“You people,” (it’s a pejorative), “a grave mistake that you people make is to make the body narrow,” booms Geeta from the stage. And she is so right, as she is about everything at this Convention.
Someone told me that she’s been practising all year to prepare for Yoganusasanum, and her teaching certainly has that kind of power behind it.
Missed the introduction and the first day due to illness and wobbled through the second day of standing poses. While I was fully present for the next days, I took scant notes so will just try to remember what I can.
I loved it, that much is sure. Somehow in Geeta’s presence my focus is razor clear and my body agrees to do things it would otherwise complain about. Everything came easily – if not totally painlessly – even matsyendrasana in padmasana!
At last year’s convention she was clearly struggling after Mr Iyengar’s death, this year she is in command.
“Yoga is a witnessing process,” says Geeta, “it’s not intellectualising. When you have to put it into words then you use the intelligence”.
She taught us asanas and pranayama and finished with the most sublime, simple, elegant dhyana – aligning and lifting the chakras.
We prepared for backbends without any props, from a standing position. I could feel my body, fascia and skin broadening and lengthening and wringing out, especially in the twists. Purity of mind and clarity then follow from that total absorption.
When it came to pranayama Geeta gave us a detailed explanation of how difficult it was for Mr Iyengar to practise and how slowly he built up his practice. He was poor at the time and had to ride his bicycle from one end of Pune to the other every day and did not have the energy to do more than two breaths at a time.
She told us how her mother used to conduct the pranayama classes and Mr Iyengar would run around using his fingers on everyone’s noses, to give them the feeling of digital pranayama.
She made the point that we need to approach pranayama slowly and consistently, doing one pranayama a day in the beginning.
She said citta (consciousness) has two wives – prana and desire. It was as though she was reading my mind, as I’d been struggling with just that. As, no doubt, were many others.
On a mundane note, in the question and answer session she explained why sometimes the front foot turns out first from Utthita Hasta Padasana and at other times the back foot turns in first. For beginners we turn the front foot out first because the back leg is confusing for them. Later, turning the back foot in first frees the front leg to turn out.
On Friday I had Leonard Cohen’s song “If It Be Thy Will…” running through my head as Geeta introduced us to our noses – the five elements are also present there – and the simple importance of clearing the nostrils respectfully to prepare for pranayama.
With no disrespect whatsoever for Mr Iyengar, at one stage I felt like jumping up and declaring: “The King is dead, Long live the Queen!”
I think it was in Pavritta Parsvakonasana that she exhorted us to “do and die!” She said (with a robust laugh) there is a vast difference between “do and die” and “die and stay!”. In other words, give your all and stay in the pose for as long as it is still coming. But don’t just hang in the pose after you’ve died in it because you want to meet the timings in Light On Yoga.
She also spoke about the kriyas in pranayama – this seemed to be new information that no-one had heard before. I’ll study the CDs and get back to you! She explained beautifully how the nadis in the chest have to be cleared to meaningfully practice nadi sodhana, which comes last and is a filtering process, like filtering coffee.
At one stage I had a sense of the huge vastness within, as though I was standing on the edge of a valley and teetering on the edge, almost falling in. The vastness was scary, and reminded me of the vastness of India and how appropriate it is that this is the home of yoga.
Geeta finished on Sunday encouraging us to pray to Sarasvati to receive the learning we need, to go to the level we are meant to.
At the end we were invited to the front while everyone (and I mean everyone!) was thanked and bowed down before Geeta. A huge, enthusiastic, youthful team organised by Ahbijata did an excellent job of organising the convention.
As we cheered and clapped for everyone the elation built, so that by the time Geeta, clearly enjoying the enthusiasm, rose to leave people were shouting “We love you Geeta!”
We cheered her out of the room, all of us as high as kites with love, respect and gratitude for her.
And now to Bellur for more classes…what next I wonder?