7 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!