On the means to the end

Class was packed this morning, two days before Guruji’s birthday. It is definitely winter. As we bundled into the mat to mat filled room, often two per mat, the bodies began to melt the early morning chill.

“The means is not the end, in the end we must forsake the means, otherwise they cannot be a means to an end, and the means becomes the end itself.” Prashant began with a thread from a previous class, which he now, he said, would complete. You cannot keep on doing asana to stretch this and lengthen that, is that the end? He continued; “I gave up the means to evolve. In the end, the means cease to have meaning.”18 Maha Kriyas

Prashant has followed his own inner guide and, over the years, he has studied, reflected, applied and evolved his own Sadhana. He explained how his classes had changed since the 80s. “Svasa and vinyasa is yog”; stages, what is the touch for specific conditions, he asked. We should identify the drive, access the place, and evolve. We should not just do the asana, we drive the asana; and the breath is the conditioner, the conductor. In his book, The 18 Maha Kriyas of Yogasana, he explains that the breath is the “most prominent transformer”, air knows no boundaries, it goes everywhere..

Now do Urdhva Hastasana in Tadasana as if you are a beginner, he suggests. How do you evolve from here? How do you create conditions for yog? The connectivity? Let me ask you, who is doing Urdhva Hastasana? Now YOU do Urdhva Hastasana. Who is the you that is doing? The doer, the doing, and the done. What is being done and by whom? For whom? What is actually happening right now? What is the subject and what is the object?

Prashant’s rhetoric reminds me of the difference between engineering and metaphysics. In engineering, everything can be quantified, measured, determined. In metaphysics, the parameters are completely different. Prashant frequently recommends that all yoga students study metaphysics.

How do we build the syntax, the grammar? Most important, what is the right question to ask? He continues, he cajoles, he elaborates. “We all say that Patanjali wrote a thesis on grammar, but it is not the grammar as we think of grammar. In the Vedas, speech is very important, and what is right speech.” The Speech he refers to is the drive, the intent, the focus we carry into the work. Often, it is only through a deep and ongoing process of reflection that we uncover the real question or quest in and beneath our actions and activities.

Now build the connectivites, the connections, the alertness, the sensitivity, the sensibilities, the reflection. Do Parvritta Swatikasana, he continues, for the pelvis. The directions feel familiar be now; exhale more and more deeply, alternately inhale more deeply, sustain the retention for longer and longer.

Watch how the mind changes, watch the breath, you cannot separate the two he exclaims. The sutras refer to the mind, but we cannot work with the mind without acknowledging the impact, the effect of the breath on the mind. The mind does not exist independent of the breath. Prashant continued with an analogy; it is like milk tea. You enjoy your tea in the morning, the combination of water, milk, tea and sugar makes a lovely drink. But each thing independently will not give you the satisfaction of milk tea. You can chew on the tea leaves, taste the sugar cubes, but it is not the same as a cup of hot tea. Together it becomes something different.

Evolve the senses with the breath; take a stronger and longer exhalation and retention, what happens? What is actually happening? I shift my “drive” from doing to feeling, sensing. “What is doing and what is being done to, where, how? What is benefiting, and what or who are the beneficiaries?  Are you sensing, analyzing, reflecting, what part of you is sensing, analyzing, reflecting? “ Sometimes I think that he entreats us the way a zen master would with a koan. I have to stop and be still in a place of not knowing how, or when, or where, or what. And then consider shifting my lens. I know that when I hear wind blowing through trees I open my senses in a particular way, and this same wind blows in my body. Can I open my senses to the internal vayus, the internal breath?

Now, can the breath be done on you, he finally asks….

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Becoming and Knowing

Samadhi7 Am is a most auspicious time at RIYMI. Fifty to one hundred of us sit at the feet of Prashant Iyengar, marveling at his ability to reveal and describe the nature of the universe within each one of us, along with his mischievous wit and vast knowledge of all things sacred and mundane. “The breath is a born genius”, “Yoga is a becoming and the becoming is commensurate with your knowing”. We revel in his metaphors, his instruction with the breath, his understanding of the Gita, the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras. His classes are like receiving darshan, such is the inspiration woven throughout two hours four days a week.

