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Yoganusasanam 2014 – Study Notes

(Personal reflections filtered through skewed predispositions and faulty intelligence – in no way an accurate or complete summarization of the day’s teachings (which, btw, are beyond fantastic)

All realizations dedicated to geetaji’s implicit and explicit instructions; i didn’t figure any of this myself.

The notes on the adjustments are only for personal reference – it might not be a good idea to do these adjustments based only on these notes)

DAY 1

December 03, 2014

 

got into a wrong bus and was dropped off about a mile away from venue. receding flu not happy with the long walk on the dusty highway with the heavy props bag.

but then one enters the no-glitch-organisation zone. there’s a desk for everything – from collecting props to foreign exchange and doctor on call. participants broken into 10 or so manageable groups. each group is color coded-and has their own entrances and locker- rooms. each group is also assigned specific place in this big badminton indoor stadium AND will rotate places in an clockwise direction everyday – so that everyone gets a chance to be close to the stage.

but the AC in the hall is freezing and not making the flu or the arthritic knees any happier (these have not recovered after viral arthritic fever attack a couple of months ago and i havnt really done any standing asanas during that period)

geetaji invoked guruji’s spirit in vey touching terms and implicitly reiterated something i have always felt – now that he is freed from his worldly eyes, his eyes are everywhere.

we began where we always do – at the feet.

Aging – the outer corners of the feet – from the outer heel to the mound of the little toe – start distancing themselves from the floor and losing sensitivity. never experienced it standing up? try extending them in dandasana- they really have shrunk. therefore one more reason to do upavistakonasana – the outer corners more accessible.

armpit opening – esp. in urdhvahastasana – from the side seam of the t-shirt to the nipple area – while taking the dorsal 7,8,9th vertebra into the body. hit/ pump the upper arms behind the ear to open the armpits.

 

standing asanas – virabhadrasana 2 – in the beginning, if the trunk refuses to stay in the centre (and insists on following the bent leg) move it strongly to the back leg side. lop-sided warriors – overdoing in order to unlearn.

now the crazy scurrying around before this trip, the AC, the walk in the sun, the late night coffee have all got together to create a spectacular headache – which is why this is getting posted two days later

DAY 2

December 04, 2014

Personal reflections filtered through skewed predispositions and faulty intelligence – in no way an accurate or complete summarization of the day’s teachings (which, btw, are beyond fantastic)

all realizations dedicated to geetaji’s implicit and explicit instructions; i didn’t figure any of this myself.

the notes on the adjustments are only for personal reference – it might not be a good idea to do these adjustments based on these notes.

AC is at normal levels. all glitches and complaints being swiftly resolved – this is a very efficient organisation team – complaints from the ground reach the management level in real-time and are resolved immediately.

the event is being very diligently video-recorded – each adjustment, if not clearly visible on the camera, is repeated.

my hip is attached to the opposite foot – like the lady who was called up on stage. if i spread my right (more aggressive foot) a little wider in upavistakonasana, it is my left hip that gets pulled in that direction. the same happens when i walk – as i step down with the right foot, the left hip swings in response. what an interestingly dysfunctional cross-connection – a mini flash of enlightenment. i would be happy just to have sensed it. but no, guruji would have said, now that you have realised the mistake, you must correct it

step 2 of standing poses – pumping the middle buttock of the front leg to ensure that buttock stays in the body and does not project out

step 2 of armpit opening in urdhvahastasna and adhomukhasvanasana – upper arms going up, dorsal thoracic moving in, trapezius moving down the back, and to balance all the extension with compaction, the deltoids staying in place, compacting the shoulder joint.

and doing the same in ardha sirsasana – arms and head in position, walk-in with the feet without rounding the back.

aging again – if the head cannot come down on the floor without dropping the shoulders, folded blanket is to be used for the head – but the armpit opened, dorsal in, deltoids, trapezius in place is not to be disturbed.

more middle buttock pumping in chatuspadasana.

this is still warming up – but out of the corner of my eye, i see the the lady with 3 years behind her – hands trembling with the effort of urdhvahastasana and feet trembling in sarvangasana – so some are already struggling.

lady straight ahead distracting by trying to take picture with her phone camera – photography strictly not allowed during class. why this obsession with the camera?

flu seems to have receded – happy with the ambient temperature and the rest yesterday (12 straight hours in bed). knees not complaining as long as i continue with the merry-go-round of moving the brick from the right to the left to the right – to keep the front foot lifted up on the edge of the brick.

