Life at RIMYI (November 2013)

This past November was the first time I’ve been in Pune during Diwali. Before classes at RIMYI began, a group of friends and I spent a few days at KARE, an Ayurvedic Retreat Center outside of Pune, where, six years ago, Guruji dedicated the yoga hall. We had an auspicious surprise to find that Guruji and some of his family members were also there. Seeing Guruji at the retreat center, I experienced his special radiant light and glow. 

Diwali, which is a “celebration of inner light,” goes on for several days. One evening we went up to the 9th floor to watch and listen to the surrounding fireworks that far exceed any July 4th you can imagine. We had to remind ourselves later, while putting in earplugs, that the crazy, loud, and deafening booms partly symbolized Diwali's deeper spiritual significance of celebrating the victory of good over evil, the light of higher knowledge dispelling ignorance. Compassion, joy, and ananda (bliss) follow this awakening, and each year must be celebrated with lights, sweets, and fireworks.

At the Institute, every morning Abhijata's father would carry her sweet, 7-month-old daughter, Satvika, into the practice hall and walk straight over to Guruji, who would be doing his daily practice. It was a pleasure to see Guruji light up and interact with his great granddaughter and to witness these intimate moments between generations. Guruji would play with the baby, moving her little body into various positions, holding her upside down, and putting her on the horse. One time he was given Satvika when he was in setubandha. He held her upside down and laid her tiny body on his massive, curved chest, her little legs waving in the air. After several minutes the baby would be taken out of the hall and we would fall back into our own space and time.

It is astounding and inspirational to see Guruji’s granddaughter, Abhijata, practice in the hall during her post partum stage. Under Guruji’s watchful eyes she deepens her asanas with precision. Like all mothers, she juggles motherhood and personal practice.

Abhijata is full swing into teaching. Her instruction is clear, vibrant, and original. She distills the words Guruji gives her throughout the class and incorporates them into her own unique teaching style. Guruji’s instruction is seamless and flawless. If your mat is on the side of the room where Guruji is practicing, your own practice is naturally quite intense. Abhi noticed this and had the room switch places so students would have their equal share of close proximity to Guruji.

In November, Geetaji taught the Thursday evening pranayama class and a few of the ladies classes. When Geeta begins her pranayama class you feel there is a chance that you will remember at least some of what is being taught. By the end of one of Geeta’s classes we had been taken so deep, to our very core, that there is no memory, only experiential bliss. Here is a small portion of Geeta’s savasana that I transcribed from a November 15 recording:

…senses of perception withdraw. All that energy has to flow towards the spiritual heart that exists in the center of the chest. Arms and legs become quiet, cortex quiet. Then the senses will proceed inwardly. Go with that procedure and you will be absolutely quiet and silent within. Inhale where you don't hit the breath to the brain; exhale in such a way that you reach the heart. Inhalation becomes mild and exhalation takes you to the center of your existence. So much you have to calm down and quiet your self.

Surrender yourself to the lord within, to the soul in its pure state.

Prashant’s classes are philosophical and contain many metaphors. I enjoyed his teaching and found it powerful and captivating. Here is a tender example of what I remembered:

When you hold a baby, do you think about your shinbone, your knees, do you keep your tailbone in…? NO! You are one with the baby, letting the baby's energy—that innocent energy—flow into you, and you forget about you. That is how to do the asanas, not the posture, the asana—is to be experienced, in that flow … that archetypal, iconoclastic asana that connects you to the supreme, the divine.

Rebecca Lerner is currently the Ethics Committee chairperson on the IYNAUS board. She teaches at and is co-director of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Central PA.