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.”