This morning Geeta Iyengar died. I received the news as I was waiting for my connecting flight in Beijing, China. The initial feelings of- dis-belief, shock, then the tears - the frantic searching for a flight back to Pune so I could be with my community… and then came the surrender through my yoga practice in the airport dedicated to Geetaji.
Before I arrived to India I read blogs talking about how Geeta kept mentioning death, even saying she would stay alive for the Centenary celebrations and then she would go. I arrived at the start of November, and when I had my first class with her I was amazed… she looked great! Her fire and passion were stronger than ever, how could this woman be talking about death?
The month of a November was amazing. We had a group of 80 Indonesians at the institute and Geeta was in her true essence. Laughing, yelling, teaching in such a pure way. She taught me so much about my neck injury and how to work with it. She stressed strongly the opening of the eyes - top half of the eye looking up - to rid yourself of depression, bring lightness to the body, and to move the cervical in. Throughout November and also in the intensive she spoke of death and abinivesha (fear of death/clinging to life) throughout her classes. “Go! Move! Twist! As if you are going to die! Let go of the fear! Let your neck die!” She used her voice to move us to places we didn’t think we could go - she made us face our edge and plow right through it.
She was SO happy when Guruji’s 101 year old student came to visit the intensive. She kept saying with a huge smile, “I am really, really happy you are here.” In her sweet, sweet voice. The 101 year old student did a supported Sirsasana (headstand), which she claimed he could stay in for 15 minutes. Then she told us, “See! He has no fear! All of you are filled with fear. Now go up and make him proud! Let go of the fear.”
During the 5 days of her teaching at the intensive she gave SO much of herself. Hours and hours of teaching and talking. The last 6 weeks she would stop the class a lot and SHOW us how to see a problem in someone’s body and how to fix it. The life that she exuded made me so happy because I was convinced she would be with us for a least a couple more years. I was already planning my trip back next year to study with her and be here for her 75th birthday.
She laughed at us going back in our past and explaining all of our injuries and pains. She said, “If I were to do that, where would I begin!? Nephritis at age 8…” Geetaji had many ailments and issues since she was young, and we were so blessed to have her as long as we did. She was her father’s best student and our greatest teacher.
During the Centenary birthday celebrations I was filled with emotion. One of the feelings was being so sad I was not 20-30 years older. That I missed Guruji (the first time I came to India was 10 days after his death), I missed him in the flesh and his direct teachings - I grieve this. Then the gratitude that I was able to study with Geetaji. In November/December 2015, and November/December 2018. There was a hunger and passion to get back to Pune and study with her as much as I could before she went…. and now she has gone, peacefully.
This woman devoted her entire life to yoga and teaching. She never married - she told us she never wanted to - from a young age she knew she wanted to devote everything to yoga. She is responsible for making yoga more accessible for women, and she has added SO much to her father’s work. She gave herself graciously, fearlessly, intensely, lovingly, with the deepest eyes I have ever looked in to.
This last month she taught us about how not to cry. When first reading that statement you may feel opposition to it. From what I learned as someone who does cry a lot: When you cry your chest closes, your head moves down, and your cervical protrudes - all the traits for depression and neck problems. To not cry lift the chest, open the eyes, and look up. Geetaji did not cry when her mother or father died. She has said she has wanted to cry, but the tears won’t come. I think about what she would say to me as she sees me crying because of her death. I imagine she would say something like, “Don’t cry! Lift your chest and move your cervical in. I am always with you. Practice.”
My practice has become something even deeper today. A devotion to my teachers that have passed - it has taken on new and deeper meaning. How blessed are we to have walked and practiced in the same time as these teachers. She will forever be in my heart.
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