India (2013)

January 1, 2013

Hello from Far Away,

Better start writing you all as Time and India wait for no one. You make your own way across the streets and a new one on me is walking briskly through an under ground four leaf clover shape road that cars and motor cycles come barreling through at tip top speed with horns a-blasting off the concrete walls and ceilings. If you make it through you walk up a flight of steps into a sea of burning trash and homeless dogs and people. One block more turn right at the Ganesh Temple and you are in a one mile serene stretch of grass and trees. Breathe for the first time. At the end go through a metal turn style and enter the thunder of traffic and horns one more time before crossing a major road to the Iyengar yoga institute.

And now class begins!

Prashant teaches the 7-9 am class. The yoga Hall is a big empty space with marble floors and pillars and props lining the sides.  Capacity is 120 students and this first day had 170 students vying for mat space.  Prashant remains un-flapable. In no time he has a third of the class at the walls taking uttitha hasta Padangusthasana, a third taking sirasasana off hanging ropes, and a third on the floor in bhradvajasana twist.

He had a major lesson for us: yoga is not about identifying with the physical look of the pose. The connections we make from the physical arm to the trunk does more to effect the mind state than it does to effect the body state. This is a yoga asana. A yoga asana has the power for inner transformation of the mental emotional states and to experience this transformation yields the “unitive” state we are so hungry for.

The two hour class was peppered with stories and gems of connection and only five yoga poses.

The other two poses were Janu sirsasana and cross leg Savasana.

This morning, on Wednesdays,  BKS is on the far side of the hall instructing his granddaughter on how to instruct us in standing poses. Only 120 in the hall but still a lot of bumping and mat sharing going on. The clarity of moving the back leg groin to the outer thigh as you go into trikonasanaa helped the spine extend symmetrically at the waist level. And taking the lower part of the outer hip in(again the back keg) moved the waist down and the chest box up. All were yelled at to get the hand  to the floor. ” No resting hand on ankle”.

Poses proceed to parsvakonasana, vira 2 ,vira1, ardha  chandrasana and vira 3. And on the class went. Until sirasasana and sarvangasana were finished I knew class was not at the end. The instructions of groins and hips from the standing section grew into seated poses and stable inversions. All in all my mind was wiped clean from the work and the concentration.

So now we have a start into this month long yoga intensive. More later. Hope this finds you well and in class with Mary. Take care, Cathy

January 4, 2013

Dear Yoga Students and Friends,

One 24 hour period in India is absolutely insane if you try to hold it stable.  ” just let go” we often hear by a well meaning friend. However, these three little words  turn into  a saving grace mantra over here.

“Just let go” means run like hell to cross the intersection. “Just let go” means get to yoga class early as now the Hall that holds 120 people is now holding 200 people. “Just let go” means quit ordering the same thing on the menu day after day because you like Alo mutta potatoes and peas (but really are too timid to try something else). “Just let go ” means step sideways of the homeless street people so you can take a picture of bull with painted horns on your I pad. The list of major and minor mental and conceptual breakdowns grows daily, and walking into yoga class continues this process with glaring reality through the poses. Not so much in that they are not perfect looking. But the interest of The Iyengars is  to raise our level of concentration and skill at self observation. This process pulls us to our self and we become our best teacher, not relying on the external teacher, nor anyone else to tell us what we value nor how aware we want to be about our habits.

The following sequence has a goal: to get all of us into padmasana Lotus pose. The big journey is to go from wherever you are now with your stiffness and injuries toward the cross leg posture by the end of the year. We will all take side trips and get lost in how bad a knee is or lost in the thoughts that say this hurts too much let me abandon the pose. Or, I have always been stiff in the hips why bother. Can you see how none of this has anything to do with practicing the sequence?

