Posts Tagged ‘BKS Iyengar’

The Yoga Space, Ann Arbor, Michigan. April 5 – 6, 2014

May 10, 2014

Elements and Koshas
According to yogic principles, everything in the universe, including our body, is made up of five subtle elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether (space).

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Our own beings also comprise five “sheaths” or koshas; Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vignanomaya Kosha and Anandamaya Kosha. In this workshop, via a variety of asana and pranayama, we will explore and bring into balance our own unique expression of these forces. We will also learn where the koshas and elements meet and how these intersections inform our practice.

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Sound and space is ether. The quality of ether is that it contracts and expands. Give me room – that is ether.

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“Extension and expansion bring space,

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….and space brings freedom.

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Freedom is precision,

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….and presicion is divine”. B. K. S. Iyengar

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During menstruation do not revolve so far over to the side (as shown in the picture) but fold forward diagonaly, over the thigh.

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Sirsasana is ruled by the element of fire. Among other benefits, Head Stand increases digestive fire and increases body heat. The intestines are cleansed by reversing the pull of gravity, while releasing congested blood in the colon.  It also refreshes the blood supply to the master glands – the pituitary and hypothalamus – that regulate the thyroid, pineal and adrenal glands.

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Rope Sirsasana is far less demanding on the body and nervous system (especially for beginners) than Sirsasana I and II. Rope Sirsasana brings tremendous  traction to the spine and to the hip and shoulder joints.

 

© 2014 Bobby Clennell.

February 2014, Pune.

March 10, 2014

The Institute.

At the RIMYI we have three classes with Geeta Iyengar per week: two women’s classes (one of which if there is room, the men may attend) and a pranayama class. Prashant Iyengar teaches at 7am, four mornings a week. If you want to experience B.K.S. Iyengar in action you had better get yourself along to the medical classes in the afternoons. In addition, there are six open practice sessions per week where Guruji practices along with local and visiting students, most of them teachers. He invariably interrupts his own practice to instruct someone else and oftentimes this someone is his grand daughter, Abhijata. We gather round to watch, listen and absorb. Then when Guruji returns to his own practice, we drift back to our mats and our own practice.

Prashant Iyengar.

“Rivers of breath” pranayama class.
Just as rivers nourish the land, Prashant says, the breath also provides us with nourishment. These days people flock to the cities to live, but there was a time when people settled along rivers. He talked about how the Amazon flows fresh into the ocean for miles and miles, providing sustenance for all who live along its banks. Similarly, when we practice pranayama, we become energized, re-vitalized, invigorated.

Geeta Iyengar. Wednesday February 19: excerpts from Geeta’s second back bend class.

Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Sirsasana:

  • Be independent. If you lean against the wall, you will never learn.
  • For those who practiced rope Sirsasana; it’s a horizontal pose as well as a vertical pose. Even in Rope Sirsasana, place your palms on the floor the width of the shoulders to create that space. Don’t just hang – lift your shoulders up away from the floor and widen the collar bones.
  • Always move the front of the leg toward the back of the leg.
  • Forehead quiet, but the body should be very much active. Raise the whole body up from the inside.

(Many, many) Urdhva Dhanurasana’s into Viparita Dandasana: Men usually sit at the back, but today Geeta asked them to move to the front of the class. Geeta talked about some of the differences between men and women. Women are more supple then men. In these back bends, they can easily open the front ribs and lift the chest, but they tend to drop the buttocks and pelvis, which strains the lumbar. In addition, they tend to get tired. Men are strong, so they can hold themselves up more easily; but they push hard into the chest and don’t get the natural lift that women get. Some of us, myself included, had a wall to hold the elbows against and a workable mat (from the donated mats in the prop room), which held my feet well, enabling me to access my back muscles and raise my spine.

