Yoga helps. It heals. It gets rid of emotional blockages and psychological pain. It brings peace. It brings clarity. We’ve all heard this at one point or another. And I’m sure we all wonder – how?
Yoga helps by teaching us how to create space. Our demons reside in our joints. Achy, stiff joints are permanent residences for the demons of our past. To get rid of these demons we must lengthen our joints. Create space so that the joints can breathe and release the demons holding them tightly together. Once these demons are gone your joints will be free to move easily and pain free.
The same applies to backbends. Bending backward is so difficult for many of us because it requires (amongst other things) flexible back and shoulder muscles as well as a flexible hip joint. For a long time I wrestled with a stiff upper back. After years of practice I’ve managed to overcome this challenge….only to realize that I’m unable to access and push the hip joint up. And this will take a few more years to overcome. The point is that the only way to let go of years of deep rooted fears and blockages is to spend years creating space between the bones and muscles so that the tightly held demons are let go.
To overcome past samskaras it is important to crack yourself in two. For instance, when doing the Urdhvadhanurasana I’m almost trying to split myself into two, body below the sternum and above the sternum. For the next couple of years it will be focusing on body below the hip joint and above the hip joint. The practice of reaching within yourself to access an area which has been ‘sleeping’ automatically infuses this place with new life…and also enables you to release the ghosts of lives past.
At the Aga Khan palace, on a day we were free.
By Pune I mean the Ramamani Memorial Iyengar Yoga Institute (RIMYI). For Iyengar practitioners ‘Pune’ is synonymous with ‘RIMYI’. After studying for five years under my primary teacher here in Bangalore, I started going to Pune last year. I’ve written about my time in Pune in previous blogs. This blog is about the little known and surprising aspects of the RIMYI experience.
- RIMYI is the most famous institute for Iyengar yoga on the planet. It is the epicentre of all Iyengar yoga related activities in the world. There is a wait list to attend classes at the institute, and you may have to wait for up to a year or more to get a spot. To even apply for a spot you need to be studying Iyengar yoga for at least 5 years under a certified teacher. We reserve our seats and accommodation many months in advance. Sometimes years in advance.
- Everyone cries. Yes, RIMYI has a lot of grownups in tears. Teachers at the institute aren’t known to mince their words or to bother about the political correctness of their words. The experience can be intense and nerve wracking. What’s interesting is that despite quaking with fear, dread and nervousness on our mats, we still return year after year! I’ve broken down countless times. The experience can be very cathartic and just goes to show that the path of yoga takes your blood, sweat and tears.
- Teachers hit you. While we’re not being shoved into doors and walls, a sharp slap on the quads or the back of the knees to take our awareness to our ‘sleeping’ body parts is routine. I’ve had teachers slap my quads, the back of my knees, the sides of my thighs…even had my toes flicked painfully because, ironically, they weren’t relaxed enough. We joke that ‘BKS’ Iyengar stands for ‘Beat Kick Slap’ Iyengar!
So you see, studying at the best yoga school in the world is not a blissful-gentle-stretching-meditating-all-day experience. It’s actually a tremendous achievement to make it through and back again the next year!
At the Osho Gardens. I had Dengue during this time!
Sundays looked like this. A joke we will never forget!
Weekends at a farm, amidst nature, never get old.
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..
I’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.
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.
Mr. Iyengar’s own copy! Very exciting!!!