“Learning deeply means learning slowly”

June is hurtling full speed. So many changes and turnings. Volunteering, hectic work schedules and everyday household chores have meant packed days. My teacher asked how I managed to do so much and my immediate reply was that I start fairly early in the day. But later as I thought about it, I realized that I pack in a fair bit simply because I only do things that I like, things that make me happy. Simple things that feed my heart and head, like yoga, walks, trees, pottering around in my little balcony garden, reading etc. While the trade off has been a more frugal living, I have had a largesse of contentment and energy.

Offline classes began last week and it has been both familiar and strange. Familiar because of the same teachers and space but strange with the reduced intake of students. There is a pivoting and finding balance in offline and hybrid modes. In some ways, adapting to the pandemic was easier than adapting to reverting to a pre Covid routine. In some way, the increased convenience of online has meant people choosing to stick to it exclusively as well. There is practical merit since one avoids traffic and parking woes, time taken for the commute etc. but I also see it as increasingly isolating. With the increasing dependence on technology and screens, our sensory experience of the world also gets reduced as the years pass. We’re creatures of nature, meant to fully inhabit our embodiment but that is fast fading. I wonder what we will evolve into. But, that lies in the realm of imaginings and I’ll let it be.

Classes have been good, practice is decent. My struggles with balancing and Sirsasana continue so have taken a different route with focus on Sarvangasana. And I’m reasonably happy with the progress. I’ve been playing around with Niralamba Sarvangasana from a stable shoulder stand. I thought my problem with those poses was more of the mind but actually they are to do with the existing conditions and old injuries of the neck, shoulder and arm besides extreme hyper extension of my joints. As a school child, my PT teacher would get exasperated when my arms would refuse to straighten while marching. There has been some reduction in the angle of hyperextension over the years thanks to asana adjustments.

Earlier today, I was observing the participants as I was watching the class and saw myself in many of them. The same difficulty in lifting the back and buttocks, thighs and knees in Halasana and it all makes so much sense now. The uncompromising attention to limbs and trunk. And once again I am struck by the systematic and logical structuring of asana actions for beginners. I love beginner classes. There is a certain vigour, freshness and energy to it which changes the alchemy of the body and mind. I love the other classes too as they get more subtle and work on the breath and mind but much of it is way above my paygrade. I’m happy to simply absorb by osmosis. I know it will make sense when there is readiness and ripeness. Till then, we tinker. Recently, I was rereading a book (Range By David Epstein) I quite enjoyed and was struck once again by a line in it, “Learning deeply means learning slowly.” Iyengar yoga is an invitation to learn deeply. Not just of asana, but of oneself.

A day of rest

A day of rest after 3 hectic weeks. Late nights, early mornings and very little sleep as I raced to meet some impossible deadlines along with institute work. Practice was a restorative sequence even as I listened to a class. Plenty of time in supine poses, some forward bends and savasana. While lying in supta baddakonasana, I watched the clouds in the sky. It was quite peaceful to lie there and simply allow the breath to settle into its rhythms. Quite like the waves, there is a series of movements until it becomes slow and almost nil.

view from where I lay

Coincidentally, Prashantji also referenced clouds later in the session in the context of the impact of aviation on clouds. Not quite what one expects to hear in an asana class but then his classes have their own language. It was in the context of the nature of science and ancient knowledge. The ‘why’ being the differentiator. It was a wonderful precept he unpacked through the 2 hour long class.

Body, breath and mind are the trifecta of a yoga practice and he points out how we are either body or mind centric, rarely are we breath centric. We use the breath for the body or mind, or the body for the mind or vice versa but how often do we use the body or mind for the breath? It changes the whole perspective of asana.

This week will bring another set of changes with a new routine that includes offline classes, some flurry around the kid and a new assignment. There used to be a time I would get overwhelmed by so much uncertainty but over the last 4 years, it has become a scenario that is comfortable. I am able to find my feet and sometimes dance to life’s music too. 🙂

Sequencing is an art

Practised to a sequence from one of the classes last year. At the time, the effort required overshadowed all the other tastes in the asana. It is only with the passing of time that we see progress. On an everyday basis, all I see is what I cannot do, not what comes easier. From this distance, I was simply struck by the creative genius of the sequence he employed that day. As a teacher, he has been more a devotee of the subject and his Guru. It comes through very clearly in his delivery. He knows LOY inside out and has a fantastic memory with respect to the photos in the hall.

While I know and appreciate the importance of sequencing, in my notes, the sequence would be secondary to the tidbits about Guruji or the Sutras or analogies or a focus action. The bodily effort is simply a way to prepare one to explore one’s own true self. But, today I was struck with the threading of a sequence as an art. The principles of sequencing are not complex, they are based in common sense and are not rigid. Often, one mistakes the list of asanas as a standard over the counter delivery for certain issues. Some things are established and we don’t mess around with it but else, there is a lot of freedom to experiment.

At my level, it is still body driven with rudimentary awareness of breath and mind. I observe but do not have the knowledge or maturity needed for experimenting with it. But, sometimes there is a brief experience of that cohesion, like in savasana today.

In RIMYI news, the institute gets more lively by the day with things getting ready for the fresh academic year. It is a different era now with both offline and online classes. As for me, I am simply happy to be back. It has been a constant through these last years even when it was shut. If I had to articulate what draws me there, I wouldn’t have one answer. RIMYI is many things. It is the generosity of a man who gave all of himself to the world, it is the devotion and dedication of the teachers who carry on his legacy, it is the space itself- a pulsating one that has remained a place of study, endeavour and transformation for so many. I could go on but it probably would not make much sense if one hasn’t experienced it for themselves. Sharing a few pictures here for you Suzy. The last image is of the space allocated for the book store and is adjacent to the new entrance.

Uthita Sthithi

Standing Asanas. Everytime, my mind takes off at rocket speed, I know I need standing poses. There is something about the firmness in the legs that anchors body and mind. I’ve been feeling flighty lately with extremely packed days. So, prescribed a week 1 kind of practice and threw in an abhyanga for good measure.

Practice took a beating this last week with 12-14 hour working days. All I could manage was some releases to ease creaky pains for a short bit early in the day. But today I was up super early and got a solid practice in. I’ll probably ache later in the evening or tomorrow but it will be a sweet reminder of the coursing energy that tells me I am alive. 

Last evening, while I was watching the Obi-Wan series, I thought about how our true selves are hidden from us. How little do we know of the vastness that lies below our waking selves. It is something the texts talk about but every once in a while, there is a sudden dawning, if only momentarily, of those truths. And then they sink under like a big, blue whale. 

I am reminded of how Jambavan needed to remind Hanuman that he was the son of the Wind and had great power within him. Hanuman is a wonderful symbol to explore the various concepts like Yukti, Shakti, Bhakti. They are a progression as well as a base. As a student, it shows as both a continuum and a blossoming. Cyclical. 

A good start to dive into another maddeningly busy day. 

Wall Adho Mukha Vrikashasana and half, Column Pincha Mayurasana and half, Uttanasana, Dandasana, Trikonasana, Parvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Uttanasana, Upavishtakonasana, Supta Padangustasana 1 and 2, Prone Tadasana, Sirsasana, Ek pada Sirsasana, Halasana, Sarvangasana, Niralamba Sarvangasana, Savasana