Sunday, December 1, 2013

Yoga Experience at RIMYI

   
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune is the heart and soul of Iyengar Yoga. Every Iyengar yogi across the world would have a desire to visit RIMYI and learn yoga at least once in his lifetime because it is the mother of all Iyengar yoga centers.
When I began my yoga practice with Guruji’s book ‘Light on Yoga’, I never imagined that someday I am going to study yoga at the institute established by Guruji – the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune. I feel that I always had the grace of Guruji. With the blessings of Guruji I found a very good teacher in the form of Smt. Zarna Mohan and then my teacher laid me a path to Guruji. Without her blessings and support I don’t think I would have ever met Guruji and even thought of meeting him. Only after meeting Guruji I developed a wish to see him in action and study yoga at RIMYI under his shadow.
I had been waiting for an opportunity to study yoga at RIMYI for the last four years and it was not happening for some reasons. Finally I along with my wife Tulsi and a friend Sweta got the opportunity to study yoga at RIMYI for the month of August 2013. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience to be a part of RIMYI for one month.
Since we were there for a limited period of one month, we got an opportunity to learn yoga from different teachers at RIMYI. We were given 6 classes a week of intermediate level 1 under a different teacher each day. We were really fortunate to study under the most experienced and senior teachers like Kishore Ji, Rajlaxmi Ji, Abhay Ji, Devki Ji and Gulnaaz Ji. Each teacher has his/her own distinct way and signature style of teaching.
I have been thinking of writing my experiences on studying yoga at RIMYI but I never got a momentum to write it down until my friend Sweta insisted me to write something about our experiences in Pune. I realized that our experiences at Pune might help other yoga aspirants who have been thinking to take up the classes at RIMYI but unable to take a decision due to some reason.
Admission and Fee Details:
The process of admission is quite easy for Indian students at RIMYI. You need to request Panduji for admission by writing an email to info@bksiyengar.com stating how long you have been practicing Iyengar yoga along with the name of your teacher and you will hear from him soon stating the month in which you are given the admission. The admission to non-local students is given at the beginning of every month to the end of the month. They don’t entertain admission in between the month. Therefore if you are aspiring to take up yoga classes at RIMYI must keep this in mind and plan accordingly. On reaching the institute you need to fill up the admission form, submit a recent passport size photograph, identity proof, address proof and residence proof from the owner of the place where you are stationed at along with your fee for the session.
The admission procedure for a foreign student is different. You can log on to the official website www.bksiyengar.org for details.
The fee is quite affordable at RIMYI. The only issue is the availability of slots since the classes run over occupied throughout the year. You need to write well in advance of 2 or 3 months to get an admission. If you are a foreign student it might even take a year or two. The fee for intermediate level 1 during August 2013 was Rs. 4000 for Indian students and 450 USD for foreign students. For further information you can again log on to the official website mentioned above.
Accommodation:
The institute does not provide any accommodation facility for the students studying yoga at RIMYI. The students have to make their own arrangements with regards to their living in Pune. However, Panduji or any other member of the staff might help you in finding the accommodation in and around Shivaji Nagar near the institute.
If you are visiting for the first time, you must be ready to spend some money for accommodating yourself in Pune as the cost of living is quite high. We have found that owners of the flats in and around Shivaji Nagar are making great amounts of money from the students of RIMYI who have come from foreign countries. They are charging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 40,000 per month and even above one lakh rupees for luxury flats. If you are an Indian student and can walk around Shivaji Nagar and adjacent areas you can find it around Rs. 5000 p.m. as per the local sources.
It is always difficult to find an affordable accommodation in Pune. If your budget is limited and you are new to the city then it is more difficult. Somehow we earned a slot at RIMYI but we were really concerned about our stay for one month in Pune as we had a very limited budget. I had been saving money for the whole year to attend the classes at RIMYI in Pune. One of my friends promised to arrange a room for my living in Pune but that did not worked. In addition to that my wife decided to come with me at the very last moment. I said okay! Let’s face whatever that comes. Even Sweta was very much concerned about her accommodation in Pune.
Our only hope was Christ Prem Seva Ashram which is popularly known as CPS Ashram in Pune. It is one of the oldest Christian missionary ashrams functioning from pre-independence era. It was established in 1927. They charge Rs. 200 per day per head for meals and accommodation. It is the cheapest place of accommodation in Pune as far as students of Iyengar yoga is concerned. But the problem is that the Ashram has very limited rooms and are occupied most of the times. Moreover, they don’t entertain people staying for long period of time as they need accommodation for visitors coming for religious activities every second week of the month. Mr. Salvi is the person in charge of the Ashram and is looking after the Ashram for a very long time. He is a very kind and generous man. The accommodation is provided based upon the availability of rooms at the given point of time. No advance registration facility is available at the Ashram. However, you can contact Mr. Salvi at CPS Ashram near Shivaji Nagar ST Bus stand accommodation. If you are fortunate enough you can find the place in the Ashram.
Teachers at RIMYI:
Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar, his daughter Geeta S. Iyengar, son Prashant S. Iyengar, granddaughter Abhijata Srinivasan are the world renowned yogis who needs no introduction. Kishore, Rajlaxmi, Devki, Abhay, Uday, Raya, Ratan Shah, Gulnaaz, Dr. Manoj, Nawaaz are the stalwarts of Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune.
I used to practice yoga at home watching all these teachers on DVD. Apart from Guruji, Geetaji, Prashantji and Kishore Ji I never had a personal interaction with any other teacher. I was familiar with Rajlaxmi, Devki, Abhay, Uday, Raya and Gulnaaz only through Geetaji’s DVDs. I used to practice my asanas by watching these teachers in action through those DVDs. I am really happy that I got a chance to learn from most of these teachers at RIMYI.
The Iyengars:
  
I don’t have to say anything specific about Guruji, Geetaji and Prashantji as the World knows about their work. I was fortunate enough to observe few glimpses of Guruji’s teachings during his daily practice and Prashantji’s classes but unable to see Geetaji’s classes as she was not well and Abhijata was also not taking the classes as she recently gave birth to a very cute girl child Sathvika.
Kishore Ji:
Kishore Ji is one of the experienced teachers at RIMYI who is associated with Guruji and the institute for a very long period of time. He is a very kind, humble and generous human being. With the help of my friend Mohit I happened to meet Kishore Ji during Guru Poornima in July 2013 at RIMYI. It was just a casual meet where he inquired about my practice and yoga classes at Hyderabad. We were totally strangers but he never let me feel that. I was really impressed by his personality and simplicity. After attending his classes for one month and regular interactions with him on and off the classes, a great respect was formed for him. He has such a great depth and knowledge in the subject of Yoga and yet he is so simple and modest. We were fortunate enough have two of his classes a week. He is a classical Guruji style of teacher. He has a distinct and signature style of taking the classes. He sits on the platform and walks around the students in asana giving instructions and correcting their postures. He hardly demonstrates the asanas himself. He is so confident and has such a great power and control over his instructions that even the new student will perform his asana with complete understanding. It is not that he has a great voice like Prashantji. He has a mediocre voice with clear cut instructions and clarity of speech.
Kishore Ji is a complete encyclopaedia of Iyengar yoga. I thoroughly enjoyed his classes because Iyengar yoga is full of details and he is never short of those valuable details. He has a very unique and systematic way of taking classes. His instructions for every asana are clear, short and precise. He never gives you all the instructions at a stretch. He adds on the details in every class extending the previous ones. This enables the student to remember all the details and keeps him excited and curious about the further details to come.  
I learned a great lesson from Kishore Ji’s class but in a very strange way. As I mentioned above that he is full of instructions and he repeats his instructions again and again for few number of times. A strange thing happened during my early classes with Kishore Ji. He was instructing, ‘lift your chest up! Lift the chest up! Lift the chest up! Chhaati Uchla! (marathi) Chhaati Uchla! Chhaati Uchla! And so on. I was lifting my chest more and more every time he said lift the chest up. I came to a point where I can’t lift my chest any more. I turned my head towards Kishore Ji helplessly to know how much I need to lift my chest further up. The moment I saw him I got my answer. It took me no time to realize that the instructions are not for me. He was looking at different students and asking them to lift the chest up to those who are not lifting it up. After this incident, I began to observe the other teachers and their instructions as well. At the end, I realized that all the instructions given by the teacher are not for all. When you are in a posture it is not possible to see the teacher all the time and more importantly the teacher might not pay attention to your mistakes in a crowded class. Therefore, one must be alert and discriminative about the requirement of the posture and the instructions given by the teacher. This lesson during Kishore Ji’s class helped me understand the instructions of other teachers in a better way.
Rajlaxmi Ji:
I really love Rajlaxmi Ji because she is so simple, humble and modest person and yet she is the toughest teacher of all. You can’t expect her classes to be soft as she is. I really enjoyed her classes because she used to come up hard at us with a handful of 10 to 12 asanas throughout the session of 1 ½ hours. She is elegant, dynamic, vibrant and always after you in the posture. I heard my teacher smt. Zarna Mohan saying how Guruji used to take the classes in his peak days. I happened to attend Manouso’s classes during early 2013 when he was in Kumbh. He has some glimpses of Guruji in teaching. After Manouso I saw similar glimpses in her. As any other Iyengar yoga teacher she has a distinct style of teaching. She is very good at human anatomy and has a great depth and understanding in yoga postures and their benefits. She used to come up with her assistant Sindhu and let the students stay in the posture until they correct one and all. Most of the students fumble, crumble and fall number of times by the time they come and correct the posture. Rajlaxmi Ji is also a classic Iyengar yoga teacher with loads of instructions. For some people like my friend Sweta the instructions are too much to digest. She often used to say that they are too many instructions for her head. Unlike Kishore Ji, she not only instructs but also demonstrates the asanas for students. She has another unique way of teaching. She used to pick up one asana and can explain and teach that particular asana at a stretch for 40 minutes and more like Geetaji. If you are fortunate enough to attend any such classes the whole perspective of the asana changes. Fortunately, I got few such opportunities. During one of my off days, I went to Lonavala and injured my neck muscles under the waterfall and re invited my old cervical problem back and could not sleep the whole night due to pain. Unwillingly I went to the class as I did not want to miss out Rajlaxmi Ji’s class. I thought of explaining my problem to her and seek some remedial asanas after the class. Fortunately we had Gomukhasana special that day. The class was so tough that my shoulders, scapular bones, dorsal spine and the wrist become almost sore. I did not dare to ask for remedial postures for my neck after the class and therefore I walked out quietly. Next morning was a surprise for me. All my pains have vanished and there was no sign of cervical pain either. The entire perspective of Gomukhasana has changed for me. We had other such classes on Adhomukha Svanasana and Janu Sirsasana. At one point of time in Adhomukha Svanasana I felt that my hands are going to break down and fall on the floor and the very next moment I heard her screaming, do it! Your hands are not going to break. And I started laughing in spite of the unbearable pain. My Adhomukha Svanasana has changed after that. She is very much aware of her reputation as a touch teacher. In one of her classes, she was shouting to one of the fellow students in Janu Sirsasana. Hold the belt closer to the feet. You are not riding a horse here. Roll the shoulder blades back and down, lift your head up and push the chest forward. Cut the shoulder blades into the dorsal, make your dorsal concave. And when she was not reacting to her instructions she shouted again saying, “Come on! Do it! You are in Rajlaxmi’s Class!” The entire class busted in laughs.
The other side of Rajlaxmi Ji is quite soft. If you see her anywhere outside the class and wish her or talk to her she will respond you with such a sweet smile that you simply adore her. If you have any doubt about any asana or have any problem you can ask her freely after the class. She will happily resolve your issue. She is a very hard working woman who practices alongside Guruji quietly observing his teachings. I have great regards and respects for her. I really enjoyed her classes because of the intensity she brings in the class. Had I stayed another few months with her I think my whole body would have changed. I really miss her classes.
Devki Ji:
 
Devki ji is another sweet lady with great poise, elegance and charisma. It is a delight to watch her perform the asanas. She make any advance posture look so simple and elegant. There are very few numbers of people who can make any posture look simple, elegant and poised. Devki ji is one such person. She has a unique style of teaching. She has a very distinct approach to asanas. She not only teaches how to make the asana perfect but also teaches you how to make the asana effortless. She emphasizes in performing the asana at psychological and physiological level so that the doer ship action ceases and you connect to the asana deep inside.
Devkiji’s classes look simple but she is a tough teacher. Her classes are going to be really tough and very effective but she makes it look easy and simple. I still remember her back bending classes during third week of the month. She made us do a series of adhomukha svanasana, urdhvamukha svanasana, uttanasana, ekapada uttanasana, ekapada adhomukha svanasana and finally she made us do adhomukha Vrkshasana and ekapada adhomukha vrkshasana on wall. Couple of days later, I tried to practice the same sequence and finally climbed up the wall for adhomukha vrkshasana. The moment I tried to straighten my legs I slipped down. I tried again and the result was same. Tried few more times but could not make it. Then I sat alongside the column wondering what went wrong as I did that effortlessly couple of days ago in the class. I then relaxed myself in adhomukhai virasana and suddenly strike in my mind that I need to open my dorsal more. So I went to the tressler and did half uttanasana, did a series of adhomukha and urdhvamukha svanasana and other asanas learned in Devki ji’s class rigorously for 30 minutes focusing on opening the dorsal. I was sweating, perspiring and tired. Only then I was able to do adhomukha vrkshasana successfully. She is really awesome. She makes you work hard but you don’t sweat and perspire. In fact you feel relaxed.
Apart from attending her classes I got the permission to observe her intermediate level 2 classes. It was a great learning experience from her classes. I observed great techniques and instructions during these classes that are very helpful in my daily practice. I was fortunate enough to watch some of the advance postures like different variations of Sirsasana in intermediate level 2 classes. She is simply mind blowing. She is one of the best Iyengar yogis I have seen in action.
Abhay Ji:
 
