Day 15 - Abhijata Advanced Class Backbends.
My back was still feeling a bit vulnerable this morning , but thankfully it is okay with backbends so I was able to join the class. We started with inversions and Sirsasana where we were guided to work the legs so effectively, the brain could take a back seat and remain passive in the pose. We then worked through Chair Viparita Dandasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana and Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana from the floor and dropping back from Sirsasana, with Pinca Mayurasana dropping back to the grille as the finale. We had a long Sarvangasana where she jokingly told us that we couldn't come down until we had each come up with ten instructions we would give to ourselves or our students to improve Jalandhara Bandha. However the catch was, we had been guided to to switch the sense organs off and quieten the brain, so there was no way my brain was going to comply with this request, just have to stay there all day I guess. The class ended with Setubandha on the bench, but sadly I knew my back was on the verge of going into spasm and had to skip it, so while the others were radiating the consciousness from the centre of the chest to every corner of their being , I was lying in Prone Akunchunasana to give my back a chance to relax and recover!
I skipped lunch out with the gang to get home and write up the class notes while they were still fresh in my mind and then headed back to the institute to assist in the medical class. However when Abhi spotted me, I was very touched to be offered the chance to receive some therapy myself for my back. After class I reflected on the changes at RIMYI over the last few years. They have happened gradually, but alongside the improvements to the facilities and new bolsters etc there is a real change in the culture of the organisation as a whole - it's welcoming, friendly and joyful to be a part of and this creates a great atmosphere for learning.
Day 15 – Abhijata Advanced Class - Backbends
Swastikasana for invocation.
AMSvanasana – if you want to lift the heels to create the length, I don’t mind. You are preparing for Sirsasana, so with that knowledge choose the actions that will prepare your body.
AMVrksasana 2 or 3 times.
Pinca Mayurasana 2 or 3 times.
Sirsasana –First of all observe the length of the inner body, the central channel and the sides of the trunk and find out which is longer? You will find out that the central channel is longer, taller. Now can you raise the sides of the body upwards, make them taller, so that they are ‘on par’ with central channel? Roll the inner thighs backward and check that the legs are back in line with the torso, you will be able to tell by the position of the frontal thighs, take them back until the legs are vertical. Do not do from the brain, do from the body. Because you are there and balancing in the centre of the room, you think it’s over! Sirsasana is achieved. You have to tether the intelligence to a body part, so that body is doing, no muscular effort in the face. So for example, the inner knee ligament, outer knee ligament – can you lengthen both fully and especially the outer knee ligament Take it BACK! Take it back! Push back and lengthen there! And go on reaching upward through the outer sides of the body, so that they are longer. Stabilise the pose in this manner and see that the muscular effort in the facial area is less.
Here she got us to come down and stand in tadasana, bend the knees slightly and then straighten – not by pushing the knees back, but by drawing up the front thigh muscles and lengthening the inner and outer knee ligaments. Compare this to just casually straightening the knees – different? Your mind likes to be attached to the body, but we try to bring the intelligence and the body together.
Repeat Sirsasana - we tied 2 belts – one around the mid-thigh, one around the mid-shin. She encouraged us to use the wall if balance would be a little shaky. Those that were unable to go up with legs tied, could do the belt / leg actions in supported Viparita Dandasana instead. Don’t let the fear of falling because of the belts mean that you keep the legs a little forwards – cut the buttock in and take the thighs back so that the legs remain vertical. 4 corners of the knee, lengthen! Lengthen upward and push back - people who hyper-extend work on the thigh not just the knee. Bring your mind to the skin of the back thigh and move it so that it touches the belt instead of the belt to the skin. And with that action go on extending upwards. Now feel the lightness in the brain – no doubt the physical work / exertion must be there, but it should not be a strain.
Chair Viparita Dandasana soles of feet to the wall. Bend the knees, move upper buttock away from the waist and when you straighten, see that the lumbar does not arch up away from the chair, straighten by lengthening the abdomen chest side. We had a couple of minutes here before she gave further instruction while the class settled. Hold outer edge of the chair. Grip outer knee and from top to bottom lengthen the skin on the outer knees and with that action extend the arms over the head, sacrum lengthening to legs side. Interlock the fingers (without reversing the palms) and notice that when you do the correct work on the legs side – back of the thighs, back of the knees flesh has to move to the skin (I think she also mentioned here that the buttock crease had to cut in as the legs lengthened and pressed down) – that arms start to lift up (away from the floor). Can you maintain the correct work arms and legs side?
Sacrum curvature – I had time to do two out of these three, she encouraged us to use whatever was available, for those joining online, sacrum curvature over the edge of the cot (firm bed).
On the ropes with belt tied between the two middle ropes (like a swing) around the sacrum and then legs straightening, feet pressed against the wall and arching back, either reaching up and holding the ropes with the hands or hanging.
Rope attached to the grille around sacrum arching back.
Chair or platform, sacrum curvature.
Urdhva Dhanurasana x 6 – Rolling the outer thigh just above the knee up towards the ceiling. Work on the grip of the outer thighs.
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana x 6 – From Urdhva Dhanurasana maintaining the height as you interlock the fingers around the skull for DPVD.
Sirsasana dropping back to Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana x 6 – In the centre of the room for those who were confident or to the wall if not. ‘I am not interested in how many drop-backs you do, I am interested in the outer thigh just above the knee rolling upwards as you drop back’. Toes should extend towards the floor as you arch back. Place the head on the hairline.
Pinca Mayurasana drop backs to the grille for those who have a steady Pinca Mayurasana or commencing sequence below for those for whom backbending was over.
Supta Padangusthasana 1
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1
Sarvangasana - Twice we came down to Halasana to use the hands to manually lengthen the base of the skull away from the root of the neck to improve the quality of the throat folding for Jalandhara Bandha. See how this makes a deep well in the throat - called Kantha Kupe throat descends downwards, tongue naturally recedes for the brain to quieten and for purification effect to take place. The sense organs tend to pull the mind and these actions help to passify the sense organs so that they are easily integrated in Sarvangasana. Let the brain move towards the heart. Think of 10 actions that as teachers (of yourself and of your students) you could give to improve the Jalandahra Bandha and do not come down unless and until you can give me these 10 actions. This meant we stayed for a long time very quietly in a Sarvangasana which took care of itself – we could just be. After quite some time she told those that needed to come down (where the Sarvangasana was no longer purifying but instead adding to the burden of impurities) and others could stay longer.
Paschimotonasana – Do not pull forward, maybe don’t even hold the feet. Make your Paschimottonasna such that the skin of the back body is absolutely soft, it can’t soften properly if you are pulling forwards. The skin so soft it has to glide over the back body.
Bench Setubandha – Wide bench if back problem or 2 people to narrow bench if possible. Bolster and blankets as required to support the head, neck and shoulders. Your consciousness resides in the centre of the chest, open that area fully so that the consciousness can radiate to every corner of your being.
AMSwastikasana bending forward to the Setubandha bench (in lieu of Savasana) head and arms resting. Let the exhalation be longer than the inhalation. Let the skin on the back of the ears become soft. Skin over the trapezius relaxes. Skin at the base of the skull, that also has to become soft, no hardness there, so jaws should not be clinched.