Description of a Class

When you register at RIMYI, you pay your fees for the month and any extra for observing classes (you can observe and take notes for any of the timetabled classes, including the remedial/medical classes). You are given a personal timetable of classes you will be attending during the month plus your allotted practice times. If it is your first time studying at Pune, this will be slightly different than for someone who is more experienced. As this was my third visit, and I’ve done more years Iyengar yoga now, I was put in the main group so that means, 3 times at 7am with Prashant Iyengar, twice with Geeta Iyengar at 9.30am and once with Geeta or Navaz for Pranayama. Each class is for two hours and you are expected to attend the practice sessions which are for 3 hours every day except Sundays.

RIMYI Timetable

When you enter the hall, as a first timer it can be quite intimidating, not knowing what to do, what props to take etc. You simply just have to find a space and look to see what other more experienced people are doing and follow their lead. With up to 100 people in each class, there are certain rules and procedures that have to be followed to keep everything running smoothly and for health & safety, care of props, respect for others etc etc.  The two main teachers and directors of RIMYI are Geeta and Prashant Iyengar and other classes are conducted by Abhijata, BKS Iyengar’s grand daughter and other teachers at the Institute. All have their own unique style and as well as attending classes, you are encouraged to observe the classes at all levels from beginners, to seniors to advanced.

Prashant is the great philosopher, he interjects the poses with discourses about the body, mind and breath connection, getting us to look beyond just “asana” (physical poses) and more into ourselves, which is the purpose of yoga ultimately. I love his classes as he gets us to “be” in the postures, not much technical detail about alignment or structure but more about the alignment of the breath, what effect the breath has on the mind and the body and how the body relates to the mind and breath, how the mind relates to the body and breath.  We quickly move from one pose to the other but then hold them for a long time, exploring these themes. And in between he sometimes gets us to sit, while he extrapolates further – when I first came these sittings were a welcome rest from the intensity of the practice! Now I look forward to them for the pure reason of wanting to listen to him.

RIMYI Practice Hall
RIMYI Practice Hall

Geeta’s classes are very different – there is more asana instruction, minute details that take us further and further into the postures and how to improve them. Her guidance helps us as teachers to teach better, practice better and take care of our students’ well being. She has such a sharp eye and will catch many mistakes so we do again, with more emphasis, more corrections, more effort. Sometimes, she will include a mini teaching practice where she will ask someone to teach a pose in front of her and the group of around 80 students. Thankfully she hasn’t picked on me for that yet!! She is such a skilful and insightful teacher – her craft is unique. She loves to mix in the occasional joke to illustrate a point, and she has a great sense of humour which sometimes sends me into giggles. This helps to break down any tension, especially when you are doing some of the more advanced poses which can bring up some fearful moments – “Fear should not be there!”, she was saying on Saturday when we trying to jump up into hand stand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) with hands more than 1 foot from the wall to learn how to balance – I made it eventually with help from one of her assistants. Again, as a newcomer, I was definitely very nervous when I first went to Pune in 2006, and quite intimidated by Geeta, but after the first class, I couldn’t wait for the next one. I saw in her eyes years of experience and a deep compassion and love for her students, and for her subject of yoga which she and the other teachers have dedicated their lives to.

RIMYI Library
RIMYI Library

After class is over, there may be a practice session scheduled, we all practice together, teachers and students in the main hall, working on our own poses, or a break until the afternoon classes which we can observe, or you can visit the library downstairs, where Guruji, when he was alive would also be every day, writing correspondence, researching or being interviewed. Or there may be a special event such as chanting the yoga sutras or, like today, a film showing in the main hall – today’s film is a workshop with Geeta Iyengar on how to use the props. In the next blog, I will tell you the story of how some of the props came into being and are now used by yoga practitioners of all schools all over the world.

My Pune Blog 2016

I’m in Pune for the whole of November studying with the Iyengar family at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute (RIMYI), the headquarters if you like of Iyengar yoga worldwide. If you are interested in finding out about studying at RIMYI and life in this busy Indian city, please scroll down below this message for the latest post from my personal diary – not a daily diary as too much happens every day, but some choice insights into this amazing experience and wonderful country!

Small Steps – Love & Devotion

Not a lot of sleep the last two nights – I guess I should be used to barking dogs living in Portugal all this time, but Indian barking dogs take it to a whole new level. I have special double-glazed windows that seem to let more sound in that they keep out and I can (happily I may say) lay awake for hours working out which bark is from which dog, what vehicle is making that particularly peculiar noise and what bird that is squawking away at 4.30am. But all that aside, it is the sound of Pune, a sound I know and am somewhat fond of, the background sound to our classes at the Institute – listen to any recording of a class taken there, and you will hear the birds as well as the honking of horns and tinny rumble of rickshaws out in the street below. RIMYI is bang in the middle of a busy urban city, serving the community near and far with a full timetable of classes to help all comers, no matter what age or ability. In fact, Prashant’s theme today in his 7am class was just that, practice according to your ability, to what is necessary for the organic body and the mind.

