I began my journey in Pune, India, where I attended Geeta Iyengar’s 70th birthday celebration – a ten day yoga intensive that welcomed over 1200 Iyengar Yoga students from 57 different countries across the globe. To give you an idea of the scale of the classes, the photo on the right shows about a quarter of the participants.
Geeta Iyengar is the eldest daughter of the late BKS Iyengar, founder of Iyengar Yoga. Under her father’s direction, Geeta began practicing yoga at an early age and was teaching by the time she was a teenager. She currently heads the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, where she conducts advanced and medical classes for students who travel from around the world to study with her.
The intensive was held in a large badminton hall at the Balaewadi Stadium in Pune, a venue that hosted the the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games. As you can imagine, participating in a class with well over one thousand dedicated Iyengar yogis was thrilling. The atmosphere was buoyant and friendly, and everyone was eager to learn what Geetaji had to teach us.
The name of the intensive, “Yoganusasanam,” was taken from the very first of Patanjali’s yoga sutras: “atha yoganusasanam,” which translates as, “now begins an exposition on the sacred art of yoga.” Though yoga has many health benefits and boons, the ultimate goal of practice is to attain an abiding conscious connection with our own soul. According to Patanjali, to achieve this, firmness of body and purity of mind are two key requirements.
The emphasis of the intensive was on pranayama, though the twice daily classes included the entire range of asanas, from standing, to inverted, to restorative and more. Geetaji used the asana classes to show us how to sequentially and progressively prepare ourselves for the more subtle practice of pranayama, culminating in pranayama itself. The entire intensive was designed to lead us closer to yoga’s goal: the asanas helped to firm our bodies and the pranayama helped to purify our minds.
The gathering was also an opportunity for our community to pay homage to the life and work our late Guruji, BKS Iyengar, who died on August 20th 2014, aged 95 years. Geetaji quoted her father often and constantly referred to his teaching throughout the intensive. There were also films, presentations and an exhibition celebrating his long life. One noted presenter was Abhijata, BKS Iyengar’s granddaughter, who trained intensively with Guruji for many years up until his passing. She is set to continue the family tradition of producing exceptional yoga teachers and will bring Iyengar Yoga to a whole new generation of young yogis. The legacy continues. Click here to watch Abhi’s concluding speech at the intensive.
Of course, I will be sharing much of what I learned at the intensive in my upcoming classes at Prana Yoga in La Jolla in 2015. I look forward to seeing you on the mat!
Happy New Year,
For more on my travels after the intensive in Rajasthan, click here.
© 2015 by Ann West. All rights reserved.