Working with our bodies in each pose with mind and breath present has the power to eradicate, even if only temporarily, obstacles built of own habits. Want to try? “just let go” she says from India, as best you can. Unless you are crossing the street, here your best is not good enough you must succeed every time.
Dog pose
Uttan asana
Baddha Konasana. Use belts in knee creases. Arms in urdhva hastasaac and twist.
Upavisthsa Konasana.  Arms up and twist.
Baddha Konasana cross here over heel.  Use block for opposite foot
Virasana cycle
Ardha matsyendrasana
Gomukasana
Lolasana
Baddha Konasana
Virasana
Baddha Konasana
Upavisthsa Konasana to bent leg MARICYASANA 1
Baddha Konasana to siddhasana
Baddha Konasana to mula band asana
Baddha Konasana to vamadevasana
Bhekasana
Baddha Konasana
Upavisthsa Konasana
Padmasana

Do what you know, look up at least one pose you don’t know and see where you are going. Most importantly, watch for the side trips the trips that steer you away from doing. Go past them. Keep letting go. See what happens. Take care, Cathy

January 5, 2013

 This ends the first full week of classes. The first week is devoted to standing poses. Prashant taught inversions and two standing poses and Abijata taught 13 standing poses plus inversions. They both taught a two hour class. How is it these two Iyengars teach so differently?

 Prashant is no longer interested in teaching the biomechanics of a posture. Once you know how to do dog pose then time to let dog pose do you. No other pose can replace the breath you use in dog pose, the breath in sirsasana is different than  what triangle breath can do. And on and on it goes. He goes for sensitivity not activity. Unless you don’t know the pose, if that is the case keep turning right foot in and left out. But the real knowledge comes when we look inside and discover “the inner glories of embodiment.”

 “How long can you go just turning your right foot in and left foot out? Do you think that is all you are? This muscle that muscle lift here pull there. That is death only. When you die that is what is left, your body  everything else is gone  Your muscles your bones and tendons. You are just dead if you only think of your body. To do a yog  asana is the universe-ity you want to attend”. He creates an environment of observing and doing that works you into a sublime state of mind. He said at the end” everyone wants to do do do in yoga class and think that something is happening to their body. But what about your mind and emotions and sensitivities? You are not your body so find out what else is there. Don’t be the one who comes out of yoga class saying I am floating. They are way up some where. With there floating ribs still floating”

And on the other side of the coin stands Abi, the granddaughter with BKS coaching from the side. The 13 standing poses are all well known to you and so are the forward bends and inversions.  What was keen was the emphasis on which part of the foot to press down in different postures while bending knees and twisting trunk. Each pose either maintained  something of the previous pose or added a nuance to deepen the following pose. Sharp, curt 3 word sentences pierced to muscles and bones and created its own environment of wiping out mental distractions in favor of concentration and personality-dropping. You will know when we do this sequence in class! You can see how it effects you. Do biomechanics send your floating ribs floating? Or is there some deeper connection made to your ground of being? It will be different for all of us. Let’s find out what it is for each of us, and then how we bank that quietude. Cathy.

January 7, 2013

Hi yoga students and friends,

The second week brings the forward bending postures. Prashant gave one forward bend and about twelve triangle poses. He was keen on letting us know that we all say we are doing all we can in the poses. But he asked, ” should we do all we can? Is that the right attitude to have in a yoga practice? Do you eat all you can? Do you sleep all you can? Do you shop all you can? Should you really do all that you can? At what cost?”

It takes a bit of concentration to follow Prashant’s teaching, but if you do you will experience something quit different inside yourself. In his words, we are all capable of knowing an inner sanctorium. But the mind needs a training to get the opening. The mind only knows how to reach outwards. Unless we are low or depressed there is no natural movement of the mind inward. Prashant sort of robs us of teaching us anything about the pose. “Take  dog pose. Take triangle pose.” And then when we are in, we are breathing and breathing with the mind in the tailbone and next with the mind of the serene state. It is a constant upheaval of practicing like we are used to. He let’s us know that if we don’t quite get it, better luck next time. And sometimes I think he means next life!
He finished by saying we all get into a pose and just stay there. If you stay there you will die there. Don’t miss the rest of who you are. You are not your body. Use the body to know the glories of embodiment.

The medical class was full of patients and helpers. It is open to the public to come and receive yoga help for their ailments. Today I shadowed several experts helping a 43 year old women with scoliosis. It was amazing to see simple modifications made per pose to minimize her pain or discomfort. BKS is quick to see a disparity in the body and how to bring the awareness of that out from the student. He wants the students mind to grow in its own intelligence.