DAY 3

December 05, 2014

 

Personal reflections filtered through skewed predispositions and faulty intelligence – in no way an accurate or complete summarization of the day’s teachings (which, btw, are beyond fantastic)

all realizations dedicated to geetaji’s implicit and explicit instructions; i didn’t figure any of this myself.

the notes on the adjustments are only for personal reference – it might not be a good idea to do these adjustments based on these notes.

having set the phone/ camera aside, today we were also asked to set the notebook aside as well. both great rules i think.

– upavistakonasana, baddhakonasana, upavistakonasana: sandwiching that baddhakonansana between the upavistakonasna locks the energy generated in the asana. the immense spreading and extending action of upavistakonasana – the lengthening of the back thighs, the vertical AND horizontal expansion of the pubic bone – is important to do, and to remember, so it can be replicated along with a compacting action in the bound-angle asana (compaction without loss of information – just like a CD – what an appropriate example).

this is called the samputana kriya (encasement action) – i got the sanskrit word in response to the question i posted on the event fb page!

– padmasana – not just a better execution, but sobriety of the legs in the asana by maintaining full extension of both the upper and the lower legs.

– step 2 to the dorsal compaction we have been practicing since the previous two days – relevant particularly in urdhva hasta positions like urdhvahastasana and adhomukhasvanasana – working from the outside and not directly hitting the spine – less aggressive, more effective. so, instead of just going straight to the 7th, 8th, 9th vertebrae and pushing them in/ down, work from the outer back ribcage and compact them, also moving the outer edges of the shoulder blades towards the spine. compact the bones, the paraspinal muscles continue to be broad.

further exploration of moving the dorsal spine in – uttanasana with legs spread – imagine the head has moved to where the centre of the chest and there is a mirror between the legs in uttanasana 9 we had the legs spread ) take that second face close to the mirror. see the dark spot?

ardhachandrasana and virabhadrasana 3 – aging: osteoporosis, hollowness of the bones but heaviness of the flesh- hit the inner thigh of the lifted leg into the bone and, for beginners, learn to lift high with that inner thigh before learning to align the lifted leg exactly.

–    urdhvanamaskarasana – always knew this is the poster child of ‘things are not as easy as they look’. the most brutal of all basic actions. geetaji asked us to invoke guruji in virabhadrasana 3 – ‘if you call him, he will appear in you’ she said. that was a very special virabhadrasana 3.

DAY 4:

December 06, 2014

Personal reflections filtered through skewed predispositions and faulty intelligence – in no way an accurate or complete summarization of the day’s teachings (which, btw, are beyond fantastic)

all realizations dedicated to geetaji’s implicit and explicit instructions; i didn’t figure any of this myself.

the notes on the adjustments are only for personal reference – it might not be a good idea to do these adjustments based on these notes.

looking at the back of the skull with closed eyes — thats how we started. after closing the eyes, turn the pupils around to look at the screen on the back inner surface of the skull – eventually transforming into a blank screen illuminated by light from within. the screen is not completely blank yet – noise around the edges.

tadasana – opening the back leg – first the back of the calf, then the back of the knee, then the back of back of the thighs – from centre out to the left and the right – all the way to the roots of the thighs. both the legs. in geetaji’s classes, there is no taking things for granted, and confronting the basic actions with honesty can be brutal.

maintaining those thighs exactly as above – uttanasana and prasaritapadottanasana, virabhadrsana 3 and urdhvaprasarita ekapadasana.Step 3 of the dorsal back action – the paraspinal muscles in all the concave back positions – spreading out to the sides – a banana leaf – reinforcement of yesterdays lesson that making the dorsal concave shd not mean just digging the centre of the spine in/ down (and puffing the abdomen).

step 4 of the dorsal back action – after the extension, and the compaction, the spreading. taking the hands wider than shoulder width apart in urdhvahastasna, in uttanasana, and later in janu sirsasana.

