Bring intelligence in the postures
After Astanga, I went back to Iyengar. I wanted my neck and upper back sorted. Within four hours I got the job done. And felt so much happier.
The secret? “Bring your intelligence into the posture”, said Johanna Heckmann-Mohan (pictured above), from The London Iyengar Yoga Institute . I had started to think again, drawing my attention to the infinite parts of my existence. You might think: “Is that all…”
Johanna has been teaching at the Institute for over a decade. She’s been many times to Pune, in India to practice with the Iyengar family.
She sounds strict (you better have practiced Iyengar Yoga before you turn up to her workshop) but she’s sensitive and clear in her directives. Enjoyable!
We started with three basic postures with the head supported. “To release all anxiety!” Ado muka virasana, uttanasnasa and ado muka svanasana . Then we went into Trikonasana (the triangle). From there, we lay on the floor to work on
supta padangustansana (reclining big toe pose) with a strap. Leg well rooted in the joint and released to the side. Stretch and surrender. A partner adjusts the pelvis, pushing the opposite hip back to the floor and rolling the grounded thigh inwards.
Then back into Trikonasasna, aware of the space created in both sides of the groin.
Prasarita padottanasana : watch to keep inner feet parallel to each other, with pressure on the outer feet.
Ado Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) against the wall twice
Sirsasana (headstand) with variations.
ardha chandrasana (half moon facing the wall, a partner holding your trapezius down with a strap, also pressing the lower buttock down while reaching over and holding up your abdomen. You probably had to be there.)
urdhva mukha svanasana (upward facing dog), hands supported on two bricks. Visualising the posture once with the feet pointed, once with the toes tucked under (and not just visualising). Holding the abdomen in, pushing on your arms, lifting up. Tailbone tucking down, inner thighs back and up.
Ustrasana, (the camel) same thing, high on your legs, knees hip width apart and tailbone well tucked under.
Here Johanna reminded us to only use the props we really need. “In India, stealing doesn’t only mean taking something which is not yours, but also using something which is not necessary”. Good quote. She also talked about compassion (helping others into the postures) and responsibility for oneself (don’t let everything collapse when someone is helping you).
Standing back bend, hands behind the back drawing the upper back thighs out. Lift the quadriceps, don’t bring the pubic bone forward, but tuck your tailbone down and lift you chest; arch your back and only bend your knees when you start going down into urdhva dhanurasana (the bridge ).
Counter postures: Ado mukha virasana and Bharadvajasana with a chair
Salamba Sarvangasana, shoulderstand in a chair with two bolsters (the second bolster should be placed on the chair to support the lower back. From there lift your pelvis and bring the toes against the wall behind you)
Relaxation prone (upper body lying on a bolster). No, really. You can relax now. Turn on your back: