Thursday, September 14, 2017

Iyengar Yoga Intensive at Ballari

The seed of thought for writing this article is sown by my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan. One evening after the class, she asked me whether I am writing anything on Ballari workshop. I said, I was busy and hadn't thought of it yet. I then came back home and gone to bed after dinner. The thought ignited by her sparked at mid night. I woke up at 2 Am and wasn't getting a sleep. So I observed my mind keenly. I do this often to induce sleep. Till this time I hadn't thought of writing on Ballari workshop. Madam has given an idea to write but then my mind was working on to find a reason to write. I tried to figure out the reasons for which I started this blog. Then I realized, it is this blog that inspired some students in Hyderabad to take up Iyengar yoga classes with Zarna Madam. It is this blog that brought my friend Mohit Garg to Zarna Madam when he was relocating from Pune to Hyderabad. He is now teaching beginners under her guidance. It is this blog that Introduced my friend Virupaksha Dani to get the feel of "Yoganusasanam" by Geeta Iyengar and there by introduced to Zarna madam. It is this blog that introduced me to a good friend Sunil Kolhatkar in Pune. He is now attending the classes of Prashant Iyengar at RIMYI in Pune. I made many good friends far across the nation and even abroad through this blog. This blog played a role in uniting people. Is this reason not enough to write a blog? Thinking this, I fell a sleep. Next morning when I woke up, I immediately put this thought on paper so that I don't forget. The seed is sown and it sprouted as well. It's time to grow.

Iyengar yoga in Ballari:

I would like to write few things about my friend Virupaksha Dani before I progress and share my experiences about the workshop. Inspired from my article on the "feel of Yoganusasanam 2014" on this blog Viru wrote me up saying that he is interested in attending the "Yoganusasanam 2015". I helped him up in the process of registration for the event and finding his accommodation at Balewadi in Pune. This is how we met and the friendship continued to Rita Keller's workshop in Bellur and Zarna madam's workshop in Rishikesh. Both were outstanding workshops in terms of exposure and learning yoga and yoga philosophy. I began to understand him better after our trip to char-dham immediately after Rishikesh workshop.

Viru is a dedicated practitioner and an Iyengar yoga teacher in a small town of Ballari in Karnataka. He has been practicing yoga since his young days but introduced to Iyengar yoga only 8 years ago in a RSS camp conducted by Raghavendra Shenoy in Mangalore. Inspired by the session, he went on to learn Iyengar Yoga from Sri. Raghavendra Shenoy at various camps and from Karunakaran in Mangalore. Few years later he began to teach local people in Police Gymkhana in Ballari. He gradually went on to establish an Iyengar yoga center called 'Yogasri' hiring a hall on rent at Bala Bharati School. With his dedication and hard work he acquired good number of students now. 

First Iyengar yoga intensive at Yogasri:

The foundation for the possible workshop is laid by Virupaksha in Rishikesh when he invited Zarna madam to Ballari in the month of April 2017.

Couple of months after our return from Chardham, he called me up and said 'Ram, I would like to invite Zarna madam to Ballari for a workshop. Do you think she will agree?' I advised him to write an email inviting her to Ballari. He wrote an email and even called her inviting to Ballari. Subsequently, after seeking some information she gave her nod for the workshop.

Viru was happy and so do I. He then called me up and invited me and Tulsi to Ballari. Since we just arrived from an expensive trip of char-dham and I still had some debts to repay; I said will let him know later. He began to call me again and again insisting to come with Tulsi.

I was not sure whether we could make our trip to Ballari till the last 5 days before the schedule. It was again because of Zarna madam and Parmeshji the Ballari trip happened. They assigned me a job to take yoga sessions for the staff of L&T for six days and from the proceeds I received, booked the tickets to Ballari 3 days before the event.

Tulsi and I reached Ballari two days before the event as we wanted to make sure that arrangements were made properly for the event. Rajesh Bagadi from Belgaum also joined us the same day.

Workshop Experience:

Finally the day has come as our teacher arrived Ballari on 2nd of September 2017.  It was certainly a good experience for the students of Ballari as that was their first exposure to a workshop with a senior teacher like Zarna madam. We could see the enthusiasm and joy in their faces. Madam won their accolades in a single session and touched their hearts by the end of the workshop with her humility and the class of her teaching.