The focus during the last week of the month is always pranayama. Prashant will have initiated us into his unique way of expanding the practice to encompass the body, breath, senses, mind, and the lens with which to focus, what he calls containments. He might encourage us to breath into the spine, or for the spine, or with the spine; or for the eyeballs; to exhale with the eyeballs, and to experience what happens. He gives no direct physical instructions other than to identify the area of focus, where we are to contain the “kriyas”, or actions.

Prashant’s typical jab is that we are all doers and not real students. He spoke of learning how to study, how to comment on your doing, so that you come to know something directly. The analogy he gave was that it is akin to what happens in a football stadium. Everyone in the crowd will cheer when a touchdown is made, and they will munch and drink. But the commentator has to really study the game, he has to understand the strategies, the players, the dynamics of each play. So, he asked, what do we want to study, what do we really want to know?

He referenced the 13th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, and said that the kshetra, or field, has three possible interpretations. The field can be owned, it can be used, or it can be known. The “field” is often translated as the body, but it can be the Self. Arjuna’s contemplation happened in this symbolic field, the battlefield of the mind, heart and soul. Is this not the real nature of our studies? For can we be really be known by a psychologist, or by a cardiologist? The knowing is on the nature of the core mind, the elemental mind, and not the periphery mind. For how much silent talk distracts us, and do we really walk our talk, or do we talk our walk, he asks? We have to begin to evolve an embodiment; a sense of Self that emanates from a direct and holistic experience. This requires patience and study. “You must learn to integrate, synthesize, and knead together the elements.” And so many elements!

Practice for “You and yours” he suggests. The you that experiences can change depending on where and what you work with. You might work with the senses, or the spine, or the organs. We began with strong exhalations in the abdomen and into the pelvis, to harness the tailbone, the root of the spine.  You might work with the senses. We worked with long and quiet exhalations with the eyeballs, emptying out, and evolving a sense of tranquility in the mind and for the mind. “You and yours” becomes a much more comprehensive experience of the Self.

“The breath is a born genius” “Let the breath be born, let it be done on you.” He spoke of transformers and touchstones, and while he did not mention the breath directly in this discussion, it is an obvious tool for us. He did give several examples. At times the change is for the best. And there are some touchstones that do not change, although they change the thing they touch, like salt and water. When salt is added to water, it becomes salty water. But let the water evaporate, and the salt remains. Wash clothes in clean water, and the clothes will be clean, but the water is now dirty. A teacher may become wealthy, while his students remain stuck, like stones. Change can be uneven. The breath is a master transformer, as it can be conative, cognitive, and sensitive, it can animate, and it can change things dramatically.

“You are not human beings, you are breathing beings.”

This is how we come into Becoming and Knowing..

Friends, it is with utmost humbleness that I offer these threads from my poor memory on Prashant’s class. It is impossible to adequately encapsulate his teachings, genius, and spirit. Hopefully this will inspire you to seek his recordings and visit Pune!

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The opening moments of Prashant’s class

The opening stanzas to Prashantji’s class encapsulate the framework for the experience, or the embodiment, as he calls it, that he points to in his teaching. He begins class with something like this:

Settle down all of you, sit straight all of you, and prepare for prayers. Now strike the pose for the embodiment. Exhale more and more deeply, sometimes inhale more and more deeply. Evolve the breath awareness for the body, for the senses, for the mind. Evolve the sensitivity of the breath on the body, for different conditions, attitudes, and profiles. Breathe into the confinements. Exhale a little more forcefully, and take Uddiyana kriya, the suction to alert the base of the spine. Perhaps now inhale more and more. Evolve the progression, the rhythm. Now for orbital breathing: inhaling up the front body and down the back body. Finally, silently utter OM to sanctify, purify, and create a pious, sober, sublime state within.

While there are many facets to the brilliance of his teaching, the opening moments of class can be a good introduction. The posture and breath are essential; how the senses react and interact and an attitude of learning is equally important. Finally, as with Arjuna focusing so completely on the center of the target that everything else disappeared from view; cultivating a reverent and welcoming heart space creates a gravitation pull throughout the body/mind and in life to pursue a reflective inner life and virtuous outlook. I believe that these are all present in the first few moments of class.

