Namo Namaha to the students of Adeline Yoga.
I am halfway through my 4th trip to Pune, India which is home to the Iyengar family and the Ramanani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute.
In previous years, I have written a blog about my trip. This year I decided not to. In life, one is usually an observer or a participant. It is nearly impossible to take on both duties well, so I have chosen to be a full participant in my experience this year. However, I do know that many of you are wondering what exactly I am doing here. I hope this post will help give you a flavor.
Where I am
Pune is a large, bustling city located about 3 hours away from Mumbai. Picture a bustling, dusty, noisy East Bay quite happy to be 3 hours away from its older, flashy sister. Pune is a large University town, with huge amount of manufacturing and other industries here. As there is a huge amount of business in this city, we have all the western amenities and foods should we want them. There are very few westerners here beyond the Iyengar Institute and the Osho Ashram.
RIMYI is one of the highlights of Pune, though it was not designed as such. Thirty years ago Gurujii built his modest institute on a quiet lane in an upper class neighborhood. Water buffalo and bikes used to use to peacefully share the street. Now motorcycles and cars clog it. Patrons from the huge shopping mall on the corner now mix with the local residents and the yoga students.
Every month, approximately 100 foreigners from all around the world gather at RIMYI. We take classes alongside Indians for whom RIMYI is their local studio. Most of the foreigners stay at RIMYI for a month, though some stay for only 2 weeks and others for 2 years.
The facilities at RIMYI are strictly for learning. We are generally attend 6 classes and 6 practice sessions a week. There are many beginner and intermediate classes we can observe, a library and bookstore that we can loiter in.
Guruji and his extended family live on the grounds. Walking to and from class we often nod to the Patanjali statue and strain for a glimpse of Gurjii in his bedroom reading the morning paper.
We, however, do not live in the grounds. Most of us rent exorbitantly expensive rooms that are located a 2 – 10 min walk away. Decades ago, the residents of this lane realized that they could put their children through college by renting out a room or house to the internationals that come to visit. (I myself have helped pay for the schooling of 2 Indian children in this way) I am staying in a 3-bedroom home with 5 Polish ladies and a Brit. Luckily, I am staying upstairs far away from the bustling energy of so many people.
Here is my schedule Monday – Saturday:
5:30 am Wake up for pranayama. If I have enough time, I drink chai and practice Sanskrit before scooting off to RIMYI
7 – 9 Yoga class with Prashant.
9 – noon Yoga practice
(1:30 – 3:30 some days) Sanskrit class
4 – 6 pm Help in the yoga medical therapy class
6:15 Enjoy a fresh coconut outside RIMYI
6:30 pm Dinner of some sort
7 pm Watch Mad Men (Bashir got me seasons 1 – 3!)
9 pm Lights out
Wednesdays and Saturdays are a bit different as I have class in the morning and practice in the afternoon. But the above schedule is pretty much what I am doing most days.
Sundays are off, sort of. There is an 8 am children’s class that I like to watch. And, I have gone hiking the last two Sundays. Part of each weekend I have gone out shopping or touring the old parts of Pune. But really, I often spend the bulk of my weekend in bed moaning because yes, I am sore and tired
What I have learned
Already, there have been so many highlights of the trip. I most treasure my 3-hour practice sessions. Believe it or not, these sessions actually haven’t been long enough! Between watching Guruji instruct his senior pupils, playing with the huge supply of yoga props, and enjoying peers to practice with, there is so much to see and do in the practice hall. I am very grateful for this time to work on myself. Life at home is so busy, that I treasure this time to just practice.
And, classes have been fantastic. Geeta has returned to teaching this month both asana and pranayama classes so I have been with her three times a week. She has been fierce! Her classes have been electrifying – challenging us in a way that only Geeta Iyengar can. She forces us to let go of our fear and go deeper into ourselves. Three times a week, I have attended Prashant’s classes. While Geeta tells us what to do, Prashant is the other side of the coin: reminding us why we do. His classes focus on the philosophy, method and process of practice. For this, I am so grateful.
The experience in Pune is about studentship. We are encouraged to look at our own practice, and work on the inside. However, being here is always important because I get reminded what the Iyengars expect from their teachers. As a certified Iyengar teacher, I have been given permission to use a very precious name. A trip to Pune is really quite critical in deepening my understanding of just what that name means, what it stands for: quality, honesty, integrity and dedication.
With all of this wonderful experience, you may wonder if I want to come home. Well, not right now. I am quite happy right where I am. By the end of the month though, I know I will be ready to return. Pune is a horribly polluted, noisy city. Between the exhaust fumes, smoke from household fires, and dust all of my senses are constantly assaulted. This learning is, of course, exhausting as well.
In just a few short weeks, I will be back home with all of you. It will take me weeks and months to unpack not just my dirty clothes, but what I actually have learned. I look forward to spending this time with you. I hope that I can share with each of you the energy and the learnings from my time in Pune.