He said today, ” The body is like a globe.  Most of you are globe trotters  you never go inside.  I go inside. That is why at 95 years I enjoy it.”

The last class of they day I watched from the back of the Hall. The class was very active forward bending. Ten repetitions of arms up then down to uttan asana. Then arms up and again down jump back dog. Then arms up and again down to chaturanga. Arms up to up dog. Arms up to utkatasana. Arms up to malasana. Arms up to hasta bhujasana. Each individual set was either ten times or six!  It was a lively class that included head balance by the end.

It was a full day of doing and watching and learning and being inspired, humbled, and grateful. The routine of the day is never dull. Too many people either on a motorbike or bicycle, behind the wheel of a car or bus or auto rickshaw ( today they decided the street was too busy so one by one the came up on the sidewalks with their passengers inside, honking at pedestrians and running us off the sidewalks and back into the street) . So much motion and commotion I don’t know how the whole ball of movement slows to a halt by midnight and I don’t know how the whole ball gets rolling again by 6:00 am.  But it does. Some strange cyclical rhythm is in place and  I am coming to like being a part of it. Cathy

January 8, 2013

What a leap! The 95 year old BKS took one strong leap forward with his left leg and in one instant was in Virabhadrasana 1. His chest was lifted. The back leg straight. Front leg bent to a ninety degree angle. But it was his attitude that was so powerful. He did not have one! He was devoid of any struggle in his physical body and devoid of any facial gesture. He was just this strong stroke of vibrating energy. When he came out of the asana the old man with wrinkles returned. It was amazing to see him walk his long years of talk: yoga is not for the body alone. You must culture your mind along the way and bring out the sublime states of awareness. Build a bank of quietude so you can handle a long life.

The only quiet I find during the day is on the walk to the studio. At 6am it is chilly and dark. The richer of the many levels of being poor have found wood or cardboard during the night and build fires to warm their hands. Little groups of 3-4 people squat down around the fires in a pose we have been practicing this week. We call it Malasana, garland pose. Most of the students in class use a rolled up mat under the heels in order to squat down and not topple over. But the people of the street don’t need that. They squat naturally, easily, and functionally. The moon is waning in this morning but still dark sky. The fires light my way through some of the narrow streets. Somehow the pulse for the day begins to grow louder with the beep of horns building from the streets. Another turn of the wheel rolls on. Time to show up for my lessons.
Cathy

January 10, 2013

A pose will maintain physical health. A posture will maintain physical and mental/e motional health. A yoga asana will manifest a radiant OM within you and you will know the glories of your own embodiment. Did you know that was in the frame?!

Prashant went on about the frame and the contents of the frame. Most of us practice frame yoga.  We go on year after year perfecting the shape only. Make this straighter, that harder, something else higher. Why keep focusing on the frame when frames are meant to hold something we want to see? Don’t you want to see what is inside the frame? Do you only look at frames or do you also look at what has been framed? He urges us to be in our right mind so that we can right ourselves. Teachers can only correct, but we each have a mind that can right itself and we should bother about that. Two hours later we folded up our mats and with minds refreshed, walked silently into our day.

No sense telling you his sequence for it has not changed much in two weeks: dog, triangle, sirsasana, triangle, triangle, triangle.

On the other hand, Devki taught a fast paced class of jumpings, wall ropes, seated twisting, and revolved triangle. Try it if you can figure out the postures.
Uttan asana
Dog
Utt
Dog
Utt
Tadasana
Urdhva hastasan
Utt
Dog
U. Hasatasana 4 x
Rope 1
Bharadvajasana 1
Virasana
Bhradvajasana 11
Dandasana
MARICYASANA 111
Ardha matsyendrasana
Utt
Parivritta trikonasanaa
Triangle
Utt
Savasana

All of the teachers are excellent. I have been observing beginner classes and intermediate classes and each teacher brings out the best posture possible given the students ability. Even in rooms filled with 70 students, these teachers catch it all. None can compare with the top three: BKS, Geeta, and Prashant, but these other teachers are the best I have ever been around. I am a lucky duck to be here.
Cathy

January 11, 2013

What a turn of the wheel. Every day, without fail, some wheel starts slowly turning and turning until a speed is reached that runs your psyche and senses over and turns you into  a lemon under a truck wheel and into bright orange marigold flowers on a sidewalk alter and when you duck into a coffee shop the music is so loud you practically give your order for coffee in sign  language. The sign in the coffee shop says:

Coffee should be strong as hell
Black as death
And sweet as love

Ok then, every sense is over the top!

