Pose of The Month 2017 is drawn from a few of the projects I worked on in 2016.
Several of this year's offerings are taken from two chapters I wrote for a new book by Frank Lipman MD: 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat...And How You Can Stay Young, Slim, and Happy!
Other (restorative) poses are from a project which showed how to practice when props are not available. A few are repeats from previous years. Still more were written especially for this website.
The twelve poses strung together, one for every month of the year, make up a balanced sequence for you to practice.
July's Pose of the Month is an edited record of a class taught by Geeta Iyengar in Pune.
Important: As there are minimal instructions for how to come into the pose, these instructions are not for beginners. Learn Sirsasana from your Iyengar teacher in a LEVEL 2 class. When you are ready to move into LEVEL 3, you will be able to use these notes without risk of injury.
I have endeavored in this edit to retain Geeta's voice, the atmosphere of the classes and the important points.
Model: James Murphy.
Get set up for your requirements: i.e., wall ropes, columns, wall, or independent. Fold your sticky mat. If necessary, take a blanket for the head.
Coming into the pose: Position your elbows on the floor so they face forward (straight ahead).
Shoulders, forearms and elbows: Lift your shoulders. If all your weight is on your elbows, you lose the earth element. Press your outer wrist bones to the floor. Firmness in the elbow and outer wrist bones is the earth element; Bones equal earth. The downward pressing of the forearm has to move up through shoulders.
The skin: Yes, the center of the forearm bone presses down, but it is the skin that tells you whether the evenness of elbows, forearms and wrists remains. To prevent the weight moving onto the outer elbows, roll the forearm skin inwardly from the outer elbow to the inner wrist bone.
Awareness: First, let the attention go everywhere, especially from the arms toward the shoulders, the chest and the dorsal spine. There should not be any kind of collapse.
Head and neck: Don’t just be happy to be balancing on the head. Express the lift, ascendance, firmness, fixation (e.g., connecting bones into joints) etc. Feel how much distance there is between the shoulders and the ears, observe the state of the cervical neck. When you have come out of the pose it should not be concave, going inward, or pushed backward. Learn the right position. Many of you have less distance from the neck region to the arm on one side. That evenness, the equal lift and equal ascendance, are all important.
In the pose: There should be absolute firmness. No shaking. The inner legs should be straight – knees firm. Abdomen back. Don't fall backward, forward, or onto sides of head. Remain even. As the forearm presses – observe how the inner body lifts.
Come back to the shoulders: Lift them again. Don't use the head as a third arm. Though the head is down, nothing else should be dropped down on it. The crown of your head is down but the brain cells should not be dropped down on the skull. There has to be inner space. Your attention differs when you ascend in such a manner that the cells of the brain do not fall downward. That's why the upper arms, armpits, spine should be active.
Pelvis and legs: Move the thighs together - roll the outer thighs in. The middle buttocks should not be projecting back – move them into the body. Move the head of the femur bone exactly into the socket. Turn the inner hip and thigh back.
Focus: Observe the stretch. Don't just do it because I say you have to. Never take it for granted in that manner. Your penetration is important. You are the doer. First you have to be in the asana. Learn that. Let the asana become the object for you, because then there is a scope for searching.
Knees and shins: Don't get that wobbly feeling. Align both knees: feel both knee caps. Move your knees into the sockets to open the hamstrings. If one knee remains loose, which kneecap are you not feeling? Give more attention to the one that you don't feel. It's hard to have that perception unless someone points out that one knee is turning in, one is turning out. From the knees you learn about the calf muscles, shinbones, ankles, toes, etc. Go on pulling the kneecap in. Because the knees have certain limits - knowledge can come. There are two shins. Find out how the right shin is behaving, how the left shin is behaving, and at the same time, when you really work with the shin bones and both knee caps, you find some lightness on your head.
Your mind: What happens if you move your outer calf muscles onto the shinbone? If you lift your shoulders? Widen your consciousness. Don't limit your consciousness… It's most important to feel your presence everywhere. Don't turn the eyes. If you look here and there it means the mind is wandering.
Keep going and re-charge: Maintain that firmness. Find out if both sides of the trunk are going up evenly. The weight of the body should not fall heavily on the forearms.
The breath: That heavy feeling should not come … maintain the body in that firm state. Your face has to get absorbed back. The breath changes. The breath begins to change when your face is quiet, from the roof of the mouth to the tip of the nose… Stay there. The elongation and height of Sirsasana is available when the anterior spine is lifting.
Your practice: Do not get disturbed if somebody in the class comes down. Then you are surrendering to that person who has come down and your own concentration goes. A kind of disturbance is created - in a group that is what happens. The mind comes toward the ego, the ego gets puffed, and you surrender to the situation and you say, Oh, let me come down. If you can deal with the pain, you should not surrender. That's why individual practice becomes important, or you surrender to the situation. Be honest with yourself to find out why you are thinking of coming down. If that pain can be dealt with, you should not surrender. Don't allow dualities to set in.
Those at the wall: do not use the wall all the time – sometimes you have to be independent. Open the ribs towards the skin, same way with the arm-pit. The shoulder joint has to be opened from the back to the front.
The entire class: Join the legs firmly and with so much compactness that it is as if there is only a single leg. Let the legs be like Upavista Konasana, where you have to press the thighs to the ground. Move your back thigh back. The chest has to open from the center to the side (in contrast to the compactness of the head of the thigh bones coming into the sockets). Take the mid- buttock in (not the waist). Don't try to bring the toes forward. The flow is from the toe to the heel.
Coming out: Pressing your forearms, exhale and slowly come down. Make sure the outer femur bones are completely in their sockets as you come down. Pelvic broad, thighs firm. Use a Controlled action to come down. No sound.
— Geeta Iyengar
Thank you Richard Jonas for helping me edit this.
With thanks and gratitude to my teachers, BKS Iyengar (1918-2014), Prashant Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Abhijata Sridhar, and Sunita Parthasarthy.
Drawings and text © Bobby Clennell. All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior permission.