Centennial Celebration, Day 1 & 2

We arrived to Balewadi Stadium on December 3rd to a very well organized event with over 1200 participants. We were given a badge and a group, coded by letters and colors which determines where in the hall we will sit for the day – the groups rotate positions in the hall each day. Abhijati opened the program and reminded us that we were all there to celebrate the life, teachings and 100th birth anniversary of B.K.S. Iyengar. Geeta-ji’s message was that we are one family. 

Prashant Iyengar opened the morning program and opened out a few key concepts in Iyengar yoga, including activity, awareness and sensitively. Yoga is not just doing to achieve an asana. Yoga is the unity of body, mind and breath and creating connectivity and an embodiment that is essentially even minded, equanimous, pure, sanctified: sattvic in nature. Prashant-ji elaborated on the centrality of  breath, and how breath is the main tool which affects and is affected by thought, emotions, posture, activity.  During the session we did a few asanas to observe the quality of breath in different regions of the body.

In the afternoon session, Prashant-ji discussed the evolution of Iyengar yoga. He discussed that evolution in Iyengar yoga has two aspects: the evolution of Guru-ji’s practice and the evolution of how Guru-ji taught. Prashant highlighted the fact that English was not Guru-ji’s mother tongue, which was Kanada. In that regard, Guru-ji was at a disadvantage in terms of articulating his experience and the classical yoga tradition. Guru-ji’s way of learning and teaching, according to Prashant, was highly intuitive. He said that to call Iyengar yoga a “system” is a misnomer, as a system implies a fixed framework, whereas Guru’-ji changed and adapted from day to day depending on the conditions and what was revealed to him through his explorations.  Prashant said, “Highly intuitive people don’t have systems.” He also emphasized the importance of pacing and adapting the practice to the circumstances and condition of ones body, mind, and stage of life.

Prashant also discussed how Guru-ji was an artist while demonstrating, a scientist while teaching and a philosopher while practicing. 

One thing that stood out for me in Prashant’s teaching was his emphasis that Iyenagar yoga is an open architecture, it is not rigid, fixed or dogmatic, and that yoga cannot be taught but it can be learned. That means that a teacher can teach a student the techniques of yoga, but cannot teach the essential inner process that makes yoga yoga and not just body exercise.   

On the 2nd day morning session, we did a comparative asana practice:

Trikonasana, Bhradvajasana, Trikonasana, Setubandha Sarvangasana, Trikonasana Virabhadrasana II, Trikonasana, Purvotanasana, Trikonasana, Standing back arch, Trikonasana, Sirsasana, Trikonasana, Supta Baddhakonasana (by my memory)

In the afternoon session on Day 2 Geeta and Prashant Iyengar discussed to topic of mentoring, learning and teacher training in Iyengar Yoga. The essential points from that discussion were that they themselves were not “trained” to be teachers, but after a long period of taking classes and observing classes, Geeta and Prashant began to teach. This long period of observation and apprenticeship is how one picks up ways of teaching different ages, abilities, conditions. Teacher training courses, which are more formal in nature, were not recommended in the long term. Now as yoga has already been popularized, what is more important than turning out a lot of teachers is the quality, depth and experience of teachers – and that takes a long time. 

There is much more, but I will share that at a later time.

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