – shoulders wide, sternum up, breathe
Compare the above sequence between jumping to ardha chandrasana and vira 2 – a couple of cycles of each so that you can clearly taste the difference. Which one was easier? Definitely Ardha Chandrasana (unless balance is an issue).
Upavista Konasana from the groins to the inner edges of the heels, extend yourself, back of the legs well open. Put your hands down, raise your buttocks up, open up your inner legs and move forwards. Get that freedom in your inner legs.
Baddha Konasana while you watch.
Now repeating the sequence jumping from AMS to Trikonasana x 3-5 repeats so that feet land INSIDE the legs – instead of being in Trikonasana in the classical position with the hand behind the shin, we now have the hand INFRONT of the shin. The mat will not be wide enough, so jump on the floor if not slippery or use 2 mats etc
Same drill but now Parsvakonasana x 3-5 repeats.
Observe the difference – you will see that the leg coming from outside is better, when mobility is restricted jumping into the classical pose creates laziness because we can’t do easily, so we disengage. Jumping so that that the leg lands behind the hand prevents this slide into laziness because we can do a better job and we remain engaged.
Tad – UH – UTT – legs tend to drop back – now can you bring the body weight on the toes so that you don’t allow the hips to come back going between UH and Utt – repeat x 6 .
Hands on waist Prasarita Paddotonasana – palms down, head down. After the head goes down, roll the buttock forward – turn legs to the right and go into parsvottonasana – pras pad – parsvottonasana left side x 3 rounds each side. Constant mobility.
AMVrksasana – Our usual aim is to jump up so that the foot reaches the wall. Understand this difference between feet and legs.
Come to tadasana hands on the waist and jump to feet apart a few times. Now the spreading has to happen by jumping the THIGHS apart. So as you bend the legs throw the THIGHS apart and feel the difference between feet apart and thighs apart. Are the same or are they different? Completely different. So thighs and feet are different!
AMVrksasana – Now comparative study – jump only with your foot taking the leading role and then jump with your THIGH your HIP! Right leg up, right leg down 3-5 times. Left leg up, left leg down 3-5 times. THIGH! THIGH! THIGH!
Pinca Mayurasana – Same work in elbow balance – foot versus thigh study.
Baddha Hasta Uttanasana
Sirsasana – At wall unless you are extremely confident for the variations. (Periods supported vira 3 activating the thighs). Keep legs firm, extend inner legs, inner ankles higher up and from the outer ankles cut IN. Inner ankles UP outer ankles cut IN and from the inner legs go on ascending UP, waist corners go on lifting, buttocks into the body. Eka pada sirasana – right leg forward, touch the floor and come up x 3-5 times. Spine alert, dorsal in, shoulders, shoulder blades well positioned in sirasana. When you bring the left leg down, the right leg has to ASCEND UP, the right inner leg ascending up – left leg forward, touch the floor and go up, ankles FIRM, shoulders, shoulder blades ascend up.
Now again you because you had to touch the floor, you have gone with the foot.
Come down and observe demo. Now what I want you to do, once you have touched the floor with the big toe of the right foot, can you lift the right leg by extending the root of the left thigh upward? The root of the top leg thigh has to pull the bottom leg up. Top leg from the root of the thigh has to pull the bottom leg up. The top leg is the rider, the bottom leg is the horse. The rider has to control the horse, not the other way round! Eka Pada Sirsasana X 3-5 repeats on both sides.
Baddha Konasana in Sirasana
Upavista Konasana in sirsasana
Baddha Konasana in Sirsasana
Parsva Eka Pada Sirsasana – remember the game changer? The horse rider controls the horse! Top leg has to pull you up x 3 – 5 repeats on both sides.
Ustrasana – to remove any neck / dorsal pressure because of the sirasana variations. Stand on your shins, outer shins especially down, pressurise the ankles, (use wall if neck problem). Palms on your lower back, raise your sternum up, arch a few times to get the mobility in the back and then go to ustrasana, fingertips on the heels, move your thighs forward. Sternum UP, shoulder blades UP, middle buttock FORWARD, trapezius away from the neck and come up, sit on your heels. Repeat x 3 attempts.
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana grip your legs like you did in the standing poses, open up the feet and the toes, groins into the body (not towards the feet), bend the legs and come down. Take the belt to right foot. Supta Padangusthasana 1 left leg long, right buttock to the right heel long, grip the right knee, right thigh, PUSH your right buttock bone back, right groin descending to the floor for better contact of the sacrum to the floor. Left side repeat.
