Archive for February, 2013

Back bends with Geeta and Prashant Iyengar

February 21, 2013

The last–but–one back bend class with Geetaji had two strong themes.

The first was the lengthening of the deltoids (the short, fat muscles at the top of the arms). We began the class with three poses: With hands interlocked, we stretched our arms behind us. Then we practiced Namaskar Paschimottanasana and then Ghomukasana. In Ghomukasana, on the raised arm we simultaneously ‘fixed’ the head of the deltoid into the shoulder socket and then took the elbow higher. This had the effect of drawing the neck of the deltoid muscle up, away from the shoulder and lengthening the deltoid.

Several poses later, which included Urdhva Dhanurasana, we did Viparita Dandasana. Geetaji instructed us as we came into the pose, to move the head closer to the feet before finally placing the crown (inside our interlocked hands) on the floor. We returned to the deltoid theme here. We pressed the forearms and elbows down, and ‘fixed’ the head of the deltoid up into the shoulder socket.

Then we practiced Marichyasana 3. Geetaji observed that we were all of us, weak in our spines; very few were lifting the chest. We were instructed to move deeper into the pose from the back body “move the middle back in” to get the turning action and to help lift the front and side chest more fully.

In this morning’s 7am back bending class, Prashantji asked us to think about how we were practicing and what our objectives were. We are going to become how we practice. If we only practice on the physical plane, we will become more physical. (Last week, Prashant pointed out that the fittest people on the planet were probably the Taliban). A physical practice is a great foundation, but, “After 30 years of practice, what have you become; what are you trying to become?” If we want to become more spiritual, or operate on a higher mental plane, “practice for the mind and on the mind,” and that can mean working in the posture with the breath. Prashantji often guides us in the poses through breathing techniques that include ‘exhalative retentions’ and ‘inhalative retentions.’ In other sessions, it may be delicate nostril breathing.

Finally, Prashant talked about the notion of ‘busy-ness.’ We have all become ‘busy.’ “The modern world is busy and we lose the human fabric, our humanity”.

He glanced around the room at his strong Indian following and remarked (to a ripple of laughter) that he had never seen so many retired people so busy, and with no time. “They all have to rush off after the class, because they are so busy.” He himself has never known what it is to be busy or to have no time (more laughter). We were advised to organize our practice sessions a little differently. If we only have one hour to practice, rather than trying to cram everything in to that hour, practice only for 25 minutes, and leave some time at the beginning and end of asana practice for reflection.

Poses (choice of):

  • Chair viparita dandasana: 1st time normal, 2nd time from padmasana, 3rd time, eka pada viparita dandasana.
  • Rope Sirsasana.

From the floor:

  • Parsva Swastikasana
  • Adhomuka Svanasana
  • Standing back arch
  • Ustrasana
  • Urdhva Danuarasana, Danurasana, Dwipada Viparita Dandasana
  • Baradvajasana


  • Ropes I
  • Feet to floor, knees on bolster
This pic of Guruiji was taken by Jake Clennell at RIMYI, in Dec 1998. © Jake Clennell.

This pic of Guruiji was taken by Jake Clennell at RIMYI, in Dec 1998. © Jake Clennell.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Sally Rutzky and Jeanne Barkey for their contributions to this blog.

© 2013 Bobby Clennell.

A Class From The Master. Pune February, 2013.

February 10, 2013

A class from the Master: Gurujii kicked off February with the second class of the month, a standing poses class.

His theme was the Karmendriyas and the Jnanendriyas.

The Karmendriya are the organs of action: hands, arms and legs. The karmendiyas also include anything catogorised as being muscular/skeletal (spine, shoulderblades, breast bone etc.) The Jnanendriyas are the organs of perception: eyes, ears, nose, tongue (the tongue is also a karmendria), and skin.

In this class, Gurujii was mostly teaching us though the arms and legs (karmendriyas) and skin (jnanendriyas).

We worked in every pose aligning bones and skin, which was usually acheived by moving them in different directions. When the karmendrias and and Jnanendrias are aligned, that’s when you are most at mentally at ease and you are in the present. When there is a drag on the skin, you are pulled into the past.

At the very start of the class, we sat in Swastikasana.  We moved the skin (an organ of perception) on the back down.

We moved the the back muscles in and up to lift the spine (an organ of action).

We moved the posterior buttock skin down and the anterior buttock skin, we moved sharply up.

This was a mentally challenging class. Most of us had just arrived from the four corners of the earth to be here this month (and of course, Gurujii was very well aware of this).  Keeping up with Gurujii’s intellect was a real adventure of awarenness. By the end of the class, he had focused our wavering attention, big time! We finally arrived. Somehow when Guruji teaches, stamina is not an issue. Your intellegence is spread throughout the entire embodyment. Without even mentioning the word, we were working with the koshas and through every layer of our being. That creaky hip of mine? Forget it, I didn’t have a creaky hip in that class. In fact, I don’t seem to have a creaky hip any more.

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© 2013 Bobby Clennell.

Geetaji’s Pranayama Class: Pune, February 1st.

February 1, 2013

The first class at RIMYI today was pranayama taught by Geetaji. We began by sitting. No that’s not exactly right — Gulnaz began by attempting to get us all into the asana room. She did a pretty good job. Every single prop was moved into the props room. We were mat-to-mat, and this is nothing new these days, I know, but tonight, students were almost reduced to setting up on the stairs outside.

We began in a long Swastikasana, head in Jalandara Banda, really lengthening the spine. Some of the new students were “sacrificing their nerves” as Geetaji put it, unable to sit still without shaking (they didn’t yet have the physical stamina to sit still without shaking).

Then we lay down over our bolsters. Those who didn’t get a bolster had two pranayama pillows. We practiced Ujjayii, extended inhalation,  extended exhalation, with normal breaths in between. A few of the newer students were unable to close their eyes.

We sat up on our bolster again. As we inhaled deep into the lungs, lifting the chest as we did so, we allowed the abdomen to stretch away in the opposite direction. We explored this separation of abdomen and chest, both in Ujjayi and Viloma (interrupted inhalation) pranayama. With the incoming breath we lifted and broadened the front ribs;  at the same time, the abdomen had to lengthened downward away from the bottom ribs. The shoulder blades moved down the back. The shoulders had to stay back, the head down.

We finished in Savasana over our bolsters. It was wonderful to begin the month with a pranayama class.

Photo © Jake Clennell.

Photo © Jake Clennell.

© 2013 Bobby Clennell.