Classes continue to be stellar. Forward bends involve more than just going forward. They  included seated twists and arm balances. These three categories compliment each other and make each other easier to do. From beginner bodies to advanced bodies, MARICYASANA 1 is a good way to get going on bending and twisting and being in the sublime quiet of your nervous system. Sit on height as needed and bend your left leg. Place foot as close as you can to the sit bone. Keep pelvis level and pull your trunk up straight.  Sit here for awhile and breathe. Beginner twist to the right, advanced go forward and pull on the foot, head rest on shin.
Maintain the front hip sockets level and the skin of the shoulder blades sucked onto the shoulder blades. Repeat 2x and observe differences, changes, breathing patterns, and mind states.

Pranayama breathing class was taught by Abay and was crystal clear. First  is getting to know your normal breathing pattern, this can take months to observe. The jumping around grasshopper mind is what is in the way of observation. Settling down into a quiet state of mind takes practice and time, and is a prerequisite to pranayama. Today’s lesson was sitting with normal inhalations and exhalations and feeling the expansion of the side ribs and top chest. Compare this normal rhythm to what happens when you interrupt this rhythm with inhalation pauses.  The subject is vast, and too subtle to write anymore. But if breathing interests you, the Monday yoga class has been changed to Padmasana/pranayama.  This class meets at 5:30-7pm and is open to all levels. The first part of class is asanas that relate to getting the legs folded into lotus. The second half of class will be the step by step practice of pranayama.

That is all for today, half way around the world I am getting ready for bed and you are just waking up to the day I have just lived and am saying good night to. Kind of crazy.
Cathy

January 12, 2013

This ends the second week of yoga classes. In our class we have handfuls of students from Chile, Lithuania, Russia, UK, Germany, Israel, Finland, and Australia. Not all speak English and this makes for some funny note- taking later in the day.

In Prashant’s class all rules can be broken and even guidelines lead you into blindness. He only called out four poses, each one held for ten minutes with support, and each done 2-4 times. Head balance, bridge, back arch over the chair, bhradvajasana. His talk today ended in disappointment. When we were all beginners in yoga, we were sold brainwashing techniques to get us to keep doing yoga. We are like kids whose parents only give them good things to eat, cookies and snacks, and toys to play with. What the child wants for happiness, it usually gets. So is the treatment for the beginner yoga student: do this pose and you will get this benefit. Can’t do the pose? Take this  prop and you can do it. Cookies, that is what yoga teachers gave you. But all children get older and soon learn they don’t get everything they want. When we don’t get what we want, learning begins. We eventually ask, why are we here? Who am  I? What is this Life all about? This is Yog. Yog is 90 percent for you to understand Life and not to perform. Learn something. Understand something.  That is the launch point for the Yog state. The yoga posture should be in the background of the breath. You can’t just keep doing poses for camera mentality. Learn to maintain a steady state condition in your pose. Then something can transform.

And so it goes, Prashant expanding the mind and blowing it out to sea.

Abay taught with Grandfather, BKS in the wings coaching her to exquisite clarity on the poses.
This was the sequence:
Dog
Utt
Full arm balance
Utt
Revolved triangle
Revolved parsvakonasana
Bhradvajasana
Dandasana, parsva dandasana
Bhradvajasana
MARICYASANA 111
Urdhva dhanurasana 6x
Sarvangasana
Sarvangasana drop to setu bandhu
Done.

