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Third Time a Charm –Journey to India, July 2015 by Melissa Perehudoff

August 17, 2015

My plane ticket to India was bought and my apartment in Pune was arranged so why was I so hesitant about this third trip to RIMYI?  The obstacles were looming their ugly heads one by one: doubt, confusion, laziness, pain, or more precisely mental angst.  Mother India is a powerful teacher for whatever lessons are needed to help you next in your spiritual growth and did I really want to leave the comfort of my home for one month in chaotic and unpredictable India? Beyond the beautiful colours, people and tastes of India were also the endless noise, traffic, pollution, packed mat to mat yoga space, yoga instructions sometimes in Marathi and sometimes in English, squat toilets, stray dogs, water that can’t be drunk and water bottles that can’t be disposed. Let’s face it, the city in India I was destined for was about as opposite to the quiet, orderly and naturally beautiful town I lived in as you could get! That would explain my love-hate turmoil over returning to India for a third time. Little did I know what genuine contentment and deep felt gratitude awaited me.

I could feel the fear and anxiety in my body as I walked to my first yoga class on July 1st.  I tried to focus my attention on my abdomen and allow it to soften. I got there just in time to get a spot at the back of the room and watch my breath during the invocation to Patanjali which was led by a teacher I did not know, Sushumna. As she instructed us through Adho Mukha Svanasana and Uttanasana I heard a distinct voice say, “Tadasana everyone”. Somehow our beloved Geetaji had settled on the stage ready to teach the class. I felt a tear trickle down my cheek with the recognition that Geeta Iyengar would be teaching this month with all her brilliance, mastery and fervor. It had been six years since I last attended classes at RIMYI and I hadn’t expected to have classes with Geeta again since there was talk she had retired from teaching general classes to look after her own health and matters at the Institute. As Geeta resolutely demanded that we go further and further in the poses, I felt a shakiness from deep within and wondered about the fine line between alertness and fear. 

As the week progressed I fell into a rhythm of rising at dawn to have a quiet hour on the terrace of my apartment to read BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with my morning tea. I don’t know if I had ever fully read the kaivalya pada or fourth chapter on the soul’s quest for freedom. The other three chapters had kept me busy in my exploration for understanding during my twenty year yoga practice.  It seemed that reading the sutras while immersed in the teachings in India made the meaning more transparent and easier to grasp. I was especially captured by sutra IV.33 which translates as “Transformation does not come without effort”. The effort required to maintain the prescribed yoga schedule became more effortless as I fell into my routine and trusted that I was there to learn and absorb as much as possible. The yoga schedule consisted of arriving at the Institute at 7:00 am to observe or take a class. Practice time followed from 9:00 to 12:00 or later in the afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 if the class was at 9:30 am. Writing out notes, reading yoga texts, visiting with new yoga friends and planning what or where to eat seemed to occupy the rest of the day.

We were fortunate that there seemed to be a smaller group of about 80 international yoga students there for the month of July. It was fun to hear the ladies from Kazakhstan chatting in Russian and notice the cheerful Mexican ladies working together on the trestler. The little bit of extra heat in the humid air and heat in the purifying body allowed me to go deeper in forward bends and twists as my spine increased in suppleness with the daily practice. Arm bindings became firmer as my shoulders released and leg crossings more stable with the adhering quality of sticky skin. I have never sweated so much in my yoga life as the back bend class in which Geeta made sure everyone did Mandalasana!  Instead of wondering what I would do during my three hour daily practice, I spontaneously thought of what I wanted to work on as I walked to the Institute for the practice time. I was reminded of sutra 1.20 “Practice must be pursued with trust, confidence, vigour, keen memory and power of absorption to break the spiritual complacency.” 

The intensity of practice continued for six days of the week and sleeping in on Sunday was replaced with observing the joyous and vigorous kids yoga class. Imagine one hundred children doing yoga together at 8:00 on Sunday morning, being drilled into one pose after another as classes are only taught in Pune. A few laughs and sleepy yawns could be witnessed in the hour long class but the three teachers on stage were intent on teaching the children discipline and focus the Iyengar way. “Tapas”, sometimes translated as self-discipline or burning desire would be a central theme for my one month of yoga at RIMYI. As the mind became quieter and accepted my purpose for the month; arms and legs became more dutiful and responded to the daily instructions and senses withdrew to observe my inner world, I felt a warm contentment and inner glow as I walked to my last yoga class on July 29th.  Geeta would be teaching us inversions and pranayama in the class and I would understand through experience sutra 1.14 “Long uninterrupted alert practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations in consciousness.”

 

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