Day 4 - IYNAUS Autumn Sangha with Abhijata
I'm still managing my wild swimming - just about. Last year I swam until mid November, but this year I am only just able to bear it now. I arrived at the lake, grass laden with dew, but air temperature not too bad. Beautiful autumn colours reflecting in the lake. I deliberately build up the body heat when I am walking so that I am ready to cool off when I arrive and then just a quick dip to get the marvellous effect of the cold water - as Craig Foster says in the Netflix documentary 'My Octopus Teacher' (if you haven't seen it, trailer here it's worth watching) "The cold upgrades the brain". As soon as my bare feet hit the cool, wet grass I start to feel better. I sat on the shore with my legs dangling in the water, but found it was so cold, I got 'vein freeze' so had to take them out every 10 seconds or so to let them defrost. It took many repeats before my legs could bear the stinging cold of the water and then I had to go through the whole process again with my arms. Is it worth it? I eventually took the plunge and had a quick, deliciously cold swim - everything else just falls away - just me and the experience of the water. Somehow it takes you from witnessing the beauty of nature, to being part of it. When I got out, body was numb, but core was warm (they say you can swim 1 minute per degree of water - by that reckoning I could have been in a lot longer!) and then had, hands down, the best cup of steaming hot tea I've ever had (okay with one possible exception of the cup of tea I had in the tub after a long labour giving birth to my first child). I didn't just feel good, I felt AMAZING, honestly, dare I say it, even better than after yoga! Every cell in the body infused with life - it is a wonderful feeling. I have a rule that I stop swimming once I have had a swim that I didn't enjoy - if it has reached that time of year when I'm miserable and shivering afterwards, then no more swimming until the Spring. Looks like it's not quite over yet.....
Today's class focussed on backbends - we did a LOT of repeats of AMSvanasana, AMVrksasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana - see below. I have all four daughters at home to celebrate a 21st Birthday (hurrah!), so there will be a delay while I catch up on the last class tomorrow. I'll post at the first opportunity.
Day 4 – IYNAUS Autumn Sangha with Abhijata
Swastikasana with back against the wall Lean forwards and push your buttocks back until the lower back touches the wall completely, when you sit upright. Roll your shoulders back and fold your palms infront of your chest. See to it that both shoulders, both upper arms roll back towards the wall. Be tall. Your hairstyle will have to be changed if it is coming in the way of the back of your head touching the wall. On the wall you should learn to RUB your shoulder blades, your trapezius muscles downwards. With your palms in the centre of your chest, chin up, do not bow down and release the upper eyelids down. The extreme corners of the shoulder blades should go back to the wall and maintain that throughout the recitation of the invocation.
AMVirasana Palms spread apart to the edges of your sticky mat. Don’t just think about the palms extending forwards, from your SIDE TRUNK can you extend the palms forwards. Do not allow the shoulders to climb up towards the ears. If your thighs are too close to each other, your abdomen does not find the space. If your thighs are too far away from each other, the lumbar spine hangs – so have an appropriate distance.
Prasarita Paddotonasana Do not take your head down yet, stamp the outer edges of your feet, especially on the heels side. Now learn to grip your quadriceps that are closer to the knees HIGH UP, pull them up and hold them there. As you bring your head down, your mind has to be with the quadricep, to see that it does not become dull. Even if the head does not reach the floor, I don’t mind, but I want the quadricep to grip the thigh, both sides right and left. GRIPPED, GRIPPED, GRIPPED as you go down. Raise all the 10 toes up in the air so that quadriceps are gripped further. Place your arms such that the upper arms and forearms are perpendicular to each other. Now to come up, GRIP the quadriceps and stand up.
