Grateful!

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Guruji                                                  Some of the Iyengar Family                                                  Geetaji

Annual Day Celebrating the Institute’s being open for 38 years.

Hello Everyone,

I am home!

It is hard to believe my month in India has come to an end. After 36 hours of flying and waiting in airports in Pune, New Delhi, and London, I have returned back to clean air, “orderly” driving,” paved sidewalks, “safe” water, “safe” fruit and vegetables, hot water that lasts more than a minute, and toilets. I am very grateful for all these amenities in the U.S. that I know I sometimes take for granted. There were several times when some of us would talk about the things we missed at home. That would change when we walked outside and saw a family living on the sidewalk with a tarp for a roof, or young children begging for money, or people sleeping on the cement on the side of the street. In that moment, we knew that we needed to stop missing what we didn’t have and just be grateful for what we did have.

It is so easy to get caught up in our worlds and not be present to what is really important. I have only been home for a few days now and am amazed at how quickly I can forget how lucky I am to be taking hot showers, drinking fresh water, breathing fresh air, and living in a nice home with a real roof over my head.

My month in India reminded me about the definition of yoga, Chitta Vritti Nirodhah; it means the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind. Yoga teaches us to be present, to not take things for granted, to be grateful. Yoga is not just about learning cool poses and getting fit; yoga is learning more about yourself and why you may not be present, may not be grateful, may be sad. The Iyengars teach you to go deeper into a pose; they take you to places you thought you were never capable of going. They teach you discipline and how to be truly present.

I feel so blessed to have been in the presence of the Iyengars this past month. They inspire me to be a better person, to be more in the moment, and to continue to help myself and hopefully help others.

I am grateful to all of you for your support with my journey to India as well as just my journey in life.

Namaste,

Graham

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OPEN PRACTICE AT THE IYENGAR INSTITUTE inspires me to improve my HOME PRACTICE at my home

Greetings from Pune!

After being in India for 2 1/2 weeks now and practicing 6 days a week in the same room as Guruji(Mr. Iyengar), I know my home practice will forever be different. I do have a home practice for which I am grateful but being in the room with Guruji and many other dedicated yoga practitioners, watching them do their practice or Guruji teaching others how to move further in their pose has inspired me to deepen my practice and go further in my poses. It is very inspiring to watch the master himself do his practice everyday. He is 94 years old!!

For those of you that have been with me a while, home practice is what I have always encouraged. I am so thankful to have many of you come to my classes once or twice a week but you will not improve unless you are also practicing at home! I know I will always be a beginner for which I am not ashamed as it gives me the drive to try, learn, improve and PRACTICE.

I understand that sometimes we don’t know what we should practice when we get on our mat but just getting on the mat can be a practice. I sometimes walk in the Open Practice at the Iyengar Institute with a plan but there have been days that I don’t know what to do so I just open up my mat (if I can find a space) and start and then it just evolves. Of course being in a crowded space, some props I may want to use are not always available but you just have to be creative. There are many times that we will all be doing our practice and Guruji will start teaching someone, so many people will stop what they are doing to see what he is teaching and then we may try what he just taught. Or you may observe Guruji in a pose and be inspired to do something similar.

Practioners will work with one another too or help each other in a pose. Elise and I have worked together a few times helping each other with poses we may have learned in the medical class or incorporating the actions in another pose. My point is that you just need to get on the mat and see what happens. Do a little more and then a little more and more and more:)

The time is going by very quickly. I only have 7 more days of classes before I fly back to USA. Next week on January 26th, the Institute will be closed for Republic day so we will not have classes that Saturday. This morning the Women’s class was taught by Geetaji which was a surprise to us all as Abihijata has been teaching with Guruji the past 2 weeks. It was an amazing class of course but very challenging too. We had a mix of chest opening poses, inversions and Pranayama. In the regular classes there are several people so we do not use props until Salamba Sarvangasana of course. The medical classes for me have been completely different where numerous props have been used for my Scoliosis. It has been a good balance however to sometimes not use props too as I believe we can get attached to our “handicaps” and need to feel what it is like without the support and learn to create it on our own. I have been open to the challenge in the regular classes and have been pushing myself further than I ever thought I could.

