23rd February – Rajalaxmi

DSCF3255

The outside of the institute on Hare Krishna Mandir Road

I felt it was just a tiny bit cooler today – a bit more manageable, or perhaps we are acclimatising to Pune’s early summer. I enjoyed the warmth in the air as I had my morning cuppa and of course the flexibility improves when the heat gets into your bones. Jenny is heading straight back for assessment in Manchester next week, so hoping she can hold onto that special Pune gain for just a little while once we return to a British winter.

DSCF3259

Was seriously tempted to airbrush the gap under my thigh!

Rajalaxmi taught a restorative class this evening, a simple no fuss approach, with very little detail or instruction so that we could just immerse ourselves in the poses. Link to full sequence below. The class was mainly forward bends using the bolster support slightly differently to the usual method. So for example in janu sirsasana or parsva upavista konasana the bolster was laid on the floor alongside the length of the extended leg – this meant that we didn’t have to rotate as much, making a softer, quieter pose where the breath could flow easily. We were told that the breathing should not only occur in the nostrils, but every cell in the entire body had to breath with you.

After the forward bends we moved to some very welcome chest opening in chair dwi pada viparita dandasana, length of spine supported on tri fold blanket and chair sarvangasana. What struck me during this class is how spending this month working intensively on my yoga practice has made me like a sponge – completely open and receptive and ready to draw in with appreciation the fragrance of each and every pose. The simplicity of a quiet restorative class with a little more time to stay and breathe was very much savoured.

I snapped this photo on my way to class – one of the things that strikes me when I’m in India is how much more relaxed men are around each other. There’s very little ‘macho posturing’ and men often display an easy affection with each other that we don’t see back home at all – walking down the street with an arm casually slung over a friend’s shoulder or sometimes holding hands.

DSCF3264

Enjoying the warm evening air.

23rd February – Rajalaxmi

 

Advertisements
Standard

22nd February – Abhi

DSCF3247

Hot, hot and hotter. The water coming out of our ‘cold’ tap here is hotter than the water coming out of my hot tap back home. It’s not tepid, it’s actually hot! Woke late after staying up till 1am putting together information pack for holiday I am teaching in the Maldives this November. I just know that once I get home and take up ‘life duties’ once again, the time will be so hard to find. I’m in a curious state of wanting to stay (I’m beginning to make some progress and want the learning to continue) and getting excited about going home – 5 weeks is a LONG time to be away from Louis and the kids. Aside from the benefits to my personal practice, I really feel I’ve picked up a lot teaching wise – it’s so great to come here and get full of ideas for teaching – lots of light bulbs have gone on in my head.

I had some great breakthroughs in my home practice today – the sirsasana continuing to steadily improve and I’m finally managing to drop back again from sarvangasana. I have been assessed on this in previous levels and clearly managed it, but I always lose it again.

DSCF3190

Abhi’s intermediate class this evening (link to full sequence below) focussed on bringing light internally to dead and dull areas. Our job in the asanas is to learn to spread the consciousness to every part of the body – touching the skin from the inside. We started with opening the outer knees and thighs by learning to spread from the inner to the outer leg and by standing completely on the outer blades of the feet and maintaining that pressure as we placed the sole of the foot down. All of this of course, extremely relevant for my injured knee, which has partly been caused by a tight outer knee ligament which ‘dips’ in a concave curve on my outer knee. Up until this trip I had no idea that was a problem, but now I understand why more senior teachers have looked at my knee knowlingly and told me it was a knee problem waiting to happen.

In the sirsasana she encouraged us to come down early if the temples were ‘puffed’. First we had to see if we could relax there and if it was not possible, our time was up – not always to stay on using the will power alone. Timing, duration is not everything – quality.

We continued in this vein – searching out the dull areas in each pose and finding adjustments that brought the life to this area; the bottom corner of the chest close to the armpit in Trikonasana, the bottom breast area in Adho Mukha Svanasana, Padangusthasana and Chatushpadasana. In chatush as we pumped the shin forward several times on the exhalation (one PUSH, two PUSH, three PUSH!!) she told us we were focussing too much on the pain, giving it too much attention. So we repeated this time not looking at the pain and found the room was much quieter and that actually a conscious decision not to get caught up in the pain was surprisingly easy to manage. The final attempt we had to do the same and this time also not allow the temples to ‘puff’ and found that we could do this action silently and with proper witness of the bottom breast area that she had asked us to work on. She warned us against ‘glorifying’ the pain.

