Yoga for me is a nakedness, a child-like state of fearlessness and curiosity, an innocence of being.
Being in a beginner’s class, we are learning how to move in standing asanas. The breaking down of various movements has taken the resistance out of standing asanas. I used to get frustrated at myself for not getting the required balance, openness and stability. These days they are a happy and active part of my home practice. I choose to keep it simple by just repeating what was done in class.
Vriksasana is a good pose to discover the groin. Doing it before virbhadrasana or parsvkonasana helps in better movement downwards and out. Trikonasana makes me feel like all my knots are melting away making the joints more fluid. Parsvottanasana is getting a little more stable and now I am playing with shifting my weight.
Another thing I learnt was using the thumb and index finger while pressing on the ground to get a better lift. The finger nails need to be really short , almost inside the nail bed, else it doesn’t happen. The teacher called the action, nailing the nail. She mentioned that this was a good way to get sensitive to the finger tips which would be essential in digital pranayama.
An interesting thing I noticed in some people who have been practising for a while is a typical shoulder structure, sort of like two elevated points or knobs. Is it an inherent body structure or an acquired one, I wonder.
I read something last night which stayed with me.
” Until the inner teacher opens, all outside teaching is in vain. It must lead to the opening of the book of the heart to have any value.” – Swami Vivekananda
“My dear yoga friends”… These were the opening lines of Geetaji this morning at RIMYI. I’ve only heard her through the CDs and on YouTube and this was so different from her teaching. She was just one of us and spoke from her heart. We started with the prayers which were chanted in unison unlike in the classes and the energy in the room was something else.
She then proceeded to talk about Yog and the key message was about keeping up the practice. She exhorted the students, especially those who just started to continue practice and not stop. She quoted Sutra 1:14, ” Long, uninterrupted, alert practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations. ”
She touched on a lot of topics and post the session there was a group that gathered around and she was talking about how yoga was necessary for the glandular system. She then gave the example of menopausal changes and how that was a time to cool and calm the glandular system while in the earlier period inversions were better for activating it.
I heard the words, registered some and a lot of it was beyond my reach for now but I hope that someday a fragment of what she spoke will speak more clearly to me. Her compassion was palpable and there was humour too. She wryly mentioned the traditional Iyengar temper with making students understand which got the hall laughing. It’s a parampara, a tradition of the lineage that worked and continues to work in getting the students to learn and experience.
After the talk, I stuck around for an hour long Sadhana session. I feel I am still stuck at tadasana even though I practise other asanas. That first asana still eludes me. Sometimes I think even if I don’t learn anything else but that one asana, it will be enough.
We went through
Uthita hasta padasana
Parsva hasta padasana
Urdhva hastasana in dandasana
Just so filled with gratitude for a day of learning.
That firm man to whom, surely, these afflict not, O chief among men, to whom pleasure and pain are the same, is fit for realizing the Immortality of the Self. 2:15
Having made – pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat – the same, engage in battle for the sake of battle; thus you shall not incur sin. 2:38
Image and shlokas from
The Holy Geeta
Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda
This week showed me how much I needed to find my inner samasthithi.
The moment of understanding actually happened when I received news that my daughter had secured admission into school when just the day before they had asked me to check elsewhere. That 24 hour period saw me disappointed, stoic, frustrated, dejected, sad, accepting and ecstatic. The moment I got a call asking me to get to the school was when I experienced joy and the realization that in happiness too, I need to find the calmness.
The samasthithi that is firm and unshakable in every situation. Just like the mountain it is named after. Learning to stand in tadasana has a big parallel in my life to standing strong and tall in my own life.
In the mad scramble to get life organized around admissions and work, all I managed was 10 minutes of asana for a few days. I felt lazy about unrolling my mat for practice thinking I would be stiff but somehow managed to shake off that lethargy and get moving. Standing asanas and wound up with Setuband Sarvangasana. At the end, I experienced the same sense of lightness that I felt in class a few months ago. Just before I saw sound.
I later learnt from my friend that there is a medical term for the phenomenon which is called synesthesia. Intuition says there is something there but for now I am content to focus on alignment since there is a long way before I achieve proficiency in asana.
In the meanwhile, I can use the two shlokas from the eternal song to help me find my grounding.
Sometimes I think life is like a computer game. By the time I figure out how to play one level, the game changes and becomes difficult.