Many of us are familiar with the 1st sloka of the third chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Desa Bandha Cittasya Dharana; to bind the mind with a focal point. Both Guruji, Geetaji and Prashanji implore us to see, to feel, to perceive what actually happens when we enter a pose, when we “strike” the pose, as Prashant says. All of the Iyengar’s teaching undoubtedly points to this same internal experience. Prashant’s rhetoric gives us insight into this inner territory, trajectory, and target.

You do yogasanas for the body, but Yog is for the embodiment. You must learn to integrate, synthesize, and knead together for the embodiment.

PatanjaliWhen we sit for the invocation, we begin in Swatiskasana. Sometimes he will prod us to lift the chest, roll the shoulders back, to sit straight, and relax the tongue, jaw, eyes, and cheeks. We are given just enough pointers to build a physical foundation.

He then shifts our focus to the breath, which plays a major role in all of his work. Inhale more and more deeply, he might suggest, into the confinement of the chest, or heart, or back. It is for us to experience what is true on any particular day. The exhalation is a launching pad for many physical and ultra-physical themes. Exhale more and more deeply, and he might suggest suction, or to squeeze out the breath and to begin Uddiyana kriya or Uddiyana mudra. This classic technique tones and animates physical body and abdominal area while it supports a pranic charge to the entire inner frame. He will then suggest orbital breathing:

Make a suggestion to the breath, and see how it adjusts. When you change the confinement, the autonomous function changes, when you understand this, you can change the voluntary. The breath already has an education. The moment you make a suggestion, the breath itself becomes modified. The breath itself is a teacher.”  (Nov. 15)

Prashant is asking us to initiate this process in the first few moments of class. Rather than wait for the teacher to tell us what to do, he points us to the breath. As attention grows inwardly, the breath will have different dynamics on different days. Study what happens, where does the breath explore, move, penetrate, and what is the effect of this breath on the mind, on the senses, and on the sense of self. Once we study this, how the nature of a natural breath can adjust our being, then we can voluntarily suggest direction and chose from a palette of themes.

When he asks us to evolve the rhythm of our endeavor, he asks us to coordinate the different facets of the internal experience. “You must knead together the components”, he will say. He refers to the body, breath, mind, senses, chakras, prana and kriyas, to name a few. Each layer has its own references with the body and for the body, as well as for the mind and with the mind and breath. For example, in Swatiskasana, the body assumes a position, and it is the senses that register feedback to the mind on the dynamic, the comfort, and the sensations in the position. If you strike the position to enable a deeper exhalation, you might engage the physical shape in a different way than if you were focusing on the inhalation. Likewise, if you wanted to quiet the mind, the body and breath would assume different functions to benefit the mind. You must knead together the components, like making bread, and see how they support or complement one another.

Orbital breathing initiates a harmonious continuum that reinforces an upliftment of the body and the quieting of the mind and sense organs. This rhythmic pattern helps settle the mind and compose oneself for prayers.

“Utter a silent OM to sanctify, purify, and create a neutral, pious, sober, silent, sublime state within.”

And we begin the invocation.

The preparatory phase prior to the invocation sets the Sankalpa or intention for one’s practice. This progression is itself a mini- training, when approached with interest and integrity. While I will endeavor to find my own words for these openings moments of class, I certainly hope to integrate the spirit behind them.

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The Field and the Knower of the Field

Prashant is so well versed with the yoga shastras that the wisdom teachings roll out of him like  lullabies springing from a mother. One day he discussed the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. This chapter introduces Sankhya philosophy, which is the foundation for the Yoga Sutras. The verses are beautiful, describing the difference between spirit “the Knower of the Field”  and matter “the Field” in eloquent prose.

I shall declare that which has to be known, knowing which, one attains immortality; it is the beginning less supreme Brahman, which is said to be neither existent nor non-existent. (13.13)

Also, this is said to be the light of lights beyond darkness, it is knowledge, the object of knowledge, and that which has to be attained through knowledge. It is seated in the hearts of all. (13.18)

The highest spirit in this body is called the witness, the consenter, the supporter, the experiencer, the Great Lord, and also the Supreme Spirit. (13.23)

Prashant explained that no one really understands what is referred to by the “field”, as everyone reads the Gita in English. In Sanskrit, he said, there are three interpretations. One version is to read the “field” as the body; another as an open field in nature; and the third is as a pilgrimage site, a holy field. This last is what Prashant believes is the real meaning in the Gita.

He explained that we have a completely different attitude if we purchase something then if we are gifted the same thing. This body is a gift; “body thy shrine”, as we so frequently quote Guruji. And yet we often treat our cars better than our bodies. If we spend a lot on money on a car, we make sure that it will run well, we purchase good petrol, we wash and wax it. But we are more careless with the body. We eat for pleasure rather than for health, we practice exercise for a photographic body and to be on the cover of Yoga Journal, rather than to cultivate sanctity and piety.

When we go for worship, we have a completely different attitude then when we go to a supermarket. Can we enter the field of the body as if we are going on a pilgrimage? How do we look, how do we enter this space? How do we go into a posture, how do we prepare? When we enter a shrine, we remove our shoes and often wash our hands. We go through a process to purify, to acknowledge that we are entering a sacred space. We turn the senses inward and tune in for a connection, we attune to the breath for the mind space, and the mind to the breath, for the pilgrimage is to the field inside.

Some perceive the Self in the Self by the Self through meditation, others by the discipline of Sankhya and still others by the yoga of action. (13.25)

He who sees the Supreme Lord existing alike in all beings, not perishing when they perish, truly sees. (13.28) 

Translations are from The Bhagavad Gita, Winthrop Sargeant, State University of New York Press, 1994 Edition

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Yog and Yogasana

Anyone who has studied with Prashant knows how often he likes to remind us that we are all technocrats and “gymmies”.  Today he acknowledged that the preliminaries are important, and that the Yogasana culture is a beginning. How do you prepare for a pose? Lift here, stretch here, rotate this – however, to prepare for Yog requires a conditioning. “What is the difference between Yog and Yogasana” He prompted. Using the analogy of salt and chili, he asked, what would happen if you put a whole cup of salt into your food? Or too much chili? It does not take much to flavor the practice. “Look at your mind.

Prashantji

Prashantji

Sometimes the mind wants to do, but the body does not. The mind is stronger, the mind can coerce the body. And when the breath is cultivated, it integrates both.” Just a little at a time; do not expect to get it all. “Do not be greedy, it takes time. A little yog in your yoga” he counseled us. The preparation is important, he told us. Look at how we use the body for the body, and the body for the breath, how we open the chest, pin the shoulder blades, etc. Sometime we use the body for the mind, we go upside down to quiet the mind; and we use the breath for the body and the breath for the mind. He reminded us of how we feel after backbends, and after forward extensions. The body can create a dynamic change in consciousness.

But the mind is much stronger. He explained that Sthira sukham asanam (Yoga Sutras 2.46) does not mean to take a stable and sweet posture, as we all quote from the Yoga Sutras. We have completely misunderstood this. “Asana” literally means to take a seat. Here, he says, it is the mind that should assume a stable and calm seat. That is why there are no references to many different postures in the Yoga Sutras, as it is the mind that should become composed and calm. Then, Prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam (2.47), Perfection in asana is reached only when effort ceases, instilling infinite poise and allowing the finite vehicle, the body, to merge in the seer (BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras) effort ceases, and the mind remains at rest. This is a Savasana mind, where one is no longer disturbed by likes and dislikes, attraction and aversion. As it is said in the Bhagavad Gita; Yoga is evenness of mind. We should cultivate the breath and mind to be expansive.

So how do we do that, you might ask? The breath is the key that integrates and connects everything. Build upon the basic poses, but do not be too rigid in your thinking. Begin with a deep exhalation, Uddiyana kriya. This we practiced in Adho Mukha Svanasana, Rope Sirsasana, Utthita Trikonasana, and Virabhadrsana 2. You can use the breath like arms and legs, the breath reaching into the body/mind; cultivate this language, this vocabulary. “Be studious as you practice, you must address the bones, joints, muscles, but do not just be doing. Yog is the culture of connectivity”, a community of inter-actions, it is a collaboration that you must study. Sometimes you take the breath for the tailbone, or the pelvic floor, or the knees, he told us. And he reminded us to not be too rigid. When practicing Trikonasana, it is all right to bend the knees a little to facilitate the Uddiyana kriya, then straighten the legs from there. Sometimes we should inhale more and more, and sometimes exhale.