I have attached a few more pictures of me with support in the Medical classes as well as a picture of a regular class packed with yogis from all over the world.

Well that is all for now so get out your mat and just see what happens! Be inspired!

Namaste,

Graham

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THIRD UPDATE FROM PUNE

Wow! It is hard for me to believe that almost 2 weeks have gone by.

I believe AMAZING is the word I used several times in my last entry but I can’t seem to stay away from that word because my experience here has been and is AMAZING. Each day I feel more and more grateful to the Iyengars and the experience I am having.

I have now taken 4 of Abhijata’s classes, which are given to her from Guruji’s input as he is doing asanas in the back of the room telling her what to say. Did I mention yet that Abhijata is 6 months pregnant? She is 26 but seems much older than her years with her wisdom and confidence. Each class we have had continues to build upon one another. They started with more of the outer shell of the body and have now moved inward to the organic body. The first week were standing poses, then forward bends and today twists and several back bends! The points continue to move deeper and deeper inside. Incredible and AMAZING!

I have also been taking classes from Prashant, Guruji’s son, 1x/week. Prashant’s classes are a lot different than the other classes in that he talks more about the philosophy of yoga and the breath. Body to Body, Mind to Mind. We do fewer poses holding them for a longer period of time where he continues to keep you in the present. I do not always follow what he is saying but when I do I fully connect and am present. A quote from Prashant, “The breath is the other side of the mind.”

We were blessed to have Geetaji teach us a Pranayama class last Friday but she was away last night so Abhijata taught the class. They split the room this time to have the people that had only been to Pune 1 or 2 times go upstairs, and others that had had Pranayama with Geetaji many times stay downstairs. This is my 2nd trip to Pune so I went upstairs where RajLaxmi taught us Digital Pranayama. RajLaxmi is a fantastic teacher so I felt very lucky to learn from her. Elise was downstairs and said she was very impressed with Abhijata’s class. Elise actually got teary eyed talking about Abhi as she saw her when she was just starting to teach at 16 years old under Iyengar’s side. Elise said she is coming out on her own now. Very exciting for Abhi and all of us as Geeta is not teaching as much anymore.

The medical classes for me have been transforming, emotional, incredible and inspiring . I have had 4 medical classes now. Geetaji has not been back to the medical class since the first day she gave me my sequence so each time I go now I report to Abhijata to ask her what poses to do. She has been expanding from the sequence Geeta gave me. I wasn’t sure what to expect in these classes. Before I came to India, Elise told me I would be her “patient” where I would learn how to work with my back. I wasn’t sure what patient meant but it literally means patient. I am there to get help from other teachers that are there. Elise has been a patient too working with her issues so she has not been assisting me so much, however on Monday she had the opportunity to assist which was extremely helpful. I had Elise and 2 other women helping me get into poses, one woman that took notes for me and another that took photos. It was AMAZING:) I felt very emotional and overwhelmed to be given such wonderful guidance by many knowledgeable teachers. Not only was I given guidance from many wonderful teachers from around the world but also by Abhijata, RajLaxmi(a talented Indian teacher) and Stephanie Quirk came by to give me adjustments so that I could feel what my body needed to do. Stephanie Quirk is from New Zealand but has been working with the Iyengars for many years and now teaches therapeutic workshops all over the world. I recently took her training in NYC. She has a wonderful eye and always surprises me with what she sees from afar. I have attached a few pictures for you to see the props being used to help my Scoliosis.

Tomorrow is Sunday which is our day off so Elise, Kat and I have another fun day planned. At 7 am, our rickshaw driver Nana will pick us up to go see five temples high up on a place called Parvrati Hill. At the top we will be able to see all of Pune.

I hope you are all staying healthy, happy and remembering your HOME PRACTICE:)

Namaste,

Graham