8-5“Lie on your back, with your head toward the platform.  With feet apart, walk your feet in and hold ankles. Bend your arms. Place your hands on the floor, close to your shoulders. Distribute the weight evenly between the palms. Broaden the palms. Push up into Urdhva Dhanurasana. Walk in with your palms. Raise the chest to walk the palms toward the feet.”

  • Open the armpit chest. Walk in with the feet and be on the arm side. Lift the side trunk!
  • Raise the heels and tailbone up; walk the feet in.

MEN

  • Men always take the knees out – roll them!
  • Shinbones are short, they should be long – knee to shin, elongation.
  • Navel should be up.
  • Suck the elbows straight – die at the elbows! Tighten the elbows! We strapped the elbows – yes, it really has to break into pieces! Have the belt close to the elbow joint.
  • The lightness has to come – lock in the elbow joint. All the men have a belt on the elbow.
  • The flexibility can be seen in Guruji’s photo from Light On Yoga, but the stability is not seen.
  • Pump the body close to the platform.

Viparita Dandasana

  • Push the back ribs forward. At first, keep your head up. Open chest with the head up. Then place head to floor, but keep the chest tall.
  • Men: in back bends, you don’t open your chest.
  • Women; your buttocks drop.

Savasana – stretch your legs out.
Adho Mukha Svanasana, hands to wall.
Sarvangasana
Either Halasana or Karnapidasana (depending on space available)
Pachimottanasana
Savasana

Acknowledgments:
Thank you Julia Pederson who observed the class and took notes, and
Richard Jonas who contributed to these notes from his memory of the class.

Guruji, Wednesday February 20: morning practice.

Guruji spoke of citta chidra or ‘perforated mind’ meaning fissured consciousness. Abhijata, his granddaughter called it ‘leaky consciousness’ as in  “Something slips out; the awareness does not hold itself inside.”

For we students, says Guruji, the mind goes to pleasure; “I like this, I don’t enjoy that, I enjoy this!” In that state, we work from the brain, of which the mind is but a part. When you work from the brain, you sweat in the face, you remain locked in the head, your consciousness does not penetrate the body.

Guruji explains we have to ‘expand from the center to open the four lobes of the brain.’

Guruji showed us the sole of his foot. He expands the arch so that the skin across it is sharp, not dull and not sinking. When one works like that, one does not sweat, one is not stuck in the brain; awareness permeates the areas of the body to which it is directed.
Verse II. 47: ananta samapattibhyam. The balanced state of awareness (samapatti) is endless (ananta).

For us, sadly, it is antara (different, other, outside) samapattibhyam.

The mind goes out, looking for pleasure. It is ‘antara’, different, other. Then, of course, it fluctuates and moves around.

We have to learn ananta (endless) samapattih, a balanced state of consciousness.

Yoga is a spiritual practice. Ananta – or endlessness – is a spiritual state.

When instead, you practice Antara – other, different – you are jumping from one thing to the next. “I like it, I don’t like it. Where is the discipline? There is none.”

One has to go beyond that kind if mind, beyond, ‘leaky consciousness.’

Ananata – endlessness – comes from discipline.

Read about chitta cidra on page 57 of The Core of the Yoga Sutras, B.K.S Iyengar’s most recent book. Those who want to look will see what he says on that page in the light of his little talk during the open practice at RIMYI that morning.

Acknowledgments:
Thank you Zoe Stewart who relayed Guruji’s discourse from the morning open practice.
Many thanks also to Richard Jonas for his sensitive editing.

Bhishma

August 8, 2013

Many stories are told in the Mahabharata of Bhishma, the son of a great king and also a yogi, a learned man and a great warrior. This particular story tells how Bhishma, unparalleled in the noble the art of archery was himself shot through by arrows as he fought in battle. As he fell, his whole body was held above ground by the shafts of these arrows, which protruded from his back and through his arms and legs. Bhishma was suspended this way for 40 days.

B.K.S. Iyengar tells us that Bhishma was kept alive for so long most likely because of the strategic positioning — similar to acupuncture points; behind the heart, at the coccyx — of the arrows.

