Day 4 - Advanced Class - Sunita
Apologies, no blog yesterday as there was no evening intermediate class for me to attend, only Prashant's 7am which was too early for me after staying up late to write the blog (it's basically your fault, right?!). I had a restful morning instead and headed into the institute at 11am to complete my registration for the month, with the 'new Pandu' otherwise known as Kunal, who is an absolute treat to deal with and very much part of the friendlier, more welcoming face of RIMYI.
This morning we had advanced class with Sunita who taught a hybrid class with online as well as live participants. She asked us to chant silently along with her, which meant that it was just her unfiltered voice that we heard which was lovely - she chants beautifully. As ever, there was a slight sense of trepidation about how tough the class might be and we certainly
started off with intense work in AMSvanasana using the crown of the head as a fulcrum, placing it on the floor which required a deep opening of the shoulders and armpit region, causing a bit of puffing and panting of the kind you might have heard in the old days, with Geetaji's 'Do or Die' approach, quickly followed by a very long stay in Trikonasana, endeavouring to maintain the spinal length and sense of openess we had created in AMS. However from here onwards there was plenty of recovery time as she got into more detailed explanations of the learning. She said that when Guruji was alive, he would not have wasted time with talking and instead he would explain learning behind the teaching to those who gathered around him in the library later in the day. The focus for today was how to do the asanas for acidity and digestive problems (full sequence below).
Day 4 – Sunita Advanced Class
Swastikasna – Invocation and guru chant done silently by us (beautiful chanting by Sunita).
AMSvanasana – Lift the heels and lengthen! Lengthen!, Lengthen!
AMSvanasana – Lift the heels and lengthen! Find out what is the shape of the kidney, lumbar area. It shouldn’t be round! Make it longer! Make it wider! Lift your head slightly and look at the floor and lengthen the dorsal region. Front body up! Pubic plate up! And then lengthen neck (and release head down) so that crown of the head comes closer to the floor. See that neck is lengthened, not hardened to take it down to the floor.
AMSvanasana – explore what height you can get, just look at the floor so that there is no tension in the neck and lengthen! lengthen! lengthen! Then look at feet, back body extending! Armpit opening and then release crown of head down to touch the floor. Take it! Take it! Crown of head to the floor!
Here we came down to look at Guriji’s picture. Not just looking that the crown of his head is down, but where is it down, what position is it between the hands and the feet
AMSvanasana – lengthening up, armpits opening and crown of the head down to the floor.
Repeat AMSvanasna – Try this method so that head is the fulcrum. Come from bent knees, grasp the edges of the mat, toes tucked under and crown of head on floor. From this position come up, maintaining crown of head down and then lengthen! Lengthen! Lengthen! Do not let the wrist sit on the floor, lift it up! Hip joint has to be lifted! Head of the shin, back! Lift the toes up off the floor and lengthen heels down! Crown of head is the fulcrum.
Trikonasana right side, long stay – Press outer edge of back foot and inner edge of front foot, tuck the right buttock in to extend down. Like the previous AMSvanasana – the same extension has to be there! maintain the length of your spine! Take the thoracic region away from the abdominal region! Lengthen it away! both cavities have to be completely separate. Separate them! Lengthen! And then find out what is the eveness of the breathing? It is on the upper side of the body, upper rib. It is ventilated there. Extend the lower rib and rolling the lower shoulder back, lengthen the lower rib and turn it forwards, so that the breathing is also there. Do not close that area of the body, so that you can breathe evenly in both lungs. Roll right armpit inside out and extend from armpit to wrist – body should not come down, Press the palm (whether on floor / shin or brick, you have to adjust the height) so that you are still able to lift up the lower rib and roll it forward, maintaining the shoulder itself rolling backward.
Trikonasana left side – in Parsva Utthita Hasta Padasana – Extend arm from inner shoulder blade to fingertips and maintain the length of that lower side body as you extend down (I was also concentrating on keeping rib rolling forwards and shoulder rolling backwards as I lengthened the lower rib down). Spine in! Chest open! What is the distance between the sternum and the right armpit? What is the distance between the sternum and left armpit? It’s short! Roll shoulder back and turn the lower chest forwards! Whole spine lengthening like AMSvanasana, feel along the length of the spine – the kidneys, liver, pancreas, spleen are there! If your digestive system is not working properly you have to give each and every organ its own space – that space has to be created for proper circulation of the breath. Ask yourself, ‘Am I giving each organ freedom to culture?’
