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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cooling Summer Class with Patricia Walden on 7/6/10

On the only night I had off on the whole concert band tour, Patricia Walden taught a 2.5 hour class in the same town I was in! Yay for yoga and serendipity! The class was located at St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA, and I had the pleasure of attending. The room was nice and big, but pretty warm. Patricia didn't want the air conditioning on during the pranayama and supine poses, but it was (thankfully) turned on just after those poses were completed.

The focus of the practice was cooling (it was probably 95 degrees in Boston yesterday) forward bends.  She made a point that during hot summer weather we should avoid practicing strenuous standing poses and backbends unless we get up early enough to avoid the heat.  She also made sure we understood how to approach poses differently when the focus is to cool and calm the mind and body; that is, to work from the skin rather than the musculo-skeletal system.

So here's what we did (any omissions or lack of clarity is entirely due to my memory and experience of the class):

Swastikasana - We were instructed to observe the state of our consciousness.  Was it ksipta (scattered), mudha (dull), viksipta (agitated or distracted), ekagra (one-pointed), or niruddha (restrained)?  If it was scattered, dull, or agitated, which of the kleshas were involved? Attachment? Aversion? Fear? Egoism?

Sithali Pranayama in Supta Swastikasana with arms in Urdhva Baddha Hastasana, Supta Baddha Konasana (holding ankles if possible), and Dwi Pada Pavanmuktasana - roll the tongue into a tube or straw (if unable to roll the tongue, make an "oooh" shape with the lips as if drinking thru a straw), inhale thru the mouth with the tongue rolled, close the mouth, and exhale ujjayi exhalations (if unfamiliar with ujjayi, then exhale normally thru the nose).  On the inhalations, allow the ribs to broaden from the mid-line. Exhale with awareness first on the lower abdomen, allow the exhalation to be like a cooling wash for the abdomen.  Gradually move the focus of the exhalations up the trunk, from lower abdomen to middle abdomen, to lower ribs, to mid-ribs, to upper ribs allowing each area to be cooled by the exhalations.

Adho Mukha Virasana with forearms supported on blankets or a bolster- roll skin of thighs so the back of the thigh turns from inside out, broadening away from the mid-line. Allow the feet to sickle so the groins soften.

Prasarita Padottanasana - begin with concave spine, palms flat, move the skin of the back of the leg up toward the buttock and the skin of the buttock forward toward the kidney as you descend the head at the same rate as the rest of the trunk to the floor or support.

Keeping head down and transitioning with grace, pivot to Parsvottanasana to the right.  Lift bottom ribs up, broaden them, and then re-extend forward, head down

Gracefully transition back thru Prasarita Padottanasana to Parsvottanasana to the left and finally return to Prasarita Padottanasana. Hold the outer ankles with the head resting on the floor or support.

Uttanasana, feet wider than hips width apart - come to concave spine first and lengthen the trunk forward, then take trunk and head down. Manually adjust the flesh and skin of the thighs, turning the backs of the legs from inside-out. Move the skin of the buttock and back-body toward the head and the flesh of the back-body toward the waist.

Paschimottanasana, feet apart - same movement of the skin and flesh of the back-body as above. Patricia said this many times in many forward extending poses: find on your front body where you are not extending, circle it with your mind, move there (one inch forward), and then it is tapas that holds it there.

Baddha Konasana - roll flesh of inner thigh and inner calf away from each other. Hold the thigh flesh just above the inner knee, broaden the knees away from each other and roll the thighs back with the hands there.

Janu Sirsasana - bend the right knee into Janu Sirsasana, extend the trunk 90 degrees to the right, over the right knee and feel the even extension of the trunk, incrementally move the trunk counter-clockwise (toward the left leg), continue to observe and correct the evenness of the extension of the trunk, until you are outside the left leg in Parsva Janu Sirsasana. (do other side.)

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana - The most important action in this pose is to keep the lift of the pubis as in Utthita Parsvakonasana. We usually come into this pose from akasha (space), but today from the earth.  Extend forward over the right knee as in Janu Sirsasana (above) and walk hands and trunk toward left leg. Marry the side waist and ribs to the inner thigh as "lover and beloved." Hold foot with hands and extend side ribs evenly.  (She threatened to get out weights and put them on the ribs that were sticking up in the air, but she didn't actually do it to anybody.)

Paschimottanasana - Roll backs of legs from inside-out with the hands. Feel the effect of the other forward extensions on this Paschimottanasana.  Make the skin of the top thigh thin by pressing the knees down.

Supta Padangusthasana I - keep the thighs like Paschimottanasana (especially the leg on the floor)

Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana - Patricia announced that even though we weren't going to do this, it would be a good practice to do the same 90 degrees to the side extending the trunk and working forward incrementally as we did in Janu Sirsasana. The first stage of a forward extension is just that, extending forward.  For more experienced practitioners, once the trunk is fully extended, then take the lungs and heart down (toward the legs).

Krounchasana - come into the bent leg position (one leg in Virasana, the other thigh into the trunk, shin parallel to the floor) and coordinate the lifting of the lumbar spine up with the extension of the leg.  This coordinated movement gives a different effect in the mind. Instead of the movement being driven by the ego, "prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam" or "perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached." (Sutra II.47 - thanks to Karen's Sutra Program, it was easy for me to look this up!)

Supta Baddha Konasana, holding ankles, allowing exhalations to rinse the abdomen

Supta Upavistha Konasana - keep the tailbone on the floor

Upavistha Konasana, forward, arms extended straight ahead

Paschimottanasana - final comparison to see what the sequence and practice gives

Uttanasana, we could choose whether to have our feet apart or together - she made a point of saying that after a long sequence of forward extensions, it is good for the back to stand up before twisting

Bharadvajasana I - everybody on two blankets, keeping the head straight ahead, turn the trunk as much as possible, then turn the head in line with the sternum and see how much easier is it to get movement.  Keeping the rotation of the trunk turn the head the opposite direction. 

Paryankasana - we didn't do this pose, but Patricia said it would be good to do this before Setu Bandha Sarvangasana if time permitted.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, sacrum on a block - after the abdomen was "squeezed and soaked" thru the practice of all of the forward bends it is good to create space and opening in Setu Bandha and Paryankasana

From Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, lift legs into Viparita Karani. Practice both with legs together (classic position) and legs in Upavistha Konasana.

Chair Sarvangasana - we didn't do this pose, but Patricia said it would be appropriate in this sequence

Savasana - do Sanmukhi mudra for 30-60 seconds at the beginning of Savasana

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