It’s hard to believe but it’s already been 4 weeks since I arrived at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune. Only 3 days left until my departure back to Toronto! My time here, without a doubt, has been rich. It’s funny because I originally thought I would prepare weekly blog posts, but as I got into a rhythm with classes and practice, the extent of information (both technical and experiential) was so vast that I really needed to give myself more time to digest. And although I think it will take me a good year to ‘unpack’ all of the learning and apply it to my own practice back home, I thought I could at least share with you some initial thoughts…
The first time I studied at the Institute was in July 2011 and I remember in anticipation of that trip I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know if I had the stamina or depth of practice to keep par. I remember though that once I was in the swing of things, I was actually quite pleased. I felt I had been well prepared for the month of study and I was absolutely where I should be with respect to my practice. I could modify as I needed to and I didn’t need to do everything perfectly. It was reaffirming. On that trip, I learned a lot – interesting tidbits of how to do poses differently, new ways of understanding familiar presentations of the poses, and glimpses of how to move the practice to a deeper place.
This trip is similar in that I also learned interesting tidbits of how to do poses differently, new ways of understanding familiar presentations of the poses, and glimpses of how to move the practice to a deeper place, but the underlying feel or mood of the trip is very different. This time around I am completely and utterly aware of how little I know. It’s not to say that I feel ill prepared to be here, I don’t. I think that it’s just that the extent and depth of the subject matter has been revealed in an illuminating way. Being in the presence of BKS Iyengar, Geetaji, & Prashanti is humbling beyond words, and even sharing the practice hall with the distinguished teachers who come from across the globe to study with the Iyengars has left its mark.
I think if I had to choose a theme for this trip, it would be ‘consolidation’. So much of what I am taking away is about how to practice, the nature of practice. Prashant says there are two aspects to practice – learning and consolidation. Learning is necessary so that you progress, so that you graduate to the next level (be it to a new, more challenging pose or whatever), but he also says it’s important to plateau and to use that plateau to look around, absorb, and consolidate. He compares our infatuation with learning technique to continuously eating without allowing time for digestion. And what hit me most profoundly in reviewing some of his writings on this topic is that he says:
“Don’t think that unless you have reached the ultimate final pose then only the fruit comes. No. At every level, asana has something to offer.”
The stillness of mind, the ‘effortless effort’ is to be sought at every stage of practice. Being reminded of this, for me, was huge.
…that’s all for now. As I begin to unravel the things I have learned while I’ve been away, I hope to do some more writing. In the mean time, happy practicing! I hope you find satisfaction and stillness at every stage of practice – on the mat, and off. Best wishes to all of you for the holiday season! Happy New Year! 🙂