Bishma meditated as he transitioned in a timely and dignified manner from the manifest world to the un-manifest, eternal world. Seeing Bhishma laid out on such a bed of arrows humbled even the gods who watched from the heavens in reverence, silently blessing the mighty warrior.

I taught Bhishmasana as part of a restorative workshop at the Maha Padma Temple, Union Square, New York. Restorative yoga teaches us to be in the asana longer and penetrate deeper. It allows us to be to become familiar with a deeper level of internal practice and it prepares us for pranayama.

Bishma surrendered to his fate, which although already ordained by Krishna, was not violent. Stretched out on our yogis’ “bed of nails” and suspended in time, we surrendered to the moment, completely supported and utterly at peace.

Practice this pose and see how it makes you feel. The student, whose feet were placed apart on separate blocks and belted to stop them flopping out, said  she felt as if she were floating. After this picture was taken I lowered the blocks under her arms which helped create more space in her chest.

It’s a wonderfully cooling pose in the hot weather!

A modified version of this pose is often given in the medical classes at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI), Pune, India, to help those with heart problems.

Bhishmacharya

Photo by my host at Maha Padma Temple, Veronica Alicia Perretti

Sadhaka fundraising campaign

July 1, 2013

The  fundraising to complete the editing of Sadhaka: the yoga of BKS Iyengar, a feature documentary by my son, Jake Clennell, has less than 2 days to go. I was there in Pune with Jake when the idea was born. I have watched the video footage as it came back from India over a three year period, and I observed the pilot being edited. Go to Sadhakafilm.org to see the trailer, donate and be part of this wonderful feature documentary.

Bobby

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Sadhaka director/producer Jake Clennell filming at BKS Iyengar’s 90th birthday celebration. Photo by Lindsey Clennell.

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BKS Iyengar with Sadhaka executive producer, Lindsey Clennell. Photo Jake Clennell.

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BKS Iyengar and his grand-daughter Abhijata take a break from teaching. Photo Jake Clennell.

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You can stay updated on the status of the film by signing up for the mailing list on the Sadhaka website.

Sadhaka: the yoga of BKS Iyengar

May 7, 2013

_DSC0350Sadhaka: the yoga of BKS Iyengar — a feature documentary by Jake Clennell is one step closer to being finished. A fundraising effort supporting the editing of the film has been announced on Indiegogo. Watch the extended trailer — 22 minutes of what will be a 90 minute film — donate if you can, and share this link.

You can also follow the progress of the film at Sadhakafilm.net and on Facebook.

Here are a few stills shot during the filming.

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Pathway of flowers to greet BKS Iyengar at the inauguration of Patanjali Temple.

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Garland vendor, Pune, India.

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Garlanded Hanuman at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIYMI).

BKS Iyengar with Jake Clennell
BKS Iyengar with Sadhaka director Jake Clennell.

Intertwining Elements, Kosas, Chakras and Vayus, plus Baby Back Bends and Side Stretch

March 27, 2013

Much was covered in my four day workshop in Jakarta. In the first four classes we explored the elements and koshas, which included standing poses (anamayer kosa: earth), jumpings (pranamaya kosa: water), twists, and backbends on the ropes ( manomaya kosa: fire) and inversions and pranayama (vignaomaya kosa: air and anandamaya kosa: ether).

“As animals we walk the earth. As bearers of a divine essence, we are among the stars.”

“So many seek this greater truth in the heavens, but it lies much closer than the clouds. It is within and can be found, [via asana and pranayama] by anyone on the inward journey.”

“From your physical body, you can journey inward to discover your ‘subtle bodies’; your energy body pranamaya kosa: [element of water] where breath and emotions reside; your mental body manomaya kosa: [element of fire] where thoughts and obsessions can be mastered; your intellectual body vignanomaya kosa: [element of air] where intelligence and wisdom can be found and your divine body anandamaya kosa: [element of ether] where the universal soul can be glimpsed.” — B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Life.

