Learning through the week is eclectic with classes ranging from beginners to advanced. Instructions as well as philosophy nuggets also stride this bridge and it is a bit unwieldy as I try to synthesize them. Each class opens the subject so differently! Until last year, it was easier to make sense of a week as there was usually the lens of the weekly format of asana categories. But, now I find it quite unruly for my untrained brain. Imagine a student attending the same subject as an undergrad, post grad or PhD candidate. It requires a shifting of gears as well as consolidation and a judicial application of what one has learned and assimilated. It is a wonderful opportunity though, to observe how the mind pivots to adapt.
Assisting in class has additionally changed how learning happens. There is more sharpness in executing instructions rather than simply doing what I know. It is quite different from being a student and yet one is very keenly a student too. While helping a few people in bolster Setuband Sarvangasana last evening, I was reminded of the same asana in my first year when someone adjusted me. There was an aha moment when the edge of the prop was in the right spot and changed the dynamic of the asana. I saw that same light in the eyes of those who got the right location. Lessons come back to us in different ways.
Learning yogasanas can be achieved in a studio/ class format or in the Guru-shishya Parampara, the latter is much rarer these days. I guess for that system to thrive, there is a level of surrender required of the students that most of us may not be able to muster. Back when it was the norm, the student lived with the teacher in the ashram as part of the household, involved in assisting with the chores and attending to study matters. There is a certain purification in that process, a shedding of layers that prevent receptivity. Guruji learned from Krishnamacharya in that fashion. I don’t know if the likes of me can cope with the rigour in that kind of learning.
Guru-Shishya Parampara has been a theme I’ve been ruminating over especially as one of the books I’m currently reading is based on a student’s rendering and reminiscing of his Guru’s teachings. (Aghora Trilogy). He talks about a teacher who didn’t hesitate to give his students a tough lesson. If one can step away from the viewing the relationship as one of power play, there is actually immense compassion, provided the Guru is authentic. Since a little before Guru Purnima and after, I’ve been thinking about the 24 gurus of Dattatreya and examining my own teachers and Gurus. All the teachers he talks about are part of nature’s expression and he is attentive to the lessons they can teach.
“… I have taken shelter of twenty-four gurus, who are the following: the earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon and python; the sea, moth, honeybee, elephant and honey thief; the deer, the fish, the dancing girl Pingala, the kurari bird and the child; the young girl, arrow maker, serpent, spider and wasp…”.
If I had to think of a key learning from the week, it would be ‘desha‘ as explored through preparing the body for Pranayama. In the opening sutra of the 3rd pada, Patanjali says, “Desa Bandhah Cittasya Dharana” and later proceeds to lay out the different locations for samyama and their effects. At a yogasana level, how do we begin to start looking?