Continuing Education

My Brain on India

CE’s Yoga for Older Adults instructor Tara Bernstein was kind enough to let us republish her blog in which she recounts a learning experience she had in 2015 while studying at Rimyi, the Iyengar Institute under Prashant S. Iyengar, son of school founder, Yogacharya BKS Iyengar.

In January 2015 I studied at Rimyi, the Iyengar Institute in Pune India.  Once home I practiced my poses with tapas, self-discipline, continuing to work on my poses and to go beyond what I know. Honestly, I struggle with practicing too mechanically, working only on Imagethe physical body.  I work on getting my alignment correct, or deepening my forward, backward, or twist poses. I can be somewhat satisfied with working this way, but I know there is more to practice than this. Prashant's teachings definitly reminded me of this.  One of my favorite quotes of his was “conscious craftwork.” Mr. Iyengar's son explained that, the body will only exist for this lifetime, so don't merely do yoga for the body. The consciousness will be maintained for many life times, if you keep awareness of the consciousness.  I like thinking about this because it reminds me of isvara pranidhana, or believing in something higher than myself. Though I still struggle with how my practice will go, I still want to practice mechanically and work on the physical body—it is easy for me and fun. 

What is more challenging and brings more contentment is to stop and go slower and as Prashant says, “Go to the yoga observatory.” The yoga observatory is the questioning that goes on while you are practicing. For example, what are you doing in a pose, why are you doing the pose and how do you do the pose?  While studying at Rimyi I got a taste of how to go deeper towards the core through asana. The Iyengar way to teach is slow, simple Imageand deep. We would spend more time on poses by working on simple instructions, which weren't necessarily easier, because we often would work from our senses, or from a very specific region of the body. The whole class was linked perfectly. In this mode of study, we were always practicing svadhyaya, or self-observation.  

The architecture of the institute itself is an odd shape. It’s not a square but more like a lopsided rectangle with three floors. The first floor is for business, the store, the office, and the library. The second is a large practice hall, which is not square but the same lopsided shape as the building. The third is a smaller angular practice room. Our mats were set up from the stage out, in a prism formation. In the States we are taught to line our mats up to the sides of the walls, but because in India the walls are slightly diagonal, the mats could not be lined up with straight square walls. I actually found this refreshing because it forced me to be aware of where my mat was in relation to the students on either side of me, so I had to look up and find out where I was in relation to everyone in the room. The bigger picture to this Imageobservation was that we were all practicing together, in this non-linear yoga hall. The institute brought all of our various cultures of practice together.  

Practice time was like being in a candy store. There were so many different variations of a pose being done that could be observed and then tried. It was gloriously sweet. What I had previously understood about yoga and its practice halls changed while I was in India. Rammanhi Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, named after Mr. Iyengar's wife, contains chandeliers with colored light bulbs, and an electric neon lit om, as well as large ancient ornamental deities. This was not the hippie-like environment that I was expecting.  I learned so much from the Iyengar institute, and I am grateful to have had the time to study there.

Learn more about Yoga for Older for Older Adults.
Learn more about Tara Bernstein by visiting University District Yoga.