both the people called up on stage to demonstrate problematic actions/ inactions – i have both of those problems – its true. the man whose abdomen was hitting into his diaphragm (he couldn’t lift his leg up beyond a couple of feet in urdhvaprasarita… his floating ribs (at the front) were coaxed away from each other to either side and his abdomen held back with a rope so it doesnt hit into the diaphragm. the problem was traced all the way back to this. and only then the more familiar adjustments of half uttanasana and urdhvaprasarita eke pada were done. when he straightened back up – joy on his face and such immediate transformation on the body

a corollary to the above – also a result of floating ribs not spreading to the sides – a narrow girth in this area common with thin people. i most definitely have this one and have been trying to work on it since a while now. the narrowing of the floating ribs was progressively adjusted: in tadasana – placing a rope on the back at the level of the floating ribs and asking her to widen the floating ribs to the sides on the rope. in suptavirasana – bolster to lift up the middle back into a paryankasana -like position and asking her to widen the floating ribs to the sides. also, ‘framing’ her outer ribs against two bricks and asking her to widen that frame. in janu sirsansa, the closed floating ribs dont let the back extend down — you push into the closed ribs with your spine, they push your spine back up. she was given a rolled blanket for the abdomen and a rope was used to press the middle back down; and then, locking the bent leg knee and the extended leg heel in place, the middle back was adjusted

getting dyslexic, getting old or saying-left-and-doing-right ( the mirroring action) while teaching is becoming a bad habit. have been corrected twice since yesterday because when we are asked to do something on the right side, i go to the left.

pranayama started today – thats why the broadening in the asana class!

perfected the bajra roti (millets are more nutritious, way easier on the environment and so much tastier than unidimensional wheat) – now they are round and big, and they puff up. no more coffee from tomorrow – its 11 pm and still wide awake.

tomorrow my block moves directly in front to geetaji.

DAY 5:

December 07, 2014

Personal reflections filtered through skewed predispositions and faulty intelligence – in no way an accurate or complete summarization of the day’s teachings (which, btw, are beyond fantastic)

all realizations dedicated to geetaji’s implicit and explicit instructions; i didn’t figure any of this myself.

the notes on the adjustments are only for personal reference – it might not be a good idea to do these adjustments based on these notes.

no one called up on the stage today – but, as usual, guilty of the day’s transgression. i have been wondering how to fit the eating schedule around the day’s classes.  geetaji declared right at the outset and in very unambiguous terms that this is un-yogic conduct and no, it is not ok to eat before the 8:30 classes (except some hot beverage/ small amount of nuts. cookies and SOME fruit) .  well, thats that then.

 

straight into parivrtta trikonansana. interestingly, focussing not on the twisting right away, but on keeping the limbs – both legs and arms – stable and completely extended – going in and coming out; and (step 2 of yesterday’s spreading of the floating and false ribs from the centre to the two sides)  on keeping the ribs broad – not twisted, but expanding out to the two sides. because beginners cannot twist without shortening the sides of the body and without compressing those ribs ( and therefore, first parsvottanasna with concave back action and then parivrtta trikonasana)

 

revelation in parivrtta parsvakonansana – instead of pitching the entire dead weight of the body on to the top body as it extends forward and twists, making the top body light, by moving the weight back to the back extended leg. easier said than done.  we did this in 3 steps. first focussing not so much on twisting (or on locking of the upper arms and the opposite thigh of the front bent leg) , but on broadening the chest.  then, keeping the outer edge of the back foot and the back heel down and going only as much into the asana as as possible with that back heel down.  and, very importantly, lifting the ribcage off the bent leg thigh while continuing to broaden the chest. third, bending the back leg, bringing the knee down to the floor and getting a good lock of the upper arms and the opposite thigh of the bent leg.  but then pushing back on to the back leg (and foot) by using the hand on the floor to push the weight back to the legs – as in adhomukhasvanasana.   all the time the outer buttock of the back leg, not getting dropped and moving straight towards the outer buttock of the bent leg.   lot of effort, but extreme lightness in the asana.