Nothing left to mention from the day. Nighttime has come again. Have a good day, may you have at least one disappointment.
Cathy

January 14, 2013

Abijata has her grandfathers keen eye and his confidence to deliver a well timed blow. She taught an entire 2 hour class from a place we can not see : our internal organs. How did she do that, and why? How she did it was she never once mentioned a muscle to stretch or bone to re- position. Her language was to locate and move abdominal viscera from one side of the abdomen to the other in standing twists, and to move skin of the lumbar from the back to the front by wrapping it around the side body until it met at the navel region. Sound interesting? It really was a fascinating feeling of “internal – ness” by class end. To be aware of our biggest organ, the skin, and to move from it was a deep dive into aware-ness rather than aggressive doing- ness. Here is the sequence. Practice it at any level you understand.
Chant
Dog
Utt
Utt
Full arm balance
Utt
Sirsasana
Revolved trikonasanaa
Revolved parsvakonasana
Bhradvajasana
Parsva dandasana
Bhradvajasana
MARICYASANA 111
Urdhva dhanurasana
Sarvangasana
Sarvangasana drop back to bridge.

Prashant  said this morning, yoga has become something we do to solve body problems. I have back ache, I am stiff, I am aging. Do you only do yoga if you have something wrong? No! We are learning to Omit the mind state that says we have something wrong, we are not good enough, we don’t know enough. We are learning to take profound exhalations with us into each posture. Let them transform us into a yog asana state of being. A place that is non-dual in nature, a unitive state of being. A place where there is less and less to do and more and more to be aware of.
A radiant OM place.

His sequence went like this:
Chant
Bridge on brick
Rope sirsasana
VIP dandasana on chair
Bridge on brick again
Upright back arch
Ustrasana
Upright back arch
Rope back arch
Bhradvajasana
Sav

He ended class with a lectures on our sense organs. Watch how you hear. Do you hear the same way when listen to gospel as when  listen to gossip? Pay attention, when listening to gospel or classical music, you listen with the hind ear. Gossip is with a different part of ear. I tried it out, I think he is right!

All for now, another day rolling into night.
Cathy

January 16, 2013

Beginners Classes are taught fast and rich with movement. The teachers see everything, even in a crowded room they pick out the one student who needs a blanket, the other student struggling with a belt, another student who is flexible and challenges that one onward. The lone teacher handles  three students on their periods that take an entirely different sequence of poses as well as the six that need help at the wall in headstand. And of course, the student in the back of the room who just plain didn’t turn a foot in enough. They are living statues, the kind we see in shop windows, many arms doing many things. What is readily palpable is the chaotic feeling at the start of any of these classes, and the change in the room by the end of class. Somehow through the poses taken and what is said, transformations occur. Quietness does come. The brain cells do descend. The mind is thought-less. And unlike a statue with fixed expressions, these teachers smile, encourage, and hold a high bar up for each student to jump over.

Abijata’s class  this morning had well over 100 people attending. Here is the sequence, then I will tell you some things she said.
Tadasana
Utt
Dog
Virasana
Dog
Full arm balance
Prasarita padottanasana
Sirsasana
Utt
Baddha Konasana
Parsva Baddha Konasana
Upavisthsa Konasana
Parsva Upavisthsa Konasana
Parivritta Upavisthsa Kona
Dandasana
Janu sirsasana
Dandasana
Paschimottanasana
Parivritta janunsirsasana
Dandasana
Paschimottanasana
Halasana
Karnipidasana
Sarvangasana

Abijata had a theme: one pointed concentration leads to a flow of body movement and mind movement that builds to meditation Eka (one) grata (pointed) citta (mind). She has us focus on the outer foot bone pressing and the inner portion widening plus the outer knee moving back, until every pose improved from these two areas working better. When we would turn to one side in a twist and forget one of these areas, she was quick to catch and have us re -do. It may sound simple, and it might be simple, but it sure took concentration to do it continuously. We had a wiped out feeling when we were done, like our insides had been wiped clean at many levels.

Okay, all for now. I hear it colder than cold where you all live, stay warm. Cathy

January 18, 2013

Hello Again,
classes headed toward back bends today, with Prashant leading the charge. He will not teach postures, he reminded us that we learn very little from a teacher, a lot less than we think. If the teacher says lift the chest and we do it, we think we learned something. He said this is not real learning, this is slavery. A teacher can only tell you what shape to take, the learning comes when the student studies the responses, sensations, breath, and resistances that occurred after taking the shape. Thus when one student asked, but where is the tailbone in this pose? He said, Madam I don’t teach postures. It is for you to explore, adjust, integrate and find out.

