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Pune Adventures – By Lori Neumann

11760094_10205826562520911_4099328739708755804_nThis month Lori Neumann is visiting RIMYI – the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune – our mothership!  Lori is based in Mountain View where she teaches yoga and studies at the California Yoga Center. She also is a student at Adeline Yoga. We hope you enjoy her missives from India.

Well, it’s been a month of blessings, challenges, and just feeling such incredible gratitude.

Blessing: Geeta teaching all the classes: Wednesday, Friday night Pranayama, Saturday women’s class (this has also been a challenge, painful, and quite the learning experience). It feels like it will take a few years to process all I have learned. She sees everything – internal and external. I believe she has x-ray vision and is a superhero.

Blessing: The classes and the practice hall have not been too crowded. Plenty of room to get a great place to practice and sit in class. July rocks.

Blessing: having a great roommate to share this experience. Blessing: a richshaw driver who speaks English. If you come here, find Nana!

Blessing: The weather. It seems to be raining when we’ve just arrived at our apartment or when we’ve gotten in the rickshaw or just arrived at the practice hall. It’s been very hot only a few times. Mostly very pleasant.

Blessing: The Pune Guides! Could have not done this without them. They are invaluable. Thank you Heather and Bobby. The city is so vibrant and interesting. It is a marvel how so many people (and dogs, cats, cows, pigs, goats, birds and bats) co-exist in small spaces like the streets, sidewalks, vendor stalls, window sills, trees, garbage dumpsters and temples. Walking here is like an obstacle course of construction, garbage and animals. Fortunately Sandra found a shortcut on a quiet street that is a nice walk from the apartment. We also have had the privilege of getting around a few times with a private car and driver. One of my fellow students who lives in Mountain View, Ayaz, is from Pune and is here studying this month (a blessing!) and has been an exceptional guide through the Camp district, a young, vibrant section of the city frequented by many of the thousands of students who attend college here. Great Thali place recommended by Nana, our rickshaw driver is there. It’s called Mayur. Highly recommend it! And there is the shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. We shop, eat and do yoga! And walk. And observe classes. So much to learn from watching other teachers.

Yoga highlights: Geeta’s classes: Learning how to sit properly for Pranayama. She really does see all. After Friday night’s class, she spent today’s class (Saturday, July 25) in Janu Sirsasana, Maha Mudra, and prone savasana with variations to relax us enough to sit for Pranayama. Again, she called me out for not getting enough support for sitting. Knowing my back has been causing pain, she took the time to have an assistant work with me under her guidance to make sure I had enough support. While she is stern and gets frustrated that we don’t know, she cares so deeply and it is obvious that she wants to relieve the suffering. Well, she did. My back is a bit stiff, but my pain level is reduced and I have a better understanding of how to work with it. While painful and frustrating, it really has been a blessing to experience her teaching first hand where the only objective is being able to sit comfortably. And sit for a minimum of 30 minutes. I am grateful for belts, bolsters, blankets and a wall!

I call her a superhero with xray vision when watching her work in the medical classes. She has helped hundreds and hundreds of people with all kinds of ailments. She sees and makes the connection between the mind and the body. She sees how the condition of the mind affects the body. Its quite extraordinary.

The practice hall: Having this kind of time (about hours a day) to practice takes some getting used to. I experienced a few things at first: feelings of self-consciousness, feeling intimidated by others’ practice, wondering what I should be practicing, overwhelmed by the set up and the props. Oh, the props! You haven’t experienced a prop hall until you’ve seen this place.

And then all the self-consciousness just floats away as the focus moves inward and on the breath, and the practice starts and the gratitude comes and everywhere are pictures of this man in these poses and we are practicing in this space. It feels like we have been given a great gift. One that is heavy with history and excellence and yet light with optimism and beauty at the same time.

One of my practice sessions I focused on one area: opening my hips, which lead to more padmasana, deeper padmasana, and variations of padmasana. This pose has been wonderful for my back as well. It’s focusing on different parts of the body or doing a sequence of poses, or several other ways to approach a practice. This was one of the best and most unexpected experiences.

Watching others and trying things others are doing is a another great experience in the hall. Elise has mentioned several times things she picked up in the practice hall and shared with us. Very valuable.

Prashant’s classes: where else do you spend 90 minutes in Baradvajasana – seated on the floor and in a chair (this is a twisting pose for those of my non-yoga friend who are still reading this!) Focus on opening the chest. How many ways are there to open the chest? He showed this in rope 1. Arms, legs, dorsal spine, sternum, etc. etc. So many ways! The different feeling when you are doing a pose to open the chest, or focusing on how the abdomen is involved. Or the pelvis. Just being in class that isn’t focused purely on instruction but assumes you know enough basic instructions to do the pose and its now about using the breath to go beyond the physical.

I was very fortunate to be able to assist in the remedial classes. These teachers are good and very helpful. They want to teach us too. Great learning experience.

Another great learning experience that will probably take the rest of my life to be able to do is learning to do Savasana (corpse pose) properly in order to do Pranayama. This is harder than you think! Getting the body to truly relax is not easy. We hold tension in places we aren’t aware of. I now understand why we put weights on the thighs and the shoulders. Now I have Geeta in my head saying, “turn the biceps out so the thumbs rest of the floor! separate the legs and roll them out so the little toes rest of the floor! Open the chest! Read Savasana in Light on Pranayama! That is the way to do Savasana!” OK! Good to know. I now have my work laid out for me for the next few lifetimes! Or until I am blessed with another trip down the road.