Abhijata and Guruji

Abhi’s classes are wonderful. I wish we had more classes with her. She has the fiery nature, passion, clear instruction, and humor of her grandfather.

When I arrived in Pune, she was still on her honeymoon and went directly to China with Guruji. So, I’ve had only two classes with her.

During the Saturday morning women’s class she made us work on the proper action in the shoulders and legs in Adho mukha svanasana. She wanted us to become aware of action of the knees. Both sides of the knee have to move back. In all of us, one side of the knee has a tendency to either move more forward or back. As students we have to look and create the appropriate action. She had us press the base of the palms into the floor, lift the fingers and take the inner groins back. I found this action very helpful. She had us take the heels up and stretch the outer edge of the feet straight back (lengthening the outer foot) and slowly take the heels down. This action engages the thighs and moves them back.

In Prasarita padottanasana she had us take the outer bone of the feet and press them down strongly so the inner arch would lift. Then she asked us to roll the inner groins back. We used our hands to help get this action of the groins. This encourages the torso to release downward.

In Sirsasana, I moved toward the wall near Guruji. Sirsasana has always been my nemesis and I knew being near Guruji would get me feedback. He said something to the effect of, “Fix her.”

I know in Sirsasana my floating ribs protrude forward and my pubis drops. However, I can’t seem to fix it without thrusting my thighs forward. Two assistants are at my side, one adjusting my ribs and the other adjusting my legs. I knew what Guruji wanted me to do but my body just couldn’t make the connection.

Today in the women’s class again Abhi worked on the actions in Adho mukha svanasana taking the inner groin back but also finding which side is dull. What side is more forward, which eye is more forward, what armpit is more forward….I don’t know. Does everyone else feel that inaction in their body? I struggle to see these connections and to feel them in my body. Sometimes I do fleetingly, sometimes I don’t.

Guruji was in a fiery mood. He said to the class, “You listen but then you do what you want! In China they listen and then they do! Here I am ashamed!”

I understand his frustration. He said our brains get in the way of our action and we need to put our brain in our back pockets.

He became fiery again when we were working on Prasarita padottanasana. Abhi used an analogy. She told us our tailbone is the tail of a plane and our head and shoulders are the front of the plane. When a plane takes off the tail stays down and the front lifts. He wants us to find this action in this pose. “Keep the tailbone down and move the lower flesh of the buttocks straight back, bend the arms and bring the shoulders forward to lengthen the latissimus dorsi muscles, lift the head and straighten the arms.”

He yelled, “Why don’t you do this! If you want to do what you want, why don’t you stay home? Why do you come to Pune? So you can say you have been to Pune?”


Abhi instructs us again and I start to feel the action.

“How is it now?” He asks Abhi.

“It is better.” She says.

Again I play with this action to find the connection he is looking for – it’s coming.

Now it is time for Sirsasana and I know Guruji is in a fiery mood and consider not going to my spot near him. But I came here to learn, so up I go.

I hear him yell for an assistant to adjust a student in the middle of the room. The student falters and he yells, “You have no sense of direction. Go to the wall.”

Now his focus is on me. “You with your ego go with that student. Raya, show them what to do.”

Raya takes us to a square column and places his hands on either side of the column with the base of his palms touching and the forearms in Sirsasana position.

sirsasana-at-a-columnHe tells me to do this and to come up with one leg at a time. He instructs me to bring the inner ankles to either side of the column. Then instructs me to take the entire spine onto the pointed edge of the column.

WOW. How different is that! So this is what Sirsasana is supposed to feel like!

Guruji is not done with me yet. “Her shoulders are dropping.” Press the wrists down, Raya instructs, and lift the shoulders.

This action was a little more difficult for me to access but now I know what I need to do to improve! It was an enlightening instruction.

Some people are offended by Guruji’s harsh words but I just embrace them, work on the connections he is asking us to make, and use them to grow in my practice.

About EssentialYoga Studio

Roberta Dell'Anno E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga for Scoliosis Trainer Owner EssentialYoga Studio. Roberta has been practicing yoga since 1988 and teaching yoga since 2004. She has studied extensively under master yoga teachers Patricia Walden, Zoë Stewart, Sri Arun H.S., Elise Browning Miller, and others. She completed a two year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training program with Sr. Iyengar Teacher, Peentz Dubble in June 2017. Roberta has studied yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Memorial Institute in Pune, India during June 2011, February 2014, attended Abhijata's 2-week intensive in Pune, India, December 2016 and BKS Iyengar's Centenary 10-day intensive taught by Prashantji & Geetaji, December 2018. She completed training and certification with Elise Browning Miller as a 'Yoga for Scoliosis' instructor in 2014, completed a 500 hour Hatha Yoga Certification program with AURA Wellness Center in 2005 and is registered with Yoga Alliance as an E-RYT 500. She has been a Certified Meditation Teacher since June 2007 and an Usui Reiki Practitioner since 1989. The studio provides individual & specialized privates, semi-privates, group private sessions, and yoga workshops. Roberta conducts local and out of town workshops. She specializes in yoga for scoliosis and back care. She uses props to help students and teachers of all levels transform their backbends, twists, standing and seated postures, as well as inversions like sarvangasana (shoulderstand). She also works with individuals who have physical challenges, specifically individuals with Multiple Sclerosis, CMT, Parkinson's Disease, scoliosis, and amputees in private, semi-private and group sessions.​​​
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2 Responses to Abhijata and Guruji

  1. Lona O'Connor says:

    roberta, you are very brave — and very right about steeling yourself to take criticism from the master! i have been struggling with headstand too and figured out on my own to balance against the OUTSIDE corner of a wall, but now i will try placing my ankles in the position you suggested. thanks!

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