The biggest stress right now is getting admission into a school for my little girl. I get out most mornings, do the rounds of schools and come back with nothing. It takes me a while to shake the dejection and dive into work. In the meanwhile, chores happen, a little homeschooling happens and meals get prepared.
My practice is very basic, repetitions of what is done in class. While in tadasana, I am aware of the check points. The moment it changes into another asana like urdhva hastasana or uthita trikonasana, I lose that awareness and start again from the feet.
My life situation is similar to this state. One variable changes and I lose the samasthithi in my life and have to work upwards slowly. It is slow work and I struggle some days. On one hand I can see the human drama while on the other, I am in the thick of it.
Tadasana is a good way to come back to the fullness of now, an ideal of equanimity.
Ever since my teacher talked about working with the menstrual cycle, I have paid attention to my own ebb and flow of every cycle. Getting aware about the changes associated with my physical and mental state through the entire month opened my eyes to the rhythm of my body and mind.
More often than not, instinct kicks in now to preserve my energy. Sometimes I forget about being aware of day to day changes and start falling into old behaviour patterns. Such days I don’t know what to practise. I tire myself thinking about what asanas I should do and then give up. I unroll my mat, chant the invocation and let the asanas flow. Later when I think about it, I realize that all I had to do was get out of my own way. My body knew what it had to do and I only needed to bring my attention to it.
I still grapple with the change in practise on the days of my period. Sometimes I think that I will lose all I have learnt with the changed routine but time and again, I go back to the poses in a better way. It is as though the break has allowed the body to realign its memory.
There is a brilliant essay by Geeta Iyengar on the practise of women during the whole month which is a practical guide for women. I go back to it again and again and each reading brings out something new that I am ready to hear. A lot of the things she talks about have been validated in my experience as well and I notice the details she talks about are spot on. The beauty of the whole system is the free and open sharing of knowledge for whoever wants it.
As a subject, yoga feels like a fire within, one which I am willing to be consumed in. Asanas for me at this point feel like irrigation for my body so that I can move freely within it and look at my daily living more clearly. I see how the yamas and niyamas are present in my every moment and watch when I am in sync with them and when I am not. In that sense, my life is an experiment one where I am the process and the scientist.
As a beginner, when I started class last September, I had no perspective and understanding of my own body. I joined an existing class and just sort of went with the flow. The teacher would say tighten the knee caps and I would squeeze them till it felt like they would implode. It is only in the last couple of months I figured out that the idea was not so much tightening them as it was about lifting them and keeping them active. This made a tremendous difference in how the legs felt in standing poses and also allowed me to sense my inner legs. Uthita trikonasana, parsvakonasana, virbhadrasana and pretty much all the standing poses are difficult for me and I have to push myself to practise them. I just realized today that I didn’t go step by step, hence the difficulty. I finally started the beginners class at RIMYI and it feels like coming home. My class takes place on the second floor. I guess I cannot really hang out at the back as the ceiling is low there and my hands touch it. 🙂 In a perfect world, I would have atleast two classes a week but for now I am just grateful to study here. On my first day, I saw the three Iyengars and was lucky to have one as my teacher today.
There is no substitute for hard work, abhyasa. While there was willingness to work, there wasn’t enough mental resilience to persist. In retrospect, it was not having a base of physical health and well being that made the mind crumble at the first sign of resistance.
My road to yoga came through pain and it is only through pain that healing was able to commence. The neck tractions would be agonizing while I was having them but it gave relief after. I could not rotate my shoulders behind without being in tremendous pain. But I practiced until one evening at home, there was a loud and painful click which made me stop where I was and just stay. After a couple of minutes, I found that my shoulders were pain free and I could rotate them without any discomfort. It felt magical and was a nudge to show me that the point was to practice sincerely. The physical benefits were a foregone conclusion, the real benefit was building mental strength.
Through regular practice, I gained the benefits of a sense of wellbeing and health. This allowed for a certain level of calmness to start noticing patterns- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In my mother tongue, there is a word called “nanni” which translates into grateful thanks. That was my overwhelming feeling at the end of class.
Some days the enthusiasm flags and the effort required to keep the practice fresh is tiring. That usually happens when my study work is slacking. So I get back to the tools of reading and writing which usually gets me back on track. Sometimes it is too much seriousness and then I need to find the lightness to laugh at myself. Sometimes it is letting go of a rigid attitude towards practice. A daily inventory helps me see the adjustments I need to make in my mental posture.