Today I was preparing for the Wednesday intermediate Iyengar Yoga class which I teach for 2 hours each Wednesday afternoon in the Algarve. This week it’s standing poses and I had decided to choose a sequence inspired by one of Geeta Iyengar’s classes I had taken last November, whilst in RIMYI, Pune (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute – otherwise known as the Iyengar “mothership”). I love to look back at those classes and take myself in my mind there, trying to recall images, sensations and words that she spoke to us, information, ideas and messages she was conveying. I’m an avid note taker (after the class, not during) but I don’t often use them religiously to recall information – I find that once the moment has passed, what we take away in impressions is much more lasting and useful than a sequence of hastily written down words and phrases which often later, make no sense – or even writing that we can’t read (I said I was an avid note taker but not necessarily a good one!) One of my main teachers, Manouso Manos tells us that we have to learn to see and hear things in a specific way to allow the teachings to go in deep. When we are taking notes during a class, we are actually drawn away from the subject, not towards it instead of being fully absorbed in the moment – “yoga is about being in the NOW”
However, there is always something in my notes that sticks out and comes back as a reminder and if I can remember pertinent phrases, I will write them down to ponder over later. I had written down something that she said at the beginning, and this was the beginning of the first class of the month for all us international visitors, “Don’t mess around going here there and everywhere whilst you are here in Pune. Focus on RIMYI and learn as much as you can.” Geeta is so present and such a wise person and she sees so much. She sees us arriving in Pune thirsty for knowledge, hungry to absorb as much as we can in the time (usually one month) that we have at the Iyengar Institute. She hears all our questions, our eagerness to know everything, now. With the patience of a saint (!), she guides everyone who comes to her to be present and dedicated to their practice in a purely yogic way.
As in life, split yourself in too many directions and the focus is lost, the meaning of what you are doing/learning/aspiring to become is not there and your energies are dissipated every which way. In this age with all the activities and pathways of learning open to us, we can get lost in a sea of information and sign posts pulling us, choices to make, directions to take. Focus on what is in front of you, absorb as much as you can and you will learn faster, deeper, better and the knowledge will stay with you for longer. When you do your practice, what you have learnt will be there inside to draw upon even if you don’t have your notebook, or your iPad to hand to refer to, even if your teacher is not around to guide you. Your best teacher is always within you.
After all, among BKS Iyengar’s last words to his grand daughter, Abhijata Shridar before he died, having given 80 years of his life to yoga were: “I have shown you all these things, now realize them for yourself.”