Here she spoke about striving in the asana – we cannot achieve perfection, that is divinity itself, but the asana should have correct action. When we are practicing we have to be composed in the asana to remember what we have been taught – can we be present in the asana to bring to it what we have been taught. The digestive system is the gateway (to good health?). I can’t tell you what you should eat, that you have to find out, but the scriptures tell us that when we eat, we should only eat until we are half full and then half the remaining space for liquid and the rest of the space should remain empty. Fasting is a helpful practice to give the digestive system a rest. BKS Iyengar never told anyone how to live or what to eat, or even not to smoke – he just said to practice and the rest naturally followed.
Parsvakonasana – focus was on creating even length and space between upper side and lower side of the body. Observe the breath to observe where you are open – well ventilated – and where you are closed that the breath cannot reach. Explore the difference in each breath, this will work on the organic body. How is it teaching proper elimination? On left side, she made us come up again and repeat maintaining the lift as we went down into the pose – ‘Lift! and go, Lift! and go, Lift! and go’ – Can you feel the difference? (from the first attempt). Take thoracic away from the abdominal cavity – this is my theme – create space there and explore the breath – where is it touching?
CCB Uttanasana – Create space, lengthen the thoracic and make the abdominal cavity and thoracic cavity separate and feel that softness that comes in the abdomen. This reduces acidity – that separation between the two must be there. This is why Pada Hastasana and Padangusthasana are given for acidity. Or in the therapy class you see lots of people in the upashreya poses, that give this space and separation between the abdomen and thoracic.
Prasarita Paddotonasana – Separate the buttocks away from each other.
Here Gulnaz demonstrated a chair pose that helped to spread the buttocks still further – useful in cases when there is pain / discomfort in the anus / rectum area. Sitting on edge of chair legs bent and bending forwards, but instead of catching the front legs of the chair as in Chair Kurmasana, we extended the arms forwards on the floor, more like a seated AMSvanasana. We all took a chair to experience it first hand - She explained that with all therapy learning the poses have to be first experienced and understood by you - only then you can give them to someone else. Therapy should always be taught from the heart, not the head. Then she asked us to maintain this spreading of the buttocks and lift up off the seat into feet apart uttanasana. She felt we lost the action somewhat when we lifted off the chair, so next she taught this slanting uttanasana with the support of the wall and chair.
Slanting Uttanasana –feet forwards of the wall so that legs were slanting, buttocks spread wide on the wall, extending forwards to support arms and head on chair to give the same separation of buttocks and ventilation of anus. This pose is given for piles / haemorrhoids.
Sirsasana – slightly separate the legs to create the freedom / space around the anus from the previous pose and then rejoin the legs maintaining that space. Inversions are useful to rehabilitate the body when acid reflux is an issue, but not during a current episode – during the times when acidity is a current problem supine / upashreya poses should be taken. To rehabilitate the body in Sirsasana, the internal cavities have to be kept separate. Elongate the side body. Spine has to extend. In the abdominal cavity, some of the organs are at the front, some are at the back and some are in the middle. The organic body has a back wall and that back wall has to spread and move backwards to touch the inner skin of the back body. We practiced in this way for some time, and then she asked us to take the legs back and allow the contents of the abdomen to push into the front skin, so that we could experience the wrong action.
Pascimottonasana CCB – Hold the toes or outer edges of the feet and lift upward to create space for the abdomen and thoracic to lengthen. Spread your back, widen shoulders and bend elbows to lengthen forwards keeping head and spine in one plane, using head support if required. Keep your head passive, naturally exhalation will be longer, brain becomes soft.
Pascimottonasana feet apart
Sarvangasana – Do not allow the abdomen to fall on the chest. Where your hands are, the back needs to move in. Feel how more width and space is created in Sarvangasana compared to Sirsasana. Legs back and cut the buttocks in.
Halasana – Keep brain passive and receiving. Take your hands to the back of the skull and lifting it up very slightly use your hands to lengthen the skull away from the base of the neck, so that neck is lengthened as you place the skull back down and note the effect this has. Are the inner walls of your cheeks passive? Stay quietly and observe the breath. As this is a forward bend, the exhalation will be longer, but particularly in this asana, there will be a pause in the breath. This asana is given for insomnia.
Carefully roll down and just lie where you are, eyes closed.