AMSvanasana (lady with hot flushes, close to menopause should start with reclining uttansasana, buttocks on the wall, feet 6 inches forwards of the wall so that the buttocks are leaning back, followed by normal uttansasna, then AMS head supported and Prasarita Paddottonasana half way, entire chest area supported, maybe chair plus horizontal bolster) Come to all fours and first open and spread the palm, before it touches the floor. As you come up - from the outer edges of the palm (little finger side) all the way up the outer side of the arm to the shoulder, pull upward. From the little finger side, ASCEND UP.
AMSvanasana repeat Remember spread the palm before you place it on the ground. The little finger side completely open, that gives you a better connection to the upper arm – biceps, triceps. And now the entire upper arm, the outer edge especially, sharply pull it upwards. Have a sharp extension upwards, so you feel that upper arm getting fixed into the socket. As though you are a bone surgeon there in AMS and you are fixing that humerus head into that socket. Go on extending yourself up in that manner – and for that how your fingers are is crucial – if your fingers are dull, you can’t do that. Climb up higher and higher. Jump or step to
Tadasana Now do you all know the hinge of your foot? (points to achilles area, directly in line with ankle bone) That has to be in its own tadasana, so don’t lean with your feet forward with weight in the toes. Come back so that this hinge goes back and at the same time I want you to feel a tallness, so that from the hinge you are climbing up. First the body weight back over the heels (without leaning back beyond the vertical) hinges tall, toes can be up. Shoulders down, upper arms down and in the beginning palms can be open, to get the movement there, to get the intelligence there fingers stretching and extending down.
AMSvanasana Moving the hinges back. Little finger side, extend UP, outer arm, extend UP sharply and now I want you to press the heels, so that the hinges you can once again, move them back. As you move your hinges back, come to the calf area. The calf area is always thick – can you open that so that it becomes thin?
DEMO – The centre calf, where the bulk of the calf is (that is where the varicose veins tend to come because that area is thicker) She gestured with her hand showing the whole area spreading outward and also moving backward (away from the leg).
AMSvanasana Shift your body weight onto your heels and that calf muscle OPEN IT UP! make it thinner, make it wider, make it longer – so there is no toxin which gets accumulated there. Root of the thighs ascend up, side body ascend up, shoulder blades ascend up and open out the calf area, push it back. You make them thinner by opening them.- expand the calf muscles in all directions.
Repeat AMS This calf action has to happen in AMS, Uttanasana, Tadasana, Prasarita Paddotonasna, so if you are bored of AMS now do uttanasana – I don’t mind but make that calf muscle longer, STRETCH IT, go on the back edges of your heels and open the hinges well. Inner calf, outer calf push back well.
AMVrksasana (1- ladies in periods uttanasana, padangusthasana, pada hastasana, parsvottonasana, prasarita paddottonasana 2-3 mins - each one concave back and then head down or chair support if you prefer 2 – Ladies with hot flushes have to open up the pelvic area (also good for menstruation) parsva utthita hasta padangusthasana and ardha chandrasana with wall support – your poses are pelvic opening and forward bends).
Urdhva Hastasana to prepare for AMVrk. Shoulders, shoulder blades move them down. Your inner arm has to extend up. The outer arm, the entire tricep area has to elongated upwards. So now in Urdhva Hastasana I want you to extend your arms such that this patch (gestures towards outer upper arm, just above the elbow) you’re lifting up. With age, wear and tear of the muscles begins to set in, especially in this outer arm area (points to outer arm, just to side of the armpit) - it begins to bulge out. It feels thicker – so this area has to roll inward (towards the head, without shortening the space between the shoulder and the side of the neck) and extend upward. The shoulder has to be wide, outer upper arm has to roll from back to the front, outside to inside and stretch up. And the area where you find the thickness, you have to SUCK it into the body and stretch from the armpits upwards. Wherever you find the thickness you have to suck it into the body (if you’re right-handed it might be the right, left-handed the left or if there is an injury the thickness might be on that side).