 

step 2 of the back-leg widening action from yesterday – urdhvaprasarita ekapada sirsasana.  from ardha sirsasana, keeping the dorsal back in the body (and this by itself is a challenge), start bringing one leg up while keeping the back of that leg broad, making the back vertical, keeping the buttocks pointed up and then making the lifted leg vertical.  we got some help here by placing the foot on the floor on a stack of blankets to give it some extra height ( people on the wall did this by taking their feet to the wall in ardha sirsana)

 

first, with the right little finger down – right leg up, bring down the right leg, take the left leg up, bring down the left leg.  change the interlocking of the finger, right leg up, bring down the right leg, take the left leg up, bring down the left leg.  then, keep both feet on a height, with the right little finger down – right leg up, bring down the right leg, take the left leg up, bring down the left leg.  change the interlocking of the finger, right leg up, bring down the right leg, take the left leg up, bring down the left leg.

 

in geetaji’s classes, nothing is hurried up – not because people are getting tired, or bored, or its time to get on with the next thing.  as she said herself yesterday, when a child is learning to write the alphabet, the child takes his/ her own time, does not hurry up, makes each alphabet beautiful.

 

big chill back in the hall at pranayama time.

 

did not get a refund on the transport coupon that i bought for all 10 days and did not use even once.  🙁 was hoping to buy prashantji’s book with the refunded money.

 

overheard a couple of ladies discussing what would be the best place to hide from geetaji’s line of sight.

 

good evening practice and the ankle and wrist stiffness seems to have completely gone form a combination of pune’s really nice weather and these very powerful classes.

 

overheard a couple of ladies discussing what would be the best place to hide from geetaji’s line of sight.

 

good evening practice and the ankle and wrist stiffness seems to have completely gone form a combination of pune’s really nice weather and these very powerful classes.

 

DAY 6

December 08, 2014  /

Personal reflections filtered through skewed predispositions and faulty intelligence – in no way an accurate or complete summarization of the day’s teachings (which, btw, are beyond fantastic)

all realizations dedicated to geetaji’s implicit and explicit instructions; i didn’t figure any of this myself.

the notes on the adjustments are only for personal reference – it might not be a good idea to do these adjustments based on these notes.

for her birthday, geetaji literally squeezed the juice out of marichyasana 3, taking us into a deep seated twist that felt like being wrung form the inside out.  perspective on twists: instead of just twisting from the inside. twisting the spine, the entire side body – ribs, flesh, skin of the opposite side has to MOVE

 

we also did suptapadangusthasana 1 and 2 – both a little differently from usual.   in 1, the belt being exactly at the line where the heel begins, in 2, taking the sidewaysa leg all the way out to the side close to the floor (while attmepting to revolve the abdomen in the other direction)

 

throughout these last few days, geetaji has been bringing up the theme so overdoing and undergoing and doing what is needed to get the desired effort  (rather than following a set technique) –  also underscoring the complexity of teaching and documenting the iyengar method. the way she has been instructing many of the asanas – with small variations that eventually lead up to an asana or an action – would be almost impossible to write down.

 

yogastha and asanastha being established in yoga and being established in asana

 

 

DAY 7: Reflections from Yoganusasanam, Pune, December 2014

December 09, 2014  /  jaya chakravarty

Personal reflections filtered through skewed predispositions and faulty intelligence – in no way an accurate or complete summarization of the day’s teachings (which, btw, are beyond fantastic)

all realizations dedicated to geetaji’s implicit and explicit instructions; i didn’t figure any of this myself.

the notes on the adjustments are only for personal reference – it might not be a good idea to do these adjustments based on these notes

so actually today is geetaji’s birthday.

 

its a sunday and a large group of children doing yoga at the centre in pune, nigdi and mumbai came down to join us – not for a demonstration, but for a combined class. the adults got to do such interesting things as ’swinging their arms in the air like birdies’, marching in place, and also got admonished by geetaji for not being able to do anything as well as the little ones. at the end of it, all adults were elated and exhausted as the children trooped out with barely any sweat on their brow.

 

we had to then be pacified through sirsasana and sarvangasana preceded by some standing forward bends and followed by bharadvajasana. the focus on sirsana was on going up from urdhvaprasarita eka pada sirsasana to full sirsansa, with the right leg, then the left leg; with the right little finger down, then the left little finger down. all the while keeping the shoulders lifted (use of the three-fold blanket for the head encouraged). we did get support of bricks/ stack of blankets to give some lift to the bottom foot. reiteration of inversions being a very basic and important group of asanas and those who have moved on to doing backbends and other advanced actions but are still shaky with their sirsansa and sarvangasana, need to focus on doing it – and doing it correctly. e.g, jumping up into sirsana, the spine is jerked and is not in clear knowledge of what is happening. to go up into the same asana the way we did it today is to do it with full involvement and knowledge of the spine.

