Every two years I return to India to visit the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI). This is the source of Iyengar yoga, the place where BKS Iyengar(Guruji) first began to teach. Sent to Pune by his teacher Krishnamacharya at the age of 18, Guruji began teaching classes and eventually built a home with his wife and family and established the Institute in January 1973.
Like any tradition, it is important to stay true to the source and coming to India provides an experience that not only connects you to the lineage of yoga but also reminds you of the culture and tradition that surrounds this art, science and philosophy we teach and practice. Booking in for one to two months per visit, you attend classes taught by the Iyengar family and their teachers.
On arrival you are given a timetable. This timetable includes the classes you are to attend along with scheduled practice times where you can use the studio on Level 1 to do your own practice. This schedule runs 6 days per week with one day off, Sunday. Classes are taught by Geeta Iyengar, Prashant Iyengar and Abhijata Iyengar along with others teachers who have taught at the centre for many, many years. All with the same schedule, there are many other Iyengar yoga teachers from all over the world. We all go to class together, practice together and develop relationships where we share ideas and thoughts in the practice room. We watch each other, talk about the way we are using the props and study effects. How you could gain this type of rich experience any other way, I am not sure?
During the classes, you are taught in a way that you have never experienced before, everytime. No class is ever repeated. You are guided to think and feel the way the asana is effecting every part of your body, in intricate detail, from every perspective. There is no place for complacency and robotic asana action. Every pose is experienced with a clearer mind and fresher perspective. While staying in Pune, most foreigners share an apartment with other teachers. This is another enriching experience where you communicate ideas about teaching and practicing yoga.
Socially you have meals togeher, catch tuk-tuks together and explore the sites around Pune. There is always some local knowledge, where someone has been somewhere before e.g a reat place to buy statues of Patangali and then we all go off on an adventure to find that place. You only need to tell your tuk-tuk driver a landmark near the location and you eventually get there.
While staying in Pune you also learn what it means to live like an Indian. Unlike life in Australia where everyone feels important individually, with a need to be heard for their specific requirements, in India you realise you are just another person amongst millions. While it may sound callous, this realisation is not a bad thing. It helps you understand your role on the planet and place in this world. It forces you to consider what part you play. Are you going to work with others through sharing and cooperation or are you wanting to take what is yours individually.
My personal opinion is that only by working together with others can you achieve. Only through communication, cooperation and harmony can you go forward. If you want to cross the road in India, you have to know that that the drivers will slow down and let you cross. If you want to get a meal in a busy restaurant, you all have to stand together without complaint and wait for you turn. The scale of humanity forces you to go with the current rather than against it. This doesn’t mean you don’t have your own identity but it does teach you that you need to consider the effect of your action on others.
One of the essential qualities of a yoga teacher is to remain humble and being in India at the RIMYI reminds you of this. If you are in class or the practice room and an Iyengar questions you on something you are doing in the practice room, you must not take it as a personal affront. The teachers at RIMYI have a duty to see that you are teaching and practicing to the highest standard. Knowing that you will go home to your country and carry this teaching on in their name, they need to be sure you are teaching with the honesty of a true practitioner. Leaving India to return home is always bitter sweet. On the one hand you are excited because your mind is full of new ideas and experiences that you will twork on for months in your own practice and share with your students and colleagues but on the other hand you know that there is nowhere else on this earth you can eat, sleep, live and breathe yoga like India.