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Day 25 Sunita Pranayama

Just hanging out reading the paper in Malasana

Although I've done most of my practice at home on the terrace, the learning that I'm taking home with me from this trip has come from watching how Raya and Abhi use their time in the practice hall. They don't spend hours and hours preparing for poses, but get to tackling the more advanced asana pretty directly. I am somebody that always tries to create the perfect situation both in my teaching and practice and this means I'm often practicing for hours and still may not get to progressing to new poses. So I have resolved to learn from this, especially since when I step outside of the basic poses, I find that my energy is more profoundly affected for the better. This version of Pinca Mayurasana (named Sayanasana) where the body has a more sloping arch completely lifted my energy and made my back body feel vibrant. I was feeling a bit low because I am missing a gathering of much-loved family members this weekend which was organised after my flights were already booked for India. All four daughters at home isn't something that happens so often and it wasn't so much a case of FOMO as case of MO or maybe AMO (Actually Missing Out).

Sunita's class this morning focussed on creating the right conditions in the head supported poses to prepare mind, body and breath for Pranayama. As our feet landed from Sirsasana we stood directly in Tadasana and felt a clear imprint of what our bodies had been doing when standing on our heads and I was surprised and a little dismayed to feel how hunched my shoulders were (I would have sworn that I had a great lift and open shoulders) so this was both enlightening and humbling.

Yet another farewell meal this evening, this time in Shrivan as Judy and Sue leave tomorrow and I'll be all on my ownsome in this lovely house. It's been a fantastic month, not least because of their lovely company and the quality of the accommodation we have shared. The property is owned by Hemant Pawar (you can contact him on Facebook Messenger or email . It is the family home but on the upper floors it has self-contained bedrooms, each with it's own balcony and bathroom and of course the wonderful rooftop terrace which is our main living space and kitchen. My little gallery below, but you can view lots more photos and videos here:

Day 25 – Sunita Pranayama

  • AMVirasana – Keep throat passive and with inhalations see that you lengthen, but see also can you find some further extension on exhalation (or at least maintain that length). From the buttock the whole side trunk extends. Give the spine more space. The whole of the brain has to rest on the forehead.

  • AMSvanasana - With appropriate head support – don’t assume you need a bolster, if it is too much height it will make your neck short, the height of blankets is easier to adjust for your particular requirements. Don’t push the floating ribs down into the skin observe Guruji’s picture in AMSvanasana – the back floating ribs and front floating ribs are parallel to each other. You have to extend the spine up, thigh back, shin back – remove a blanket if the height is restricting the length in the neck – neck passive, throat passive. Lengthen the armpit – raise heels up and LIFT! Go up! Go up! UP!

  • Uttanasana – Go downwards as though I am pushing your armpit downwards, from there descend. Lengthen your neck – what do you need to do this? From where will you lengthen?

  • Here we looked at a demonstration on the stage where helper manually lengthened the base of the skull away from the base of the neck for the person demonstrating. When she came up, she confessed that this gave her a fear of toppling forwards. Sunita explained that this natural fear of falling has to be counteracted by the work of the feet and the legs. Extension into the heels and firm legs to keep stable and release the fear of falling forwards. You have to have the presence of mind to see what has to be done.

  • Repeat Uttanasana manually lengthening the base of the skull away from the base of the neck (how you hold the base of the skull in Makarasana) and observing the quietness in the brain - although it is not Jalandhara Bandha. Keep patella lifting, thigh lifting, legs firm and find out are you toes shortening? That is fear – mind goes everywhere, so fear goes everywhere.

  • Demonstration on stage of someone using their ponytail which was at the back of their head, to lengthen the neck by drawing the end of the tail over the top of the skull and drawing towards the legs side. Her neck was noticeably much longer from her earlier demonstration.

  • Repeat Uttanasana – find out how much length you can bring in your trunk, neck releasing, breath flowing naturally and explore how much time you are taking between your exhalation ending and your inhalation beginning?

  • Sirsasana – Buttock in, spine in, outer thigh rolling in. Bend legs to virasana - Lengthen front thigh on the knee side so that buttock will tuck in and then maintaining that adjustment, extend the legs up straight. Inner leg extend, widen diaphragamatic band – contents have to lift. In Sirsasana, if buttocks go back, leg cannot rest properly in the socket – it should remain IN and climb UP! Little finger on the floor, mid-part of forearm on the floor and shoulder blades ascend up! Observe first vertebrae of the spine and tailbone – they should be aligned with each other. Mouth soft, tongue passive.

