We landed in Pune and pretty much went straight over to Devki's home where she had invited a few people to share the celebration of Navratri. We learned Ras Garba, the dance from Gujarat or more like we followed the amazing dancers around the circle- a little classical, a little bollywood and then a quiet meditation followed by pav bhaji, a Maharastran snack and Kulfi, the delicious conical ice cream. There we met Devki's sister-in-law who the next day showed four of us, Jennie and a great couple from London who are Italian and Brazilian, her collection of crystals and shared her passion for the healing properties of rocks and crystals. Her passion and excitement was infectious. Tonight is the full moon and we will bath our crystals in the full moon to cleanse and charge them. I have had an idea ever since my pal Melissa took me to a crystal meditation class in LA. Yes, my eyes rolled too until I got there. Well, actually they were kinda still rolling until she placed the rock on my head and everything changed.
Yesterday, I was down for the count. I missed so much because left overs were soiled and I got food poisoning. Jennie, with her Texan gut of steel made it through with little cost while I was in bed for the day. She says "it's just a sensation." Well, for me that sensation made it so I could barely move. But now, I'm good...ish.
Geeta taught today. The room is charged with energy when she arrives. It's the excitement that she has made the physical and emotional effort after teaching an intensive to be there with us, the nervous and agitated rumblings of the local teachers, her sharp eye and uncompromising standard and a little dash of fear. We all sit a little more upright. Right before class, Gulnaaz tells me it's pranyama and I think , oh, i can do that because my energy was quite low. Within 5 minutes it's Handstands and Pincha Mayurasana and I'm still thinking hmmmm could this be preparing us for pranayama? and inside a voice saying, no dummy it's backbends and the voice responds attached to its denial...oh no, really?
She had her local teachers dropping back from handstand as we twisted in Sirsasana in Virasana the fronts of my thighs screaming. She said go to that point of falling but don't fall. How often do I seek that edge? By the third or fortieth Dwi Pada Vipariti Dandasana my legs just kept giving out. This is the Anamaya kosha only being touched and barely at that, when Pranamaya kosha is touched there is space and lightness the pose comes easier. "You have to be a brave teacher to move someone to the pranayama kosha."
We fixed our elbows on a wall and were pushed hard to find our own spinal limits, to move our chest to the wall and break through the resistances, learning to coil and move the ribs and sternum foward. Raya demonstrated and his back was like a canyon of muscles into the deep ravine of his spine. "This is good for the heart." When someone is unwell then they do the version over the bench but you could see the openess come to Raya's chest as he pumped forward towards the wall. And, for once, I didn't mind the double standard that men can be shirtless and sweaty and women have to be covered. But why do all the western guys (ummm mostly Americans) peel off their tank tops. Really? Is that tiny bit of fabric just too unbearably hot? If you are reading this, please wear your shirt, it's unsanitary on all the props and you aren't demonstrating. But in this particular case, it was very helpful to see the movement of Raya's spine so deep into his back.
I could feel where my body just stopped and I am thinking is this where I usually go to and then just give up thinking that is my limit? I look around the room and this is why I love practicing in a group. It's not competition it's inspiration to see the woman from Britain 10 years older than me touching her sternum to the wall. It is possible. My chest was getting there but my legs kept giving out. I was just waiting for Geeta to say "Lady! blue t-shirt, why do you keep coming down?" But her attention was elsewhere on others, and I was probably one of many dropping like flies. I didn't see but I did hear lots of groaning and grunting.
But perhaps she did because then she started talking about how we don't go beyond feeling good or we have a pain and then it's gone and we are happy, we like to feeeel good. "Oh this pain here, it's gone, I feeeellll sooo good." Yay I feel good, Yay I look good, Yay my pain is gone. This is bhogasana whereas yogasana is a deep, penetrative study for union with the soul. Hear that. Union with the soul. Most of what the world knows as yoga is really bhoga.
To be teaching yoga in her definition, in THE definition, is quite an undertaking and responsibility. Our desire to be distracted, stop at our perceived limits, allow fear to get in our way, all this she, the teacher, has to get to and through. It's hard for the mind to veer away when Geeta is teaching and this teaches you off the mat to keep the mind where it needs to stay and not veering off into some drama or story. Her intensity and determination to teach beyond her own physical body's ability and the frustration when we get stuck on the first kosha (layer), physical is because of this hefty task she has and the increased feeling her time is limited.
It became of course the typical madhouse in the room as only Pune can do - horses were pulled out and mats and sticky mats , mats thrown this way and that, blankets pushed off to the side or flung back into the shelf and everyone running around the room trying to find a place and understand her commands before she gets mad. How Iyengar yoga in the west has become the home of anal virgos obsessively neat and over controlling, I'll never understand. Sorry my dear virgo friends but as a very, very messy, artsy, spacey and apparently ahead of my time, Aquarian all this blanket folding is a challenge. I love that in Pune the room is angled and there is no perfect square or line.
While we "rested" in Marichyasana Abhi, and Raya continued with more backbend work. In Marichyasana, she had us keep the arm on the knee and not bind so as to focus completely on the abdomen turning. If the mind is focused on the entire asana that part doesn't move. With each exhalation she encouraged us to move the abdomen more and keep a literal eye on the abdomen to get it to turn. Classes here, the teacher takes one point or action of the class does not waiver or add. He or she just repeats. It's so easy to get distracted but to put that intense microscopic attention on one action will allow you to experience something. How often is our attention spread out to a million things? And how much can you really know if your mind is all over the place?
Then while we were in Sarvangasana, Raya began Ganda Bherundasana It was quite something to see live.
I hope Abhi got to rest but I have a feeling she went home to her two sick kids and a pile of other responsibilities. And I certainly hope Geeta gets some rest because she'll be at it tomorrow or the next day.
I perhaps didn't feel as light as others, but I felt I had been able to survive. I look forward to trying some of this tomorrow when my energy is better.