After exploring the crevices of the internal body in the active asana, we ended with some pranayama – using the breath to spread the bottom breast area from the centre to the sides and seeing how long we could maintain this touch of the breath to the side chest as we exhaled. She allowed us just 3 exquisite normal breaths after this exercise to fully appreciate what quality this brought to the breath and said “I hope you understand now, how the body has to be irrigated for the essence of the breath to be felt”.

DSCF3248

Often Abhi’s Father is outside minding her daughter while the class is on.

22nd February – Abhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

21st February – Day Off

DSCF3215

Woke late and sat on the balcony enjoying a sunny cup of lemon grass tea and watched a large group of boys playing in the road, whooping and catcalling and laughing – having an absolute whale of a time playing some game with a wire mesh and a ball. Had a shortened practice and headed over to The Mariott which was predictably stuffed full of RIMYI students. It was interesting to hear other people’s experiences – one lady I was chatting to cried after Raya’s class this week – it just felt too much to be criticised and chastised for the mistakes of others, when many of us are committed and sincere students. We may not be brilliant, but we’re trying!

As I stepped out of the air conditioned environment of the Mariott, the warm evening air enveloped me, the full moon was already up and walking home I enjoyed such a glow of well being after my month of yoga here. A rare meal out this evening as Sunday is our cooks day off. We headed to FC Road intending to go to Vishali, but the whole area was absolutely rammed with people. Turns out Sunday night is a big night out here, a complete contrast to our lazy, quiet Sundays at home. All of the well known restaurants had queues waiting to get in so we carried on wandering and found ourselves in the exact same traditional thali place we had stumbled into three years ago when we were here together. There is no menu as such, you just sit with an enormous silver tray in front of you and a continual stream of servers deposit lots of different yummy spoonfuls until you signal you can’t take any more. We have eaten extremely moderately since being here and I found myself eating three times as much as usual, especially since most of it was gluten free, including ragi (dark millet) chapatis – a rare find!

DSCF3240

Very happy, ragi flour chapati face!

Standard

20th February – Women’s Class – Abhijata

DSCF3147

What an absolutely outstanding class – backbends with Abhijata. Her teaching is completely focussed; she gets through the poses, gives clear and relevant teaching points, paces herself perfectly so that there is time for all the inversions but still gives plenty of reference to yoga sutra and philosophy. She pushes you hard but is not at all intimidating. I am in awe and extremely grateful for her efforts – she is striving for and attaining excellence.

Once again I found myself in the position of having my pressing yoga needs miraculously met. As I mentioned previously, I ‘lost’ my sirsasana through having to relearn from scratch and spend some months working against a pillar. Every day for two years I have been trying, retrying and trying again to work it out – perhaps I need DSCF3154a tri fold blanket, perhaps I need to stand on some height in ardha sirsasana to get the dorsal working properly, perhaps I just need to sweat it out, and on and on. I’d pinned a lot of hopes on this month for sorting it out and was feeling an increasing sense of desperation that I am still experiencing real problems. I had been working with Jenny to get some feedback on what she sees and thought I had cracked it, but as I solved one problem, another one popped up. Yesterday I issued a silent prayer to Guruji. The first thing that happened was someone posted a 40 minute clip of Guruji teaching sirsasana on Facebook. In it he teaches about the ‘brain’ of the forearm and how this area has to be pressed inward to make the shoulders respond. I finally got a real sense of stability and lift. Then in Abhi’s class today she continued this teaching, refining the point still further (full sequence attached below). Any remaining fears I had about going up in the centre of the room were completely banished by at least 12 drop backs, building up another layer of instruction each time we went up, until I felt so much more accomplished in the pose. It was just fantastic.
Yesterday I was telling Jenny I feel like I need another month here as I have so, SO much I need to work on – my hips aren’t gripping, my knees are dropping inward, my shoulder blade and trapezius have popped up – all of these things needing sustained and focussed attention to put right and that’s on top of my daily Diabetes programme, my injured knee, my broken sirsasana and my preparation for Senior 1 assessment. It felt overwhelming. Today Abhi spoke about how recognising what is wrong is actually a positive sign; she quoted Guruji who said “Once we have recognised our ignorance, the discipline can begin”.
Towards the end of the class we repeated full arm balance and the pose felt amazing – students in the class said it felt much ‘lighter’ but that was too mundane a word to capture how it really felt – my whole body felt suffused with a sparkling awareness.

