I recently had the privilege of attending the workshop with Jawahar Bangera and felt particularly fortunate as I was 20 weeks pregnant and required modifications and assistance.
His passion for yoga was truly apparent. He was very good at keeping our large group organized and used an authoritative manner to get and keep our attention and focus but also used humour, which would lighten things up, and included the philosophy of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Such as the control of the thought waves (vrittis) in the mind - the five thought waves being right knowledge, wrong knowledge, verbal delusion, sleep, and memory. And prakriti, or nature, and how it relates to our senses: earth-smell, air- touch, water- taste, fire- sight, ether- hear. He explained the difference with Iyengar yoga in that we start with learning the asanas and bringing awareness to our bodies so we can mature and develop subconscious intelligence (buddhi). So he says ‘abhyasa’ (practise, effort, repetition) – the first means by Patanjali to restrain the fluctuations of conciousness. It is the activity of the gunas (sattvas, rajas, tamas), or qualities of nature that create these fluctuations. He also spoke of the five kleshas (afflictions that impede progress on the spiritual path), ego , ignorance, aversion, attatchment, and fear of death. The latter klesha he used as an example to our fear in an asana of being unstable.
At the beginning, Jawahar stressed the importance of keeping hair tied back and away so you don’t have to shake the head to flick it out of the way while adjusting into an asana. This action is very disturbing to the brain and nerves. He repeated every day how to sit properly for the invocation, on height if necessary, to ensure the knees are no higher than the groins. Practicing this way is important for preparation for pranayama.
There was a focus on the fundmentals of the basic asanas which I think showed us how much work we have to do before moving on to more advanced poses. So that being said, we worked a fair bit on standing poses and he was not going to let us get away with not getting our thigh parallel to the ground in Virabhadrasana I! We had had a small geometry lesson with some of the poses that may have changed some perspectives. I noticed there was also a focus on the chest - lifting and opening and taking the trapezius down to lift it more, making room for prana and moving it where it wouldn’t have went otherwise. Several times he mentioned using the arms and legs dynamically and simultaneously in asanas such as Tadasana. We learned to turn the palms out to soften the trapezius in Tadasana. Jawahar also spoke often about paying attention to the skin in asanas to see where we may need to make corrections. So if it’s rolling in the wrong direction or pinching or creasing that may be an indication of a needed correction. Each day ended with pranayama and he wanted us to bring our attention to our inner ears and nostrils and notice the natural breath and vibrations.
Being pregnant, I had some different experiences from the rest of the group. I experienced amazing pelvic opening with rope support in my standing poses and was told often not to suck in my abdomen but to ‘lift the baby up’! I learned that I was holding my breath at the start of some poses and was told sternly (which is very affective!) to ‘BREATHE’ (what a concept in yoga!). When I stood following rope Sirasana, Jawahar would immediately press my forehead against the wall and hold it there for several moments which I found significantly grounding after being inverted. At the end of each day I felt open and relaxed yet alert mentally and physically. As usual, after attending an Iyengar workshop, I feel inspired and humble, appreciating that I have so much more to learn.
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