Back bends with Geeta and Prashant Iyengar

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:

  • 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.

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3 Responses to “Back bends with Geeta and Prashant Iyengar”

  1. Kerry Reinking Says:

    I also like what he said about patience: “We have lost the human quality of patience with all our busy lives…and that is how we will become patients!” (or so is how I remember his words…)

  2. Seema Says:

    Thks for your generous sharing.

  3. yogimarcia Says:

    Reblogged this on IYENGAR YOGA BLOG.

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