Supta Tadasana - Urdhva Prasarita Padasana – Supta Pad 1 sequence belt around right foot, come down with straight left leg holding onto belt to supta pad 1, extend the left groin to the left knee, extend the left groin to the left inner heel, back up to Urdhva Prasarita Padasana put belt left foot and take right leg straight down to supta pad 1 – repeat fairly rapid succession X 2 each side. Notice how when the starting point changes how the feeling in the thigh changes.
Supta Tadasana – Supta padangusthasana 2 “You were all eagerly waiting for for the class to begin and after the class has begun, you are eagerly waiting for the class to end (chuckling) Human Beings are really funny aren’t they?!” Come on!! The right groin to the right inner foot LENGTHEN! the right buttock to the right heel LENGTHEN! Right leg DOOWN! Left thigh LENGTHEN left inner thigh LENGTHEN! Come back to supta 1 repeat the other side. “So how will we know which is our real mind? The one which was excited for the class to begin, or the one which now wants the class to end? Who is the real you?
Supta Baddha Konasana classical pose holding the ankles from UNDER the legs – those who cannot reach the ankles, put the belt around your frontal ankles and hold the belt, the condition is, the arms have to be STRAIGHT. Holding the ankles, roll the shoulders, roll the trapezius, open up the chest, open up the sternum, eyes wide open
1) Now I want you to MOOVE the knees down – suck your hips into the body and MOOOVE the knees down 1!! 2!! Knees DOWN and hips INTO the body 3!! 4!! 5!! 6!!
2) Raise the back / buttocks off of the floor (shoulders / feet remain fixed down on the floor) so holding the ankles you are going to raise the seat up off of the ground AND take the knees down. 1!! 2!! Seat UP! knees DOWN! Rest - Seat UP! knees DOWN rest – Give some movement to the hips, groin, you don’t know where the stiffness, where the dullness gets accumulated. X 4 more repeats.
3) Now remove your hands, let go your ankles, take your arms over the head and find out does your supta baddha konasana feel more FREEE! Yes! it was painful, what is there without pain? but having endured the pain, you see the result? This supta baddha konasana is more FREE. Join knees, turn to the side and come up.
Set up Sarvangasana go to Halasana palms on your back, legs STRAIGHT come on the tips of your toes, knees UP, thighs UP, keep your legs FIRM! You don’t like it when teacher is strict with you – I understand, we don’t like to be ruled over – but you have you own choice, that you can be your own teacher – that’s an option which is always available to us, that we just didn’t pick up – so now in Halasana can you LIFT your knees, LIFT your thighs and make your legs A B S O L U T E L Y straight, poker stiff? Eyes going towards the chest, walk with your feet forward (away from the head), now with your palms LIFT the back up, RAISE the back, RAISE the latissimus dorsi. Now - raise the right leg up, make your palms strong on the back, because you are going to come up to sarvangasana – so animate the palms and fingers on your back, to LIIFT the back and come up to sarvangasana. Adjust your hands – the thumbs, the pointer fingers and ascend from your ankles, thighs, knees, hips – so the shoulder joint is DOWN, elbow joint is DOWN – every other joint ASCEND UP. SHARPEN your legs! Outer shins CUT IN to the body, outer ankles CUT IN to the body. Bring the right leg down and come down to halasana. Ready? Other side – left leg up, mobilise your palms on your back – it’s like when the traffic signal is about to change, you get ready no? you accelerate your vehicle - so now when you are going to come up to sarvangasana, so palms on the back, position them well SHARPEN them and then bring the second leg also up and come up to sarvangasana. Ankles cut in. Now we are working with motion, so 6 times we are going to bring the right leg down (free discount for those that want, 3 times). TOUCH the ground, come up, TOUCH the ground, come up – now remember how to come up – the horse rider has the control, so top leg has to DRAW the bottom leg up. Finishing right side, you will change over to the left side. Animate your feet! Arches! Heels! Be completely body-centric, body minded. Sharpen all the parts of your body. Every joint, sharpen well, cut the joint into the body. Knee joint! Hip joint! Ankle joint! Shoulder blade! Even the knuckles should be working to lift your spine up! And remember TOP leg has to pull the bottom leg up! Be in sarvangasana.