DSCF3202

The Ambrosia Resort

After class we packed our bags, booked an OLA cab and headed off to the Ambrosia Resort for an overnight stay – to swim in the pool and enjoy the sunshine. Our cab arrived but the driver didn’t speak English and there seemed to be some problem that was preventing him from leaving. After much fuss, 2 passers-by hauled in to help us translate, 25 minutes of confusion later, it transpired I had accidentally booked 2 cabs and he couldn’t leave until I had cancelled one. Finally on the road, our sunbeds beckoning we headed out for a 40 minute drive on the Mulshi Road. When we got there it wasn’t such a nice environment as I’d hoped – very built up and a building site all around and they had messed up our booking and only given us one room. 20 minutes later we had that sorted and asked to be shown to the pool. Blank looks, “The pool? No pool mam!” Turns out the pool had closed down and a new inside pool is under construction. There was absolutely no reason to be there except for the pool, so thoroughly disappointed we explained that we no longer wanted to stay and asked them to book us a cab home again, giving The Ambience Hotel, Model Colony as the landmark. One hour later the cab finally arrived – they’d booked us the budget option – no air con and no seat belts. Still we’d waited so long we weren’t about to complain and off we went. We thought it strange that we were in such an unfamiliar looking area, it’s a drive we know fairly well and sure enough the driver pulled up outside a completely different Ambience Hotel in entirely the wrong district of Pune. We had been extremely clear about our instructions, but it turned out that when the Ambrosia had booked the cab, they had provided a written address (sadly completely the wrong one) that the driver was following and so he just hadn’t listened to what we said. Off we sped again – it’s extremely alarming to be driving at such speed in such busy traffic with no seat belts on – at one point I actually hissed at the driver and tapped him sharply as he got distracted by his mobile. So several hours later we arrived back home hot, sweaty and dusty and many rupees lighter and trudged upstairs to our apartment to unpack. Ah well, off to the Mariott tomorrow instead. I soothed myself by making some toasted nut, seeds, dates, cocoa and cream coconut truffles and next weekend we will try a visit to Panchgani.

DSCF3205

These construction workers are many storeys up on tower, balancing on single scaffold poles!

20th February – Women’s Class – Abhi

Standard

19th February – Pranayama

DSCF3199

Snug Fit!

We had scariest ever rickshaw ride today en route to the Incense shop in Phadke Haud. Over the weeks we’ve been here we’ve hardened ourselves to the twists and turns of an average rickshaw ride – but this was something else. First off he careened out onto the wrong side of the dual carriageway – and not apologetically like a man doing a crazy thing and hoping to get away with it – but utterly brazenly going head on into the traffic, as if daring them not to get out of his way. Then he suddenly took a diagonal sweep and cut straight across the other carriageway, horns blaring my eyes squeezed tightly shut and the literal realisation of a white knuckle ride. We were so DSCF3187glad to get out without a serious bash, we scarcely minded that he charged us three times the correct rate (“It’s a holiday today Maam”) or the fact that we were not actually at our intended destination. He dropped us somewhere on the Ravi Pewar Road in a district of Pune I’ve never seen much of before. Here you got a real sense of the history of the place – narrow streets and characterful buildings that have stood for centuries. Here even more so than elsewhere in Pune you can see many of the old trades completely unchanged by modernisation.

DSCF3188

Huge sharpening wheel.

Walking through the door of the incense shop is like taking a step back in time – it’s reminiscent of an old fashioned apothecary. Wooden glass fronted cabinets stuffed full of glass decanters of all shapes, sizes and colours. We had a fine old time sniffing them all and selecting a few favourites as gifts. Once you’ve chosen they are meticulously decanted into tiny glass bottles, each with it’s own drawstring bag, prices starting at 30 rupees (about 30 pence) for the smallest size going up to about 400 rupees for the more valuable oils. The building has been there since 1872 and Jenny joked so had the wooden cabinets – completely straight faced the owner (6th generation) assured her that the cabinets were much newer from sometime in the 1900’s.

