Day 8 - Forward Bends Advanced class with Sunita
I loved today's class! Sunita taught a thorough and comprehensive forward bend class, once again getting straight to the point so that there was time to repeat and explore a great range of the poses. This is something that I will endeavour to take back to my teaching - less preparation and more just getting the heck on with it. Her tone was authoratative and commanding, but in no way intimidating or unkind and for me this is an excellent combination to bring out the best in my practice. Lots of strong verbal encouragement throughout to increase the effort and improve the pose. In my summary below I could have added Go! Go! Go! to almost every pose. Go further, descend further, go! go! go! so please mentally add these encouragements as you read.
After our first attempt at Parivrrta Janu Sirsasana, she had us look at the picture of Guruji in the pose up on the wall. She asked us what we observed and various features were picked out – the openness of the chest and armpits etc. What she wanted us to observe was that the rotation of his trunk was such that it is not his side body that rests on the leg its his POSTERIOR spine that rests on the leg. It is the centre of the body that faces the ceiling, not the side trunk. We repeated the pose with this beautiful image in our minds. I wanted to share this image with you for the blog, but realised when I came to writing up that the picture in Light on Yoga is not the same one that is up on the wall, so please excuse the blurry image below, which doesn't show quite as well the rotation (perhaps I'll get a snap of this to add in tomorrow).
When we came to Marichyasana 1 as a forward bend with the clasp, she got us to come up after she observed someone making a half-hearted effort to clasp. She gave a lecture on how effortful practice has to be there to begin with in order to ‘get’ the pose. First there has to be effortful effort then only the effect of the pose can be experienced. Then she gave instruction on how to progess in the pose with this whole-hearted effort. We folded the right leg to marichyasana and bent the left leg into a loose baddha konasana (the shape wasn’t important, the point was to take this leg out of the picture). Then we leaned forward, lifted the buttock, came further and further inside the leg and took the upper arm further and further down the inner shin, before rotating the arm backwards and reaching around with the other arm to clasp and then released the buttock back down to the floor. Here she used her commanding voice to great effect in a way that could not be ignored to incite more and more effort and was rewarded with a beaming smile from the student who managed to catch after all (and those that could already catch got a much deeper clasp).
After class many of the group were going to Ishan Pure Veg for lunch. I wrestled for a moment with my conscience, the large part of me wanted to get home and write up the notes while they were fresh, but having spent yesterday on my ownsome (and safe in the knowledge Cath C had taken down the sequence which she had kindly shared) I went along with the group and enjoyed a relaxed and sociable lunch.
Day 8 – Sunita – Forward Extensions – 2 hour advanced class
Lots of strong verbal encouragement throughout to increase the effort and improve the pose. Commanding tone without being aggressive. I could have added Go! Go! Go! to almost every pose. Go further, descend further, go! go! go!
Uttanasna – feet apart
AMSvanasana – You have to find out if the upper thighs are moving - lift the heels up to get that action and see that you don’t push the rib down.
Uttanasana – Feet apart. Move down from the armpit – it is the armpit which has to lengthen down and with that action, widen elbows and broaden the back of the body to descend down.
AMSvanasana – step right foot forward for Parsvottonasna – Widen elbows to descend down from the armpits – AMSvanasana – step left foot forward for Parsvottonasana, same actions given.
AMSvanasana – Uttanasana – Prasarita Paddottonasana – lengthen side trunk, armpits heavier to go down.
Padangusthasana – Elongate, elbows widening to draw down, make neck passive. Go! Go! Go!
Pada Hastasana – Insert the hands under the soles of the feet from the front, not the side, do not bend the knees to place the palms. Lengthen the side trunk, pressurise the palms.
Uttanasana feet together to Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana – Leg straight! Do not allow the knee to protrude! Go higher! Higher! Higher! And descend the trunk further! Go! Go close and down! Close and down!
AMSvanasana X 2 Second time feet together – Make the groins sharp! Make the thighs sharp! Ascend the shoulder blades! Armpits opening! Push the shoulder blades in and rotate the upper arm from inner to outer – you have to find out if the shoulder blade is moving inside! And ascend UP!
Janu Sirsasana – Roll the right leg from inside out and inner leg of left press it down. On the first attempt she asked us to observe how close left side of the body was to the floor compared to the right. We came up and she ascertained that we all understood that they should be parallel to the ground and not allow the right side to remain lifted. She then asked the question that if we all understand this, then why are we not doing? We repeated taking the proper steps to rotate the abdomen from right to left and extend the left side where it gets caught. Extend forwards from the tailbone, root of janu thigh rolling back, elongated but passive. Keep head straight, touch head to shin, go forward from armpit, exhale and release brain cells. Once you are there do not fidget and shuffle – you have to be in the pose for it to take its intended effect.