Abhay Ji is a fabulous human being and a fantastic teacher. He is a very friendly, caring and helpful teacher. He makes you feel so comfortable in the class that you don’t feel new to him from day one. If you attend couple of his classes, you simply fall in love with him and his classes.  His classes are soothing, soft and magical like him. When you step out of his class, you feel completely relaxed and vibrant. It doesn't mean that he teaches you all supine postures and relaxes you. His classes are as intense as any other Iyengar yoga teacher. As I told you before, every teacher has a distinct and signature style of teaching. Abhay Ji’s signature style of teaching makes you feel relaxed at the end of the class. He sequences the asanas in such a way that you really work hard for the first 45 minutes and relax during the next 45 minutes. Tulsi and Sweta were finding some teachers really tough but they were really happy with Abhay Ji even though he used to come hard at them. Another quality of Abhayji is that he has a great understanding of props and he is an excellent teacher in terms of therapy. He is such a loyal student of Guruji that he always has something to say about him. Why not? He is associated with Guruji ever since the establishment of RIMYI. He once told me that he is associated with Guruji since 1975. He was a kid then. I saw his childhood photograph standing at the wall stone of the institute during his early childhood days on facebook.
I knew him through facebook as he is in our Hyderabad Iyengar Yoga group and also in my friends list. But we never had any interaction before meeting him in Pune. When I introduced myself he immediately said, oh Ram! Yeah, that’s right! We are facebook friends. He really surprised me saying that as we had no conversation at all on facebook. But during that one month we really became good friends.
Gulnaaz Ji:
Gulnaaz Ji is a very active, agile and light hearted teacher. She has her own style of teaching. She is not much with her instructions but pushes you to the asanas one after the other. She used to come up with around 25 asanas in a class and makes you do all the asanas swiftly one after the other. She is a very humorous teacher who crack some jokes in between the asanas. Her jokes are the only sigh of relief in the class as she doesn’t give any chance to think. Sometimes I really used to feel tired and wait for the inversions to come for relaxation. The good thing about her class is that you learn a new asana in every class. Her classes build strength and flexibility. She gives you another flavour of Iyengar yoga which is yet another experience.
Uday Ji:
Uday Ji is a dynamic teacher. Though I had not attended any of his class, I got a chance to watch him teaching children’s class. He is simply superb. First of all, it is not easy to teach children and secondly, it is more difficult to match them. As Guruji always say, teaching children is a challenge as you need to be quick and dynamic as they easily get bored. And Uday Ji was not only quick and dynamic in teaching them but also doing along with them with same speed and enthusiasm. It was new experience to me. There was so much energy and vibrancy in the class that I never experienced in any adult class. I never saw a teacher and the students competing with one another. Uday Ji used to shout Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Adhomukha svanasana, urdhvamukha svanasana etc. and the students were in a posture in flash. He used ask who knows adhomukha vrkshasana? And the enthusiastic students come forward and demonstrate. Again he used to do quick round of asanas with kids together. It was really a great fun to watch Uday Ji. I wish to do some of his classes in future.
Raya Ji:
Raya Ji is another young and talented teacher the World already knows. He is one of the best emerging teachers of RIMYI. He is also one of the favorite students of Guruji along with Abhijata. Though I did not attend any of his classes, I observed almost all of his intermediate level 2 classes. He is really an exciting teacher. His classes are generally overcrowded and he manages them very well. He has certain glimpses of Manouso Manos who moves all around the class giving instructions, shouting, hitting and making the lazy ones work harder and others work better. His instructions were clearer, louder and precise which repeats couple of times. I am looking forward to attend his classes.

