Monthly Archives

August 2017

Yoga

Paying Homage

August 24, 2017

POMELO_20170824110508_save

Last Sunday was BKS Iyengar’s punyatithi (death anniversary).  There was a function organised by the institute in which Abhijata spoke.

When I got to the institute (half an hour early), it was buzzing with activity.  Students were helping to arrange mats on the floor for all of us to sit on and technicians were taking care of the audio/video system.  The program started with the invocation to Patanjali and then Abhijata took the stage.

Her speech was a combination of personal memories of her grandfather, his approach to yoga, his method of teaching, his commitment to the subject and his belief system.  A nice little addition was the re-enactment of scenes from BKS Iyegnar’s classes, where the rest of the teachers went up on stage and pretended to be students as Guruji taught.  Abhijata did her best impersonation of the disciplinarian Guru while we tried to imagine our teachers in the plight that we so often find ourselves in.

POMELO_20170824110406_save

What I really liked about Abhijata’s speech was how she wove the lessons learned with personal anecdotes.  When talking about how Iyengar yoga helps us in cultivating a sense of peace or understanding who we really are, she said the Guruji had once said ‘My sole and soul is the same.’  Meaning that it is through the understanding and awareness of the gross body that he was able to cultivate insight.  You need to work so hard, make your body so potent that you can escape gravity.  Although anatomy is a rigid structure, you can’t pinpoint where the body ends and mind begins.  Your inner working has to be revealed through your outer self.

She also said that yoga is a living art.  Asana is a metaphor for life.  Yoga teaches you how to navigate through problems in life.    Chitta vritti has to come so that you can learn how to deal with it.  Action can’t guide, reflection does.  The prakriti has infinite potential, so it is possible to change our lives.  As an analogy think of a farmer laying the groundwork for his crops.  He does his best without thinking of the mechanics of how the seeds will sprout.  He lays the groundwork and the seeds sprout on their own.  Similarly, we must put in the practice, and everything else will also fall in place.

Life is to live.  Your sensitivity to yourself and the world around you increases through the practice of yoga, and this heightened sensitivity helps you to solve your problems.  For this your tapas has to have fire.  Your practice should have drive, passion and zeal.

It was fitting then that Abhijata ended her speech a little teary eyed and saying ‘He taught me how to live.’

 

POMELO_20170824110443_save

Recounting experiences with BKS Iyengar

 

Yoga

Notes From Pranayama Class

August 17, 2017

A valuable addition to my schedule this year are the Pranayama classes.  To the masses Pranayama consists of vigorous breathing patterns to be done for 10 minutes daily and designed to keep your skin glowing, hair shiny and body young.  Unlike the heavy panting/wheezing breathing we see recommended on many a popular TV show, here Pranayama is all about subtlety.

POMELO_20170727201317_save

I had my third pranayama class last night and so far all the classes have followed a fixed pattern.  We’ve spent most of the class in the Supta Swastikasana/Savasana and almost played with the breath.  While we try to gently ‘tame’ and understand the breath, Devki reiterates why it is important to build a solid foundation for pranayama practice.

Yesterday she used the example of a clay pot.  If the pot isn’t properly baked, then anyIMG_20170728_205903_201 amount of water you put into it won’t stay in it.  Similarly our bodies have to be ready for Pranayama for it to be effective and not harm us.  Devki said that many times students ask her why we aren’t doing seated pranayama.  The reason is that most of us aren’t able to maintain a straight spine throughout the practice.  With a crooked spine the breath is constricted and the organs of breath are uncomfortable.  (BKS Iyengar has said:  Crooked body crooked mind.)  The organs of breath need to be disciplined before we can start to control the breath.  For this reason we spend almost 90% of the class in a supine position using bolsters and blankets.

POMELO_20170817210148_saveAs we are settled in our positions with bolsters and blankets, Devki talks us through what we are doing and the importance of it.  In yesterday’s class she said something relevant to what I wrote about in my previous blog.  I received a comment on that blog about the relationship of backbends to emotions.  (Incidentally, backbends are also invigorating and energizing.  I missed practicing them today and I’m yawning despite the cup of coffee that I’ve fixed for myself.  On the bright side, not in tears or any other depressing mood.)  She said that there are emotional granthis (knots) in our thoracic spine.  The aim of asana and pranayama is to remove these granthis from our bodies.  Whether these granthis are in the brain or in the heart, we need to eliminate them to move forward in our yogic journeys.  These granthis are not just of memories accumulated in this lifetime, but memories of several lifetimes.  There are many who believe that we inherit these memories from our parents and ancestors, and the practice of yoga digs deep to rid us of these blocks.  Granthis are also called samskaras.)