Charus for Lunch
Charus for Lunch on Ghokale Road
Dhal, Rice and Lime Soda
Dhal, Rice and Lime Soda

As visitors, we are eligible only when we have completed a certain number of years of Iyengar practice and then we can apply to join the month long intensives. 2nd November was registration day for that month and we queued up at 8.30am eager to get the paperwork done. When you hand in your documents and payment, you are given your timetable for the month and we learned that our first class was already that morning at 9.30am with Geeta Iyengar herself.  So no time to collect yourself, as soon as the hall was available, we raced upstairs to lay out our mats and be ready for Geetaji to arrive. She is still recovering from a recent illness but doing much better and her eyes still have that sparkling fire, and keen observation. As the holiday season of Diwali was still lingering, the class was small, just 60 or so people, so there was no hiding place from her penetrating observations! She gave us poses taught in a way to help with the jet lag, “stretch the skin to release the tiredness of the jet lag”, and gave us a teacher’s workshop on how to help people in Sirsasana (head stand) and how to improve our own poses. It was an intense introduction to the month ahead.

Ah, it’s good to be back. It feels so familiar and yet is a long way from home. So initially there is that 48 hour or so adjusting – you are excited to be here but then you have to settle into the way of life here – busy roads, no pedestrian crossings, sights, sounds and smells, getting from A to B and then adjusting to RIMYI and all the rules and regulations that have to be adhered to to keep the “home” of Iyengar yoga functioning like clockwork, with literally thousands of visitors every year and over one hundred students coming each month for intensives.  They have a very well trusted routine and patiently answer the same questions time and again from new visitors. Help is always at hand and on the whole everyone is very kind and accommodating.

The routine itself is centered around that timetable of classes – we have one main 2 hour class then up to 3 hours practice time which we are expected to attend. Then there is lunch and afterwards the library is open for 2 hours for study followed by the medical class which we can observe or assist in (by application) or other classes that take place such as seniors, beginners or the popular children’s class on Sunday mornings. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to watch the other teachers such as Raya, Abhijata, Rajlaxmi or Devki and how they weave all their amazing knowledge gained from years of study with BKS Iyengar, into the very fabric of the Institute.

Well, I could write so much more and it’s only day two. So much happens each day, so I leave you with a quote I found today while studying in the Institute library which touched me. It was said by BKS Iyengar to one his pupils, Patricia Walden who at the time was suffering from depression: “When confronted with difficulty, take an action, no matter how small.” From that lesson and the example set by her Guruji, she learned: “Anything is possible, if you act (and reflect) with love and devotion.”

Return to Pune

We’ve arrived. It was an epic journey for me – Los Angeles to London on the night flight to rendezvous with my sister Hannah, then a 7 hour wait (which passed in no time, airports are anything but boring places to people watch!) before boarding the next flight to Mumbai, then pick up from our lovely driver, Taj, from Roots and Wings Travel and a journey of around 3 hours, expertly driven through the streets of Mumbai and on to Pune, right to our apartment in Model Colony.

Taj was one of the best drivers I’ve ever encountered in India, very calm and steady and barefoot, he managed to patiently find the best ways to weave in and out of the traffic which consisted of vehicles, motorised or not, of every conceivable type. I was so excited to be back in India again I thought I would be wide awake the whole way, it’s a visual feast, but after just 30 minutes I was fast asleep in the back of the car, and when I woke we were already in the outskirts of Pune. I glanced out the front window and saw that Taj was driving on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic but by this time, I was so relaxed that this minor detail didn’t faze me and he calmly meandered back onto the left, just in time, having over taken the slow rickshaw that was hindering his otherwise smooth transit.

And so, we are here! It feels so familiar and yet worlds away from Los Angeles or Portugal. We have rented a lovely apartment only 5 minutes walk from the yoga Institute, RIMYI, which is closed until tomorrow so we will register then and take our first class for the month long intensive. For now, it’s time to get some sleep, if that is possible with all the fireworks for Diwali going on around us. There is a happy and celebratory atmosphere with many houses and balconies decorated in lights and streamers. So wishing everyone a Happy Diwali! Or as they say around here (forgive any misquote): Diwalichya hardik shubhechha


Preparations for India

As I prepare for my trip to India, to study at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, I am inundated with advice from all quarters as to what medicines to take, prevention against illness and disease and advice about safety, eating, drinking etc. I am very grateful for all the help and advice! The important thing is to take precautions and use common sense without become paranoid and letting the fear of getting ill over-ride the experience of being in this wonderfully vibrant country not to mention the opportunity to study at the “mother ship” Institute of Iyengar yoga with the Iyengar family.

So I have been taking extra vitamins to boost my immune system, probiotics to boost my digestion and ecinacea to prevent me getting sick from the plane travel – it’s a bit of a monster trip as I am first flying to the States to train with Manouso Manos, then back to London to connect with my sister Hannah before we both fly to Mumbai and finally meet our driver that we booked through Roots and Wings for the 2 hour drive to Pune and our accommodation.

While in Pune, I have my homeopathic anti-malaria tablets, my grapefruit seed extract, again for stomach bug prevention, a good mosquito repellent for the skin as well as a plug-in for night time, hand sterliser, some Immodium (thanks mum), aspirin and good old Lemsip. Last time, in 2014, I lived on Lemsip and almonds for a week when I had a bad chest infection and totally lost my appetite. The Lemsip helped me to sleep through the night and was a comforting reminder of home.

As before, we will stay for a month studying and learning as much as we can, absorbing as much as possible and connecting with friends old and new from all around the world. These blogs will be updated weekly so you can keep up with news and stories from our time there. Hope you enjoy reading!

Rachel at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India
Rachel at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India