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The physical body (annamayer kosa) corresponds to the element of earth. The standing poses, when practiced from and returning to tadasana increase the element of earth in the legs, which become strong and steady.

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“…a graphic representation of the primordial seed sound Om, symbolizing the whole cosmos. The letter Om is split up into five shapes to represent the entire universe, resolved into five cosmic principles.”  —  Yantra: The Symbol of Cosmic Unity by Madhu Khanna. © 1979 Thames and Hudson Ltd. London

From David V. Tansley, Subtle Body — Essence and Shadow, © 1977, Art and Imagination Series, Thames and Hudson, London)

Illustration showing the nadis and the major and minor chakras. From Subtle Body — Essence and Shadow, David V. Tansley. © 1977, Art and Imagination Series, Thames and Hudson, London

The nadis. The life force condensed in the subtle body travels along pathways called nadis (Nadi: a duct or conduit). The tree like nature of the subtle body contains around 72,000 of these nadis.

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Yogin With Six Cakras. Painting. Kangra school. Late 18th century A.D. From Tantra Art: its Philosophy & Physics by Ajit Mookerjee. © 1966 by Ravi Kumar.

The chakras are pools of life energy, vibrating at different rates and located on the midline of the body. The three chakras located at the lower regions of our body represent our instinctual nature, the four highest ones reflect the mental and spiritual aspects of our being.

The final two classes were baby-backbends (not so baby) and side stretch poses. Here are a few of the poses from the side stretch sequence:

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Thanks to all the lovely people at Jakartadoyoga!

Visit my website, bobbyclennell.com for upcoming workshops.

© 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.

Kids Love Yoga

November 13, 2012

Here is the latest crop of photos of kids who were inspired by my picture book, Watch Me Do Yoga.

I appologize for not including the names of some of these young yogis and yoginis. If you recognize your child, please send me their name and I will update this post.

Keep sending in your photos!


Leon Berg practices Vrksasana (Tree Pose)…


… and Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) at the Community of Findhorn, N.E. coast of Scotland.

The Findhorn Foundation is a spiritual community, ecovillage and international centre for holistic learning.


Evelyn Chen practices Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose) in Connecticut; photo by Travis Kelley.


Setu Bandhasana

“Setu means a bridge. Setu Bandha means the construction of a bridge. In this posture, the whole body forms an arch and is supported at one end by the crown of the head and at the other on the feet, hence the name.”
Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar


Rope Sirsasana (Hanging Headstand).


Lauren, from the UK, practices Urdhva Danurasana (Inverted Bow Pose).


Lauren’s sister Elisa practices Padmasana (Lotus Pose).


I met these girls when I taught a workshop at Natural Yoga in Bogata, Columbia in October.


Sukhasana (Simple Cross-Leg Pose).


This New York cat obviously draws much sustainance by sitting on her favorite book, The Woman’s Yoga Book.

© 2012 Bobby Clennell.

Fall Travels 2012

October 17, 2012

Yoga At Zea — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This was my second visit to www.yogaatzea.com.my which is situated on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, or “KL” as it is commonly known.

Steamy, tropical, and surrounded by vast palm tree plantations, KL is a multicultural community, the majority of the people being Chinese, closely followed by the Muslim and Indian populations. Similar to Singapore, these three cultures live, work and observe their own religions and traditions, happily and peacefully, alongside of each other.

KL is a lively, bustling, and happy  place. I shopped for a Hello Kitty iPhone case and was taught by my hosts and their families to eat local delicacies at the Petaling Street night-market. It is also an affluent and  firmly established modern city.

Hello Kitty!

Dhanurasana

Ustrasana

Supta Padangustasana II

Setubandasana

The children’s class:

Being joyful!