Trianga Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottonasana Right side only – Virasana leg outer thigh has to roll down and press the floor to maintain the balance. It’s not as easy to extend forwards as Janu. Lengthen forward, move armpit away from trunk and touch head to shin. Remain there and observe how breath is adjusted of its own accord.
Krounchasana – Right side only. Extend leg upwards and hold the foot – the leg has to be received deeper into the socket. It’s still a forward bend, just now you have to extend upwards, so now you have to cut the back rib in and climb up the mountain. Bring the leg closer! Closer! Closer! And touch the head to the shin.
Trianga Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottonasana and Krounchasana Left side – same actions.
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottonasana (or repeat Janu if Padmasana is not possible). Bend right leg to Padmasana. Catch the foot from behind with the right hand and sit upright, left fingertips to the floor and rotating the chest squarely to the front. Then lengthen up and extend forward – the right hand that reaches back to catch the foot naturally pulls that rib back – hold the outer edge of the left foot and roll the right rib forward to face the floor, but right shoulder has to maintain its own action of lifting up and rolling back. Touch head to shin. Repeat left side same actions.
Marichyasana 1 Forward bend clasping behind – Here she got us to come up after she observed someone making a half-hearted effort to clasp. We folded the right leg to marichyasana and bent the left leg into a loose baddha konasana (the shape wasn’t important, the point was to take this leg out of the picture). Then we leaned forward, lifted the buttock, came further and further inside the leg and took the upper arm further and further down the inner shin, before rotating the arm backwards and reaching around with the other arm to clasp and then released the buttock back down to the floor. Here she used her commanding voice in a way that could not be ignored to incite more and more effort and was rewarded with a beaming smile from the student who managed to catch after all (and those that could already catch got a much deeper clasp). Once we had clasped, movement forward along the leg - abdomen should be free, release it further away from the marichyasana leg and rotate abdomen from right to left to extend further and further along the leg, right shoulder maintaining its own action of rolling back as rib rotates and extends forwards.
Paschimottonasna – first we went into the pose the usual way, then she got us to come up, bend both knees up, hold the feet and lift the abdomen up along the thighs, so that abdomen was long and lengthening over the thigh in close contact. Maintain this close contact and abdominal length (and the clasp of the feet) as you stretch the legs straight.
Ubhaya Padangusthasana – hold big toes, legs feet together and extend legs straight at a 45 degree angle to the trunk (it is Ubhaya Padangusthasana not Urdhva Mukha Paschimottonasana). Concave the back body and lengthen up the anterior spine. Maintain the back body lifted.
Upavista Konasana 1) Forwards 2) Parsva 3) Parivrtta – armpit must come down in front of the thigh and rotate whole trunk.
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (see that the extended leg is in dandasana not upavista konasana – that is a variation and should only be taken when there is a specific reason) After first attempt, she had us come up and look at the picture of Guruji in the pose. She asked us what we observed and various features were picked out – the openness of the chest and armpits etc. What she wanted us to observe was that the rotation of his trunk was such that it is not his side body that rests on the leg its his POSTERIOR spine that rests on the leg. It is the centre of the body that faces the ceiling, not the side trunk. We repeated the pose with this beautiful image in our minds – as well as lengthening along the leg the elbow has to come further and further forwards (away from the leg) and the back ribs have to cut in – then rotate! Rotate! Rotate!
Urdhva Mukha Paschimottonasana 2 – Lie down on the back body, catch the feet and extend the legs. Draw the legs closer and closer but resist the buttocks downwards – lengthen from the lumbar to the tailbone as you bring the legs closer.
Urdhva Mukha Paschimottonasana 1 – Sit sharp on the buttock bones and balance there, catch the outer edges of the feet and climb up. Even if only for a moment (the balance is precarious the moment you attempt to bring the head forward) touch the head to the shin.
Marichyasana 3 clasping – Lift up the anterior spine, the back ribs have to come inside and lift up.
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 clasping – if you cannot clasp the wrist, at least take the hand under the foot as Guruji has shown. Lift the spine, concave the back and rotate.
Roll the mat and support the heels for Pasasana clasping if possible.
Malasana – Those that can, clasp around the back body, those that can’t catch the heels.
Kurmasana – Lengthen side trunk and go! Roll the outer thighs in and press the knees on the shoulders to descend them further down.
Supta Padangusthasana 1 and 2
Sirsasana – she was quite silent while we were in the pose, other than reminding us to cut the buttocks in and take the legs back. When we came down, she asked us what our experience of Sirsasana had been. The answer was ‘composed’ and she explained that this composure after forward bends was not something that could be taught, but only something that had to be experienced by doing. I was disappointed to come down so soon!
Roll down and stay quietly - we did a form of savasana just lying where we were after rolling down from sarvangasana with the head and chest on the same level.