So back we all went, into ustrasana, urdhva dhanurasana, rope back arch, standing upright back arch, chair viparita dandasana, and on the exploration went. He had a theme and a scheme, it was to open the pelvis. Every arrival and departure of the breath should land and take off from the pelvis. Every stroke of the foot or palm, should arrive and depart from the pelvis. By the end he was telling us the name of the pelvic chakra and how it is the center of how we create ourselves, where we are truly balanced. How is your pelvis housekeeping? What is your pelvic hospitality?

He ended with three thought-provoking statements:

1) Where do you think “I” is? When you say, I am balanced, I am happy, I am sad?
most people think of “I” as in the brain. But science tells us the brain is an involuntary system. Does this mean we are being run around by an involuntary system and we identify ourself with that?
2) if you want to learn, stop being perfect. Most of real learning happens through a mistake. But if you make a mistake, that is not learning. Mistakes happen, then we learn. Ruminate on this.
3) you all think that when you are sick and take medicine, if you get well the medicine was good. Did you ever stop to consider that it is your inner environment that interacted positively with the medicine? It is the inner chemistry that determines if a medicine interacted positively or not, not the medicine. He turned around and added: you have to become mad to become wise.

Ok! Get the flavor of a Prashant class?  Wild, wacky, wonderful, out of your normal mind and launched into a big, vast, universal mind.

Whew. Cathy

January 19, 2013

Good Morning. I would like to say Time is flying by, but it isn’t. I don’t know what happens to Time but it does not seem to have the deep demarcations I give it back home. Movement from one place to the next, whether by foot or rickshaw, has so many alternate realities happening at the same time I think it evaporates my personal sense of Time passing.  It is more just Time is moving. It moves in circles in the auto underground passage way I take to the Institute. It moves in zig zag lines with 3 kids on one bike steering through sidewalk foot traffic. It moves up and down in the hand of the little girl with her hand out, going to her mouth and to my purse in want of a rupee for food. It flies up in a flock of pigeons off a roof and disappears into a single tree. It slices through the air in beeps and honks and chatter and yet, there I am, two feet walking forward through it all and a part of it all. Arriving at destinations on time, leaving destinations on time, always in Time is the way of it. After awhile you just get picked up by the Unseen Hand of India and are carried right along.

January 19, 2013

Brief notes today as the focus was breathing, Pranayama. Have you ever watched 50 people breathe on their backs for two hours? Well that is what  I did last Saturday morning. Watched Prashant teach his Pranayama class. And it was fascinating. The poses chosen were only two: you either did rope headstand, or something propped up on floor, changing positions every 12-20 minutes.

It is what he said that made the practice so rich. First, it is a Mind Decision you have to have. You have to make a purpose. In this case, make it a purpose to breathe with abdominal awareness. Make your purpose ahead of time or you will be tossed around by the next whim you have a will follow that. Make every exhalation profound and deep. Put effort here. Become a breath addict. It wakes you up and that is all it can do. If you want to break a habit you can’t do it without the breath. You can say, next time I won’t do that, but next time you will do the same thing and in fact next time will be worse. Keep this navel confinement and understand what is essential, eternal, unchanging.
This goes on for 1 hour.

The next hour focus changes to either pelvis or thoracic. Be clear about your purpose again. Give yourself a few breaths to adjust to the new location. Think about what why you came to class today. Some of you came because you want to feel better. Some of you came because you would feel bad if you didn’t come. Some of you came out of habit. None of these reasons can touch your essential purpose. The “you” that came to class is not the ‘you” that is breathing. The you has been addressed. The “I”is done. Now the mystic guru is the breath. Take this benefit. Sit at the feet of The Master. The Breath is breathing you.

January 22, 2013

Prashant made it clear that his job as a yoga teacher is to teach the subject of Yoga, and not postures. No where in any yoga literature does it say yoga is for the body. How can it be, he says, the body is aging, getting sick, and dying. Why would ancient texts be about something that lasts a finite amount of time?

