“I am here because I’m supposed to be here. I’d better be responsible for what I am doing!”
Those were the words from a talk given by Manouso Manos (arguably one of the finest yoga teachers on the planet) on day 2 of his summer intensive in San Francisco. I am lucky enough to be in attendance. He runs these weeks three times a year from the 1st to the 7th of the month in March, July and October for established Iyengar yoga students (minimum 2 years experience or more) and this is my third visit to his studio, The Abode of Iyengar Yoga, here in Glenn Park. I’m also lucky enough to be attending the three year course on Iyengar Yoga Therapeutics in Los Angeles, also taught by Manouso.
Taking the therapeutics course was a “no-brainer”, in other words, when the application for the course came through on an email newsletter 3 years ago, I applied straight away. I was at a kind of crossroads at the time – I had just got home from a lunch with a friend where we had been talking about yoga, as she and I often do, and our roles as teachers, our next steps. I can remember saying something along the lines of, “There’s something I’m supposed to do but I’m not quite sure what.” When I saw the announcement about a therapeutics course with Manouso Manos, it took my breath away – what perfect timing! I had to go through a selection process and was delighted to be accepted and then mildly terrified at the commitment that it involved – three trips a year to the USA for three years, course fees, accommodation, not to mention all the temptations of shopping and food in LA!
Twice a year, the therapeutics sessions (three days in LA) dovetail onto the intensives that Manouso runs at his own studio in San Francisco. It’s a great opportunity to study with this great master of yoga for an extended period. But it costs – extra time, extra money, extra travel. I was trying not to think of all this as I walked down from my Air BnB place to the first day of the intensive, but I couldn’t help thinking, “What am I doing here? What’s it all for? Am I really up to the mark? How did I get here?!!” Feeling less than adequate and slightly out of the world having flown half way across it the night before, I arrived at the Abode on Monterey Boulevard at 7.30am and greeted my colleagues and friends. And of course, as soon as we began, I was already “home” (“wherever I lay my ‘mat’, that’s my home”) and I knew exactly why I was here and nothing else mattered at that point except to focus on his teaching and what I was doing and penetrating inwards into my ‘self’, and into this great subject of yoga.
And as if that wasn’t enough, in his talk for that day (he gives a short talk every day of the course), he talks about the concept of free will, chance, fate and destiny and puts forward the question of whether free will actually exists or is it simply that wherever we are right now is exactly where we are supposed to be, and, if that is the case, we had better take responsibility for whatever it is that we are doing. He goes onwards with that to say that we are all collectively responsible to pass on this knowledge that is being passed down to us, that was passed down to him from BKS Iyengar, as we are in this place at this time, to learn it, absorb it and pass it on to help others.
In the next day’s talk, Manouso went into detail about “Skillful Action” which is one of the definitions of yoga according to the Bhagavad Gita, but which can be described as doing the right thing at the right time – taking the appropriate action to achieve the right result. You can apply this concept into any area of your life, the way you conduct yourself in society, at home, at work or even in your yoga practice or towards your own self-preservation. I’m so glad that I decided the right course of action was to apply for the Iyengar Therapeutics course 3 years ago. It has been no less than a life-changing experience. I’ve met some amazing people, gained invaluable knowledge and discovered the holes in my own – I hope I have enough skill and responsibility to pass on what I’ve learned to others!