My youngest son Jake and I arrived in Pune on Wednesday 1st February at around 4 am. I attended a 9.30 am Women’s class taught by Guruji and Abhijata. It was a special “jet lag class”. We began with some supported inversions, some of which I had never seen done in quite the same way before. This is my 19th trip to Pune — the first was in 1976 — and I don’t know why I am surprised that they are still coming up with new material!
Viparita Karani/Sirsasana: Sit backwards on a chair with the knees bent over the back of the chair rest. Slide back off chair and place the crown of the head on a vertical bolster. Thread your arms through the chair and hold the back legs. There was much emphasis on lifting through the dorsal spine.
Viparita Dandasana: Sit backwards through the chair. Curve back around the chair seat. Support top of the back of your head on a vertical bolster, and your feet on blocks. Hold the back legs of the chair.
Viparita Karani/Sarvangasana: Proceed as for chair Sarvangasana, with your shoulders resting on a horizontal bolster and the back of the head on the floor, but rather than extending your legs out, bend them over the back of the chair rest. As for regular chair Sarvangasana, there was lots of lifting through the dorsal spine.
Setu Bandasana. Sit backward through the chair. Keeping your knees bent, slide back off the edge of the chair and place the back of your head on a vertical bolster (build up the height of the bolster as needed).
Then, just when you thought that this was going to be a restorative class, we went straight into some simple, but extremely vigorous standing poses (including lots of Adho Mukha Svanasana).
This class was just what was needed to throw off the fatigue and fuzzy-headedness of the journey.
Geetaji taught pranayama on Thursday and standing poses on Friday — fabulous classes both of course. Guruji and Abhyjata taught Saturday’s women’s class, and it reminded me of Guruji’s classes in the 70s. This was a “remembering–what–it’s–like–to–be–taught–by–a–master” sort of a class. There’s just no other way of putting it!
One evening a few of us attended a Sufi music festival. Parvathy Bauul from the Bauul sect was the last act. She chanted and danced, and twirled, causing her hem length dreadlocks to swing and flare out like a mandala. It was all meditation for her and a part of her practice. Here is a clip of her from You Tube, although you lose much of the electrifying affect that you get when she is right there in front of you.
Bauul is the equivalent of Sufi in India, particularly in Bengal, where Parvathy comes from. Her impressive beauty, her personality and the intensity of her devotional chanting and rotating dance, Dervish style, make her unique. I will never forget her, or that class with Guruji and Abhyjata.
Guruji then left with Abhyjata and a group of students and teachers for a yoga convention in Bangalore. It had been fascinating watching him in the practice room each morning, coaching his students for a yoga demonstration that they were putting on at the convention.
On Tuesday (almost one week into the course) Prashant taught a class “for the mind”. About half way through the class he directed us through some nostril breathing as we practiced standing poses. Sounds fairly ordinary I know, but taught by Prashantji, it was profound. It was after that class that I finally shook off my jet lag and slept through the night.
With Guruji gone (and also Geetaji, who had gone to Calcutta for another yoga convention), we were left in the good hands of three truly excellent Instiute teachers, Navaz Kamdin, Rajlaxmi, and Gulnaas, and later, when Guruji and his entourage returned, Abhijata Iyengar and Raya Ud also taught.
Last night Prashantji taught a challenging back bends class. The sequence included: Padmasana/Setu Bandasana over a block, and Padmasana/Viparita Dandasana on a chair, Ustrasana, and Viparita Dandasana from the ropes. The objective was to come out of the class feeling as cool and calm (Prashantji used the word “sanctified”) as we had after his forward bend class “for the mind”.
This morning, Guruji taught a truly profound and masterful class with Abhyjata. We came onto the points of the fingers whenever the hand was on the floor (Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana, a version of Virabadrasana III with hands on the floor in frount of us, and Bharadvajasana I: “tiger claws”!).
We are exactly at the halfway point of the month.