Posts Tagged ‘Pranayama’

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.

ether

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