  • Come straight down into TADASANA (no pause in AMVirasana) and observe the imprint of your Sirsasana on your Tadasana. If your shoulders are hunched forwards then they were like this in Sirsasana! Are your shoulder blades out? Is your abdomen puffing? Observe the imprint of your Sirsasana on your Tadasana and learn the mistakes you are making.

  • Halasana – Upper arm has to roll inside out. Neck has to be lengthening. Push the palms into the back body. Bend knees to Virasana, lengthen upper leg and tuck the buttocks in. Armpit and hip joint have to be in one plane. Buttocks have to come closer in – the right into the right and the left into the left. Back of the knee well open. Make your mind broad so that the abdomen does not have shakiness. Keep mouth soft. How much weight is in the clavicle region? From there raise the whole body up. Keep on lengthening, whole spine, whole trunk. Bottom of feet have to open from inside out. You have to explore the asana and find out where you have become small.

  • Bend knees to Virasana and then drawing one knee towards the chest, search for the floor with the other foot and when one foot finds the floor, let the other follow so that you are in Setubandha Sarvangasana. Find out how much the sternum lengthens. How much length there is in the abdomen. Spring back to Halasana and back up to Sarvangasana, dropping back with the other foot first. Observe the space in the ribs. Halasana Sarvangasana then exhale and come down.

  • Viparita Karani at the wall. Minimum height of one bolster, one blanket, more if possible. The buttocks are in the space behind the bolster, so the legs can rest into the sockets, release the groins down. Roll the shoulders, open your chest and do not take your arms over the head because then the heart has to work to pump the blood up to the fingertips. In this pose the heart should get a shower from above, from the pool of the abdomen. This understanding of the posture has to be in the mind – what will be the effect on the Pranayama? Bottom of the skull away from the neck, chin / jaw moving back towards ear and find out the change in the throat.

  • Swastikasana in Viparita Karani – 2 mins then slide backwards so that buttocks rest on the floor and feet are crossed on the bolster. Observe the state of the abdomen – it will be soft if the Viparita Karani was correct.

  • Push bolster back to wall and sit in Swastikasana. Lean forwards and draw buttocks fully back to the wall so that when you sit up, they are fixed there. This is ‘Samashreya’ the wall will tell you if you are in an even pose. First seated upright with back of the head touching the wall (no Jalandhara Bandha) Chin perpendicular to the floor. Whole trunk has to extend. Widen the clavicles. What is the distance between the shoulders and the ears? Lengthen to the elbow. When you inhale, does any part of the back body leave the wall? How does the body adjust to get the channels for inhalation and exhalation? Armpit forward from back to the front. Do not clench the teeth. Is armpit skin opening? Clavicle open. On inhlation lift abd on exhalation, maintain that lift.

  • Jalandhara Bandha and repeated Ujayii inhalations – From the back of the neck take the head down. Head remains in the centre. As you inhale and exhale observe your own position. Arms and shoulders should not be used unnecessarily, keep shoulders quiet. 4 corners of the chest – lower, outer portion of the abdomen just above the hip joint to upper, outer corners of the chest, maintain the height there both on inhalation and on exhalation - they shouldn’t shorten. Learn to read the back and how the whole trunk works together with the breath. The wall can act as a guide to help develop your sensitivity and awareness. The breath, the skin has to be like brush strokes – understand how the spine moves. Every cell has to have its own shape.

  • When we came up she wanted feedback from the group to check our understanding and personal experience of the teaching. She gave the mic to a student so that the online participants could also hear her share her experience. It was a little difficult to hear, but I believe she spoke about how the wall gave feedback on how the back body was moving on the inhalation and how she had to consciously keep the kidney band releasing back towards the wall and spreading as she inhaled. Sunita also asked ‘Where does the inhalation begin?’ and pointed out that although she spoke about the lower, outer edge of the abdomen, this is not where the breath comes from, it comes from ‘underneath’.

  • Flat Savasana, no blanket for head so that again it is an even surface, where the floor can give feedback on the body placement and movement. On inhalation find a path on either side of the sternum – observe – if the brain is soft it can catch it.

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