Backbending in July

Recently, I remembered how, as a beginner, I wished that I could study with Prashantji someday and then it struck me that I was in his class now. And that sort of summarizes my RIMYI journey. Slow, meandering, unexpected but completely organic. The more I attend classes of varying levels, I see the incredible value of the foundational actions in asanas. Keeping at the basics has actually been a faster progression.

The last 2 weeks have been hectic with multiple overlapping deadlines but classes were a constant and they were instrumental in some breakthrough in personal practice. I injured the problem knee over the weekend and so couldn’t do many asanas in the classes. So a switch to the therapy sequence from a few years ago. But this time, I explored some of the kriyas Prashantji talks about and it was illuminating. There is such a marked difference in sensitivity and consequently, access. Like yesterday we were in some quiet Urdhva Dhanurasanas and then were asked to do the regular one without much attention and the violence to the nerves in the latter was so stark. It was like sensing in HD.

Yesterday, Urdhva Dhanurasana was also a learning period as the teachers and assistants worked on each other with hands-on adjusting. It was quite interesting to work with different kinds of bodies, see how the adjustments worked etc. In the bargain, I think I must have done 30 odd Urdhva Dhanurasanas but it was not tiring. I’ve not been practising it much lately and anticipated soreness today but there was minimal discomfort. I suppose there is more skill and less muscular effort in the execution of these poses now.

Speaking of backbends, Sunday’s class was a Chair Vipareeta Dandasana marathon with nearly 90 minutes of the asana, with breaks of course. But, that was again another first for me. Prashantji spoke about yoga as ‘happenings’ rather than ‘doings’ and happenings need ‘stayings’. And somehow that long hour and a half exploration of Vipareeta Dandasana provided the ‘staying’ necessary to move far beyond normal capacity with no distress.

Much of the teachings of yoga are esoteric, hidden in plain sight but the likes of me cannot decode it. It is an extremely slow revealing as one listens to teachers, listens to them carefully, repeatedly and slowly things become apparent, like clouds drifting apart to let the sun appear. At these junctures, there is usually a coming together of different influences speaking of the very same principles. Some of my reading and listening these past weeks have been a case in point.

Most days, I first lie on the Vipareeta Dandasana bridge before the beginning of class. It is the prop that held me through inexplicable heaviness of the heart but now it is a feeling of surrender that I experience. In some sense, it is a prayer, an entering into a sanctuary. The feel of the hard wood on my back and the release of the body as it yields to the support are always a quiet gathering. At day’s end, I’m simply glad for the opportunity to study in person with my teachers, feel the comfort of the call and response of the invocation and experience the gift of one man’s incredible sadhana.

7 thoughts on “Backbending in July

  1. Happenings! How true! Then our practice becomes a celebration, like celebrating our birthday each time we come to the mat. We will be listening to Prashant’s lecture tonight for U.S. students. I am looking forward to hearing if he offers this tasty morsel.

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      1. Last night’s lecture was about integrating philosophy into yoga—teaching yoga to more advanced students from that angle. I think he is frustrated with how we anatomize teaching yoga and make it a mechanical process. I agree with him wholeheartedly. I know that my students at the university who students who are studying the Gita with their beginners class (it’s part of the course) learn the asanas from envisioning and embodying Arjuna’s experience and Krishna’s ideas. At least . . .that is my goal.

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  2. The long explorations of asanas can be profound. Two insights struck me: the progress from studying the basics, and the phrase “violence to the nerves.” An 80-something martial arts practitioner observed my gentle yoga class this week, curious to know if she might like to take it. She did not participate. Her judgment was that sustaining the poses so long and using props was too unlike what she was accustomed to. She felt the body needed (her words) “more aggressive” exercise. Meanwhile, a man who took the class commented on how a certain supine pose looked as if it would be simple and effortless, yet he found it asked more of him and did more for him than he would have expected. The martial arts woman grudgingly acknowledged that yoga might be good for meditation. Perhaps she understood a little part of it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this experience. Supine asanas are a world in self study and also quite a learning one for those watching. I’m not surprised the martial arts lady was able to catch it. 🙂


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