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Day 18 - Sunita Advanced Class - Ropes.

I've had a challenging few days managing my mysterious back problem - I've basically had to throw the rule book out and start from scratch on what I believe I know about back problems. No supported Ardha Halasana, Ardha Uttanasana, Pavanmuktasana or forward bending of any kind. Abhi's take on this was 'Good! A chance to learn something new then?!' and perhaps I'm maturing as a practitioner as I can accept this, even though of course when I planned a trip to Pune, this was not what I had in mind. I attended the practice session yesterday in order that I could contine the programme I started in Medical class with Abhi on Wednesday. I won't say it's one step forwards, two steps back, but it has been one step forward, one step back - I keep making some improvement and then doing a pose that sets off the tenderness again.

I came home to continue practicing and had a wonderful breakthrough, simply practicing Angular Trikonasana with a chair - somehow I was able to extend out of the painful part and that combined with Ardha Chandrasana using the terrace wall as a trestle, I started to feel almost normal again. I carried on practicing as it got dark and ended up in one of those rare and beautiful moments of complete presence - in Sarvangasana looking up at the night sky, toes wriggling in the gentler evening warmth, stars beginning to peek out and enormous fruit bats overhead flying home to roost. I had a glimpse of the elusive 'effortless effort' that comes after a few weeks in Pune, where I have had endless time for classes and practice combined with the weight of life's responsibilities being taken from my shoulders. And that is what I dreamed of when I pulled out all the stops to make this trip happen. This wouldn't have been possible without the help of so many people back home - my partner Louis taking the double load, my work partner Justin working his socks off to cover the whole of Gloucestershire in my absence and Naomi Maggs doing an amazing job covering my class.

Sunita's class this morning was all about ropes and I wasn't at all sure I'd be able to write it up as it's so visual - a video would be much better. However both Sue and Maggie took great notes and I was able to utilise these to provide the sequence and some of the main teaching points. When we reached Urdhva Dhanurasana she explained that the rope could support the body in different places according to the experience of the practitioner - when fearful, the rope can be kept higher around the waist and then as confidence develops, it can be brought lower and lower (Though around the sacrum is the 'correct' place) . Guruji even had them take the rope around the calves for drop backs. Smiling she said that one gift that Guruji gave to all of them, was to instill a sense of fearlessness in them - he removed the Klesha of fear. After class we went over to 'One O Eight Lifestyle Cafe' out Koregaon Park way for a lovely lunch with the gang.

Day 18 – Sunita Advanced Class – Rope backbends

  • AMVirasana

  • AMSvansasna – Spine in! back of the thighs well open, head of shin back!

  • Uttanasana

  • Sirsasana – Spine in! Shoulder blades in! Raise buttocks higher up! Buttocks in! The ribs have to open. Kneecaps in and release back knee skin away from the knee joint. Extend calf to heel. Side trunk lift!

  • Parsva Sirsasana – Back thigh well open, calf extend, heel extend, kneecap firmly going in! the whole right leg has to rotate. Turn! Rotate! Keep turning! Don’t stop!

  • Parsvaika Pada Sirsasana – The back leg has to extend back more! Legs completely straight! Knees absolutely firm. Go on rotating! Keep turning! More! More!

  • The remainder of the class was lots of different rope work, which honestly won’t mean much to describe in words – it’s really much more visual. She took great care to explain exactly how to place the hands etc with the recording that was being made in mind, preserving the correct method of using the ropes for all to learn.

  • Rope 1 – Take time to see that you are exactly central to the ropes and walk forwards in the exact same line maintaining central position. Catch the ropes from behind with palms/ fingers facing the floor. Pull rope down and lift up (lifting the heels if possible). Buttocks into the body, side trunk well lifted and lift up! lift up! x 3

  • For frozen shoulder / medical class she showed how Guruji used to give Rope 1 on the thick and very long ropes that hang from the ceiling. She asked the demonstrator how it felt and the answer was more space and freedom. She explained that the rope is like an arm extension, so the longer the rope, the more length and space is created - it is almost like the arm starts all the way back there at the ceiling.

  • Rope 2 – Go in using same method as Rope 1 and then walk feet back to wall for alternating between UMSvanasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottonasana. She emphasised how the pelvic and buttock have to roll when head is to shin in UMPaschimottonasana. For those having difficulty she gave 2 bricks against the wall to stand on with toes on the brick and soles of feet on the wall. We took a few attempts of this and on the final round, we had to go faster completing each round in one single breath – inhaling for UMS and exhaling for a deep UMPaschimottonasana. Roll! Roll! Roll!

  • She took some time to explain that the intermediate pose, where you are bending forwards holding the rope behind with bent arms and head up, before you step feet back to the wall (in a kind of awkward half uttanasana) is useful in and of itself because here you can really work to rotate the shoulders so that the palms move to face outwards which is useful for working on the rotator cuff. We took a couple of attempts at this.

  • Rope 3 (Purvottonasana) Here we did 2 methods – full length of top rope and then shortened the top ropes to half length, so that they were doubled up. Facing the wall, palms facing each other, feet at the wall, simultaneously straightening the arms and coiling the upper back spine in, taking the head back. .

  • Now back body facing the wall for Rope Salabhasana. Shortened / doubled ropes on upper rings, feet to wall, palms facing forwards arms become straightened over head as body arches forward for Salabhasana shape. ‘Arms are lengthened, so that spine can lengthen’

  • Rope 4 Top ropes shortened / doubled up stepping up onto the middle rope hooks with the feet (shorter people could stand on a wooden prop to get up, not bolster or blankets please). Then knees / shins on the wall, legs remain bent and coiling back into a kind of chatushpadasana shape, only with the head hanging and the hands holding the ropes rather than the feet. Press knees into the wall and LIFT buttocks up! If no ropes / hooks Ustrasana given as an alternative.

  • Rope 5 – Rope around sacrum to drop back from Tadasana to Urdhva Danurasana. Here she explained that when fearful, the rope can be kept higher around the waist and then as confidence develops, it can be brought lower and lower. Guruji even had them take the rope around the calves for drop backs. One gift that Guruji gave to all of them, was to remove the Klesha of fear.

  • Rope AMS – The spinal action is completely different in the rope compared to the classical position. In the classical position spine is ascending. In the rope it is descending.

  • Choice of Halasana or Supported Ardha Halasana – here she allowed everyone to stay completely quiet, no instructions. She gave me Viparita Karani so that I could avoid the action in Ardha Halasana which is aggravating my back.

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