Today begins a celebration. A celebration of the Goddess Durga (Navratri lasts 10 days), a celebration of BKS Iyengar on his 100th year, a celebration of the teachings of Geeta, and a celebration of even the smallest of communities touched by yoga.
Those of us scheduled to be at the institute for the month got our venue changed to another hall for the next couple of weeks due to a special intensive that has been given each month to different countries with small communities and/or newer practitioners. This month there is an odd mix – we have met students from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Jordan, and Qatar. They have been taught by Abhi for a couple of days so far, but today was their first class with Geeta and the energy and excitement was palpable.
Geeta needs a walker to walk these days, but once on stage has the same energy she always has…she was born to teach. She is conscious of her bodily frailty, but serves the class with gusto! Right off the bat I was in tears of gratitude. She began asking us literally what we wanted to learn from her…and she truly wanted an answer! One woman spoke up to wanting “restorative” practice to recover from not sleeping, and that idea fed the whole class. But, she asked again, what is OUR idea of restorative?? Hint : it is not just a sequence of what we think of as “restorative poses”…
She referred to Sutra I.31 as our guide in discriminating the different levels of disturbance that can cause the need for restoration or the distraction from a peaceful mind – “Sorrow, despair, unsteadiness of the body and irregular breathing further distract the citta“. From that jumping off point she proceeded to work her usual magic through some simple poses, but effective adjustments.
In Virasana we were to get the best contact with Mother Earth for stability and support (reverence to the Mother Earth). In Adho Mukha Virasana and Janu Sirsasana, she reminded us that forward bends were for resting the heart parallel to the earth as well – something that almost no one was doing. Hiding the heart inside also leads to despair and despair leads to fatigue. Long work with Baddha Konasana led to the idea that opening the groins also leads to opening the chest, relieving fatigue both physically and mentally.
Prasarita Padottanasana led us toward more understanding of where fatigue may begin…Geeta made numerous points that WE are the ones that need to discriminate between our own fatigue…is it mental? physical? emotional? spiritual? only WE can truly know the cause and then only WE can do what is needed to restore our selves.
THIS is why we come to India…it is not just the “teaching” that matters, the points and the sequences and the poses don’t mean much without the “experience” and the “substance” of the teaching. The context and the class and the interaction of teacher and student go a long way in learning. For me it is what I hope to impart to my students as well. Yes, I can guide you to better physical alignment, give pointers and reminders of study, but ultimately YOU have to embark on a journey that is fully yours. Educate Your Self.
And doubt in all forms is a killer. Looking to others, looking at others, comparing with others, means looking away from your Self…means doubting the very essence of YOU. Outward guidance may be needed, but inner answers are your responsibility.
So as we embark on this holiday for the Goddess, find the power within you….to restore, to renew, to surrender…
And if you really want to get into the celebration of it all…here’s the chant for the next 10 days….
Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, shanti rupen sansitha
Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, shakti rupen sansthita
Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, matra rupen sansthita
Namastasyai, namastasyai, namastasyai, namo namaha!