Posts Tagged ‘Geeta Iyengar’

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.

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:

  • 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.

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.

The National Iyengar Yoga Therapeutics Convention

May 18, 2010

The convention in Portland, Oregon, was inspiring on so many levels. The way that the information was stuctured and given out to us was both simple and profound. The asanas were presented in the order in which they are given to the “patient”. The order of the poses also reflected the development of a baby. Each pose, of course, is practiced in a way that is relevant to the person’s condition, injury, or age.

The first day of the convention was all about variations of Savasana (a new born baby’s position is a laying down position). First you teach the student/patient to be quiet. You also relax tense muscles, organs and nerves.

The baby lies on it’s side. Here, among other poses, we were going to practice and discuss Anantasana, but there was no time, so this was omitted.

Next, observe and teach the sitting and twisting poses. The baby sits up. The patient will not be strong enough yet for standing poses.

Then we looked at the supported standing poses. The baby stands.

We did a little asana on the way through, but not much, as we were mostly either listening, or watching, or working on each other in very supported poses. One pose that stood out that we did practice during the back bend segment was salabhasana with the arms threaded through a double or triple wrapped long rope. Try it, and don’t come out of it too soon, and tell me how your triceps feel the next day!

Inversions were next. Even the baby once it can stand, will stand with it’s legs apart and look through it’s legs, in a “half inversion” at it’s Mother!

Our last class was pranayama. Later that evening we were entertained by some wonderful Indian musicians. I drew this picture of the tabla player on my iphone.

There were five-hundred delegates, all certified Iyengar teachers, and twenty percent of them came from abroad. It was a marvelous coming together of old friends and like-minded souls. Geetaji’s teaching was brilliant. I flew home back to New New York on Sunday night and then taught all day Monday. Despite my tiredness, I was energized by Geetaji’s teaching and humbled by her dedication to those who are in need of help.

© 2010 Bobby Clennell.

Geetaji’s class

February 5, 2010

The asana room was electric last night. We were all held on the edge of the moment with Geetaji’s powerful teaching. Among other things, we did lots of Virabhadrasana I and III. Long holdings in Vira I. We did Vira III with three arm positions: 1) Straight ahead in the classical manner (triceps drawn onto the upper arm bones). 2) Straight back. 3) Out to the sides, like an airoplane.

The variation in arm positions give those who cannot easily (such as breast cancer surivors with scar tissue that they are working on) or should not (hypertension) take their arms above the head. And for the rest of us, it’s good to work in a different way sometimes.

Sorry, I haven’t posted Prashantji’s sequence yet. I am waiting to talk to someone who observed the class and who took notes.

© 2010 Bobby Clennell.