A Weekend in Pune

The Friday night weekend for a yoga student at the Institute started on Friday night with a pranayama class with Prashant Iyengar at 6 pm to 7:30. There was more talking than doing and the gathering of students sat quietly listening. Prashant, the scholar, philosopher, is passionate about his subject and so wants us, the students, to understand the importance of curiosity, self study, and practicing on our own. Most of us according to him want to be taught, or spoon fed what to do instead of seeking it on our own and through practice.

Saturday, for the Women’s morning class which now includes men, we had the pleasure of Sunita Iyengar teach a rather brilliant class for headaches. There were two students who showed up with headaches and she used that as an opportunity to teach us what to do. The theme that came through the instruction in the different poses was relaxing the brain, softening the back body in supported forward bends with head support, and spreading the skin away from the neck. She worked with the two women with headaches in poses that ran parallel to our poses but more individualized for them. She would call us over to observe what she was doing in their pose and we would return and do our pose. Masterfully done, we all learned from what we saw and what we experienced in the poses.

My friends and I were invited for a Sunday lunch at the Shahani’s and decided to go to the Sweet Shop to get some India sweets as a gift to take for our luncheon invitation. We took an Uber to the location but it was closed because of a family death. From there we took a rickshaw to an outdoor restaurant we remembered from a previous trip. Pune has grown so much and this area we were in looked like a modern street in New York or Hong Kong with tall glass buildings and stores lining the streets both sides. It was Saturday night and it felt like a big night out.

Sunday morning Prashant taught a 9:30 am philosophy class which was excellent. He discussed the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras, Sadhana Pada and the different margas or paths ( Bhakti, Karma, Jnana etc.) as a guide towards lessening the grip of the Klesas ( causes of suffering ) which stand in the way of spiritual wisdom. Prashant is a scholar but makes the teaching of the sutras accessible and uses humor where we are all laughing at ourselves and our humaness.

After philosophy our group of four went to lunch at the Shahani’s which is where I used to stay ( 6 times ) when I came to Pune. They have moved and are now in a beautiful and new condominium in a part of Pune I have never been. Pune has 4 million people? We arrived at 11:45 and left by Uber at nearly 6! Neena and Manu are a lovely couple and the four of us have all stayed with them in the past and have all been touched by their caring and warm personalities. Their new home is modern with beautiful marble floors Manu said looked like a cappuccino. I thought more a cafe latte. The floor plan is a very open space with balconies all around, 4 bedrooms, a kitchen and a lovely patio area. They have a cook and a young man who lives there to care for and walk the dogs, clean, and do anything they need done. They are on the seventh floor and have a view out over the city. The lunch was delicious: jerra rice, dal, a corn dish, potatoes, raita ( yogurt), assortment of pickles, pickled turmeric, chapati, and later 2 desserts! One dessert so rich and delicious was a custard with vermicelli and cardamon and sultana raisins, and the second dessert a speciality Duda? a small handmade clay pot with a lichee custard surrounding a small cube of sponge cake and sprinkled with pistachios. That is the most detail I’ve written about on any subject so far! You can tell it made an impression. That was followed by a wonderful rich chai which I am still feeling the caffeine surge as I write this. This will be my sugar intake of the trip! and so well worth it. I adore these two people who have made my trips in the past so memorable. They helped me when I was sick, where to go for things I asked about from shopping to money exchange, just about anything a foreigner might need help with. And my house is full of art I purchased through the years from Neena who is an art dealer.

That is the most I’ve done in a weekend in Pune or at home! It feels rich in yoga, in friendships who have shared this Iyengar Yoga experience in Pune, and the native friends, the Shahani’s, who are entwined in my memories and times in India. I feel very grateful for these experiences and friendships that make up my trips to India.

It is now Sunday night and I have a 7 am class and hope to sleep some in spite of the sugar and caffeine ingested earlier! I am thinking of you all and sharing these India stories.

Much love, Lou

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