pc: Joel Koechlin
Until today I had been lucky to avoid getting drenched in Pune’s sudden downpours. Today I went out for lunch with another and on our walk home the pleasant drizzle steadily and surely grew into a monstrous torrent. Too much for my little umbrella to handle. My capris were all wet as I pulled the umbrella low over my head and waded through the veritable rivers that the streets had become. As I walked I noticed the cobbler who was calmly trying to prevent his entire business being washed away in the rain. I noticed the fruit and vegetable wallahs covering their carts with waterproof sheets. I noticed the coconut bhaiyya had shut shop. I crossed the road and got on the sidewalk of the Agriculture college.
When I have the 7 am class I walk across someone sleeping on this sidewalk. This person is always wrapped head to toe in a blanket. I’ve never seen him stirring in his sleep. The early morning traffic doesn’t seem to bother him. When it rains he props an umbrella up and hopefully it keeps (at least) his torso dry. Once when I was walking to class (in the middle of the day) a yellow snake slithered out from the bushes and, perhaps realizing that it had lost it’s way, slithered back into the bushes. Slimy serpents don’t seem to bother this person. I’ve seen him there after a night of nonstop torrential rain, after a hot and humid night, after the Ganpati celebrations, on a Monday morning, on a Saturday morning…
To renounce everything and find peace in a remote cave in the Himalayas is easy. To stay ethical and honourable in the absence of temptation is no big deal. If we want to quieten the chitta, we must accept the noise that is creating the vrittis. If we want some rest, we must get it despite the traffic, fear of snakes, the rain or the heat. If we need to find peace, we must do so in the midst of chaos. Wrapped in a threadbare blanket under a tattered umbrella. Because that’s where we need it the most.
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!!!