When we practice backbends, it is these granthis that we are confronting.  By opening upPOMELO_20170817205505_save the chest, we allow a metaphorical ‘airing out’ of stale and painful emotions.  Everything that happens to us results in shaping our world view and behaviour.  Sometimes what happens to us is painful and unfair.  Unfortunately, these events make an imprint in our minds and effect our behaviour.  We sometimes never let go of painful memories and they fester in our subconscious brain and almost always result in psychosomatic pain.

In the study of yoga, backbends come after a certain level of proficiency and practice.  I feel this is for two reasons.  The first reason is that our body has to have a certain level of strength and flexibility before we can start more challenging body work.  The other reason is that we need a certain amount of mental clarity and maturity to deal with the emotions that will surface.

‘Bending backward’ also means going out of your way to accommodate a person or a situation.  It implies putting yourself on the backburner.  If you analyse the quality of your backbends, it might give you insight into how much you allow others to influence your life, or how assertive/aggressive you are about yourself and your opinions.

POMELO_20170721044702_save

 

 

Travel Yoga

RIMYI – The Story So Far

August 15, 2017

POMELO_20170814211700_save

My third week here in Pune has begun and I think I can finally get my thoughts together to put into a blog.  They’ve given us a day off and I thought a mid-week break is a great time to do some laundry, catch up on sleep and write this blog entry.

First things first: to my surprise and delight I have been put into the Intermediate 2 classes, which is a level above what I was in last year.  And for this reason I think I’m finding everything a bit overwhelming.  Or at least I have been so far, perhaps this week will be better..

POMELO_20170814212044_saveI’m staying at the same place I stayed in last time.  For some reason, ever since I got here, I’ve been unable to get a restful sleep.  When you spend a lot of time upside down during the day, you just feel like crawling into bed.  There have been times when I felt like I should sleep during the day, but strangely, I wouldn’t be able to!  Then one day while walking home after a super long self-practice session, I realized what was happening.  The backbends that I have been practicing daily are the culprits.  I’ve observed that whenever I practice backbends, I am an emotional wreck for a while.  It’s not something that I can distract myself from with inane stuff on Netflix.  It’s a bit more serious.  And it happens to a lot of other people as well.  When you bend backward, your emotional centre is exposed and open.  Sometimes this causes the flood gates to open.  You remember insignificant things and start to feel bad about them.  Or events that you thought you’d already dealt with come to the fore and you realise that things aren’t ok.  It’s a barrage of emotion that erupt and possess you and bring you to tears.  But if it’s an emotional detox, then it’s probably good to get this stuff out of your system to clean up your space.  So despite the fact that I absolutely dread backbends, I keep pushing through.  I figure that once I’m done purging all this emotion I’ll be able to sleep better.  At least I hope so.  Time will tell.

What I like about the classes I’m taking this year is that we are being taught to look at asanas from a higher vantage point.  Instead of the technicalities of asanas, we are being guided on the syntax and semantics of our approach to yoga.  I feel this helps in consolidating asana practice with the other limbs of yoga.  And since I’m making it a point to spend some time at the library, I’m able to focus on the subject as a whole, instead of just the asana bit of it.

POMELO_20170814211900_save

I’m always reading something yoga related.  Personal accounts of yoga journeys are my favorites.  I had been meaning to read Elizabeth Kadetsky’s ‘First There is a Mountain’ every since I saw it on Amazon.  I found it in the RIMYI library.  Although the book is a bit long-winded, I feel a lot of students who are on a quest for ‘something more’ will find this book insightful.  Now that I’m done with this one, I’ve started reading the first volume of ‘Astadala Yogamala’ which is comprehensive collection of BKS Iyengar’s speeches and articles through his entire career.  To read him in his own words is to maybe come a little bit closer to the mind of the genius.

 

POMELO_20170814212424_save

Mr. Iyengar’s own copy!  Very exciting!!!