Greetings from Pune, India! I am happy to report that all is well as I begin my month of studies at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute (RIMYI.) While I encountered several daunting obstacles in the two weeks before my departure, the travel here was extremely smooth and I have settled into my routine almost seamlessly. I am grateful to be staying at my usual apartment, where my host, my roommates and the environment are helpful and supportive. I have already established a wonderful daily routine and I am feeling fantastic.
As many of you know, the RIMYI daily schedule for visiting students usually includes an asana class, personal practice time in the hall, optional observation of classes, and the opportunity to assist in the remedial class for students with various issues. So far, I am pacing myself well. One of the great benefits of being here is having the chance to give deep and regular attention to self care. I have time for yoga and pranayama in the early morning, followed by tea, chanting and sutra study. (Thanks and kudos to Leslie Freyberg for her fantastic recording of the Yoga Sutras, which is my study companion every morning.) Then a small breakfast and off to class or practice. I return home around noon to a freshly cooked, delicious meal! The afternoon may include writing notes, errands and brief a nap before returning to RIMYI for the late afternoon or evening classes. Then a light supper, tea, reading and an early bedtime. This regular daily schedule is a huge blessing, as it allows me to get into a rhythm that supports my studies.
The classes I have taken so far have been fantastic. The teaching is clear, challenging and insightful. It was immediately clear that I have much more capacity than I normally use! I do my best to practice well on my own, but being in these high caliber classes invites me to find out how much deeper I can go. There are so many layers of information to absorb, and I feel very open to receiving all I can while I am here. Freed from the everyday concerns of work, home and family, I am at liberty to practice, to study and to go inward. It is clear to me that at home, I gravitate toward entertainment, whereas here, I gravitate toward yoga. At home, the various stresses of work and householder life are such that I crave relief via reading novels, watching television or distracting myself on my phone. While these activities have their place, it is easier to see from a distance what a hold these everyday entertainments have on me. That said, I am currently reading a novel and I have enjoyed some music on YouTube, but the pull to do these things is less, the time I give to them is less, and the impulse to practice or study yoga is greater. The gravity is different here, and I am pulled toward practice like iron to a magnet.
The freedom to do daily philosophy studies is a great joy to me. In Yoga Sutra I:27, Patanjali explains that as we develop on the spiritual path, what has to be done is done, and what has to be discarded is discarded. This made me think of the two wings of practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya.) Abhyasa is our repeated application of what we have learned, while vairagya is letting go of everything that could get in the way of the learning process. As B.K.S. Iyengar writes in his introduction to Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Abhyasa builds confidence and refinement in the process of culturing the consciousness, whereas vairagya is the elimination of whatever hinders progress and refinement.” Though I have been here less than a week, I am experiencing new layers of physical, mental and emotional engagement. At the same time, I feel layers of physical, mental and emotional tension dropping away. What needs to be done? What needs to be discarded? I think these can be guiding questions for my stay.
I am thinking of you – my yoga teachers, yoga colleagues and yoga students, my friends and family. You are all close to me in my heart. As I make this journey, I feel your love and your support every day. Thank you for all you have done to help me get here!