 

and then we moved straight into pranayama with no break.

 

but geetaji stole the thunder from the children during the question hour session in the afternoon. she came back, less than two hours later, to answer questions form the participants that were being collected over the last few days. these ranged from technical ( which cervical vertebrae shd be touching the blanket in shoulderstand, answer: lift so much and roll the shoulders so much that no cervical vertebrae touch down) to practice related (when is the best time to practice, short answer; it is important to practice, timing is of secondary importance and depends upon ones state of health, weather, daily routine etc.) to esoteric (how does one work towards the turiya awastha, did she really say have the courage to say ‘get out’ to students that ask such questions?) to emotional (geetaji, do you have any idea how much we love you?)

 

wonder if the camera will be able to capture the humor, wisdom and love with which she conducted this session.

 

DAY 8

December 10, 2014

 

the discipline in following the discipline – yoganusasanam.

 

pranayama started on the 4th day. on the 4th, 5th and 6th days, they were after the asana classes. and then the asana and pranayama times were interchanged.

 

beyond the very basic, making notes on pranayama, and making sense of those notes later, is not an easy skill – looking back at my own notes from last year’s geetaji’s pranayama workshop makes sense only to the extent of what was integrated into my personal practice in the days/ weeks that immediately followed.

 

however, today, we did only pranayama. before that, geetaji spoke at length about the practice of pranayama – why it is much more difficult to develop than an asana practice – the lack of variety, the lack of activity etc. it was a detailed, valuable, as usual, practical guidelines on developing a pranayama practice and looking forward to the video recording to listen to it once again. that desired effects can be invoked by activating the panchavayus (prana, apana, udana, samana, vyana) through pranayama which then act as vehicles to carry the Prana through the body, but expertise can be developed only through practice and refection. the effects of pranayama, characterized by 5 elements, the 3 doshas, the time, space/ place, the quality, can indeed be differentiated much as the effects of asana are, to some extent, differentiable by us. guruji’s pranayama practice, like his asana practice, was informed by practice and reflection, and only later correlated to the scriptures, rather than the other way around. his use of props in pranayama is guided by the same principles as asana – the desired effect has to be invoked.

 

i usually write these notes at the end of the day. the upside is that is it gives enough time for the mind and the intelligence to process the information and arrange it in a certain order. the downside is that these are subjective reflections and not objective summarizations – what didn’t percolate down through the mind and the intelligence, does not get recorded. today, after at least half a dozen hours, the vastness of the chest, and the quietness of the mind, are still palpable – a very different sensation from the expansion of chest brought about by back bends, which is accompanied by excitation in the mind.

 

if documenting ‘techniques’ of asana is of limited use, doing so for pranayama is usually futile effort in the hands of a novice. however, today’s simple sequence is worth the attempt: we started with seated ujjayi – trying to lift the front bottom and middle ribs up with inhalation, not letting them collapse during exhalation – jalandhara bandha open eyes looking at the chest to gauge the the efficacy of the effort. strong back-rib and shoulder action. abdomen and diaphragm dissociated from each other so that the abdomen does not puff, but extending the indentations on the sides of the naval up with each in-breath.

 

and then lying down, we placed a rolled blanket (for the exact rolling technique and exact positioning of the blanket – refer to the recording) but it is a good 6 inches thick roll placed directly under the middle and lower ribs (parallel to the ribs and perpendicular to the spine) – taking care so it doest hit the lumbar, and the lumber descends down in the direction of the buttocks. the head and neck supported by a height little more than usual so the head does get thrown back and the throat stays soft. ujjayi on this setup – naturally led to a viloma breath – as geetaji said, only when one breath was not enough to ‘climb on top of the blanket’.

 

we then sat back up and repeated the seated ujjayi – the ribs expanded so much more than the first sitting – we could see – the eyes were open then and again, now. and the expansion of the chest was accompanied by a very quiet mind.

