After spending another 5 days in Encinitas, CA practicing with Manju Jois, I am feeling very lucky, to say the least. We were blessed with sunshine and smiles the whole week through. We bonded together, learned a ton, and laughed A LOT – as you can probably guess from the photo below. It was glorious.
Pulled from my yoga journal, here is a little breakdown of how my own practice played out during the week.
Aside from Jamie, whom I met in November, the whole group is new to me. Coming from Chicago, Michigan, Florida, and elsewhere, this group is equally as awesome. Besides Manju, Ginetta is the main assisting teacher. She played tug-o-war with my arms so that I could feel the catch in Marichyasana D once again and enjoy a brief moment of catching in Supta Kurmasana — before the sweaty moment slipped away.
It was a lovely hour and a half of Primary Series and the first half of Intermediate. After practice, we chanted for a while, Manju told us stories from his past, and then we enjoyed some amazing home cooked food. I am looking forward to seeing how the magic will play out as we each journey through this week. Indeed, we are all so blessed for this experience.
After yesterday’s assists in Mari D and Supta Kurmasana, I had to revisit Primary Series again. The “catch” is magical when it happens, even with help. Ginetta came right over to help me out and, today, her cue to breathe was a little easier. She also gave me super sweet assists in Trikonasana A & B (on both sides). My spine loves her.
I split off after Buddha Konasana and moved to Intermediate Series. In the time allotted, I was able to practice through Ardha Matsendrasana before backbends, drop backs, and closing. We finished off the morning with some more chanting.
“Yoga is Geometry and Mathematics; It is a Science.”
Today was another lovely day of practice. I moved to Intermediate Series after completing the Virabhadrasana sequence. Manju stood behind me as I took on Kapotasana. He just watched and encouraged me. My fingers climbed my toes but didn’t go much farther than that. I considered repeating but quickly abandoned that thought and moved on. Being unattached to the outcome was liberating. Later on in the practice, Manju stood by as I entered Pincha Mayurasana. His presence provided me with confidence similar to kicking up near a wall. After my 5 breaths, he gently pulled my feet towards my head for scorpion. It felt intense yet oddly freeing. I found the line again before exiting out. Then came Karandavasana. I waited for Manju to finish with Jamie before kicking up. He helped me get my legs into padmasana, fold down, and return to upright. Once again, he pulled my feet towards my head into scorpion.
I managed to complete all of Intermediate albeit not all the poses were good. Leg behind the head (LBH) poses were just okay. These poses were on the easier side 1-2 years ago but not anymore. Non-attachment, right?
Last time I visited Manju in his home shala, the yogis each returned to the same place in the shala day after day. This week is different; we intentionally have moved about the room as if to keep Manju guessing who we are. Of course, he remembers us by our faces rather than where we place our mats. It is only each other that we fool.
I mention this only because I know how attached yoga practitioners can become to their “spot” in the room. And although each spot has a different feel, the practice unfolds just as it should no matter where we unroll our mats.
Today, I moved to Intermediate right after parsvottanasana which gave me just enough time for vishvamitrasana, vasisthasana, and drop backs before closing. The practice was much like Day 3, except I was treated to a glorious lift and swing in dhanurasana from Ginetta. Wowza! Manju assisted me in pincha mayurasana but took a hands-off approach to karandavasana. He suggested I cross my feet at the ankles and try to fold down part way. It was no good. I ended up using a headstand modification.
I love this group of ashtangis. It’s hard to believe that we only have 1 day left together.
Given it was the last day of these 5 days with Manju, I did Intermediate Series and moved to Third Series immediately following. I wanted to get through as much as I could. It was clear that LBH was not going to go as smoothly as earlier in the week. I gave bhairavasana a feeble attempt, then jumped forward in the sequence to kukkutasana. I am grateful that Manju isn’t a stickler about the sequence.
This relaxed approach should not be taken as an invitation to do what you want. He believes in teaching what is right for the individual’s body on a given day with the sequences as the foundation to build upon.
After the asana practice, we chanted and then did some pranayama before ending with stories and questions. Then, we were all given certificates to document our 30 hours of continuing education.
I don’t know when I will be back to practice with him again, but I do hope that it will be not too far into the future. In the meantime, I am looking forward to David Swenson’s visit to our studio in February. It won’t be as intimate as this experience, but I always enjoy practicing with David. His stories and approach is refreshing.