This September, I fulfilled my dream of going to Pune India to study at the Iyengar Yoga Institute (RIMYI). Getting to Pune, India was like arriving on another planet. I was filled with so much excitement, and apprehension. I had a few days to get used to the jet lag and wander around before starting class at the Institute. These days were filled with awe, getting used to the beautiful chaos that India is.
I arrived during the 10 day mourning period after Iyengar’s death. My first weekend was filled with the festivities celebrating his life. There were teachers and students from all over the world who came to pay their respects. It was a beautiful weekend filled with tears, feasts, stories of his life, chanting, and pure celebration. After the weekend people kept asking me if I had been there for his funeral. I was taken aback when I realized, ‘That was a funeral!?” It was the most beautiful celebration of life I had ever experienced. It was the first real taste I experienced of the difference in Indian culture. After the 13th day of mourning, classes were back in full swing.
This is what a common day at RIMYI/Pune looks like:
6am: wake up to the sound of squawking birds to shower and drink tea
7am-9am: go to Prashntji’s (Iyengar’s son) class – his classes involve asana, but with no instruction on the asana – only instruction and philosophy about the breath and life
Friday night: Pranayama with Navaz – the best pranayama I have ever done! Her instruction made it all make sense.
I would observe lower level classes, and got to witness the brilliant teaching of all of the teachers there. Amazing to see the ones closest to Guruji teach. The Indian way of teaching is much faster and sterner then the American version
The rest of the day is free! Lots of free time I filled with eating the most amazing food on the planet (my favorite – Charus or Vashali for dosas), reading lots of books, seeing Ayurvedic practitioners, hanging out with new friends and shopping!
My time in Pune was the most centered, grounded and sane I have ever felt in my body and mind. I owe it to the yoga – 4-5 hours of yoga a day! In the month I never even learned a new pose. We spent time going so deep in the basic Level 1 and Level 2 poses. (Except for back bend week!)
I purely enjoyed my whole time in Pune. Yes the pollution was hard to handle, along with the craziness of India – but even these things I learned to love and accept. As soon as I left India I realized it is my favorite place on earth. The next time I return it will feel like coming home.
I was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 12, and thought little about it through my teenage years and adulthood. In my early 20s my body started to ache – my hips always hurt as well as my back. During those years I was also yearning for a spiritual practice of some sort. I first found Kundalini Yoga and thought to myself, “I really like this yoga thing!” I tried out a few more Kundalini classes but found they hurt my back more. I tried Hatha, and Vinyasa as well. I had so many questions for those teachers! – Why does my right hip pop? Why does my backache? I would always be met with a blank stare.
In 2007 at age 24 I walked into my first Iyengar class in Gunnison, CO. It was my first time truly opening my body. We worked on opening the chest and the teacher even helped me into my first headstand. While in a forward bend she noticed my scoliosis. She whispered to me that I needed to unlearn all the yoga I had learned and start over. I was in awe to say the least after that first class. I became hooked right away, going 2-4 times a week, sometimes twice in one day. My second to third class I was so touched by the practice that I swore to myself that someday I would be an Iyengar Yoga teacher.
For years as I moved around the country; I would only move to places that had Iyengar Yoga studios. I found my body opening in ways I never knew possible. My back and hip pain started going away and I stood so much taller. Not only did I notice physical differences but also deep internal changes. I was calmer, more peaceful. I felt content and happy. I started changing my health in many ways, and discovered the spiritual path I had been looking for.
Now, 9 years later I am a certified Iyengar teacher, I have been to India twice to study with the Iyengar’s and plan to go yearly. I love the practice because there is always something to learn – there is always the room to go deeper. It is a lifelong (possibly lifetimes) journey. My teachers inspire me in tremendous ways. They actually have answers to my questions, and push me past my conceived limitations. I hope to inspire my students in the same way.
I am forever grateful to BKS Iyengar for his teachings.
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