On the Mat, Off the Mat

Inspiration / On the mat / Yoga Intensive

Looking back at India, December 2016

Wishing all of you out there a very happy new year. This year I am committed to regularly filling these pages with news, ideas and thoughts about yoga, in-depth looks at asanas and just a whole bunch of great stuff for you to read.
Let’s get to it!

I spent an incredible 3 weeks in India in December. It was my first time in India and nothing can really prepare you for what you experience there. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and I absolutely loved it. I was lucky enough to have the most perfect travel companion, who is also from South Africa, but from Somerset West, outside Cape Town. We had a total blast together! She made the trip even more epic than it was destined to be (yes, you did!).

So what did I do there? I attended 2 AMAZING intensives! After spending a few days in Mumbai, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds, we traveled by train to Pune. Pune is a bustling city with many universities, colleges and hospitals. The first yoga intensive was Yoganuasanam in Pune and was with Abhijata – BKS Iyengar’s granddaughter. Pune is where the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) is. It is the home of Iyengar Yoga, although the course itself was taught at a Sports Centre about 20 mins away from the Institute. There were just under 300 yogis from 37 countries. There were 6 of us from all corners of South Africa – a wonderful group of ladies. Abhijata taught us for 10 days and let me just say that she is oustanding.

Myself, Suria and Ellen with Abhijata after Yoganuasanam 2016

The course was specifically aimed at intermediate practitioners who have 3-10 years of study and practice and had never been to Pune before. Abhijata is a compassionate, intelligent, inspirational and wonderful teacher. She also has the most amazing sense of humour which sprinkles into her teaching and makes her even more endearing. I was mesmerised by her anecdotes that she so willingly and openly shared with us about her late grandfather, our beloved Guruji. Her enlightening messages and teachings are still sinking in and I feel so privelegd to have been there. She inspired devoted and deep work from us all and I really learned so much.

In the mornings we usually had a long, energetic asana session with a short break followed by pranayama. The afternoon seasons were either for Q&A sessions, participant talent show (this was so much fun) or just a general discussion. These were either with Abhijata, Prashant or Geeta. They were always thought-provoking and enlightening sessions. Raya and Abhijata are an incredibly creative team and the work they have done to create posters and presentations for the sessions brought such a vibrant intensity to the course.

I am deeply grateful to the Iyengar family for sharing with us their knowledge and wisdom. I am also thankful to everyone that made the event such a smooth success, from my point of view, everything was perfect. A lot of people were very busy behind the scenes making sure everything happened as it should. My deepest appreciation – the Indian mentality of “No problem” is truly remarkable.

We then headed south to Bellur, which is the small village where Iyengar was born, to the BKS Iyengar Centre in Bellur, Kolar District, Karnataka. It’s very rural (think clean air!) and about 60kms from Bangalore. Although he only lived there several years before he left, his connection to the place has been realised by his life-long commitment to sending funds back there. Thanks to his generosity there has been many developments in this humble village – a Temple to Patanjali, a primary school, a pre-university campus and a hospital. The school kids get one meal a day and they have to do yoga. 🙂

The entrance into the yoga shala at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Centre in Bellur

As of December 2016, there is now a world-class, international yoga centre for workshops and retreats. The shala had been completed a while a go but the newly finished dorms, kitchen and canteen opened in December. We were the first group to enjoy these outstanding facilities! Everything was brand new and the dorms were clean, spacious and comfortable with the most thoughtful facilities and comfortable beds! There are 10 dorms, most sleep 4 comfortably and they are immaculate! The yoga hall is unlike anything I have seen before – it’s gorgeous – it was inspirational doing yoga there. The food – 3 meals a day – was delicious, absolutely yummy.

Inside the yoga shala at the Centre in Bellur. The space is incredible.

Me, Debbie and Neesha smiling with Manouso 🙂

So why did we travel into the middle of a small Indian village?

Well, to have our practice enlightened by the extremely passionate, dedicated and energetic Manouso Manos. What a huge honour and privilege to experience this dynamic man’s teaching. Manouso is from America and holds one of two advanced senior teaching certificates. Manouso’s insight, way of teaching and knowledge is so vast that after a mere 5 days, I felt truly transformed and have a strong resolve to seek him out again and learn more. Two of the biggest and most common attributes I think Iyengar yoga teachers have are their passion for the subject and utmost respect for BKS Iyengar (especially those that had the great honour of studying under him directly), and this is so prominent in Manouso.

Manouso has a way of explaining concepts and actions, that make so much sense and his method of teaching inspires you to really connect and understand what work has to be done. He’s amazing. I can’t explain how much I enjoyed the 5 day intensive, you had to be there.

What also made this so special was the people there. It was a much smaller and intimate group than in Pune and again from all over the world – we shared the dorm with a lady from Sao Paulo and Switzerland – really a global community. Most participants being teachers or in training, so the level of knowledge and experience was great. From those of the people there that have studied under him before or still do, their awe of him and respect shines through so clearly – and it’s obvious why. As great as he is, his humility is astounding. His lovely wife, Rita, accompanied him too on this intensive, it was very special seeing the two of them together.

The demonstration by the kids from the school Iyengar funded and built.

On the last day we were fortunate to have the kids from the school do a demonstration. I have never seen anything like this – it was seriously impressive seeing the mastery and the discipline these kids have at such a young age. This bears testament to the fact that (Iyengar) Yoga really is for everyone, at any age.

A deep heart-felt thanks to all the people who arranged such a flawless intensive – especailly Pradeep whose tireless planning and logistics wrangling got us all there and back on time for flights without any issues. A massive thank you to the generous people involved in bring this remarkable centre – Guruji’s dream – to fruition. I highly recommend everyone to keep an eye on it, see what courses are planned and go there and experience how auspicious this place is.

It was only 3 weeks but it felt like a lifetime. So much happened. So much shifted. So much was learned. The long, long never-ending journey home was still not enough to let the magic of India and the messages and realisations I had fade. I see why it’s called Incredible India. I plan to return at the end of 2018.

It’s wonderful to be back, to integrate these lessons into my own practice and keep the flame of tapas (passion, energy) and svadhyaya (self-study) burning bright! I’ll be posting some of the insight and knowledge that was shared on these pages soon!