Dec. 16, 2017, Pune, India
I watched the last part of Prashantji’s class this morning, took Abhijata’s lady’s class, and then sat at Geetaji’s feet for a spontaneous talk about the how community must practice and learn from one another. The Iyengar family is truly gifted! I have now studied with three generations!
Transitions, Prashant said, it is all about transitions. When you change from the right to the left side, do you watch what happens in the transition? After the exhale and before the inhale, there is a U-turn, are you as aware of that transition as the in and out breath? The eighth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita points to the transition at the end of life, can we be aware in the transitions?
It made me think that all life really is a transition from moment to moment. And mastery comes in being aware of the changes, the transitions. When I hear a beautiful symphony, I am spellbound from moment to moment, because the transitions are so seamless, so breathtakingly captivating that I am completely absorbed. Is that not what “Samadhi” is, complete absorption? Prashant did not say this exactly. Yet as I watched the last moments of his class the stillness was palpable and the students were as if spellbound. They were doing Bhardvajasana, a simple seated twist. As they switched sides, Prashant would cue them to watch if the mind went faster than the body, and the breath, how did it change? The class looked like slow suspended parts, almost like cells in one organism, moving gently from side to side. That was the quality of presence. Transitions.
Abhijata is the young lioness taking charge of her cubs (us) now that her grandfather is no longer here to teach her and her aunt (Geetaji) rarely teaches. Abhi began her apprenticeship over fifteen years ago, when she was sixteen. She was never far from her grandfather’s eyes, and practiced daily with him. I remember Guruji looking into his granddaughter’s big dark eyes and asking impossibly difficult questions about an asana or about life. She would look back at him, innocent, knowing that he was about to spin his wonderful web of teachings. I am privileged to see this next generation begin to fill the role of “revered master”. Abhi has a master’s degree and two children of her own. She began traveling with Geetaji and Guruji as they presented at conferences in the US, China, Russia and Europe. She could see how different cultures interacted with her teachers. In some cases there was a language issue. She is now a perfect ambassador between the legacy that she has inherited and the 21st century!
Abhi is young, dynamic, demanding, and delightful. She told a story of how, one day, Guruji had strapped her ankles and knees with iron rods (this is done for therapeutic reasons) and asked her to sit in Virasana. She tried and cried out, and tried again and winced. Her grandfather commanded her to sit, and she sat, such was the shakti of Guruji. Once she was in Virasana, he asked her what she had felt. She said, pain. He explained that we tend to run away from anything that we are afraid of, and that we glorify pain. As she focused more on the way that the knee could shift, and the rotation of the thigh and ankle, while the pain was still there, her mind was absorbed in the actions, interactions and reactions. This is Yoga.
This story she related to us as we rested between Urdvha Dhanurasanas. She had us hold a wood brick between the knees as we lifted up into the backbend. It must be wood, she said, otherwise you will not pay attention! Of course no one wanted to drop the brick! We had to then walk the hands in close to the feet and find the interactions between the lift of the outer knees, the back thighs, and the buttocks. The vibrancy went from the knees and fear of dropping the block into the sensations of both sides of the back muscles being lifted up toward the front of the body. It was intense, but deeply satisfying.
Abhijata will join the Iyengar Yoga Association of the United States in 2019 for the next national convention. I will let you know, come!