This evening’s class was pranayama with Rajalaxmi. As I came into the practice hall the medical class was just finishing and Raya came over to ask how I was, it was nice to be remembered as of course every month, every year, so many new faces. We began the class with a long stay in swastikasana preparing for the invocation. She said that when we are instructed to move the sacrum and tailbone into the body it is an energetic change – the energy is pushed forward to the front of the body so that we can find the space there. Once we were well lifted she gave the instruction to move the top abdomen downward away from the bottom rib – this had an immediate stilling and quietening effect as the diaphragm lost its projecting hardness. Clearly her instructions worked well because there was audible difference in the quality of the invocation. Sometimes here at RIMYI the chanting sounds a lot like a welsh choir belting out passionate hymn, but this evening it had a completely different quality – smooth, harmonious, low. We moved into a long prone savasana – with the body in such a passive state we could allow the breath to ‘seep in’ as we witnessed, rather than actively pulling the breath in. We then sat for anta and baya kumbhak – retention of both the inhalation and exhalation. We finished in supta swastikasana, feet raised on the bolster – we were told that in the abdominal navel region there is an energetic transaction – how much you could soften the abdomen determines what energetic transaction can take place there.

Home for some restorative inversions and we decided to book a night at the Ambrosia resort tomorrow, to make the most of our day off on Sunday.

ravi pewar

 

19th February – Rajalaxmi

Standard

18th February – Raya

DSCF3151

Snack?

It’s getting hot in here. Very, very hot. Even at the start of Raya’s class, before a single word had been spoken, I was drenched with sweat. Trying to keep the fluid level up to cope with the fluid loss is a challenge. Backbend week – I made it! I seem to have spent an enormous chunk of my yoga life sat on the sidelines, missing out on the main action – whether through pregnancy, menstruation, illness or injury. It’s part of our yogic journey – we learn how to adapt the practice to nourish and nurture ourselves whatever our state and this in turn makes us better teachers BUT sometimes it’s just one time too many that you’ve had to sit it out. Timing wise I knew it was unlikely I’d get any backbend classes, but just this once I seem to have been granted a reprieve.
Raya didn’t pull any punches, first pose padmasana, followed by baddha konasana – teaching us to keep the width of the body in the backbends whereas we tend to become long and thin and get a kind of elongation. He said in Guruji’s practice the abdomen wasn’t taut and overstretched but absolutely soft. We continued with Adho Mukha Svanasana swinging forward to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Bhujangasana, AMVrksasana, Pinca Mayurasana balancing, no brick or belt allowed and Sirsasana dropping back to Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana, placing the hands lifting up in Urdhva Dhanurasana and then pressing strongly into the legs and feet to stand up in tadasana – as he demonstrated this, the class looked at each other with raised eyebrows, for most of us this was only going to happen in our dreams. But still it was good, as every single person in the room had a challenge to work on.
Once again he remonstrated with ‘the beautiful people’ he has witnessed in the practice hall doing their full arm balance in the centre of the room, up and down many times – all using the hard, tense strength of the abdomen. To come down from AMVrksasana (balancing or not) you should neither place strain on the lumbar by letting the buttocks drop back or harden the abdomen, he showed you have to roll the pelvis forward to come down gracefully with the abdomen soft. He likened this natural action to the way a tree sways in the breeze and the hard abdomen method reminds him of a creaky door on rusty hinges moving jerkily and harshly. In his words he finds these displays tremendously ugly and nothing to do with yoga asana.

Even though I have dropped back from Sirsasana many times, I got “the fear” on me and was shaking like a jelly on a plate. Afterwards at the coconut stall I chatted to Bobby C and Lynn Holt (lovely Australian lady who lives in Pune permanently) and they told me about a class they had attended with Geetaji (and also Guruji’s teaching on this) where she addressed this fear. She taught that we hold the fear in the junction between the hamstrings and the buttock so, as you arch back you flex the toes toward you several times to feed the back thigh into the buttock and this makes the legs strong and confident. With the feet in this position you land on the balls of your feet which are strong, not on pointed toes which clearly are not. I went home and tried this method and found it helpful – partly I needed to reassure myself that I could still do it after the jelly wobble experience (please note, Abhi taught drop backs the following day and insisted I did point my toes, otherwise my body was resisting the movement).

