My last weekend in August was spent at a workshop with Manouso Manos, where I also got to receive my Iyengar teacher certificate.
On the first day, he went back to basics: the feet, especially the heels, and how a different weight division influences the rest of the body. While I had often heard about the four corners of the heel, he told us to visualize a circle around the heel and try to get the whole outer circle down to the floor in Tadasana. We did quite a few repetitions of this Tadasana throughout the class, without mats – feet on hard wood. I realized that it is very hard for me to feel the front of the right heel and the back of the left heel.
Then we worked on standing poses (Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana) with a focus (Aparigraha) on getting the back outer heel down, and keeping it down as we move the chest or the arms. It was difficult for me to keep my attention there, as I was trying not to overextend in my front leg – I’ve just discovered during self practice that I need to press the front of the front foot more in order to do that. Manousos brushed upon this as well, as he said in parallel to “the weight of the back foot tends to go to the front of the foot as we move the chest down” (since the focus point was the back outer heel), that the weight of the front foot tends to go to the heel.
We did Parivrtta Trikonasana as per Light on Yoga, so with a very short distance between the feet. Here, the focus was on the lower back – overall the whole class was designed to help with lower back issues. Manouso said that in Parivrtta Trikonasana, the lower back should be rounding like in a forward bend, and this opened a new window of understanding for me. He said that we often go down from stiffness or compactness and grinding of the hip joint, while the lower back should not be so rigid.
He also taught Downward Dog with a shorter distance, trying to get the inner heel to go to the outer heel (without moving the feet) so that the point under the ankle bone would go in, creating wrinkles there. Jury’s still out on that, I felt like it was a “touch and go” experience for me. However one thing I clearly did not understand was to bring the groins down towards the knees. Gotta revisit that instruction in a couple of years, probably.
We then moved on headstand and backbends, but I can’t remember anything really sticking out there. In headstand we were still working on the heel / ankle thing. For backbends we worked on getting the little toe and ball of the little toe down (Ustrasana and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).
More noticably, we did a version of Setu bandha I had never done before, with the block not under the tailbone but rather in the lower back – so that the buttocks are not on the brick but falling over, and the other end of the brick touches the lower ribs. Very intense pose, especially since he made it very clear that we should feel either one edge of the block or two but not the middle, for if our lower back was heavy on the middle of the block we would be assured of getting lower back pain. NOT an easy variation, which I felt was even harder for me because we were also doing this pose without mats in order to be able to slide the feet, but I then had no resistance from my feet to be able to curve over the block. #sweatyyogi
From Setu Bandha we moved to Shoulderstand, and finished the class with a Supta Padangusthasana II variation, first with the belt, then holding the bone just above the heel on the outside of the foot.