Remembering a Titan

The institute has a few programs around the year and the hall is usually full for these events, even before the invocation starts. Yesterday was Guruji’s 2nd punya thithi and no exception. This time of the year also sees a lot of international students so it was a big gathering. 

remembering Guruji…

The program was a straight forward question and answer session with Geetaji. The questions posed were mostly about Guruji and his life. There were a few but two that stuck with me were the initial ones.

The first one was to understand the relationship of Guruji with the three important people in his life; his guru, Shri T. Krishnamacharya, his friend and pupil, Yehudi Menuhin and his beloved wife, Shrimati Ramamani Iyengar. Most of the world knew Guruji’s guru as a strict teacher to him. Geetaji showed us another aspect to the Guru Shishya relationship. It was his guru’s apparent refusal to teach him in depth that was essential for his self discovery and transformation. Knowing what not to teach is more important that knowing what to teach. 

The second with his friend and pupil, Yehudi Menuhin marked a turning point in his life’s purpose. His famous student was instrumental in bringing Guruji worldwide recognition and bringing a fresh lease of life to this ancient science.

The last but perhaps most important person in his sadhana was his wife. It is hard to imagine a relationship such as theirs today where we often do not have the magnanimity of heart to let go. Theirs was the equality of husband and wife as suggested in grihasthashram, soul mates in the true sense of the word. Ardhangani was the word used by Geetaji, an Indian word to denote wife. Perhaps a better description would be to say half of one’s being. Ardha means half and anga means body. Even Shiva need his Shakti…

Gurujis’s line of love, labour and laughter had someone wondering about ‘laughter’ since he was known to be a very strict teacher. Except for a brief moment as part of a crowd that took his blessings, I never knew him. But I always associated laughter with his personality. How could that expansive chest not be one of lightness and laughter? I hadn’t heard of the line before and coincidence or not, it was similar to what I write in greeting cards, “Love, laughter and sunshine”. Geetaji put it very beautifully, his laughter was Ishwara Pranidhana, an offering of everything to the Divine. 

Ruminating over these three words, I can’t help but think about the childlike innocence of these aspects of life. Children embody the best of being human. Their honest expression of love, their labouring to stand on their feet and gurgling laughter that light up the lives of those around. A little child is here, now. How can it be anything but pure joy? 

As a line from an old song goes, “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good..”, to have found a way to Guruji. He lives on.

Pranaam Guruji

Gunas and Doshas

Despite a heavy few weeks at work, I have had a good few practice sessions at home. Perhaps that kept me going through some intense projects with a clear and sharp head. There are old flaws that have revealed themselves yet again and my recent readings have shed light on those areas. 

Chapter 14 in the Bhagwad Gita talks about the gunas and it set off a lot of connective thoughts regarding the Doshas and Tattvas. Swami Chinmayananda explains gunas as ‘the “attitude” with which the mind functions’ rather than “properties“. 

“Many a seeker ends his brilliant and promising spiritual career because, on his way to self-perfection, he develops “engine trouble,” and, not knowing why his mind behaves in the peculiar fashion, he gets victimised by lust or passion and suffers from the sorrows of his spiritual fall. A knowledge of this chapter assures us of a steady progress on our path, as it introduces us to the secret methods of the mind on all occasions.”

– Swami Chinmayananda in his commentary on The Holy Geeta

In a very personal context, I thought of my instant and almost overpowering attraction towards barefoot running. It was love at first sparsha!  Constitutionally, I would be considered predominantly vata and that explains the affinity towards running and the need for grounding with Mother Earth. The contact with the ground is a powerful connection when I run.  That is also when I feel closest to everything that lives. With the air element in excess, having the grounding of the earth is a good way to balance the flightiness, despite the movement.

all elements at play on a run…

Work has been very interesting although time and thought consuming. As much as I try to reduce my involvement, situations force me to step right back in. I guess I should stop trying to do so and embrace it wholly. Truth be told, I enjoy what I do and seeing the organization evolve into a solid business from the start-up that it was. The founder is a wonderful man and we have a small yet passionate team. In retrospect, being associated with the company has been instrumental in a change in my food habits as well. I’ve donned many hats at this place and enjoy the flexibility it provides to manage my home as well as get to class. The office is about 500m from my place which is a huge time saver. So, what am I really fighting?

The girls at work still make it for our weekly session of yoga and I actually enjoy sharing what I know. At the same time, I wonder if I should continue, considering that I am not a teacher. But, it has settled into a routine now and the best part is all of them practise regularly at home too. One of the girls said that she felt more focused and confident and that her brother also practises everyday. It is worrying and promising at the same time about how things get transmitted. Yet somewhere I think that if they are sincere, the practice will teach them. I receive far more than they do everytime I show them something. It forces me to revise my basics, read up on the asanas and keep it simple. I can now see how the big actions we learnt last year were important now that we are looking at the next set of actions in an intermediate class. Back then, if I adjusted my shoulders in tadasana, I lost the attention in my knees and the actions would happen in a sort of sequence. It was like learning to drive, quite exhausting to remember all the coordinated moves. Now, it’s more like a simultaneous set of adjustments. 

Yoga has blessed me with great energy and enthusiasm. It doesn’t strike me how much, until I step back and review all that I do. And then it is humbling because I know it is not on my steam but that which chooses to express through me.

Hari Om

Presence

I walked with a hunch, slouched when I sat and generally had terrible posture for most of my life. It started to bother me once I started running, simply because it would tire me out. Poor posture equals poor running form. This could not be corrected while running as I soon found out. The only way to do it was to be conscious throughout the day and straighten up. All it took was a little attention everyday. I’d just straighten up when I would remember and over a period of time it happened more frequently. Now, I feel really tall even while sitting. There are days after class when I feel I am walking 2 inches above the ground!

It is the same with asana. At work or home, while sitting or doing something around the place, it is a fun thing to play with alignment. I find props like the back of my dining table chair which is great for a tadasana chest or the coffee table which seems to prop my inner knees in upavishta konasana. Perhaps all this fooling around is responsible for a loosening up of the tight areas in my body. There was a little shift in yesterday’s  home practice of trikonasana and ardha chandrasana, with different actions and prep poses. The asana felt different, more length on the left inner leg and a tiny opening in the rotation of the knee. I don’t know the science or anatomy behind the body but I reckon it is a combination of a propped upavishta konasana and the movement of the breath. 

As an experiment, I have been lying down in a supported savasana before japa. The breath seems to open up almost instantaneously as it flows through both nostrils. I also found a difference in the state of my mind, less agitation even in the face of wandering thoughts during japa. The body is a good teacher if I can get my thinking out of the way. In all this asana practice, it is less about the appearance and more about the presence. As one of my teachers mentioned in class last week, it is intense attention that is required more than intense action. 

देशबन्धश्चित्तस्य धारणा … Something to ponder, although the third pada seems more apt for those further along in their sadhana.

Hari Om