Bellur was fantastic of course. We stayed in a run down but wonderful hotel – wonderful because it had monkeys, a waterslide and pool, table tennis and badminton. We met some lovely Americans, Russians, Latvians, Aussies, and Indians. Luke played water polo with some young Indian men and posed for lots of photographs.
Bellur is a small village of 6-7,000 – I saw it at night so no photos unfortunately. It’s a nice simple village, you can walk to it through the fields from the Yoga Hall. They’ve just knocked down the house where Mr Iyengar lived because someobody else owns it and wants to rebuild there. So we looked at the pile of rubble where he used to live! He lived in Bellur for six years before moving to Bangalore when his father got a teaching job there. His father died when he was nine.
The children of the village hosted us and they were charming.
The Yoga Hall is actually a retreat centre. It’s amazing – Patricia Walden and Rita Keller may hold a retreat there soon. Apparently the Yoga Hall cost 80 million rupees. It’s spectacular on the outside and spacious within. It has a golden Patanjali, crafted by four generations of sculptors. That’s me with Marina Jung and Lynne Holt below (not the sculptors!)
Building the hall has been a huge effort on the part of Mr Iyengar’s brother and the Bellur Trust. It’s in a kind of a gated community away from the village, with a secondary school, medical centre, college and retreat accommodation. It can fit 300 but there’s only accommodation for 40. Others can bus in from Emerald Isle where we were staying, about 30 mins away.
We saw an amazing yoga demonstration by the kids of Bellur, as well as a cultural programme with lots of kids dancing. This was a great show and they obviously have a terrific teacher and choreographer. At the cultural programme the yoga hall filled up with people from the village watching the kids and they talked non stop so we couldn’t hear any of the speeches!
Then we walked through the fields to the village to do puja at the temples. Mr Iyengar has renovated one of the old temples and built a new one to Patanjali.
The wife of the chairman of the Bellur Trust has started a yoga clothing company, so a little shop was set up outside the canteen (where we all ate delicious meals) selling elegant yoga clothes. A percentage of the sales goes to Bellur Trust. The website is www.InfnitelyIyengar.com, so named with Mr Iyengar’s blessing. Apparently the materials and modest designs are all approved by him.
Geeta said when RIMYI opened Mr Iyengar was so exhausted he only taught jumpings for the first year, so she decided to teach jumpings for the first class in the new Yoga Hall. The Bellur teenagers were in the class, as well as students from Bangalore, so it was a different group to the students at the convention.
She taught the Bellur children about alignment in their standing poses and inversions, saying it was great to do the extreme poses but now they needed to refine and get more clarity in the asanas.
Prashant taught us to experiment – to do the poses with different intentions for different effects and see what happens.
It was definitely worthwhile making the effort to get to Bellur. It will be interesting to see what happens here in the future.