Cat pose

Resources on teaching yoga to children:

  • Yogashastra Tome 1 by teachers of Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute and Light on Yoga Research Trust
  • Yogashastra Tome 2 by teachers of Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute and Light on Yoga Research Trust

Goodbye to Yoga at Zea — Zoe Kok, Anita Frisk, Bobby Clennell and Edison Tan Choon Tian

Next stop — Shelly Yoga, Taipei

In Taipei I was mesmerized by the swarming motorbikes in the city, but then calmed when I took a break in New Beitou a little town in the mountains, which was complete with hiking trails, hot springs and a Starbucks.

Inside “101”, the world’s second tallest building, a mall offers acres of high-end shopping: Burberry, Prada and Gucci, to name but a few, were all buzzing with activity. But the night markets are where Taipei comes alive. As the sun goes down, the streets come alive as thousands of people descend on the markets and alleyways for some of the best food and cheapest thrills that can be found in Asia. The same, quick stepping, fashionably dressed young people who flood these markets, are also taking to yoga in a big way.

My host Shelly teaches Iyengar Yoga at her studio Shelly Yoga, which is situated in the heart of Taipei. The students here were excitedly preparing for their first trip to study at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI), Pune.

The Priciples of Alignment

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Prepping for Pincha Myorasana

Parigasana (variation)

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana with Crossed Bolsters

Kapotasana with a chair

Last stop — The Iyengar Yoga Institute of China

The city of Guangzhou has a population of 6.7 million and has a history of more than 2,800 years. It ranks first in China in the number of restaurants and tea–houses, and is famous for it’s food including a wide range of delicate pastries. I still miss the food, especially the delicious moon cakes, which are eaten at the beginning of the fall season (and which the students showered me with to bring back to New York).

Lion dance

The elegant and spacious Iyengar Yoga Institute of China has been built and equiped since B.K.S. Iyengar visited China with the Yoga Summit, just three months previous. The main studio has 25 sets of wall ropes (enough for 25 students) and the two other good-sized yoga studios are also similarly well equipped with ropes. This Institute also has a large office, a large reception area, and a hard working staff. The moment that you step into this place, you feel the dedication to and the respect for the Iyengar method.

Uttitha Padangustasana

Sirsasana on the ropes

Urdha Dhanurasana with a rope and blocks

Urdha Dhanurasana at the trestler

Parsva Hasta Padasana at the trestler

Uttanasana to the side

China was so much fun! The energy of the place is palpable and there is a feeling that anything can be achieved. A public lecture, where I spoke and demonstrated on why women should practice ‘women’s yoga’ was organized quickly and efficiently and was complete with background music, cameras, lights, raffles, an Iyengar yoga backdrop, a podium and a rapt audience of around 300.

Adho Mukha Svanasana with head on block

Urdhva Hastasana (head up)

Padangustasana (head down)

Uttitha Padangustasana II

Kapotasana with chair

Badha Konasana

Chatoosh Padasana — the Principles of Alignment

These are early days for Iyengar Yoga in China, and my hosts at the Institute — Chen Zhiyong and Niki Su are keen to show the Chinese yoga community at large something of this method. I agreed to model for a set of photos showing some of the uses of props. Here is a small selection from that photo shoot:

Pincha Myorasana

Ardha Chandrasana

Pincha Myorasana with the Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana bench

Badha Konasana in Rope Sirsasana

© 2012 Bobby Clennell.

Pune 2012

February 15, 2012

My youngest son Jake and I arrived in Pune on Wednesday 1st February at around 4 am. I attended a 9.30 am Women’s class taught by Guruji and Abhijata. It was a special “jet lag class”. We began with some supported inversions, some of which I had never seen done in quite the same way before. This is my 19th trip to Pune — the first was in 1976 — and I don’t know why I am surprised that they are still coming up with new material!

