I’ve been grappling with my relationship to Iyengar yoga, the Iyengar family ever since I first came to the Insitute in 2008. At that point, Geeta was still teaching. 2 years later, she only taught pranayama and Guruji instructed the senior teachers from the back of the class and we were so fortunate to recieve his direct instruction. This year, Guruji only came to the practice hall twice and Geeta came just once. Prashant is our main teacher and other classes are taught by senior teachers in the Institute.
I feel very fortunate to have experienced Mr. Iyengar direct teaching albeit in a large group in Colorado or via his granddaughter as well as those first years with Geeta. And I feel so blessed this year to be able to be under the tutelage of teachers who are connected to the Institute on a daily basis since they were children. Their tranmission of the material is a portal.
As a student of Iyengar yoga my relationship with the Iyengar is via my teachers. They are the originals who came when Pune was overrun with oxcarts instead of motorbikes. They have a personal relationship with the Iyengars which I believe aids them through the obstacles the Insitute presents to each and every one of us. As not direct students of the Iyengars, there is a compulsion to make sure one is learning with someone who has been touched.
It’s not always easy learning from the iyengars. They are strong and passionate and they are eager that we learn well and also know that we will never learn enough. The teaching style shakes up newcomers. Or, in my case I had a few unfortunate interactions outside of the typical classroom situation that left me whirling maybe more than others but less than those that don’t come back. Geeta had been in retirement and was pulled out with pleas from her students. She is not well and tired, she deserves to retire. Those that have grown up with her perhaps are fearful to let her go.
Certaily those close to them have had the strongest teachings. But they also have the relationship to explain and soften the blow. I have to come under fire. Even though I tried my hardest to do the right thing, inadvertedly I made mistakes, caught them on a bad day was made an example or was blessed as my friend says. to have such a “touch of the guru.” The teachers closest to them have had the worst and they have had the best.
Regardless, I have had to figure out and look at what it brings up for me. I’ve always said that India and the INstitute are mirrors and you choose to work on it or not. I wanted to come back. Everyone has their own journey. As one teacher said “i’m always called out and yelled out, that stuff rolls off my back.” and another said she spends her time in a different way than before.
Last time, it ended peacefully. I was walking up the stairs when I saw Guruji coming up. I had been trying to stay as invisible as possible which might not be the best tactic but it’s what I was doing. I moved ot the tiny corner on the stairs near the gold deity and he passed, stopped, turned and smiled. .
I came back. The impulse to return was deeply motivated and cofounded me. I worried that it was just external pressure. But there is such learning that happens here even if not always in the most organized fashion. You have to as my teacher here says “catch it” when it comes.
I truly love India and I know there is magic amongst the obstacles. My love as I’ve been criticized, appears colonialistic. It’s not. It’s something I can’t quite explain. THe more I come, the less I understand and the more intrigues me.
So, how do we the third or fourth generation forge a relationship with the Insitute that won’t include wistful memories of intensives with Guruji or the sharp preceptive eye of Geeta (she can see inside each and every person in her packed hall)? If we are not learning directly from Geeta and Guruji are we learning Iyengar yoga?
What is Iyengar Yoga and how is it defined? In almost every country associations and senior teachers aim to define it and adhere to Guruji’s system. The problem is that the like the country it resides, the method is both fully inclusive of everything and strictly unique. It is a formalized system but it is constantly evolving and changing. It’s slippery and this makes it challenging to formalize So, Associations across the world all experience division, disagreement on what is Iyengar yoga and how it’s applied.
I love that Iyengar Yoga is an intelligent grounded system and not open to whatever someone thinks is a good idea. Many offshoots from Iyengar yoga just explore one branch that they stuck leaves of other systems and flowers from other philosophies onto. Iyengar yoga is all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful.
It´s ironic because yoga is ultimately, as Prashant teaches, an individual process and one where you have to find and trust your own inner teacher. But this does not mean you reject a teacher, au contraire the subject requires a Guru and for westerners I think this can be a challenge. HOw can you be a complete individual and follow unquestioningly your teacher Particlary in the US, we celebrate individuality, difference and enterneurship. The senior teachers here are fierce loyal disciples of the Iyengars and also extremely confident, unique voices. For them, their close relationship has taken them deep into the core of the Iyengars fierce and loyal teaching and towards their own light. If there is anything I can say about the ones I studied with is that you an feel the full complete system in their teaching, not one part but the whole tree with their own colored blossoms.
So, are we teaching and learning Iyengar yoga without this context? Can you capture it from books, cd’s, workshops here and there or even one month?
How can you transmit something that is always changing? If you aren’t able to come to India regularly can you be an Iyengar teacher? And those that come stay a month at least, bring back a little morsel and then that morsel becomes a pre-fixed meal. ARe the teachers that come more regularly due to proximity or financial ability more true? And of course there is each person’s interpretation of the instruction. What I hear is different than someone else. So who is right? Can we both be right? Or is that precisely what Iyengar Yoga is? I get a morsel, chew it and digest it and then transmit it via my understanding?
Politics aside, my own relationship with Iyengar yoga, the Institute and my practice was my intention for coming. I received some answers and many more questions. For me,being able to ask questions, or be seen in class by teachers I feel, as one said, karmically drawn gives me great hope. They are translating what is difficult to get via cultural, personal obstacles and giving us portals on the journey deeper within. The submission , faith and loyalty I have witnessed in others I have now experienced. As for where this takes me, only time will tell but it will be defined by my experience.