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Days 19 and 20 - Day Off and Rajalaxmi Backbends

Another thoroughly enjoyable Sunday, with a morning of pranayama and asana practice followed by a long afternoon socialising at the pool and dinner out at Tales and Spirits. As we walked to the the Mariott we passed a celebration where all the guests were dressed in white wwith bright orange head pieces and this gentleman was oozing good humour and warmth as he volunteered to pose for a photo.

As we approach the end of the month, it is getting seriously hot, now hitting 36 degrees and I found that even before I'd done anything this evening, the sweat was trickling down the back of my thighs and pooling in the back of my knees - it was a great relief when someone turned the ceiling fans on.

Rajalaxmi taught a backbend class which focussed on keeping the bottom sternum into the body and spreading to the sides so that the top sternum could properly lift and spread. This made for much quieter backbends and I felt sober after the class rather than overstimulated. She pointed out the picture of Guruji in Ustrasana (and in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana) and noted how the back and front of the chest are parallel to each other. There were a few chuckles and gasps of disbelief as she kept us an extraordinarily long time in Salabhasana and particularly in Dhanurasana as she got distracted and started chatting! I was pleased to see my resilience has built up and that along with the quietening way she was instructing the pose meant I was able to stay. I was able to join in with the whole class and no problem with my back at all - hooray!

Day 20 – Rajalaxmi Backbends

  • Swastikasana – The outer ankle has 3 parts. The middle ‘bony’ part has to go out, but the bottom part has to grip into you and this can be felt all the way to the outer thighs, which makes a really stable pose ‘sthira sukham asanam’ – you are not dropping the knees down, but allowing them to lift slightly with the grip of the outer bottom ankle and the outer thigh. Clavicles wide, top rib into the body to enable the lift of the upper, upper chest and length of the side trunk. Take care not to push the lower sternum / bottom rib region forwards – this area has to go back and spread to the sides, so that the upper sternum can find out how to lift.

  • AMVirasana – Pubic bone goes towards the sitting bones, it does not come forwards. Even in this pose the bottom sternum has to stay into the body.

  • AMSvanasana – First rib into you. Bottom sternum into the body. Front of the thigh moving back, back of the thigh moving forward, skin magnetized to bone. Front of shin moving back, back of calf resisting forwards.

  • Uttanasana Concave Back – Bottom sternum into the body so that top sternum can move forwards.

  • Tadasana – Bottom of outer ankle cutting in, lifts the arch and makes the central outer foot bone press the floor (what Guruji sometimes called the foot bone, there is no actual bone there). She demonstrated the area on the outer edge of the foot, about midway between the little toe and the outer heel. It is really useful to understand this action in all poses, especially backbends sich as Urdhva Dhanurasana as it brings the Sthira (stable) quality to the pose. Then we had to arch back and look at the ceiling, lifting the top sternum but keeping the bottom sternum quiet and into the body.

  • Uttanasana CCB – Outer bottom ankle cutting in, lower sternum into the body, upper sternum forwards and then descend down. And then when you come up, keep the bottom sternum into the body.

  • AMSvanasana – Same actions.

  • Urdhva Hastasana – Looking up without letting lower sternum / bottom ribs come forwards and taking head and arms back keeping ears in line with upper arms.

  • Prasarita Paddottonasana – CCB with same actions and then maintaining as you descend down into full pose. Cutting the lower outer ankle in, hitting the bony part out in order to lift the arch and seal the mid outer edge of the foot completely to the floor.

  • Sirsasana – Keeping bottom sternum in to lift the upper sternum and keep the throat long and quiet. Clavicles wide and back top rib moving to you. Upper thighs rolling out so that pubic bone can come forward and hips grip. Outer ankles cutting in to create outer thigh grip.

  • Here we came down to look at someone who was doing it particularly well, how quiet her bottom sternum was. This meant her diaphragm was soft and her breathing relaxed.

  • Repeat Sirsasana replicating the pose we observed. Bend the legs to virasana, lengthen the thighs up and cut the buttocks forwards as if you were going to drop back and then draw the bottom sternum in. Maintain these actions as you straighten the legs.

  • AMVrksasana – Do not allow the buttock to fall back onto the wall, turn the top thighs from inner to outer and lift the buttocks up. Outer ankle cut in.

  • Uttanasana

  • AMSvanasana

  • UMSvanasana – Keep bottom sternum in and lift upper sternum up, clavicles wide and top rib down into the upper back body.

  • AMSvanasana

  • Chaturanga Dandasana – keep bottom sternum in and see how it helps support the balance. Guruji had this action in all the balances.

  • AMSvanasana

  • Uttanasana

  • AMSvanasana

  • UMSvanasana – Bottom ribs in and spreading. Upper sternum up. Walk forwards with the legs, Tob rib into you (otherwise you can’t look up without shortening the neck).

  • UMSvanasana – Bricks for those that need them. Keep hands back by the outer ribs. Lift up and move forwards. Shoulder blades in, they move from the back to the front. Move the back ribs into you. Bottom sternum in top chest up. Top rib in. Lower jaw moving towards the ears.

  • Salabhasana X 3 – Arms extending back. Outer ankle grip. Outward rotation of the thighs.

  • Dhanurasana X 4 LONG holds! – Extend the thighs, extend the heels, bottom sternum down and spreading. Outer thighs extend to the outer knees.

  • Virsasana – Outer thigh cut down for the external rotation. Weight on outer shin / tibia.

  • Ustrasana X 3 – Here she had us look at the picture of Guruji in Ustrasana and showed that his back chest and front chest are parallel to each other – no projection of the bottom sternum at all. Same in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana – back and front of chest are almost vertical. From Virsasana. Weight should come towards the femur bone, so lengthen the back thigh, lean forwards to bring the weight towards the femur and then maintain this as you kneel up. Keep lower sternum spreading and into the body and maintaining back and front of the body parallel, reach back and catch the feet for Ustrasana. Do not over- rotate the elbows, keep them facing forwards (not outwards when you roll the shoulders back) – the action of taking the top rib in will help with this (refer back to first class with Rajalaxmi at the beginning of the month for diagram of where first rib is on the upper back body). When you take your head back, connect the crown of your head to your tailbone.

  • AMVirsasana

  • Parsva Swastikasana x 3 each side, each cross – Learning the action of spreading the bottom ribs as you turn. The tendency is for the left rib to come towards the centre line (when turning to the right) squashing the left side oblique and shortening that side of the body. We had to turn with great care, keeping the left side of the body tall and resisting the left rib to the left and the right rib to the right as we turned to the right side. Then the rotation came in the lower sternum.

  • Sarvangasana – Upper thighs rotating inside out to bring the pubic bone forward in line with the thighs, not dipping back. Lower sternum into the body and spreading to the sides. Outer ankle gripping in, support from the outer thighs.

  • Supta Konasana – Catch the toes so that you know the distance is correct.

  • Halasana – Outer ankles.

  • Karnapidasana

  • Roll down carefully without allowing the head to get jerked up from the floor and then rest with head up on support and buttocks down on the floor. ‘I won’t call it Savasana, it is just a rest after the exertion of the pose’.

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