At this point he did mention that over time our ability to practice the fancy poses that we see in photographs on the walls of the Institute will diminish. Where will we turn then? Better to understand now, for there are so many more horizons within.

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Shree BKS Iyengar, Guruji, going on 95

Guruji will be 95 years young in a month. He is alert, sharp, warm, and loves his granddaughter, Abhijata, and great granddaughter, Satvika, immensely. Shri BKS Iyengar and Geetaji have been mentoring Abhijata for almost ten years now. Abhijata accompanied Geetaji to the National Iyengar Yoga Convention in Las Vegas in 2005 and she assisted in the Therapeutics Convention in Portland in 2010. She has a master’s degree, and is married to a computer wizard with the surname Iyengar. The extended family is supporting the next generation of Iyengar yoga by joining the Iyengar family daily in the home compound behind the Institute. While Abhijata practices with Guruji and teaches her classes, her father, Shridhar, and mother, Suchita, look after the baby.

Every day, baby Satvika visits the asana room on Shridhar’s shoulder. Guruji takes her upside down and into Chakorasana, or a somersault, while Mom (Abhijata) and most of the students in the room look on, all gooey eyed. Guruji face loses thirty years when he smiles at his great granddaughter. Their love affair is infectious, and is generously shared with everyone, local and foreign students alike.

Yesterday I ran into Guruji downstairs, in the main lobby. It was mid-day, there were very few people around. He called me over and asked how I was. He told me that he had not been sure whether he would make it through this most recent upper respiratory infection; and showed me how the skin on his for arm was now firm and hydrated. “Like a withered flower Guruji, you have now been watered back to health”. He laughed; his spirits bright, his smile kind. He has lost a lot of weight since I saw him sixteen months ago. His eye brows are now snowy white, wild, and just as expressive as ever.

Guruji

Guruji

This morning he idled into the asana practice hall. An hour later, he had the robust assistant Raya and Abhijata huffing and moaning their way through backbends. He then proceeded to place his tailbone precisely on the trestle and arch over it lengthwise, bending backward until his spine was parallel the floor. His heels pressed firmly down, his breath quiet, his body so supple and stable. When he came out of the pose, he chided the youngsters. Fortunately, there was a camera to document the event. It is such amazing moments that keep me coming, despite all odds and the many other wonders I might be interested in this world. This master has touched my life with his courage, his integrity, and his adherence to the highest standards possible in yoga.

Later today he joined the team in the therapeutics class, supervising students with heart, back, knee, and neck conditions. His is strong medicine to vanquish any manifestation of illness, whether it resides in the physical body or has roots in the psyche. As he has so eloquently stated in the past: “yoga will teach you to cure what need not be endured and to endure what cannot be cured”.

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Introducing Prashant Iyengar

Prashant Iyengar is an enigma. “You are all Gymmies, you do yoga like going to the gym, but yoga is not a gym culture. You do asanas, but you should be doing yoga. If you want to be a good writer, do you study calligraphy? Did Emerson, Thoreau, or Sri Aurobindo have good writing? No, but they did convey transcendent ideas. Do not become good calligraphers. ” I have been studying with him for years now, and he always initiates new students with

 Entrance to RIYMI

Entrance to RIYMI

a similar refrain. He is not interested in the techniques or intricacies of alignment per say, rather in the rhythm and structure of being and becoming.

You think that everything is about the mind, and you try and cultivate the mind, a strong will. But students of yoga know that the breath is what we cultivate. The breath can have all the qualities of the mind, it can cognize, strengthen, soften. The breath is a transcendent substance.” (class Nov 9).

