BKS Iyengar ~
Position God in every asana so you can exert toward him.
When you have intelligence, you need maturity.
Descending intelligence is faster than ascending intelligence.
Learning can be acquired, but wisdom must be earned.
Strong on the outside, humble on the inside - and then humility will be in your action.
This fall season I was immensely rewarded the almighty opportunity to visit the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India to study under the Presence of the BKS Iyengar family ~ Guruji BKS Iyengar himself, Geeta and Prashant Iyengar and several of the senior teachers at the Institute. The RIMYI reflects the essence of integrity, divinity and strength of Iyengar Yoga. The institute was in established in 1975 and is dedicated to Ramamani Iyengar, the wife of Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar. Its directors are Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar and his children – Geeta and Prashant Iyengar. The Institute is permeating with pictures & sculptures of Guruji, awards, certifications, pieces of art presented to Guruji from students all over the globe from many generations ….exuding a nature of royal caliber. The library itself has over 8000 titles in several languages….I spent hours and hours immersed into the documentation resting in this sacred library. There are hundreds of pieces of literature and commentary that have never been published – for your eyes only when perched within this temple of a library.
When entering into the grounds of the Institute, you are immediately greeted by gatekeepers who reflect dedication and divinity from their eyes. They are there to remind you to sign-in (every time you enter the gates we must sign in…some say that the RIMYI always has its eyes on you…watching every move), and the gatekeepers were also the first ones (out of MANY) to lay down the LAW of no picture taking – including the beautiful grounds of the Institute and most importantly not of Guruji BKS Iyengar or any of the teachers (without permission). The lineage of Iyengar yoga anchors its platform on integrity. Therefore, there was no way I was going to take any pictures within the practice hall during practice sessions nor of the teachers or Institute without permission. There were numerous times I was blessed to have intimate one-on-one dialogue with BKS Iyengar, Prashant Iyengar and several of their senior teachers, but I was absorbed fully into the potency of each experience that I forgot to ask permission for a photo. Therefore, all of the memories associated with the teachings and practices from my experiences at RIMYI will forever remain imprinted on my heart and consciousness versus captured on my iphone.
Yoga Sutra of Patanjali – Sutra 2.28:
Practice is the means to eradicate impurities…leading to an increase in the lustre of knowledge and discriminative power.
I was introduced to Iyengar Yoga in 1999 and it has been in my life ever since (although it hasn’t been my sole source of practicing and teaching yoga). The lineage is too comprehensive to summarize. My Iyengar teachers over the years have been the most influential instructors in guiding me into new territories of knowing. My experiences at the RIMYI were incredibly awakening and more often humbling…..my conversations with students, logistical steps involving staff and most importantly the arduous practice sessions with all of the teachers. I felt like a five-year-old on their first day of school – lost, incredibly curious, nervous and acutely attentive . The sensitive attention allowed me to stay aligned so that I could receive the moment-to-moment offerings that are available to taste in every context when at the RIMYI.
Each of the practice sessions required an intensity ~ physically, mentally, energetically, culturally and devotionally. This kind of intensity builds a bonfire….sometimes like a tender flame of a candle and other times resembling a blazing inferno. If we are lucky – these flames devour the knots, impurities, obstacles, etc that generate fluctuations and/or patterns in the body & mind that prevent us from seeing, feeling, tasting, experiencing and moving with clarity and intention. The flame creates a combustion that transforms the energy embedded in the knots and obstacles and evolves this energy into a power that ideally aligns us with our greater good....higher Self. I can't describe exactly what played out internally for me the weeks at the Institute and the weeks that followed, but I do know that there is a different quality to my flame.
Although I feel my time spent with the teachers at RIMYI was too short, the practices were so profound that I departed with a wider lens as a result of an alchemy or recalibration…one that I feel I can tangibly witness. In summary, as painful & humbling as it was and will continue to be, I captured a clear picture of some of my ill-patterns, doubts and obstacles….and many more of these are still hidden within me. Recognition is the first step in eradication. As the Sutra 2.28 above outlines….even the smallest amount of purification leads to a shimmer or sparkle in our awareness & discernment, which I feel lights the way to see more clearly. When there is light out in front of us and around us, we can then discriminate and make effective decisions that are aligned with love and service.
Each of the teachers at the RIMYI have eyes like a serpent and eagle….they can see the most minute detail of each student’s alignment in a room of 100 pupils and simultaneously open their awareness to examine what is happening at the collective level. During the practice sessions I felt BKS Iyengar could see right through me as I placed my mat right next to him ~ he persevered through a series of deep supported backbends and inversions in his practice and simultaneously kept his eyes on each of the students in the practice hall. He continuously would stop and provide mini workshops on numerous refinements in the body, mind and spirit. At one point during one of our practice sessions he firmly stated “Each of you are too attached – attached to life. Too much gripping….too much fear.”….as we were holding our handstands for extended periods of time. His teachings embodied the utmost itty-bitty intricate refinements in the body & mind, which I have been practicing ever since and I’m once again astonished by the magnitude of small things.
The challenge of yoga is to go beyond our limits....within reason & keeping our practice progressive and gradual. Without a certain amount of tension and stress in the asana practice, the mind will remain in its limitations and will not move beyond its existing frontiers.
~ BKS Iyengar
He shared the above quote this with us one afternoon. For me - tension in and of itself is a measure of force that extends and stretches. I keep this quote in mind as I stand at the top of my mat….folding my hands to my chest, descending my brain to my heart, asking Grace to bestow her divinity in my body, breath and mind, with the overall intention to stretch my awareness and heart ~ wide open. Currently, in my practice, I have an understanding (or let's say even an agreement with myself) that when I step onto the mat it is a conscious mantra into a sacred journey which requires perseverance and faith (shradda). For me, the most robust gems I gained from my time spent at the RIMYI were the powers of tenacity, devotion and humility in my practice on and off the mat.
During one of my compelling conversations with Prashant Iyengar, he said to me...
The most medicinal modality or technique you can adopt is to create a sacred and intimate relationship with who or what needs healing….like you would with a Beloved.
This teaching is at the forefront for me ~ my practice includes a conscious selection of relationships (with people or with specific internal ill-patterns) and create a safe, loving, tender, direct, honest, bold, purposeful partnership along with the intention to sustain and evolve the relationship so healing can occur.
** I forever bow in full pranams to everyone that supported me to dive deeply into the abundance offered from the RIMYI, including my husband - Tai, children - Tenzin & Indira, mother-in-law, Nadine my nanny, Ryan Leier & One Yoga partners and community, Louie Ettling, Lisa Walford, BKS Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Prashant Iyengar, Erik Thuss and all of their outstanding and powerfully skilled instructors.