Classes at the Iyengar Institute in Pune India are so far removed from any Yoga class you would ever attend in the West that they actually shatter our preconceived concepts of what we believe Yoga should be. This in itself is a Yogic magnificence that can challenge a practitioner with the opportunity of observing themselves and the present moment in a new terrifyingly wonderful perspective.
I wish to offer up a few servings of the differences for your review……
In the West most studios we are familiar with are in clean quiet surroundings, with fresh water, and enhanced air flows for our maximum comfort and enjoyment.
-Do not drink the water at the institute or you will be stuck laying around your crappy apartment running to the john for two days or more.
-The institute is open air, which allows some the world’s finest pollution to pour in while you practice. Multitudes of cars, scooters, and auto rickshaws roar by outside jubilantly beeping in unison often while you are in Savasana. Exhaust from the millions of these vehicles, and smoke from nearby factories, are complimented daily by possibly hundreds of thousands of small fires of locals burning garbage on the street outside their homes around the city.
All this unique delight enchants our Pranayama and Asana practices with an unknown newness never found in Western climes.
In my opinion the large studio at the institute would be used for a very maximum of maybe sixty students in the West.
-You can expect however eighty to one hundred students side by side. Sometimes it is so packed it is necessary to practice on mats folded in half to accommodate the masses.
“If you need your own space you have come to the wrong place”
In the West we take our favourite yoga mat, to see our favourite teacher, at the studio offering the best time to fit our busy schedule, and if we are lucky, we even get our favourite spot.
At the Institute there amid the intensity of perhaps too many students you may find obstacles on the Yogic path arise. Ownership of a spot in fact does not exist and you may be faced with someone on “your mat” when you’ve come back from fighting to grab the last blanket if you have left it unguarded by a friend. At the same time you then may find yourself in a fluster side stepping between the lucky people that have spots in search of a home. Miraculously as the Red Sea parting, a space opens in front of you, you place your blanket on a mat and sit yourself in Swastikasana pleased with yourself and start slowly settling in. Without warning you may be informed by your broken English neighbour who had been yakking animatedly in the other direction that the spot was taken, saved for her boyfriend.
This is wonderful ignition for Kleshas that you were sure you had dealt with long ago, to burst into flames, and may identify “you still have some work to do”. Strangely enough it always seems to work out in the end. The omniscient teacher shouts compassionately at you to get to a spot that magically appeared even though it certainly wasn’t there a minute ago.
In the West we are often greeted upon our arrival to the Yoga studio by cheery staff or the teacher themselves, we swipe our pass, or have our punch card stamped and make our merry way to class.
At the Institute upon entering hoping you might register, it might be necessary to ask around to many people whom may or may not be staff members in the lobby often busily engaged in animated conversations while you wait politely. When you are finally noticed you will likely be directed to Mr. Pandu if he happens to be there. Now if you are lucky enough to find him he will likely be busy doing, goodness knows what, will look up, look you over, size you up, and give you a registration form, a men’s or a woman’s (at his discretion) and tell you to come back tomorrow.
The teacher is usually not in the classroom, students are stretching, showing off their various gumbynesses, all wondering in anticipation at who the teacher might be. The teacher may come in sauntering in resplendence as the king or queen of the Mongolia horde via a not so secret elevator in the back of the studio so their health or girth may not be compromised by physically ascending the spiral stair case up from the ground floor. They may fiddle a little with the lights or the fans upon entering to assure the awareness of their arrival is spread amongst all students and then proceed to plop down their posterior and begin the Invocation to Patanjali without missing a beat.
All this madness however begins to transform however, when the teaching starts and the twenty something hour plane rides pay off. The teacher before you is an absolute master of Yoga Asanas, Pranayama, and Philosophy, no matter how far removed they look from your preconceived Yoga Journal notions.
You recall why you came, and where you are, and why you are here.
In the Moment
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