To get a better sense of that arm stretch, take a belt (menstruating ladies can sit and do this). Belt just above the elbow. Hit out the arms, shoulders, shoulder blades down and stretch the arms up. Roll the outer upper arm inwards and suck the thick area close to the armpit IN towards the arm and LIFT the arm up. Shoulders DOWN and lengthen the triceps UP and now take the arms behind the ears. Hit the elbows back and resist the wrists forwards.
AMVrksasana Lift up the outer arms – they belong to the shoulder socket, so LIFT them up. Roll the legs closer in and keep the buttocks away from the wall. Triceps, lift them UP. Triceps UP! UP!
AMVrkasana repeat with other leg first. Same instructions.
Newcomers demo – start with palms further away from the wall and one leg forward, one leg back – practice the jumping.
AMVrksasana with the belt just above the elbow - no belt for hyper extension of elbow- (for wrist problem raise the wrist higher up and fingers lower down using slanting plank or folded sticky mat or similar a little away from the wall, so that full weight doesn’t come onto the wrist because of that slant). DEMO In order to understand what is that arm stretch, do not casually place your palms down. BEFORE you place the palms on the ground, I want you to hit the arms out (hands went much wider) and then place the palms down -see what a difference it makes to the feeling in your arms.
Proceed on your own, right leg, left leg taking the lead. You may not be able to jump up right away (with the belt) it’s okay!! Try again!! Buttocks away from the wall and LIFT from the hips up. Outer upper arm UP! Triceps UP! Shoulder blades UP! Don’t aggressively push the elbows forward – elbows BACK, buttocks forward. Elbows BACK, shoulder blades into the body.
Now you will have realised how the arm feels different. Your arm sits into the socket, extension feels better, there is a sharpness you feel in the arms.
Jumping up with alternate legs is not just a habit. When you jump up with the right leg, body weight shifts onto the left hand in that flight – go to the wall and do – there is dead weight which falls on that left hand, so when you jump up with the right leg, the right side is longer / higher up because there is no dead weight on it. Come down, jump up with the other leg and feel now how the dead weight shifts to the other side, which now appears shrunk, heavy. So we are taught to alternate legs, but in an asana we have to learn that both sides have to stretch actively up.
Now for level 2 involvement in the pose, cultivating sensitivity DEMO place palms (this is dead weight) now draw back (as if doing dog pose, without the legs so far back) and use this space to draw the entire arm, inner and outer INTO the shoulder socket and then maintaining that stretch (suction) of the upper arm up, I come forwards so that the arms are perpendicular and I jump up into full arm balance.
Repeat AMVrksasana and find out, what is dead weight and what is actively lifting up. one attempt just go for that habitual jumping up - dead weight - and then repeat move the upper arm into the socket and maintaining that upward LIFT come onto the palms and jump upl and understand what is the difference in this full arm balance. Now from the hips, knees, thighs, arms , ankles GO UP.
DEMO those who can’t go up, can practice the arm lift by practicing lifting one leg at a time, like eka pada. Shift your body weight back, engage the upper arm into the socket, come to perpendicular hand position and then lift one leg up, even if you don’t jump 2 or 3 times.
Pinca Mayurasana (alternative Upashreya baddha konasana / upavista konasana – L shaped against backbender good for hernia, menopause, pregnancy, periods and acidity). Again I want you to learn that upward lift, to use the brick so that the shoulder blades are active. So while you are in that shuffling position before the upper arms become parallel, LIFT from the inner elbow to the inner armpit! Ascend up! Maintaining that upward lift, walk in with the feet and after the upper arms come to the perpendicular position, take a jump.
Different things to observe – what happens when you kick up with the right leg, the left leg? Where the weight falls? How the upper back involvement improves when you place a folded sticky mat under the elbows. Ascend the outer upper arms higher up, ankles up.