We all saw the top leg tends to come a little but forward, so we will split the legs like Hanumasana. Right leg forward, left leg back. Back leg, stretch well! Back inner leg, stretch well! Now the front leg, touch the ground and come up. Go back to hanumanasana position and bring the right leg down 3-6 times legs split and bring the right leg down (top leg invariably comes forward a little, so you get a vertical eka pada sarvangasana – you don’t aim to do eka pada because otherwise you will deliberately bring the top leg forward, let the top leg come forward only because the bottom leg is coming down – you don’t bring the top leg forward). Top leg has to PULL you back to a legs split position. Change the side 3 -6 times. Land faaar away with the leg that comes down – don’t touch your own head!!
Finishing both sides be in sarvangasana. See? how when you convert tama guna to raja guna your static position has improved? You did saravangasana MOTION and now that sarvangasana motion has made your sarvangasana better – see what a good height you have, you are able to breathe better, you are able to lift up better – so understand how this guna management works. Tama guna to Raja guna, inertia to mobility. RAISE the inner ankles, hips CUT IN, outer thighs CUT IN, outer shins CUT IN and inner legs EXTEND upwards. Upavista Konasana in Sarvangasana from Baddha Konasana in Sarvangasana pelvis faces the wall in front, correct? Now that pelvis continues to face the wall in front and you widen the legs to upavista konasana – back of the thigh faces the wall behind – feet can turn. back to Sarvangasana next stop Parsva Eka Pada Sarvangasana Raise the hips up and take the right leg down – don’t think!! – 6 times up and down. Left leg - 6 times up and down. You forgot who the master is! The horse rider or the horse? Top leg has to be in charge! Finishing both sides, be in sarvangasana Go oon lifting the back and buttocks and shoulder blades. Halasana and bend legs to slowly land down.
Paschimottonasana Back descending down, just be there. Armpits! Back! Chest! Stomach! Abdomen! Everything going down.
Uttanasana heels raised on shoulder stand height to give lower back movement, hands down, head down.
Setubandha sarvangasana independent, hands in the back, feet on the wall, a little closer to the wall so that the legs are bent. Feet higher up the wall or on some prop so that buttocks can be well lifted. Shoulders raised on folded blankets (like sarvangasana). Those who cannot do independent, setu bandha with bolster support for chest. Lift up, palms to your back, ASCEND your shoulder blades UP, ASCEND your lattisimus dorsi up, chine, eyes looking towards the chest. Middle buttock higher up. Now you can use your feet a little more effectively, by raising the heels up – heels UP, toes on that support and now raise the middle pelvis UP! Now outer thighs LIFT UP still. Now one more attempt before I bring you down – palms a little lower if you can and as if I am putting a belt around your middle buttock and I’m LIFTING you up. Can you give me your fullest and LIFT your middle buttock higher up! Come down. I can hear you even though you’re all in mute! Yes it’s over!
Savsasana Lie down flat on your mat, don’t take any prop. Big toe to the little toe roll the feet. Swallow your saliva, let your throat rest at the base of the neck. From the inner thighs to the outer thighs, let loose the legs. Ankles loose, metatarsels loose. Step 2 Spread the arms in line with the shoulders, horizontal 180 degrees and spread your legs wide, wide, wide apart – off the mat. Not just feet apart, thighs apart. Drop the feet, adjust your shoulder blades and trapezius, feel how with the legs apart the pelvic width has come. Step 3 Prone Savasana Lie down on your abdomen. The arms horizontally across, feet apart, toes turned in, head can be turned to one side. If you spread the legs too wide, the buttocks tend to come up towards the waist – so spread the legs as wide apart as you can, without the buttocks rolling over and falling on the waist. Feel your front body going closer and closer to the floor. Step 4 Stay as you are but bring your right leg bent out to the side, like vira 2 supta akunchanasana Allow the right buttock to go away from the centre, allow the right inner thigh to go away from the groin. From the right groin to the right inner knee let the leg widen well and as you exhale allow that right groin to descend towards the ground. With each exhalation let that right groin descend doown towards the ground. Gently turn the chest, stomach, abdomen away from the bent leg side and to strike a balance turn the head to the left side as though you are embracing the ground. Repeat left side. Step 5 Once again lie on the back, legs bent feet apart, groins passive. With each exhalation see that the groins descend down, abdomen descends down. The entire pose has to be relaxed. Step 6 Stretch the legs out, feet apart, arms spread horizontally across. Let that relaxation permeate to the extremities of your body. Step 7 Bend legs, roll onto right side and support head on right upper arm. 1 minute. Roll over to left side. 1 minute. Roll back over to right and come up.
This type of savasana gives a rest to all the muscles, all the parts of the body – the abdomen, the back, the arms, the legs. Brain has to relax yes, but the body parts also need to rest.