India Chronicles

Theresa’s 2013 Trip to study at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India

Jan 25th

Another great pranayama class with Geeta tonight. She really is a master of bringing out the profundity of simple things. For instance, tonight she was talking about the sitting posture and how you have to consciously draw the prana up through the body to create a stable sitting position for pranayama.

Toward the end of class she announced that our next pranayama would be done alternately with the right and left hands and I immediately panicked a bit. My left hand is a bit unpredictable, sometimes the knots in my muscles don’t even allow me to do simple hand gestures, nevertheless pranayama mudra. But, please tell Dr. Baer that I was able to do just fine tonight.

Geeta also taught Wednesday’s backbend class. She starts class and quickly reaches right into the places where we are dull. My ankles reached their limit in the first pose!

The asana class plan at the institute is roughly: First Week – Standing poses, Second Week – Forward Bends and Twists, Third Week – Backbends, Fourth Week – Pranayama. So backbend week is now over. I have a lot of creative backbend sequencing to share when I return. We embark on Pranayama week starting Monday. Only 3 more days of classes for our little group and then we’re off to Mumbai for our trip home.

Jan 21st

The therapy classes are smaller now and there is an abundance of assistants so I don’t have my own patients like I did 2 years ago. I’ve been shadowing Lois with a few patients who have hip issues such as arthritis and necrosis, as well as other issues. I learn their sequences and set ups and how to adjust. Stephanie and the other senior assistants circle around giving me pointers. The situation doesn’t engender confidence and I’m often quite nervous and do stupid things but they put up with me and the patients always benefit from the class.

We all take one class each day at the institute and there are several of us who watch and take notes on the variety of other classes at the institute. We are squeezing everything we can from our short time here

Jan 20th

Lois suggested that I go back to practicing hand balances with the backbends at the end of each cycle in order to shift my psychological state. Kirsten did the practice with me today and she tried everything. She had many ignominious landings but each time she got back up, making multiple attempts until she figured out how to stay airborn.

Geeta gave a fantastic pranayama class tonite. Lots of information to guide us in our practice as well as teaching.

Jan 13th

The girls have taken a weekend trip to the Ajanta and Ellora caves so I am exploring Pune with Kirsten’s Danish friend, Elin. She is watching the children’s class from 8-9 and then coming over to my apartment to practice.

Last week I worked with a few of new patients in the therapy classes. One was a tiny, very old woman and I was a bit afraid of being too strong for her. After some time she asked me, much to my surprise, if it was my first time in therapy class. After I got over my shock and answered her question she said, “Do more! Do more!”.

Another patient had spinal meningitis some time ago and experienced headaches ever since. But the day I worked with him he had a catch in his back so we deviated from his usual program. I received lots of guidance from all of the assistants that day – Lois, Stephanie, Gulnaz. At one point Stephanie was explaining something to me and her blue eyes were just shining. She is so passionate about, and connected with, this work.

Had another great class yesterday with Abi and Iyengar. A lot of work on the top waist and abdominal viscera. Elise Miller was next to me in sarvangasana and we both survived (barely) the incredibly long setu bandha at the end.

Alas, we are not allowed to take photos of yoga at the institute. So here are some photos of “yoga outside”.


Jan 9th

Great class today with Abi and Iyengar. Our first pose after tadasana was ardha candrasana and the rest of the class was forward bends and inversions. I received some mind (and body) opening adjustments from Devki and Rajlaxmi. Sometimes I becomes distressed that Iyengar is not eternal. But then I remember, especially after receiving such fantastic adjustments, that the other teachers at the institute like Devki and Rajlaxmi have a lifetime of things to teach me.

Spending the afternoon at home in our apartment going over notes and drinking masala chai so we are all charged up for therapy class. Then a dinner of leftover pizza (yes we get the best thin crust pizza in India) and early to bed for the 7 am class tomorrow.

Jan 7th

We are a week into the classes and my students have proven to be very brave indeed. They put their mats right in front of Iyengar during practice time and also during Ladies Class on Wed and Sat. Today during the practice time Iyengar was working with Lois’ backbends and he gave her an exotic pose to do in order to bring her tail deeper in. Lois did the pose a couple of times, and then Corinne Biria took a turn, and then Stephanie. Then Anna and Tricia and Kirsten jumped up and gave it a try. They even convinced me to do the pose.

Our little group has been enjoying my tours of Pune. On Sundays we have no classes so yesterday Shobha took us to Tulsi Baug and the Mandai Market and then back to Asha’s for lunch. Some of you might know Sushma and her husband Satish from my Wed and Thurs 8 pm classes in Madison. Shobha is Sushma’s sister and Asha is their mother. Tulsi Baug is a nice refuge off of the Laksmi Road shopping area. It is a little square with a big tree and Ram temple in the center. Around the perimeter are small shops, places for all things brass and metal kitchenware. We found trays and locks and hooks and such. But we held off purchasing any murti-s (statues) until we went to Sandeep’s warehouse. Kirsten purchased a beautiful brass tray and they engraved it right on the spot. I picked out some gifts for the next graduating Studio Yoga teacher’s class.

Mandai Market is great fun, sensory overload for sure, but not to be missed. All the fruits and vegetables that you can imagine piled high in displays of brilliant color. Determined to try new vegetables we asked Shobha to help us pick out some new ones to try.

After lunch we were off to Sandeep’s warehouses where I stocked up on items for the yoga prop shop – Patanjali, Ganesh of all sizes (even tiny ones), and elephant candle stands. I decided to branch out a bit from the selection of 2 years ago. I’ll be bringing back a few Nataraj and a Garuda as well as some Ganesh that are made to hang on the wall.

Afterwards we headed home for a dinner of fruit, tea, toast and jam and then to bed in anticipation of the 4 am alarm to get us to class on time.

January 2nd, Wednesday

When I woke up this morning and reached for the alarm clock it occurred to me that I am almost feeling normal. We arrived in Pune before sunrise on Dec 30th. Our early arrival was a surprise to our hosts as we had led them to believe our train was coming in late afternoon. So much for not being used to military time.

Our hosts sleep on twin beds in the living room so there is always a mix of activities there. Anna and Tricia and I took over the couch and were served masala chai and biscuits, both salty and sweet. We then learned that construction was being done in our rooms and we couldn’t really settle in until the afternoon. It turned out that we couldn’t totally settle in for many days, but that is another story. Also Pune is having a drought. The monsoon rains weren’t sufficient this year. But there is still enough water for sponge baths and occassional loads of laundry.

Kirsten arrived shortly thereafter so after a clothes adjustment and more tea and biscuits we set off for a “logistical” day. We seem to have a week’s worth of experiences each day, our activities punctuated by stops for chai and fresh juices. Juice without ice of course, although now ice is often made with “Bisleri” water. My Indian cell phone had been mothballed for 2 years so we plugged it in to charge and and then set off to get photocopies of our visa entry pages, then a bite to eat at a westernized restaurant specializing in chocolate and coffee. Anna is always on the look out for real brewed coffee. The locals seem to favor hot water and Nescafe.

I led everyone over to RIMYI, the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. Mr. Iyengar’s wife passed away during the construction of the institute and it was consequently dedicated to her. Being a Sunday the institute was closed but we did take the obligatory photo in front of the plaque outside of the institute. Even being outside of the gate was very exciting for the newcomers. Anna is a 5 time veteran of adventures in India, even having once visited Pune on a spiritual tour. This is the first India trip for Tricia and Kirsten.