Urdhva Dhanurasana (alternative chair viparita dandasana unless headache then go for janu sirsasana) Those that cannot push up from the floor can use bolsters, back on the bolsters and head on the ground, so already the heavy part of your body is up off the ground or push up from the chair. Open the palms and the fingers and come up into urdhva dhanurasana. Don’t just jerk the body up – pressurise the palms and once again I want you to take the arms upward towards the shoulder, outer hips, outer thighs up. Do 2-3 rounds on your own to warm up. Now when you are going to come up, do not hit the centre body – it appears easier, because it’s quick and you are comfortable to flow with that. Identify with the sides of your body – that side body has to initiate you into the pose – so from ground level to come up to urdhva dhanusrasana, you are going to take initiative from your side body and that is going to come up to urdhva dhanurasana.
4th attempt Place your palms, walk in with your feet. I want you to be strong on your heels, so that your hinges will be active. Come on the crown of the head first. Stamping the heels down, side of the body LIFT UP! (repeatedly). Now walk back with your hands (towards your feet). Keeping the palms there, hinges towards the hands PUSH! And lift the head of the shin bones up. Press the heels, middle buttocks, outer buttocks UP. Increase the distance and come down.
5th attempt After you walk in with your feet, come up SIDES of the body. Outer hips, outer thighs, outer armpit, come up become tall. Now to avoid back pain, middle buttock UP, UP, UP. Now heels down, toes UP. Outer thighs UP. Near the knees, the outer quadriceps UP.
Question to Abhi – What would help to extend the elbow? Take your palms onto bricks at the wall. If elbows are bending because buttock is not lifting, then instead you have to take the feet higher up.
Menstruation Janu Sirsasana and Paschimottonasana
6th Attempt Outer body! Side body! Hips! Hinges! Toes UP now the outer thighs, the outer buttocks LIFT UP maximum.
DEMO 1) Head down, forearms perpendicular. 2) Roll the elbows inward, closer to each other. 3) Back of the upper arm you have to fix into the socket and 4) Slowly come up into urdhva dhanurasana where the back of the upper arms get FIXED into the socket.
7th Attempt Wrist pain use sticky mat / slanting plank. Following the demo instructions above. Knees also roll in and have that SHARPNESS in your position. Hinges back.
Nausea can happen for multiple reasons. If it is happening every time it is indicating a sluggish liver. Headache, take Janu Sirasana.
8th Attempt Like you rolled in the arms, you are going to roll the knees in. Knees IN thighs UP! (repeatedly). Keeping the heel pressure, lift the shin bone up. People who are flexible, don’t hit the chest – lift the shin bone up (repeatedly) From the ankle to the shin, become TALL.
People with mobility, don’t just push the chest forward because then the buttock doesn’t work and the lumbar over works. If you do not train your buttocks now, later on it is going to become difficult. That is why I am insisting that your body weight has to be on your heels. For some, toes are going out and heels are coming in. That will constrict your spinal muscles - can you keep your feet parallel?
9th Attempt Hands and legs both have to work together to lift you. Don’t just hit your centre chest forward. Walk in with your heels so that you don’t have to decrease your distance later on, use your hands to pull in your feet so that heels are touching your buttocks. Open your palms and place them near the shoulders. Ready? Side body UP, take crown of the head down. Look with your eyes and check forearm and upper arm perpendicular to each other. Heels stamp – outer knees in – outer elbows in – arms into the socket and side body come up. Don’t push your chest forward, wait there. Outer thighs and middle buttock LIFT UP. Do not shift the body weight on the hands. Let the feet bear the body weight. And now the shin bones LIFT UP as though the shin bone is coming into the knee. LIFT the shin bone to the knee!
Prone Savasana So the back muscles will release, toes towards each other, heels away from each other.
Menopause Rope sirsasana or chair viparita dandasana. Main group AMS
AMSvanasana Lengthen the back upwards. You are doing this for recovery of your back, so raise the right side, left side higher up. That lumbar area has to get the space. Go on ascending it higher up. Head of the shin back, calf muscle remember, hinges back. This AMS is given as a remedy for your soreness and fatigue – so if it is causing you fatigue you have to come down and rest and go for a second attempt when you are recovered. Do not open the chest towards the legs – this AMS has to be done to ascend the back higher.
