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Day 27 - Final Post Rajalaxmi Pranayama

'Pretty in Pink'

My last day in India! It was bittersweet as I enjoyed my final peppermint tea and pranayama as the sun rose above Hanuman Tekdi Hill and the palms around the terrace bustled with life. I can't wait to see my family and jump in an ice cold lake, but so sorry to lose the space to practice yoga to my heart's content, all day, every day if I wish. Sigh.

I headed into RIMYI for personal practice today as I wanted to catch Abhi before I left. As I walked in, she was at Guruji's trestle performing a beautifully open Trikonasana with a dazzling smile.

Along with my observations of other people's practice, my instinct is whispering at me to go beyond my usual daily practice into new territories and more challenging poses and I have felt the postive imprint of that all through the day today. This is just as well, as tomorrow is a 'yoga drought' I will be up and out of the door at 5.30am and travelling all day, so this imprint will need to see me through.

As the fierce heat of the day had softened, I decided to walk to Rajalaxmi's class and met these three beautiful ladies who I've been longing to photograph all month as they sit and pass the time in the same spot at the same time each day. They graciously accepted my request to take a picture and then all wanted to have a good look at it before allowing me to go on my way.

As I crossed the honking, screeching, chaotically weaving traffic on the busy main road like a seasoned pro, I realised I have come a long way since the start of the month in this regard. Many of my Indian readers will have spent time in the US or UK / Europe and will know, that crossing a busy road like this is not only frowned upon in many countries, but it's actually illegal. You have to go to a designated crossing point and press a button, whereby the traffic gets a red light (which they dutifully obey) and you serenely swan across, certain in the knowledge that you have the right of way. Crossing a busy road in India literally flies in the face of a lifetime of training and conditioning for us Westerners, so we are very hestitant until we can get into the rhythm. The real curve ball here is that anything goes - assume nothing - you may have crossed the carriageway where traffic is coming from the left, but that doesn't mean that you won't also get people coming from both directions on the other side as driving up the wrong side of the road is common practice. You're not even safe on the pavement, and if the road is completely clogged up, the motorbikes will whizz up onto the pavement to find a way through.

Rajalaxmi was in good form this evening and told me with a big smile, that she learns something new about yoga every single day. I sat in my best ever Baddha Konasana with the culmination of this month's work and her brilliant instructions, see below.

After class I went to 'Horn Ok Please' on FC Road for a final supper with Cath and Margarida, so a long delay between class and note writing which inevitably means losing some of the detail (still it helps to keep the memory muscles functioning). Look forward to catching up with you all next time - I hope the blog demystifies the process of visiting Pune and continues to inspire people to come and study at the Institute. Today this month's blog will reach 10,000 views (though 9000 may be me checking for typos). For those in the South West of England, I will be teaching a workshop for Avon Iyengar Yoga on 12th March, more info here:

Day 27 Rajalaxmi - Pranayama

  • Swastikasana for the invocation - each 'compartment' has to be treated separately - sacrum moves forward, abdomen moves towards the lumbar, dorsal moves towards the chest and throat moves back towards the cervical spine. Bottom sternum back, floating ribs spread to the side and upper sternum lifts up. Clavicles widen, but at the back the shoulder blades also widen. Uppermost rib at the back press down into the body so the top chest can lift. Bottom jaw moving back towards the ears and upper jaw releasing away from the bottom jaw. The area from below the boney part of the ankle to the heel has to move into you - you will maintain this in every single pose of the class until Savasana.

  • AMVirasana - Keep your bottom sternum moving into you. The pubic bone has to move back towards the buttock bones, in such a way that I can see your buttock flesh lengthening. Do not move the pubic bone towards the navel, move it back towards the sitting bones. Widen the shoulders. Lengthen the neck.

  • AMSvanasana - Bottom sternum and floating ribs into the body.

  • Uttanasana - Concave back - Lower sternum in, back of neck legthening, pubic bone to sitting bones. Observe how when you cut the bottom ankle in, the outer foot bone presses the floor and there is freedom in the toes. Make this a habit, get used to that action. You need this ankle / foot position in Sirasana too. How often did Guruji teach that that area had to press the floor? (I only caught the tail end of Guruji's teaching but he was indeed teaching exactly that - he called it the bund of the foot - you can read about that class here by clicking on the word doc at end of blog post ). Head down Uttanasana, palms down, shoulders lifting away from the ears.

  • Prasarita Paddottonasana - Concave back (same instructions as Uttanasana) and then head down.

  • Sirsasana - Learn the outward rotation in the thighs - so that the pubic bone can come to the front, it shouldn't sink back - by bringing the heels together and turning the toes out (Like first position in ballet). Feel how pubic bone moves forward and tailbone is in. Maintain these actions and bring feet to classical position. Lower sternum in, floating ribs spread to the side. Widen clavicles. Bottom ankle region into you and feel the freedom in the toes.

  • Dandasana - holding the outer edges of the feet concave back, shoulders wide and down, upper sternum up.

  • Head down Paschimottonasana do not clinch the skin around the back of the neck - widen the elbows and make plenty of space either side of the neck (I had been catching my wrist causing the wrong action here and I had to catch the fingers loosely so that I had room to create much more space and relax this area).

  • Sarvangasana - Same instructions as Sirsasana.

  • Halasana -Lengthen the back of the neck.

  • Seated Baddha Konasana - We are often taught that we have to rotate the flesh of the thighs - it is not the flesh that has to rotate but the femur bone itself and the thigh lengthens towards the knee. Here she demonstrated the very upper femur bones getting an outward rotation and this along with the lower ankle cutting in gave me my best ever seated Baddha Konasana. We used our hands to slightly lift the feet off the floor and really cut the bottom ankle (that was facing the floor) UP into the foot, there should be no dip or hollow on the inner ankle which is facing upward. She showed the femur rotation from the back also, outer buttock cut under with the femur adjustment. See how the pubic bone gets the freedom to lift up? "Liberate the pubic bone from the clutches of the thighs". Here she got us to sit on the narrow end of a 3-fold blanket to compare how this support improves the pose versus a wider support.

  • Lie back in Supta Baddha Konasana

  • Virasana and Supta Virasana - Same thigh rotation as Baddha Konasana, do not interfere with the rotation. Bolster or blankets if required for the Supta.

  • Swastikasana - Crown of the head above the perenium, exactly balanced on your neck region. Bring all the actions, femur rotation, lower outer ankle cutting in, sacrum moving forwards - it has to be like flower with a single stem going down into the apana vayu. The lower body has to be firm and constricted to push the energy up - Guruji used to say 'Strangle the Kundalini'. So in the lower body, muscle moves to bone, create that firmness, that constriction, but upper chest has to bloom outwards so that bone moves to muscle.

  • Here we sat for Ujayii inhalations and exhalations

  • Flat Savasana, bolster / blankets on thighs if desired.

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