Are You Here to Develop Your Muscle or Your Brain?

“Are you here to develop your muscles, or are you here to develop your mind?” Prashant Iyengar opened his class Tuesday with this question.

Each trip to study at the Iyengar Institute is different. And more so when Mr. Iyengar died in August 2014 and then Geeta’s death in 2018. In 2014 it was a more somber time and Mr. Iyengar’s failing health was visible. Geeta, too, had poor health but taught up to her last day. Being back now in 2020 there is a lot new and different.

The first thing I noticed was the grounds around the Institute look lush and cared for. There are two large pictures on the Iyengar house facing the Institute of Mr. Iyengar and Geeta. Bigger than life and facing our class and practice rooms. There are also little bikes and children’s shoes outside the door of the Iyengar home. Very cute! During practice you can hear children’s laughter as they are playing. They are Mr. Iyengar’s great grandchildren and Abhijata’s little girl and little boy and sometime other children of the family. It is delightful to hear children’s laughter as we practice or take a class.

The class schedule is very different now. There are many more classes and lots of young people filling them. There are more local Indian students in classes and doing more advanced poses. And in some classes the same older Indian students attend who have been coming as long as I can remember. They would probably be shocked that I remember them. Our group that is attending this February is fairly young and it seems a larger group from Eastern Europe but from all around the world. Poland, Russia, Italy, Mexico, France, Japan, China, Great Britain, Australia, Israel and on. I find out by their T-shirts which often say their country and a date with a workshop location like Israel 2014 or Moscow 2018.

In our practice sessions students practice on their own or in their country groups. That is when the different languages are heard, and it is very unique to be in a situation where we are all there in our diversity practicing together to better understand this subject of yoga. It is like a garland, Malasana is garland pose, which has a string or thread that runs through to hold the different flowers together. So, the thread that holds us all together is Iyengar yoga and each student represents the diversity that is held together by this thread. This speaks to Iyengar yoga and the Iyengar family whose presence is strongly felt. Prashant, Mr. Iyengar’s son, Sunita, Mr. Iyengar’s daughter (taught the class for headaches), and Abhijata, Mr. Iyengar’s granddaughter are all here and teaching classes. There is more joy and lightness felt and the other teachers are smiling more. There is no yelling and screaming and a sternness permeating everything.  (Sorry to remind you!) It is a much more relaxed and happier atmosphere and it feels and fits well for a school of yoga. And then the children’s giggling and playing outside our windows just adds to a more fun, family established system of yoga honoring this family who continue to brilliantly teach and send each of us, flowers in this garland, back to our countries with greater understanding and appreciation for yoga.

I appreciate this opportunity to practice with these dedicated teachers and look forward to sharing what I learn with you!

Much love, Lou

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