Learning Iyengar yoga at the source: My adventure in Pune, India
“I spent a month at B.K.S. Iyengar’s yoga retreat, and my body has openings that were never there before”
BY RENEE TAVARES — We’re wrapping it up here, only two more classes with the best yoga teacher I’ve experienced, Geetaji Iyengar, the daughter of B.K.S. I feel my body has openings that weren’t there — and wouldn’t be there unless I had been here. Since body, mind and spirit are connected, I am trusting there are openings in the latter two
I have been practicing in the Iyengar yoga studio next to all my colleagues. Geetaji and Guruji (B.K.S.’s honorific, which literally means “great teacher”) are always there, as well as their Indian students who we can observe receiving teaching from Guruji himself. That’s me, in the picture below, bowing to B.K.S. Iyengar.
A very few lucky westerners have spontaneously received some personal instruction from Guruji by strategically positioning themselves right in front of him. Personally, I feel it was enough just to look across the room and see him doing his amazing backbends.
I also feel so lucky to have Geeta here, too, and was able to be practicing close to her. Today, we exchanged Namaste’s, which is a form of peak experience.
And she agreed to pose with me for this picture (lower left).
The Iyengar facility is a microcosm of India: It is so crowded that its not easy to get any individual attention.
Guruji turns 90 in December, and 400 of his friends, family and students are all going to Bellur, India, where he was born and presides over an orphanage. All of the extra money that B.K.S. Iyengar makes goes to Bellur, and he and his family live in relative simplicity. This is my evidence: I’m studying with the right people.
On the other hand, we visited Osho (Bagwan Shri Rajneesh, remember him?). It was very underwhelming. I did not (nor did my traveling companion, Claudia) get a good vibe from his complex at all.
The people there are super uptight, have security guards all over the place. It is what I call “corporate spirituality’. They have a flashy ‘feel good’ video, a smorgasbord of ‘meditation’ techniques to pick from, and charge LOTS of money.
The tour was pretty bad, they didn’t let you within 20 feet of anything. They also have a bar and a disco — for enlightenment, right? — just in case meditation doesn’t cut it for you. The whole place just reeked of big money, and a huge contrast to what goes on outside its twelve-foot-high black marble wall. Most Indians don’t care for it.
I saw a few beautiful temples, and enjoyed also seeing the Ghandi memorial, Aga Khan Palace, where he was imprisoned and where his wife died. It felt amazing to be in the presence of where his ashes are kept. A great man who transformed our time, just like Guruji (depicted in the statue, right).
Meetings with Remarkable Men: Read the first of Renee’s dispatches from the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India