Yoga Experiences at CPS Ashram:
It was an incredible one month stay at CPS Ashram in Pune. Fortunately we have got a great company of Iyengar yoga teachers at CPS. We had Usha Ji from Rishikesh, we had Chantal and Martin from Germany, We had Peggy from USA, Romano from Italy, Audra from Lithuania and Mondira from Mumbai.
   
The yoga we had in the month of August 2013, we never had so much before in our lives. It was yoga…yoga…yoga… and all yoga. Three of us from Hyderabad Tulsi, Sweta and me were eating yoga, walking yoga, talking yoga, doing yoga and living yoga. Yes you heard it right. Since we were living in the Ashram we didn’t had any other work to do except yoga. All the Ashramites used to have the meals together and since they are all yogis, yoga was always there for discussion. The institute is 20 minutes walk away from the ashram, therefore we used to walk through and fro discussing the asanas and instructions of the teachers. Even after dinner before sleeping we used to discuss about the technicalities of asanas learned during the day. Then we had regular classes and 3 hours practice in the institute every day. In the leisure time in between we used to discuss and practice some difficult and challenging asanas. Chantal and Martin in particular have helped Tulsi, Sweta and me by sharing their experience and expertise in teaching certain asanas. Chantal would come forward to correct the postures even during the practice session.
All these teachers who lived at the ashram are very sweet, kind and humble. They treated us like a family. We are still missing the stories of Ushaji and teachings of Chantal and friendliness of Martin, Romano and Audra. I would like to add one more name of my friend Eric from California, USA. Though we had a very short time to spare, we had some good memories together. During Sundays and other holidays we used to walk around the local areas exploring Pune. Thank you guys for making a memorable learning experience of our lives. With your friendship and love we never realized how those 31 days have passed in a flash.

In the end, I would like to say that the one month stay at Pune studying yoga under these experienced teachers of RIMYI has brought a great exposure to my yoga practice. My approach and the way of my practice have completely changed now. The classes in Pune were informative, instructive, intense and enjoyable. I miss that atmosphere, those classes, those wonderful teachers and the practice sessions at RIMYI. More importantly I miss Guruji and his presence during the practice sessions. He is such an inspiration and energy tonic for the practitioners. I personally felt the impact of his presence during practice. Miss you Guruji!

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