 

many times in our system of studying, we take the sequencing for granted, even as we acknowledge the importance of sequencing. in this case, the strong back action during the the seated ujjayi, prepared the back for the arch on top of the blanket while lying down. at the same time, the before and after looking down at the chest made us not just feel but see, the transformation in the chest area. geetaji has been speaking quite frequently about the logic of her sequencing throughout this programme.

 

other gems from today – yoga anusasanam, not yoga sasanam. as in patanjali’s yoga sutra, this convention is about reinforcing what has been said by our teachers in the past. but the discipline has to be inculcated – there has to be discipline in inculcating discipline.

 

DAY 9

December 11, 2014

 

drawing to a close – going towards the soul.

how does it matter whether one believes in the soul, whether it is located in the centre of the chest, whether it is as big as a thumb. that when the centre of the chest sinks, one’s entire self sinks with it is something we have all experienced. reminded me of guruji’s explanation to the question ‘whether one believes in god’ in tree of yoga – how does it matter. as long as one is alive, one wants to be better – and god is nothing but a symbolisation of perfection – the ultimate betterment. as long as one is able to lift that centre of the chest, one’s self emerges form hiding. and that is enough.

 

exploring that centre of the chest during the pranayama in the first half was a great way to prepare for the backbends class in the second half. further preparation comprised of uttanasana, prasarita padottanasana, adhomukhasvanasana, sirsansa, all done broad with an emphasis on width of the shoulders – no pinching of the inner edges of the shoulders towards the neck – not even to move the shoulder blades in, not even to make the back concave. and, the most interesting finding of the day – the separation of the body into the right side and the left side as two parallel tracks that becomes possible by moving the consciousness away from the central line towards – what geetaji called – the right and the left ‘boundary walls’.

 

ustrasana (knees finally gave in and refused to kneel up from virasana), urdhvamukhasvanasana, dhanurasana, urdhvadhanurasana and standing back arches – all done keeping the right side and left side separated and moving towards the outer corners of the body rather than the centre/ spine, and keeping the centre of the chest lifted ( even the centre of the sternum was decentralized by moving the flesh to the right and the left with own hands – ref image: hanuman splitting open his chest to reveal the lord ram and in there). the theme of separating the right and the left side was explored at great length by taking the feet much wider than usual (outside the edges of the mat) in standing back arches – as much as is required to ensure that the connections on the right and on the left do not ‘criss cross’. the young man on the stage got a super strong dose of geetaji’s teaching – offered with great gentleness. the flexibility of the youth – how i miss it – or maybe not.

 

specific techniques for bettering the backbend and also bettering the teaching of backbends – the camera must have recorded them quite efficiently.

 

was it only yesterday that i wrote about chest opening without brain getting aggressive or heavy being possible only in pranayama, and definitely not in beck bends – well, a day later, she made it possible in back bends.

 

stories from guruji’s last few days – as usual bring tears to the eyes. he was still practicing. he was the practice.

 

evening blessings from geetaji – long queue at the instt and while we, as students, can’t seem to have enough of her, she must be drawing upon immense store of energy to be dispensing so much knowledge, wisdom and unconditional sharing of herself.

 

evening supper with old classmates from mumbai who i miss dearly. got lost twice on the way back – and since i was the one trying to give directions, to the pune newbies in the car, got them lost as well

 

Final post of Yoganusasanam

December 12, 2014

to all the people who wrote in to say they found the daily notings from the Yoganusasanam Convention useful, i am glad to contribute to our shared learning. ending with this sloka form krishna Yajurveda Taittiriya Upanishad (2.2.2) that we all recited together at the convention – once at the beginning and once at the end:

saha na vavatu

saha nau bhunaktu

Saha vīryam karavāvahai

Tejasvi nāvadhītamastu

Mā vidviṣāvahai

Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ

Om, May we all be protected

May we all be nourished

May we work together with great energy

May our intelect be sharpened (may our study be effective)

Let there be no Animosity amongst us

Om, peace peace peace

 

DAY 10: tieing it together

December 12, 2014

(my attempts at) tieing it all together: the yoga

 

each day, each asana, each physical and conceptual instruction, has been so complete in itself that it is interesting to step back and attempt a look at the broader, and the recurring, themes.

