This morning was my first class back at the Iyengar Institute (RIMYI) after 14 years. Even though I was here in Pune, India last year for the Geeta Convention, I didn’t attend classes at RIMYI. Some things have changed – no more squat toilets – but mostly it feels the same, my feet opening on the marble floors just as they did all those years ago. Prashant looks older of course, more like his father. Let me predicate this blog with a disclaimer – this is my interpretation of what Prashant said – and as he said, we are all making our own recordings of what’s going on according to the quality of our equipment!
There was a lot in the 2 hour class and these are just the snippets I remember, according to how I heard them. He started this morning at 7am with twisting swastikasana, emphasis on the breath. Breathe in completely, breathe out completely and see what happens. He told us to think of our abdomens as organs of exhalation, think of our brains as organs of exhalation, and do the pose that way. He said everyone comes to the class in a different state. Some have slept well, some not. Some may have diarrhea, others may be constipated. He spoke about doing the asana for our being at this moment, not our becoming.
He stressed the importance of having a direction – the effect you are wanting from the asana – to address a particular health issue or state of mind – instead of simply doing the asana to attain perfection in the asana, or emulate the photos in Light on Yoga. He told us that the photos in Light on Yoga were taken for a specific purpose, to teach people who had never seen yoga before. He said BKS’s practice did not look like the photos in Light on Yoga. If that were the case, his practice would not have evolved since those photos were taken in the 1960s. He encouraged us to have a direction in our practice that went beyond getting the pose “right”.
There is a big four day meeting going on here at the moment about assessment. I am not in the meeting, but many of the people in the class are. Prashant seemed to be preparing them for the second day of the meeting by teaching them that being dogmatic is not the way. He stressed that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do the asanas and that people can’t be assessed on their inner intention because that can’t be seen. He said there is “proper” and “improper” ways of doing things, which I took to be ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ to your circumstances.
We moved through a series of poses in a circuit, swapping places and stopping while he talked (reminded me of Peter Thomson’s workshops!) – trikonasana, upward facing dog on the ropes, utthita hasta padanghustasana, parsvakonasana, sirsasana, sarvangasana, janu sirsasana, paschimottonasana and finishing in savasana in swastikasana, focusing on purity of mind. In each pose he would ask us to focus on (breathe into) the pelvis or the shoulder blades or the diaphragm and notice how the asana changed.
In parsvakonasana he said breathe into the diaphragm, now (‘radically’) breathe into the breasts, breathe into the nipples, see how the pose changes. And sure enough, my chest opened and the pose changed. Breathe into the eyeballs, he said, and it changed my perspective on my eyes, feeling them as just another organ finding their place in the alignment of my body. He spoke about wisdom organs, and the importance of yoga as a tool to cultivate wisdom so we are better equipped for life decisions.
He won me over by talking about our feet and metatarsals as wisdom organs – we all know what a fan I am of spreading the feet! He said do it for your aura, do your yoga to make your aura look good so we could take a kirlian photograph of it. I was delighted with the class, especially as I had been contemplating at the start that I didn’t want to be separated from my experience of yoga by fear and felt content to do the class from my simple being.