This ancient system can be traced by each one of every time we use the senses as gates that swing inward. The breath, the eyes, the ears, the tongue, have other roles to play that fall under a Sanskrit word: partyhara. We begin by turning  the outward staring eyeballs to look within to the heart region, the lower back, the abdominal organs. Places we can’t see but fall under another word, sense. We can sense our back, sense our abdominal organs, sense our shoulder blades and we know they are there even though we can’t physically see them. Eyes can sense as well as see. The ears can hear outer sounds but also inner sounds. Holding your ears closed will turn up the volume on all the movement going on inside the body. Hearing silence is an act of hearing for even the ears need to work to confirm that there is indeed, silence. Ears hear, but when listening from the hind ear, sounds are not separate from the one hearing. Tongue tastes but also speaks the wisdom each one of us gathers as we go through life. Now the Big One: The Breath

For something to go in something has to go out. If you put water into a bucket air has to come out. Likewise when you inhale something has to go out, and when you exhale something has to come in. Going and coming happen in the same moment. He went on to hold us in chair back bend or brick setu bandhu and exhale profoundly: meaning not just air! But timidness, insecurity, fear. If you want to vacuum clean your house at one end is a hose with air getting sucked out and at the other end is the place where the dust is coming in. So it is with timidness. See that you exhale timidness and inhale something you want. If you don’t know that both ends are operating your sincerity turns to stupidity. Your courage is really a mask for arrogance. If you don’t do this work, who will? If a robber comes into your house, he will take what you don’t want him to take, so see that you hang onto the good qualities you have so far, don’t omit those, don’t cast those aside. Don’t fall for the chaos of the world, have your cosmos with your chaos. Suffice it to say, I always feel re-arranged after his class. And in an elevated, sublime way.

Back bends are being taught in the other classes. Good details on rolling shoulder bones back, taking back ribs in, and moving tailbone in deeply. Points to get us going into the pose properly and safely, then breathing to keep feedback alive and working. Sensing comes next, sensing so that we each have our own experience in this vast network of together-ness.
Cathy

January 24, 2013

Time may not fly but it still passes. Prashant wasted no breath sending us into handstands at 7 am this morning. Proceeded to educate us not in the familiar language of taking tailbone in and shoulders up…..but in astronomy. We are to treat the tailbone sacral region as a back hole. Back holes suck in everything around them. Use that grip for stability and stay in the pose. Repeat and focus the back hole on the shoulder blade region. Suck in the shoulder blades. Trapezius. Skin remain steady and breathe profoundly. Not just air. Not just oxygen exchange. But with the mind f a temple. Shrine mind.

Then repeat two more attempts. Quickly change to standing upright back arch and camel. Change black hole focus to the abdominal area….see it as a nebula. Nebulas throw out what is inside them. Throw everything out at the abdominal region and watch what happens. Watch for the expansion and breathe in such a manner that you continue to arch.

The class ends with SUPTA Padangusthasana 1 four times, bhradvajasana, and JANU sirsasana. Final image was on how the sun will die in about 600 trillion years. Right now it is called a yellow dwarf. He does not know why it is called a dwarf when it is so big. If you take 108 earths and put them around the earth’s equator you could make one belt. The sun is gradually consuming four other planets and when it does it will be called a Red Giant. Then it explodes to something the size of a thimble. I don’t know where all that was going, but the breath had become this eternal thread of existence that connected everything together. The breath is internal incense. And that incense wafted sweetly. More later on backbends….Geeta taught a class worth describing, will do that one next.
Cathy

January 26, 2013

Backbends are the category that work the spine in a radically opposite direction than daily living requires.

Prashant said: make the front body like nebula stars forming, throw out, cast aside, omit physical stiffness and emotional/ mental stiffness. Take upright back arch, ustrasana, chair v.d.

Geeta said: be aware of aggressive tendencies inside. If you say you are not aware of something, don’t settle for that. Search your mind, you will find rigid thinking.

Both teachers teach the subject of yoga first, creating the understanding that without a humble place inside no learning can take place no matter how good the class may seem on the outside. If you want a gym workout in a yoga class you will go on increasing your good habits as well as your bad. Nothing will have changed inside of you.
Do the gym workouts at the gym. Yoga has other purposes.