 

guruji: guruji’s presence has loomed large over the entire event. repeatedly, geetaji has shared her personal memories – of life with mr iyengar, the father, the teacher and the person. she spoke of his complete involvement and determination in effecting the fructification of the asanas in his students – from using his body as a prop, to the discovery of the props as we know them today. most moving were the very personal recollections from the last months of his life when his physical health started failing – his blessings for Yoganusasanam to happen, but also his enthusiasm in wanting to be involved in the programme (he wanted a mike to be set aside for him in case he came in and wanted to address the students, he wanted that last south indian lunch for all participants, he promised to give personal blessings to everyone who came to greet him on his birthday – if not on one day, then spread over a few days.)

 

the last days of his life – the acceptance and complete equanimity in facing death, the practice that he continued all the way, the spirit that did not dim (‘i am not a beginner’ he said to the assistants when they rushed to give him too many props).

 

the eyes that misted over every time geetaji or abhijata spoke about guruji was testimony to the strange power that he wielded – that so many of us who only had distant contact with him, feel as if there is a direct and personal connection. (when , during the closing ceremony, abhijata came up on stage and said, ‘we must accept that he is not with us anymore and never coming back’ it felt like a reaction to how strong and real his presence had been.)

 

progression: over and above the basic sequence of proceeding from standing asanas to forward bends, to inversions, twists and backbends, the classes also progressed from the body to the mind and then the soul.

 

integration: guruji’s interpretation of the yoga sutras was characterized by the integration of all the 8 limbs of yoga, into the asana practice. and geetaji’s teachings were masterly in how these limbs were woven through the classes. in one of the first classes she said that pranayama can only be learnt if one has learnt savasana, and savasana can only be learnt if one has learnt other asanas. in guruji’s own practice, she said, the asanas, and the pranayama, were not two separate practices. all the effort in keeping the shoulders back in adhomukhasvanasana must lead directly to keeping the shoulders up in sirsasana in one unbroken thread of concentration leading towards meditation (YS III.1 and III.2). the yoga or the joining.

 

and, since this is yoga, the joining is tied to its literal opposite – dissociation/ decentralization/ de-coupling. this was also experienced on the levels of the body, mind, and breath.

 

decentralization: starting with the very first days of the standing asanas, geetaji asked us to focus on decentralizing the physical actions away from the trunk and towards the limbs. on the days of the inversions, concave back actions and back bends – the first actions of waking up the spine with some vey strong actions of taking the dorsal thoracic chest in, moving the shoulders down, were followed by decentralizing from the centre of the spine to the sides of the spine – move away from that very aggressive centralized action, to establishing a strong boundary wall at the peripheries of the body and moving the actions towards the peripheries, at the same time ensuring that the energy does not leak out through the boundary wall. geetaji made the analogy to the protoplasm in the cell – fluid and pushing out towards the cell wall, but never breaking it.

 

dissociation:

 

of courage and will power, from ego.

 

of alertness/ dullness in the mind, from activity/ laziness of the body – so that even as the mind quietens down, the body stays alert. the intelligence that usually stays strongly attached and confined to the brain, should descend down, and permeate to each cell in the body. this translates to a mind that feels empty and light even in backbends, rather than getting puffed and agitated. this also translates to letting go of the clinging to the memory of the effort required to do a difficult or complex asana (that makes asanas ‘tiring’ for us), the moment that effort is no longer required.

 

Aging: as the physical body ages, there is not just a loss of flexibility and physical strength, but many subtle changes that require subtle changes in yoga practice to counter the negative effects of aging. these include the outer edges of the feet distancing themselves from the floor and losing sensitivity, necessitating a more conscious effort in extending those edges, the drop in the upper sternum necessitates making all the adjustments required both in asana and pranayama to lift it up.

 

in the long, loving closing ceremony that followed, all the people behind-the-scenes came up on stage – this whole programme has been a feat of event management. the spirit of the bellur project was kept alive. manuoso manas exhorted all to contribute and money was raised through the auctioning and selling of the event collaterals.

 

many of us who were leaving pune the same day queued up to collect the DVD recordings of the first 9 days and were the last to leave. by the time we left, the event hall was wiped clean of the previous 10 days – the multicolored mats and the multicolored bodies on it. like your favorite shop in the mall that suddenly disappears one day, leaving behind not even a stray label.

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