DSCF3176

Beautiful Batik Products from Dimpex

This afternoon we went over to Dimpex to pick up our order of pune pants, t shirts, aprons and cosmetic purses all done in hand painted batik. The finished products are absolutely lovely and they package them in recycled newspaper carrier bags made by a DSCF3178rural charity and sold for profit. Perfect. They also offer a parcel service where they’ll package your order up for you and send it to your home country – even you can order from home and pay with an ordinary English cheque or bank transfer. They are able to make T Shirts with your studio name on to order, as well as belts, bolsters and blankets for excellent prices see dimpexbatik.in. They are a very pleasant company to deal with and highly recommended. Of course many people in the UK already know about them – they make the convention T Shirts for example. March, April and May tend to be their quietest months, so it’s a really good time to order.
Bed now, hoping I can sleep as we approach the full moon the local dogs seem to be building up for an all night howl-athon. This combined with the oppressive heat makes sleeping a challenge!

DSCF3129

Local dogs building up some strength for a long night’s howling!

18th February – Raya

Standard

17th February – Women’s Class

DSCF3141

I was surprised how good my body felt waking up this morning – we didn’t do much in Rajalaxmi’s class last night, but what we did do was deceptively powerful. We headed off for Women’s class on a very warm and close morning – I think the temperature is beginning to creep up as we get closer to March. I have completely banned Jenny from talking about leaving and how close it is etc as I want to enjoy every minute and be fully present, not half way home already!
We sat in the main practice room speculating as usual – Geetaji had been sighted last night in the office – a step was put down which made Sunita the most likely candidate and in came ……. Raya! We did a double-take as his usually generous locks and beard had been barbered off into a close cut crop and he was clean-shaven like a newly shorn sheep! This was all most unexpected – I’ve never heard or witnessed the Women’s class being taught by a man, although Guruji was often present and contributing to the learning when Abhi or Geetaji was teaching.
Raya’s teaching focusses a lot on refining the actions in the poses, not to overdo and distort the body. He gave lots of parodies of poses that he sees in the practice hall – monstrously puffed chests, or tense diaphragms and eyes popping out of the head. He’s not at all a fan of those who come here to primp and preen and show off their advanced poses. We were encouraged to let the pendulum swing back a little the other way – he said that it is necessary to become rajasic (powerful) to move on from a state of tamas (inertia) but you can’t go straight from rajas to sattva (quality of serenity)- you have to take a little swing back towards tamas. He encouraged us not to over exert but to find the ‘texture’ of the pose, each movement in the body balanced by a counter movement – so the grounding of the shins in ustrasana to lift the back chest up, or as we came up into purvottonasana the lower pelvic moving towards the stage as the chest rolls towards the window. It was good to be given a reminder to work in this way and I found that my poses were more sustainable and the breath was better able to flow.
His sequence (link to full sequence below) began with dandasana, onto many repeats of purvottonasana, ustrasana, dhanurasana and urdhva dhanurasana, finishing with chatushpadasana into setu bandha – I’ve never done such regular practice of chatushpadasana as I’m getting this month at the institute. A lot of the time the teachers are getting carried away during the class with their discourse and then there is no time for the inversions proper. With all this practice of chatushpadasana, who knows I may make friends with it and actually come to like it.

DSCF3168

A real life Aladdin’s Cave!

In the afternoon Jenny and I headed to Laxmi Road for shopping and had a hot and busy, but very successful trip. There are certain things I save up to get while I am in DSCF3158India as they are so much cheaper than back home. Kitchen stuff is great here and the market is full of it. I managed to find the exact stainless steel pressure cooker I wanted, which is about £60 back home for a mere £15. I love the printed cotton bed sheets that they use in India which I’ve never seen used back in UK and I managed to find the very same one as I have on my bed in my apartment. Once we were all done in we went to the Agatya food hall for a lassi and coconut uttapa. It was a relief to get back to the apartment and I finished the day with a restorative session of inversions to make up for what we missed in class this morning.

17th February – Women’s Class – Raya

Standard