Thursday, January 28, 2010

I do not really know the audience of this blog but I guess that most of you practice Adho Mukha Svanasana at least a couple of times a week....meaning to say that it does not matter to hear similarities in stories about the life in Pune from me. Each experience is unique and beholds the promise of renewed inspiration.
I am here almost 4 weeks now, long enough to have passed the abdominal and nasal stress test. Passed yes, meaning that my immune system is up for the battle. However the little guys (germs) are lurking everywhere and constant vigilance is in place. I am convinced that my "icanbreathe" mask and the GSE extract are of major importance to the survival in Pune. It is my 3rd time here and the pollution is oppressive to say the least. More cars than ever fill the streets and even the relative peace at Guruji's school is disturbed since FC road has been turned into a one way road. Last night's restorative class was a sound sculpture of sneezes, scrapings and nose blows. So be prepared you blog readers!
Studying In Pune with the family is a huge treat, privilege and indeed also a deep experience of belonging. All the practice, all the teachings from back home, from past years and years to follow, have their root here. So no matter what our cultural background is,here we meet at the mula, the root and we form a community, a group of people sharing the common language of yoga under the auspices of the Iyengar family. We are already yoked simply by walking through the gate of the school.....I know that you, stranger from the other side of the world, practice and love the same art as I do. Therefore: "Namaskar!"
Entering the school (it feels more like a school than an institute to me) almost each day is a special experience: material life stands still here and there is something of a 'higher' atmosphere as if the air molecules inside here are ever containing the essence of years of hard work, sweat, spiritual break- through moments and yogic vibrations.
Rooms are bare, minimally outfitted and the bathrooms are from the first day of earth's existence. The architecture of the building is interesting, slightly disorienting with hidden rooms and wings. Shri Hanuman presides over the top. Everything you touch has a function, there is nothing superfluous. Upstairs is the great yoga room and this room gets filled to the max with students or as we know in good Iyengar style: sometimes there are more props than students, sometimes more students than props. However: this is our school. Guruji practices with us most mornings and Geetaji comes in late morning. This again illustrates the sense of community that I find deeply moving: we are all in the same room, we are all one in yoga.
During practice times Guruji is practicing with us; sometimes he retreats into his own poses, sometimes he teaches to whomever is in front of him and many times he is simply teaching while leaning against the horse. Always sharp, seeing everything. He also instructs senior teachers to perform in front of him or for them to correct another student, while he observes. He does not hesitate to ask the confrontational question: 'so if you don't know the pose yourself, how can you teach it?'. He is investigating how your mind works. How often do we think that we know certain asanas? How often do we assume that a senior teacher knows more than a junior teacher? To Guruji we are all the same. He kicks all pillars away that one has built their own yoga institution on and consequently your ideas and beliefs are under direct scrutiny and exposure.
In order to practice yoga we have to come level with humility and innocence as they bring about respect for the subject as well as purity and curiosity.
Knowing all the points that create a perfect asana or having the technical ability to perform a perfect asana........this knowing still consists of the three gunas and is therefore fluctuating knowledge. Guruji wants us to be humble and innocent in order to closely observe how the intelligence penetrates the body.
He asks us: what is heavy? what is light? where is thickness? where is thinness? where is the skin white or red? how does the skin move? did any change happen? did you observe it? why did you not do it? how is it moving? which is the direction? when you press the big toe...what is the change all over, do you see it?
This very questioning brings the alertness and curiosity into the practice. It means also that we have to try things to see if they work, that we have to repeat and refine in order to have that intelligence moving everywhere.
Similarly, Geeta has asked us this month to use the right tools to enable the deepening of the asana. We have been working with the tools of movement and repetition during many classes this month. Pumping, Pushing, Rolling, Swinging and Throwing (as in throwing the trunk sideways in Parivtitta Janu Sirsasana). These tools take us out of the classic way of entering and exiting a poses and give new information. Only if we ask ourselves afterwards: did something happen, is there a difference, does the pose come better? Otherwise it is mindless doing, or as Prashantji would say: 'Okay if you can't help it , go ahead and do your exercises!'
He said it very well too: frequency and repetition within asana is very important for the advanced practitioner.....otherwise there can be no exploration.

So here I am. Navigating and tending to the mind behind the practice. Puna itself serving as a huge metaphor for cittavritti. All the dust, the sweeping, the honking, the crowds, the fumes.......and then suddenly, a smile of a girl in a bright pink dress, the sight of beautiful red apples perfectly arranged on an old cart, orange flowers falling from a tree, the scent of agarbattis and the sound of a prayer bell........ Gems are here to be caught.

Thank you dear Iyengar family for your tremendous hospitality.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

a moment from Pune

dear Everyone Namaskar!

It has been a delightfully dense learning in the embrace of the Iyengars; so much is packed in each ray of guidance they shine upon us, Geetaji and Prashantji in formal class, Guruji Iyengar in wonderful moments that you chance upon in your goings and comings in the Institute. One such moment was a late afternoon that I came to the Institue, and happened upon a gathering of Russian visitors, students of Iyengar yoga who were interviewing Mr. Iyengar. I promptly sat down amongst them and listened. I share with you some of these gems that I was able to note down...:

"art is infinite; it is like an ocean. Our minds are limited. .. As you go on doing, new gates open, reach that level as far as possible.

On the future and the past:
"I never look at the past nor the future. Only the present. The moment is stable, so I am stable. I will not get caught in the cycle of movement. Do you call the river, past, present, future? The river flows to the sea. . death is the culmination of the river going to the sea..

"If you get in frame of mind 'I want this', what is coming, you don't see. You make a frame and you don't know the content. Don't have a frame! That is called as without mind... the mind's dual role: the soul and the senses of perception - it [the mind] doesn't take you here and there, you don't sink nor swim. Yoga makes the dual mind into a single mind through asanas."

On the role of the teacher:
"A teacher should be a student, learn from students the mistakes; be a learner; practice at home why mistakes are made; correct them experientially; how students go wrong, correct, play with your body - take the shape and then correct it - learn how to shift the intelligence there - then guide. Be a learner like the raw student who does innocently - mind is innocent, you do calculatedly!"

On practice:
"Anatomy of the asana and anatomy of the human body - learn to synchronise the two. Don't disturb the anatomy of the body".

"Steps to clean the mind: experiential state that cannot be explained; experience = look!

"Make the intelligence to feel each and every part.

"Trace the avenues in the body so that the intelligence can move through; trace the intelligence in par with the body - evenly : 'sthira shukham asanam'".

You will find it delightful to know that Mr. Iyengar corrected the alignment of one of his students right there and then, the gentleman was in full street clothes, long pants and button down shirt: but Mr. Iyengar corrected the direction of the lift of the skin of his thighs and calfs to correct his Tadasana! Later he corrected the shape of his knees in Virasana, without ever looking at him straight on = the student was sitting on the floor in virasana right next to him (Guruji's left); not once did he look at the student, but saw all misalignments and by correcting the positioning of the buttuck bones, the direction of the calf muscle, he corrected this man's virasana! A delight was this to witness!

I wish everyone an opportunity to visit Pune too.

with blessings and love