Perhaps where I feel most at home is in international terminals of airports. Born in Korea and raised in Hawaii, I’ve never felt quite at home on “the mainland.” Ever the outsider, at the Air India gate at O’Hare I am nevertheless quite comfortable, sitting on the floor and eating my pesto and avocado and sliced mango with bamboo chopsticks (brought from home, not purchased in the terminal). I feel at ease with brown people speaking languages other than English, their clothes and shoes and behavior a bit out of the American mainstream.
Since the Mumbai bombing, India has been trying to impose order on its innate chaos. Before 2009 I rarely saw queues of Indian people, only mobs. The lack of queues bothered me until I realized the mob was a feminine use of time and space, a sort of resistance to the Protestant ethic. Instead of taking your turn and earning your right, the person most in need got her way, and the crowd allowed it. But now at the gate, the airport staff insists on lining us up single-file.
Our connecting flight is delayed out of uber-efficient Frankfort, and we arrive in the Mumbai rain near midnight. The airport, undergoing remodeling since at least my first trip to India in July 2005, is finally complete and unrecognizable. Gone are the Gandhi posters in baggage claim. But just as always, as soon as I step out, my glasses fog up from the heat and humidity. Ahhhh, India.
I’m determined to stay awake on the car ride to Pune so I can get a solid night’s sleep and get over the jet lag. This is no problem since my driver passes trucks from every which direction, including the shoulder, honking away. I arrive at my apartment and settle into bed around 3am, only to be awakened at dawn with the most raucous bird songs imaginable. I wish I could tell you all the parts comprising this celebratory, orchestral cacophony.
I arrive at the Iyengar Institute and learn that Geeta Iyengar, the grand matriarch of the Iyengar tradition (daughter of BKS) will not be teaching this month, for health reasons. This is quite troubling, but inevitable, as she has been threatening to retire for some time now. Send positive and healing thoughts and prayers to Geetaji! To compensate for her absence, we international students are invited to take all of Prashant Iyengar’s (son of BKS) classes in addition to Geetaji’s subbed classes.
So far I have taken 4 classes, asana with Prashant, Pranayama with Prashant, asana with Raya, and asana with Abhijata (BKS’s granddaughter). Here are a few tidbits from these very good classes:
Abhi, with Guruji (BKS Iyengar) practicing on the side and feeding her instructions: Tadasana is Adho Mukha Sirsasana (upside down head balance). Just as we take care of our necks in Sirsasana, we must be as mindful of our necks in Tadasana. Draw the cervical spine toward the throat without hardening the throat or thrusting the chin.
Prashant: Viloma exhales can be from any part of the body. What happens when you take Viloma exhales all from the abdomen? What happens if you exhales from bottom to top instead of top to bottom? What about bottom, top, then middle, etc? We must be seekers and not simply repeaters of what is given to us.
Raya: Drop the trapezium down in Tadasana as if you’re throwing it off a cliff. In the beginning we must use effort to do this, but eventually it has to happen effortlessly, otherwise we simply harden. Same with releasing the head down in Uttanasana.
More next week.