This particular class was the second of the month. There are many new students joining classes this month, and many of them have a hard time understanding his accent. I look around the room and see some blank faces, probably wondering if and when we are going to start moving. I see a few bright smiles, and the local students, who have listened to Prashant pontificate, know that they are in the presence of a truly gifted man. In the first class, we began with long timings in Upavistha Konasana, and proceeded to twists, rope Sirsasana, a few standing poses, and either Janusirsasana or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. The asanas were the means, the container, the vehicle with which we began to weave a deep experience exploring the universe within through the breath.

Prashant recently published a new book, Yogasana, the 18 Maha Kriyas of Yogasana. From that book: “The breath is a great catalyst, converter, transformer and transmitter. It has cosmic and divine origins. Breath is ever fresh, always new-born, because there is a new breath every 4 seconds! It provides a yogic envelope to the entire embodiment.”

I relinquish my habituated desire for an intense sensation, and open my being up to see what can happen. Prashant explains that we are all so invested in doing and doing and doing (he does repeat things like that, to make a point), that we miss the insights of what can happen and what is happening. It takes time, he reassures us, for the body-mind to synchronize with a breath cognition. It takes time to cultivate breath cognition; the vocabulary to recognize and feel being and becoming. I settle into a very special place that I can only call being fully present within myself. I relish Prashant’s classes, the magic he weaves, the map he builds that leads us there, and the insights that come through him from a sincere and authentic practice that is another dimension in Iyengar Yoga.

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Growing up too fast

Returning to Pune is like visiting a good friend who inherited a small fortune. The development over the last twenty years is shocking. While the standard of living has improved for half of the population, it is not uncommon to see a shiny spotless Toyota Highlander next to someone pushing a cart peddling cilantro or coconuts. This evening, on Mahatma Gandhi road, we saw a line of cars ten deep waiting at a red light while four cows sauntered across the intersection. How did the cows know that they had the green light? Mahatma Gandhi Road in Pune

Credit cards and cell phones abound, while the jewelry shops are packed with couples young and old ornamenting the lady of the house in gold. Shopping for staples at the newly renovated upscale market Dorabjees, we found organic millet, oats, soy milk, and an entire row of gluten free foods, alongside L’Oreal cosmetics. By contrast, for our daily fare, we buy vegetables at an outdoor produce market. The shop keeper’s son sleeps beneath the wooden shelving that constitutes the store. Rows of tiny eggplant, bright green coriander, tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, giant mangoes, chilies and cauliflower beckon.

My neighborhood in Pune has cross walks, or at least they look like crosswalks, horizontal lines that stretch across the street at an intersection. I have never seen anyone use these crosswalks. Here is an example of government spending imitating the West with senseless projects. Crossing the street, however, is a worthwhile project, and it can be a frightening one. Walk like a cow, slow, deliberate, and never try and gage where the moving vehicle will be next. The driver will avoid you. This is nerve-racking the first few times, and it eventually builds patience, courage, and, out of necessity, to remain completely alert.

I began my studies at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in 1986. At that time, there were very few cars on the road, no one had a credit card, purchases were wrapped in newspaper, and water buffalo strolled down Hare Krishna Mandir road. We ladies were advised to cover our arms and ankles, and to not go out alone after eight PM. Well, all of that has changed. The last ten years have brought industry and growth to a country that suffered from over regulation and corruption. By 2008, India had established itself as one the world’s fastest growing economies. My daily visits to the Institute now include passing through a tall gate guarded by security personnel and signing into a government log.
Terrorism has changed the face of daily life everywhere. It has also encouraged many people to seek out practices that embody values supporting community, an internal locus of control, healthy lifestyles, harmony and peace. For real peace lies within.

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2013 trip to Pune

This journey is bound to be exceptional. It began with a 14 hour teacher training in Tokyo. The Japanese students are among the most polite and conscientious students of all. I began teaching here in part to help pay my way to India, but I ended up teaching here because I love the students. Following the weekend in Tokyo, I began my month long visit and studies with the Iyengars in Pune, India.

In today’s class Prashant, Guruji’s son, stated that you (the nefarious you that is somewhat derogatory) say that traveling abroad builds confidence. “I say that we have all the countries, libraries, fountains, gardens, networks, and adventures are inside. I go inside and the world comes to me.” My first class with Prashant is always memorable, although every class with Prashant is inspiring. His approach to the sadhana of yoga breaks any stereotype or model that one may have about Iyengar Yoga.

