This September, I fulfilled my dream of going to Pune India to study at the Iyengar Yoga Institute (RIMYI). Getting to Pune, India was like arriving on another planet. I was filled with so much excitement, and apprehension. I had a few days to get used to the jet lag and wander around before starting class at the Institute. These days were filled with awe, getting used to the beautiful chaos that India is.
I arrived during the 10 day mourning period after Iyengar’s death. My first weekend was filled with the festivities celebrating his life. There were teachers and students from all over the world who came to pay their respects. It was a beautiful weekend filled with tears, feasts, stories of his life, chanting, and pure celebration. After the weekend people kept asking me if I had been there for his funeral. I was taken aback when I realized, ‘That was a funeral!?” It was the most beautiful celebration of life I had ever experienced. It was the first real taste I experienced of the difference in Indian culture. After the 13th day of mourning, classes were back in full swing.
This is what a common day at RIMYI/Pune looks like:
6am: wake up to the sound of squawking birds to shower and drink tea
7am-9am: go to Prashntji’s (Iyengar’s son) class – his classes involve asana, but with no instruction on the asana – only instruction and philosophy about the breath and life
9am-11am: Women’s class with Abhijata (Iyengar’s granddaughter). These were some of the best classes I had ever taken. I never got to experience BKS but Abhijata’s teachings gave me a window into his brilliance. I was doing things in these classes I never thought were possible.
12pm-3pm: Practice hall. Everyone gathers for their personal practice in the hall together. All the teachers are there as well; Geetaji was in there with us a lot of the time. This was my favorite part of RIMYI. I have never felt so held and inspired in my practice. You go so deep during these hours. Not to mention every prop ever invented by Guruji is at your fingertips!
Friday night: Pranayama with Navaz – the best pranayama I have ever done! Her instruction made it all make sense.
I would observe lower level classes, and got to witness the brilliant teaching of all of the teachers there. Amazing to see the ones closest to Guruji teach. The Indian way of teaching is much faster and sterner then the American version
The rest of the day is free! Lots of free time I filled with eating the most amazing food on the planet (my favorite – Charus or Vashali for dosas), reading lots of books, seeing Ayurvedic practitioners, hanging out with new friends and shopping!
My time in Pune was the most centered, grounded and sane I have ever felt in my body and mind. I owe it to the yoga – 4-5 hours of yoga a day! In the month I never even learned a new pose. We spent time going so deep in the basic Level 1 and Level 2 poses. (Except for back bend week!)
I purely enjoyed my whole time in Pune. Yes the pollution was hard to handle, along with the craziness of India – but even these things I learned to love and accept. As soon as I left India I realized it is my favorite place on earth. The next time I return it will feel like coming home.
Roaa'lee Hall says
Thank you Tessa for sharing your journey. What a true honor for any yogi to be at Guruji’s life celebration! You are truly blessed to have witnessed and experienced his ceremonies and teaching; now you are becoming the next generation of yoginis teaching the true philosophy of Yoga. Thank you! Iyengar Yoga has always been my preference and I am looking forward to experiencing your teaching style someday. Namaste my friend!
Yogi Zain says
Great to read about your experience Tessa! I hope to make it to Pune some day. Maybe another lifetime 😛
Wow! What an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing. Your community/family is lucky to have to have a Yogini in the midst! Keep up the great work.
steven manning says
Just great, Tess. “Back bend week”? That must be a story in itelf.