Geeta’s sequence:
Down dog. With pinky side of palm off mat completely
Utt
Sirsasana
Virasana legs in sirsasana
Hand stand
Standing back arch, hands clasped and swinging through thighs
Ustrasana
Dhanurasana
Urdhva dhanurasana
Dwi pada v.d.
Kapotasana
Chatush Padasana
Sarvangasana with Niralamba actions
Savasana

The class was full with 100 people vying for space. Both teachers divide these large class sizes into thirds so no one is ever standing around for long before taking up the asana they have called out in that particular section of the floor. Some on wall ropes, some on chairs doing backbends, the rest in the middle of the room standing on their heads. Switching groups is becoming easier, I think we are adopting the traffic patterns we have seen all month in the noisy streets and have learned to switch fast. From one made -up boundary to another, we step over sewage waste in the streets or yoga blocks in the yoga hall. You can move fast or slow, both will determine an outcome you can’t predict. After awhile you are just moving and living in awareness. No other way to be here, it, whatever “it” is, won’t let you lounge in any mental/ emotional or physical state. Prashant ended his class with “don’t ask for a good memory.” You should not want to remember everything, the burden is too great. After awhile you will remember things that do not need remembering and no room for those things worth remembering.

Thus ends the fourth week. Pranayama breathing has been introduced toward the end of the week and next week it will be picked up in detail. Pranayama is a new endeavor for our yoga studio in Fort Collins. It takes it’s own time and sensitivity to understand the nuances and do the set ups and the practices.

The Monday class (5:30:-7:00pm) is now the class to practice this art of subtle breathing. The class is open to all levels. The first part of each class will be poses that open the legs and prepares them for sitting swatiskasna or Padmasana, and the second half of class will be the art of pranayama, step by step awareness.  Please attend!
Cathy

January 30, 2013

Hard to believe five weeks can pass so fast at the end, but here it is, last day of class and time to pack the bag for home. The fifth week was an interesting look at how beginners are introduced to pranayama with poses before hand and supportive props for spine to begin noticing the breath. The continuing students had another level of poses and set ups, and of course, Prasant, had his unique presentation of the whole. Several things are clear here at the Iyengar Insittute, nothing less than our maximum is asked of each one of us, and nothing short of liberation from our internal dialogues is the name of the game called: don’t get stuck just because your mind is stuck, Prashant says: The mind is unreliable, why trust that? The mind plays so many roles that it is acting all the time. Let it act. Let it be fickle, happy, sad, strong, scared, so many things it can be and all are ok. In fact, these states are preferred if going for courage makes you arrogant, and if going for sincerity makes you act out of stupidity.

The one true moment is the one you find your breath in. Find it and find it often. Geeta gave two amazing pranayama classes this week, both leading to mind states that allowed a holding of all you are and know, but with such a field of vastness and gentle strength you walked out of class puzzled at the asking why? You reach a point where you stop asking why? Why something happened, why something did not happen, why you feel so different after five weeks in India and yet why do you still feel the same, as if no time has passed and you are still you. I just stop asking these questions and live out the day at hand. The trade off was one of giving up a mental habit of control for the leap of action and faith into the unplanned moment. I found interactions and relationships much more satisfying and genuine, and twisting and turning in ways that surprised me in good ways.

Thank you for reading these stories and passages of time here in India. I have gained much from the month and look forward to sharing it with you over the next year. Let’s all give nothing  short of our maximum to each day and see what happens. We can always give our minimum, we can always be casual. But stepping onto the yoga mat is a step of sincerity and commitment to train our minds to look into our hearts and lead lives of compassion and creative interest. Without emotionality, Prashant suggests, we are robots. Why bother with being a robot. The you that is reading this is more vast than can be grasped. Why not explore and learn, understand and travel from our shinbone to the forearm bone. Geeta said this morning. Most of you travelled a long way to get here. Why not travel from your toe to the crown of your head? Study yourself. Take time. Go gradually. Something awaits discovery, and it is unique to each one of us. See you back in the States, I am looking forward to being home and practicing the subject of yoga together.
Cathy