In this first class of our month of studies, he introduced the foundation to his vision of yoga. “You all do postures, you do not practice yoga!” He said. “You think that everything is about the mind, and you try and strengthen the mind, a strong will. But students of yoga know that the breath is what we cultivate. The breath can have all the qualities of the mind, it has cognition, it can be conditioned, it can condition, it can be known, the breath can investigate. In a hive, all bees follow Queen Bee. In the same way, the body and mind will follow the breath when you condition it. Breath for the body, with the body, by the body, note the breath for the mind, the body for the breath.”

We did practice asana, albeit there were no technical instructions. Rather, he asked us to take the breath into the back of the body, to fill, flush, to see how it moves, where does it go, how it works. We stayed in poses much longer then we are accustomed to, each of us fully responsible for our own experience.

After the exploration of the back body, we worked with the front of the body, and then the floor of the pelvis. “When you fix up the front of the body, you put make up on, you check yourself in the mirror, you prepare to go out. When you orient yourself to the back body, you go in.” And we did. It was an amazingly deep experience. “The back body is like a dish network, it goes everywhere, so connect from the back body.”

I hope to share some of the insights from the classes here regularly!

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Join us in Puri and Varanasi in February, 2014!

I’m giving my second retreat! I look forward to having enough time to share a more complete experience of yoga, including pranayama, discussions and meditation. It will be in India next February. The details are below. You can also download the flyer. I hope you can come!

Yoga Retreat with Lisa Walford
February 15 – 28, 2014
Puri ❊ Calcutta ❊ Varanasi
Lisa on the bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh
Recharge, renew, and rejuvenate, in two of the most spiritually saturated places on Earth: Puri – one of the four Char Dhams, or sacred pilgrimage destinations in India – and Varanasi – the most ancient of cities, and a pilgrim’s mecca, where the rhythms of life are palpable next to the sacred waters of the Ganges. Magical, colorful, and rich with cultural history, our memories of Puri and Varanasi will last a lifetime.

In Puri
We’ll enjoy daily practice of asana and pranayama with Lisa. We’ll visit the Sri Jagannath Temple in Puri, the Sun Temple in Konark, where we will enjoy an award-winning Dance and Music festival. Lastly, we’ll take several relaxing rickshaw rides and visit local craft villages.

Sun Temple in Konark with Sri BKS Iyengar

In Calcutta
A visit to the revered Kalighat Temple, dedicated to the Goddess Kali, will drop us into the bustling mix of life that typifies the urgency of seeking spiritual grace amidst the throng of humanity. A glimpse of the Goddess’s eyes is considered a blessing.

In Varanasi
Greeting the sunrise by boat is magical; rambling through the back streets of this city will tease all our senses, and strolling on the riverside ghats with our guide is a photographer’s paradise. We’ll also visit Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first darshan.

A sadhu in Varanasi

Schedule
Sat Feb 15th leave US » Mon 17th Delhi » Tue 18th Puri » Sat 22nd Calcutta » Sun 23rd Varanasi » Thu 27th Delhi » Fri 28th arrive US

Cost
US $2,999 ($3,299 after November 25th), includes all transportation within India, double-occupancy upscale accommodations (5-star in Puri & Calcutta), and full-time personal tour guide. Single-occupancy may be available. Breakfast and Lunch are included. Please register soon, as we are limited to 15 participants.

Sunrise on the Ganges in Varanasi

All levels are welcome. For more details, or to register, please call/text +1.310.985.9642, email us at p...@walford.com or visit walford.com/puri.

About Lisa
Lisa Walford holds an Intermediate Senior Iyengar Yoga certificate, is on the Board of Iyengar Yoga Therapeutics, and was on the faculty of several national Iyengar Yoga conventions. She writes for Yoga Journal and has co-authored several books on nutrition. She has been teaching for over 30 years. In her rigorous and technically informative classes, Lisa creates an ambiance of internal focus inspiring both beginning and advanced students.

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