Back is hurting or you are tired, go for supta padangusthasana 1 90 degree leg. Main group Ardha Matsyendrasana x 2 or 3 (chair bharadvajasana alternative). Blanket or bolster between foot and buttock if required. Sit on left foot, take right leg over and turn to right, bent elbow over knee, don’t go for entwining. Change the sides on your own. You have to lengthen, you have to widen the back shoulder, you have to rotate the trunk further, you have to raise the chest up – through all this each part of the body gains independence, flexibility and freedom from it’s neighbouring parts. The chest has to get freedom from the stomach. The stomach has to get freedom from the abdomen. The shoulder has to get the freedom from the chest. The trapezius has to get the freedom from the neck. Because otherwise stiffness, rigidity troubles us, whether you are aware of it right now or not. You’re not just extending the outer body, you’re extending the inner body; the muscles, the nerve endings (Guruji said) are extended when you extend your skin. So impurities can be thrown out better. The whole body has to act, there is no alternative to that. In a friendly manner, you have to cajole the back into rotating.
Ardha Halasana (half supta konasana 2 chairs or stools for gynae problems, cyst, fibroids, irregular menstruation, hormonal problems, menopause) Learn the Sanskrit names! If you approach anything with a doubt, the biochemistry is different. Patanjali says doubt is an obstacle in the path of yoga.
One side back is long, one side back is short – don’t allow that, lift both sides of the back up. Are both my legs equally lengthened? Once in a while lift up each leg individually and lengthen the front thigh. Exhale a little more intently, so that your back will become a little softer. Don’t try to open the chest – let the chest rest towards the back. How to protect the lungs? Halasana, supta konasna, karnapidasana, pindasana – they all move from the front to the back – all these postures make your intercostal muscles softer. This increases their respiratory efficiency. The accessory muscles on the upper chest near the shoulders, they begin to work. The back intercostal muscles, the airsacs that face the back of the body – they begin to function in halasana etc
Viparita Karani (periods supta pad 2, baddha konasana) A brick between the bolster/s and the wall to keep the gap there. From the root of the thighs go down, as though I am tying a belt from there to the floor. Shoulders closer to the bolster. From the feet go down. The back of the thighs should be close to the wall. Use your hands like urdhva dhanurasana, palms near the shoulders and you can push yourself back towards the wall. Keep your legs straight for now and from the arches to the bolster connect. When you are in a hot area, feet apart in upavista konasana, belt around the feet, that will aerate you (good for menopause too). The geometry of Viparita Karani is such there is a quietening process that happens in terms of skeleto-muscular body. Quality of breath improves. Make your breathing a little softer and slower, especially your exhalation. Inhalation will automatically become deeper and longer -a blessed inhalation , the fruit of your viparita karani. With closed eyes look into your chest as though trying to see what is inside. Bend your legs, slowly slide down, lie down on the back, legs on the bolster in swastikasana.
Questions and Answers
1) Brain tumour practice after surgery – rest for 3 months at least, thereafter start with supine postures.
2) Headaches during menstruation – Janu Sirsasna
3) Glaucoma – already avoiding unsupported inversions, tight twists. Standing poses look down, no arm balances, no abdominal asanas – any pressure in the abdomen leads to pressure in the brain. Urdhva dhanurasana is a contraction and also leads to pressure. Supine poses and forward bends are good.
4) Ustrasana pressure on the bladder. Urd Dhan also. Remarked already lifting sides of body today helped.
5) Jumping legs apart for trikonasana – should I correct if they land too narrow? If you are practicing trikonasana, then yes, if you are practicing jumpings then no. Majority of the time correct it.
6) I notice Abhi is teaching leg higher in ardha chandrasana – is this now the preferred way of doing? No! classical pose remains the same. Only for specific purpose – I taught this to bring lightness for the jumpings. Also good for gynaecological disturbances, menopause issues.