Three days into India and I am finally feeling at home. The first two days were disorienting because the main hall at RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute) was closed due to an international convening of Senior Teachers to discuss certification and assessment. This meant no classes and no practice time.
What? That’s all we come to Pune to do. On top of all that, the basement library, where I loved spending afternoons studying in the same room as Guruji, taking notes from vintage volumes as well as the newest releases, was closed. After Guruji passed last year, the librarian, the main reason for his service no longer on this planet, left his position. What’s an out-of-town sadhaka (practitioner) to do?
Connecting with old friends, we spent the first two days practicing together in each others’ flats, making do with minimal props and improvising, running errands, sharing yoga buzz, and comparing notes, yoga geek-style.
All that was rewarding, but today, I finally got to settle into that old Pune feeling. I woke up pre-dawn to get to 7am class with Prashant Iyengar, spent the day studying and practicing some more, then came back at 6pm for a class with Raya. That Pune feeling is a sense of being bone-tired, but inspired, detoxed, and fresh. It means staying in a pose almost to the point of collapse, asking yourself if maybe you are finally too old for this bullshit, and then experiencing a Śavāsana so profound it compensates for your week of jet lag. It means coming home and your roommates have palak dal (spinach lentil soup) and papad (chick pea crisps) on the table already. Then you rinse yourself in the hot shower, take some notes from your classes, then go to sleep on that rock-hard, thin Indian mattress that you love.
Prashantji was in fine form for the sunrise class, as his most jovial, poetic, humorous self. He gave us a choice of several poses to begin: rope Sirsasana, Sirsasana in the center, low rope Adho Mukha Śvanāsana, or Utthita Parṣva Hasta Padanguṣthāsana (extended leg to side). Then he asked us to choose an “index pose”—a pose to come back to repeatedly, for different purposes.
Prashantji asked us to consider not “doing” the pose, but “using” the pose for particular ends. We used the index pose to address gastroenterological conditions, mind/brain conditions, breath conditions, etc.
He exhorted us to use yoga in milligrams and milliliters, applying the metaphor of food. We might serve a large bowl of popcorn, but we would not consume cashews in that amount. Yoga, as such, is a concentrated form of medicine. He explained that this is why he does not teach intensives—it would not be appropriate in such large quantities. There were many more poetic gems that in my sleep-deprived state I only caught half-wind of, but I look forward to a full month of teachings.
The evening class was another experience altogether. Although I think of Raya as a youngster, remembering him in 2005, my first visit to RIMYI, as a long-haired, motorcycle-touring free spirit, he is actually now a husband and father and established yoga teacher. His style of teaching, as always, is very youthful and high-energy.
We went quickly from pose to pose, from sitting to standing, back to sitting, then lying, then jumping up to our feet. He was applying actions from poses like Parivṛtta Upaviṣṭa Koṇāsana and Parivṛtta Jānu Śīrṣāsana, which we held seemingly forever, as we leaped (or crawled or whatever it took) to our feet into Utthita Trikoṇāsana and Pārśvakoṇāsana. Raya even applied the trunk of Anantāsana to these poses, challenging us to keep the imprints from the lying and seated poses into the standing poses.
I am basking in that Pune feeling, eager for another day of practice and study, looking forward to both āsana and prāṇāyāma classes tonight. More later!
And do practice on your own today. Why not start with a pose you love, work up to a pose that challenges you, then end with a soothing pose? Practice for 10 minutes for 30 minutes or 60 minutes, or whatever you can manage.