Another week down and we are now half way through the course already. Time is absolutely flying by! This week has taken us into a far more dynamic and flowing asana practice and we are really delving into the more nitty gritty aspects of Anatomy, Physiology and Philosophy. Class sequencing, style and planning is being carefully thought through as we begin to think about our exam which now seems just around the corner!
Once more, the resilience of the teachers here is dumbfounding. Monday morning, Abhi appeared as usual at 7am on the dot to take us for our morning asana practice. His first question to us was to ask whether we were all ok after Manish’s recent death. Assuring him we were fine, we asked how he was doing. ‘I am ok,’ he said, ‘You cannot dwell on the past otherwise it will forever bring you sadness, just realise now that you must respect every breath and every moment of the present.’
That is not to say that everyone is on cloud nine after the ordeal they have been through. Deepa is tired and says she feels scared of the darkness nowadays, whilst Roshan has admitted that it is a struggle coming to class at the moment. Rather than these confessions making them appear weak, it instead seems to amplify their strength within the wake of such a tragedy and it is refreshing that they are so open with the sadness they are dealing with – something, I feel, everyone could learn from. They do not mope around or give us any less during class, they present their grief honestly but with grace and acceptance.
Abhi’s lessons this week were a whirlwind of adjustments and arm strengthening. Every time I leave an asana practice with Abhi my arms have discovered a whole new range of muscles which I never knew were there. His favourite question for us each lesson is; ‘You look hungry. Are you hungry?!’ To which we all desperately respond that, no, we are not hungry but to no avail. This is his warning that we are about to crack on with a round of Yogic Food. Yogic Food is a series of four asana which seriously work your core, arms and shoulders. Beginning in Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) you then bring yourself forward into plank, lower down in Chaturanga (half plank) and then flowingly bring yourself into Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) – this series is repeated 5x for beginners, 10x for intermediate and 20x for advance. However, if you feel that 20x is a mere nothing, Abhi has numerous ways to make this about twenty times harder for you. Nevertheless, as much as I dread Abhi’s question, for I always know it is coming, I also secretly love it! At the start of this course I could barely do one ‘proper’ Chaturanga, making it impossible to complete an actual flowing cycle of the Yogic Foods. Now, I can actually complete 10 rounds without collapsing to the floor in a heap – proving that it really does work!
Majority of the asana teachers have started stepping it up a notch. Deepa also brings in Yogic Food but as with all of her teaching method she seems to lure you into a false sense of ease and security and suddenly you are dripping with sweat, limbs quaking from holding positions that seemed so easy and simple when she demonstrated it. Jeet, meanwhile, is just constantly on charge. Dynamic flows and a lot of holding is required during his classes and you really feel as though you have been pushed to your limit by the end of his lessons – in a good way! Unfortunately, there is a wonderful sickness bug heading round the students at Rishikesh Yog Peeth and I have succeeded in catching it. Therefore, yesterday, after attempting Jeet’s class and nearly passing out, I decided that I should probably concede as my body was not quite ready for such a rigorous practice! Bed and sleep instead became my activity and I am pretty pleased it is the weekend so I can fully recuperate!
Aside from our asana practice strengthening and flexing our bodies to new levels, meditation and pranayama have played a prominent part this week. The practice which I have completely fallen in love with and definitely want to bring home with me, is Yoga Nidra. I have read about and heard of Yoga Nidra but never tried it. Deepa gave me my first taster earlier this week however. Yoga Nidra is essentially sleep mediation but without actually falling to sleep! Lying in Savasana (corpse pose) you must follow the constant, rhythmic instructions of your teacher, focusing exactly on what she is saying, your body and the breath. The aim is to bring you into a state between consciousness and sleep, a period of time where the brain waves are slowed and you are therefore more likely to reach a level of deep meditation or even Samadhi. The practice is so relaxing and soothing it is hard to remain focussed or awake! However, I managed not to fall asleep and only lost track of Deepa’s instructions a few times. The experience was completley elating. My body literally seemed to go numb and weightless and I felt somewhat bodiless by the end. The deep sense of calm I felt after was truly blissful. Once Deepa had brought us round, we were instructed not to talk for 10 minutes after. I could have floated off to bed and slept so peacefully had dinner not been in 20 minutes!
Whilst Yogic Food provides you with strength, resilience and energises your whole body, Yoga Nidra benefits the nervous system and provides an excellent form of mind-body therapy. In essence, these two are a dreamy little match – Yin and Yang!
Both Yoga Nidra and Yogic Food leave you feeling nourished but in vastly different ways. Either way, however, it is safe to say that I am now addicted to this yogic diet and the balancing effects that both of these have on the body.