As far as we are concerned it was a new kind of exposure for us. Though we have been associated with her for a long time, she always offer something new to learn. Ballari intensive was a different learning experience. This time we were not participating students but were observing and helping the students. A day before the event I observed Virupaksha's class. Looking at the students I realized that it would be really difficult for our teacher to help and adjust all the students single handedly. So I, Tulsi and Virupaksha took the role of volunteers helping and adjusting the students during the session. I must appreciate the spirit and enthusiasm of those students who let us adjust them freely without any hesitation as we were completely new to them. Within a single session they become very friendly and some even called us for assisting them into their pose.
Since the workshop was for beginners, madam tried to teach the basic principles of alignment, precision and sequencing. Among these, one thing got registered in my mind with some impact was about sequencing. She taught, not only there is a sequencing of asanas in Iyengar system but also there is sequence in every asana. She must have taught it before but it got registered here during this workshop with some impact.

When you are dealing with someone new, it takes time for the students and even the teacher to catch up things. Since it was a short workshop of only two days, neither the students nor the teacher had time to understand one another. Instead of asking them to go into their poses straight away, she had a short interactive session asking simple questions and replying to their queries. Within a very short time she brought ease in the students which helped them perform their asanas smoothly. But that doesn't mean the sessions were not intense. She made it clear that she means business and made sure that everyone gets his/her money's worth.

She always used to tell us, teaching a beginner is not easy unless you know the basics right. She used to emphasize on learning the basics right. During this workshop, we learned how a beginner understands the same instruction differently and how one should deal with them as a teacher. When I was teaching the beginners in the class, she used to tell me, Ram! You should restrain yourself and come down to the level of a beginner while teaching them. I still remember the first instruction when she assigned me the job to teach. She said, you should remember the state of your body and mind when you started yoga while teaching them. She reminded me again and again that don't teach them what you know but teach them what they can understand and do. Even after this I used to get carried away at times as restraining is not that easy. Sometimes, you feel that you are restrained but the fact will be otherwise. She then taught me to watch their eyes to know whether they are tired and see whether their faces are relaxed. Here in this workshop I learned how one has to be restrained. In-spite of all her experience and practice, at no moment she got carried away. A delight to watch her teaching.

I have got the opportunity to learn from different teachers and each one of them have some unique features. Zarna madam has one such unique feature of demonstrating the asana before instructing them to do as the visual presentation has greater impact on students than the audio. She demonstrates couple of times and will repeat again very patiently if any student asks her to do so.


A strange observation came to my mind. I was understanding the teachings with clarity as an observer than a participant. Most of her teachings from the workshop are afresh in my mind. I did not try to remember them but they are coming to my notice when I am practicing at home.

I remember when I was learning intermediate level 1 classes at RIMYI in Pune, I used to observe the intermediate level 2 classes in my leisure time. One day, observing the class from the stairs I found that my feet were tight and my hands were tensed and so are my eyes and the head. Though I was sitting and watching, the mind was doing the action along with others and as a result of that my nerves were tensed and the body got tight. Now I realized, that kind of anxiety to do has lessened in me to a great extent.

There was a therapy session also as a part of the workshop for people with different ailments. For the last one year I have been working with her in therapy classes at Hyderabad. I have seen so many people getting cured of serious ailments with her healing hands and expertise in the field of therapy. One such magical moment occurred with a 7 to 8 year old boy. The boy is suffering from Cerebral Palsy. On asking, she said that he has a neurological disorder caused by non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while child's brain is under development. As a result of it body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance is affected.

Though the boy was able to walk but was walking on toes with heels lifted high and fumbling. Due to weakness in his muscles he was running rather walking due to the fear of falling. There was tremendous improvement in those two days. He could actually rest the heels and walk slowly when madam insisted him to press the heel on the floor while walking. The boy also worked with lot of understanding and intelligence. He was moving the exact muscles which she asked to move. With proper guidance and training he will surely recover soon. She explained us how she worked at him. She made him use the muscles that are working to mobilize the muscles that are not functioning.

Ballari people loved the way she conducted the therapy sessions. They were really happy the way she touched people. A lady got so impressed that she invited her for the lunch. She was rather insistent to take her to lunch and if not dinner. But due to time constrain she couldn't make it.

Organization of the Event:

Within no time the end has come. Since it was a short two day workshop; it ended quickly. Initially, I thought the workshop is too short but then at the end I felt it was apt for the level of beginners as the students were not used to this kind of extended sessions through out the day.

I must appreciate Virupaksha and all the students who participated in organizing the event smoothly as it is not a one man job.

The event was perfectly started with lightening ceremony by Zarna madam paying respects to Guruji and Patanjali. And ended equally on well note by felicitating her  by Virupaksha and the students of Yogasri, Ballari.

We returned from Ballari with lots of love and affection. On behalf of Zarna madam, I would like to thank Virupaksha and all the students for their love and regards. Special thanks to Mrs. Madhavi, Mrs. Lata and their entire family for the hospitality and love shown towards us. 

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