Viparita Karani/Sirsasana: Sit backwards on a chair with the  knees bent over the back of the chair rest. Slide back off chair and place the crown of the head on a vertical bolster. Thread your arms through the chair and hold the back legs. There was much emphasis on lifting through the dorsal spine. 

Viparita Dandasana: Sit backwards through the chair. Curve back around the chair seat. Support top of the back of your head on a vertical bolster, and your feet on blocks. Hold the back legs of the chair. 

Viparita Karani/Sarvangasana: Proceed as for chair Sarvangasana, with your shoulders resting on a horizontal bolster and the back of the head on the floor, but rather than extending your legs out, bend them over the back of the chair rest. As for regular chair Sarvangasana, there was lots of lifting through the dorsal spine. 

Setu Bandasana. Sit backward through the chair. Keeping your knees bent, slide back off the edge of the chair and place the back of your head on a vertical bolster (build up the height of the bolster as needed).

Then, just when you thought that this was going to be a restorative class, we went straight into some simple, but extremely vigorous standing poses (including lots of Adho Mukha Svanasana).

This class was just what was needed to throw off the fatigue and fuzzy-headedness of the journey.

Geetaji taught pranayama on Thursday and standing poses on Friday — fabulous classes both of course. Guruji and Abhyjata taught Saturday’s women’s class, and it reminded me of Guruji’s classes in the 70s. This was a “remembering–what–it’s–like–to–be–taught–by–a–master” sort of a class. There’s just no other way of putting it!

Maty Ezraty doing Pincha Myorasana in the practice session

Mary Reilly in the practice room

 One evening a few of us attended a Sufi music festival. Parvathy Bauul from the Bauul sect was the last act. She chanted and danced, and twirled, causing her hem length dreadlocks to swing and flare out like a mandala. It was all meditation for her and a part of her practice. Here is a clip of her from You Tube, although you lose much of the electrifying affect that you get when she is right there in front of you.

Bauul is the equivalent of Sufi in India, particularly in Bengal, where Parvathy comes from. Her impressive beauty, her personality and the intensity of her devotional chanting and rotating dance, Dervish style, make her unique. I will never forget her, or that class with Guruji and Abhyjata.

Guruji then left with Abhyjata and a group of students and teachers for a yoga convention in Bangalore. It had been fascinating watching him in the practice room each morning, coaching his students for a yoga demonstration that they were putting on at the convention.

On Tuesday (almost one week into the course) Prashant taught a class “for the mind”. About half way through the class he directed us through some nostril breathing as we practiced standing poses. Sounds fairly ordinary I know, but taught by Prashantji, it was profound. It was after that class that I finally shook off my jet lag and slept through the night.

With Guruji gone (and also Geetaji, who had gone to Calcutta for another yoga convention), we were left in the good hands of three truly excellent Instiute teachers, Navaz Kamdin, Rajlaxmi, and Gulnaas, and later, when Guruji and his entourage returned, Abhijata Iyengar and Raya Ud also taught.

Last night Prashantji taught a challenging back bends class. The sequence included: Padmasana/Setu Bandasana over a block, and Padmasana/Viparita Dandasana on a chair, Ustrasana, and Viparita Dandasana from the ropes. The objective was to come out of the class feeling as cool and calm (Prashantji used the word “sanctified”) as we had after his forward bend class “for the mind”.

This morning, Guruji taught a truly profound and masterful class with Abhyjata. We came onto the points of the fingers whenever the hand was on the floor (Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana, a version of Virabadrasana III with hands on the floor in frount of us, and Bharadvajasana I: “tiger claws”!).

We are exactly at the halfway point of the month.

Richard Jonas

I love Sunday mornings on Model Colony. There is no traffic. Everything is quiet. I stroll down to the neighborhood café, Lalit Mahal, for breakfast: upma and real coffee. The owner was starting the day with a puja for his garlanded deity, and the fragrance of incense permeates the entire place.

Puja

Interior of the Lalite Mahal

© 2012 Bobby Clennell.