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A Geetaji Remembrance, Gems of Wisdom Study Group Information, a Continued Conversation with Prashant Iyengar, and Yoga Workshops in the IMIYA Region

If you don’t know about Prashant I’d like to say his gift is clear. He is a walking, talking anthology of ancient wisdom with a wonderfully witty sense of humor. He is our in-house philosopher. Understanding his teaching precepts takes time. His way of transmitting classical yoga seeps into you drop by drop. At first what is confusing later starts reforming your ideas. If his precepts touch you, they will carve and shape you from the inside with a profound, sanctified, rarified and unlimited breath. His classes are radically different. In the end, it was an absolute pleasure to do this interview. One Saturday afternoon in October 2018 I went to RIMYI with my friend Jennie Willford and we sat with Prashant and talked for about 90 minutes. He was serious and good-natured and, of course, made us laugh. I asked my questions and we enjoyed the ride. I hope you do too.

Alexandra Carilli

Prashant Interview October 13, 2018
By CIYT Alexandra Carilli

Questions 14-15

AC: Once when I was a student in your class, it was really quite good when you talked about why we do yoga. You said something like we do yoga to stay healthy, to relieve stress for many, many reasons. You posed the question: do any of us do yoga for samadhi? Why are we not striving for that? You said if you want to be rich, do you think of being a millionaire? Why not think of being a billionaire? Isn’t a millionaire included in billionaire? You said the same was true for yoga. That all of health, happiness and mental peace will come if we strive sincerely towards the ultimate goal of ashtanga yoga.

Is it possible to truly strive towards the pinnacle without being introduced to the esoteric concepts related to yogic mysticism?

PI: At every level there is a different realization aspect. Like what our yoga is, what my yoga is, what your yoga is, when our body, mind get well composed, get well kneaded, well blended and well unified.That is our yoga. So at our hierarchy of yoga the mind has been drawn deep inside internally to something which is a transcendent thing, not a mundane thing, not a worldly thing. It is not a worldly experience, it is not a mundane experience. It is something transcendent. So that is our yoga. That is yoga for us at our hierarchy.

Then when we have attained that and it comes at our fingertips, that state that we can get anytime, anywhere, when we are so proficient at it, then something else will come on the horizon. Like when you stand on the sea shore, you see the horizon extend 8 to 10 kilometers from where your feet are; then if you enter the ocean the horizon extends further. Once our yoga is accomplished, attained, then we will get the next stage of yoga on the horizon. Then we will be striving for it.

And that’s how the yoga will be evolved in the sense that the fluttering nature of the mind will be tapering and tapering and tapering. From this width to this width we feel composed and the mind has been tapered to an extent that we feel composed. It can be further tapered until the lines (from width to width) join. When they join that is the pinnacle of yoga. But that is not our goal. We should not be looking for it; we should not even be thinking of it. So we will try to look for our own bliss. At every stage your and my bliss is of one caliber and Guruji’s bliss was another caliber. Our caliber of bliss was not bliss for him. He was trying for a higher bliss. And as you advance, what your goal is, will be on the horizon. The horizon is always the goal and the horizon always extends until the pinnacle point is reached.

So each one of us has a yoga, once you are on the essential track of it, process of it, whatever transcendental state, transpersonal state. For you and me our yoga is to forget ourselves. If you forget yourself in yoga that is your yoga. If you continue to remember I am a woman, I am menstruating or I am pregnant or I’ve got menopause, then that’s not bliss. You must forget yourself. So when you forget that you are a man or woman, young or old, oriental or occidental, when you forget yourself, that’s bliss. So actually our bliss lies in getting away from ourselves. That’s why you want to go to sleep. Suppose you have attained a glory in your life and then you are relishing that attainment, why do you lose sleep? You lose sleep not only because of stress and tension, you lose sleep also because of excitement, and then you are looking for sleep. If you haven’t slept for two or three days you say let me get some sleep, I must sleep today despite the glory that you have behind you. After winning a raffle of 10 million dollars, for the third or fourth day afterward, you will not sleep for those days, a couple of days…but finally you say let me sleep. Let me get sleep. You want to get away from you. To get away from you, you go to sleep and the wisdom of sleep says you go into the bosom of your beloved that is the highest bliss: to be getting into the bosom of the beloved and that the beloved is within. In sleep we have a place with it; this is what the Upanishads speak about.

THE GIFT OF GEETA IYENGAR
By Paige Noon

The sounds of India, auto rickshaws honking, voices from the street and, for an Iyengar yoga practitioner, the voice of Geeta Iyengar. Strong and direct, clear and urgent and beneath the timber of her voice a desire to help. Listening to her teach again, from an audio tape from 2006, was sublime.

Ten of us got together one Sunday afternoon at IYCD in Denver and practiced together under the tutelage of this great teacher. A little more than a year ago Geetaji passed to another realm, but her presence is here not only in the recordings of her teaching and in her writing, but also in our Iyengar teachers and the students who have studied with her.
To begin we sat to prepare for the prayer and invocation to Patanjali. Even this simple teaching held a deep richness. “Sit straight all of you. Keep your back erect, keep your head straight, neck straight. Ascend your chest. Close your eyes completely. A slow soft smooth inhalation and slow soft smooth exhalation. Allow the brain to recede in. Bring all your energy to the center of the chest as if energy flows from all over the body towards the center. Lift your very inner center, the core of the being, up and feel your existence very strongly in that very center of yours. A slow soft smooth breath. Let the skin fibers recede in, from pores of the skin you have, to feel the flow going inward, to be in close contact with the muscle fibers, which are next to that skin. From there you have to see that in adjusting the structure of the body you allow even that energy to flow towards the very center. A slow soft smooth breath. Think of Lord Patanjali. Let the idol of Lord serenely be in your heart, and be calm and quiet, and offer your prayers silently at first to the Lord within.”

The practice was largely a backbend sequence. Geetaji taught each pose many times. She repeated basic actions, but with each iteration added nuances so that our bodies became familiar with the fundamental nature of the pose. With such repetition the muscles and fibers came to know their relationship to each other. As if a small group of people were getting to know each other, over time the understanding of each other became deeper and deeper, more and more nuanced so that a strong community was created.

By the end of the class, after multiple danurasanas, several ustrasanas, and many repetitions of urdhva danurasanas and kapotasana hands at the wall, my legs, back ribs, shoulders and arms lost their own volition. They became instruments of the core of my being. Savasana was exquisite. Geetaji’s teaching, clear, straightforward, and repetitive allowed my mind to be absorbed into my entire being. At the end of the class it was if I had been in India, in that room with Geetaji. Body and mind were integrated, tired, but quietly exhilarated. Thank you Geetaji for your life, your practice, your teaching.

Gems of Wisdom: A Study Group for IYNAUS Members
Register Now!

During a Q & A between Geeta and Abhijata, Geeta said, “[My father] was always my Guru and I always followed him.” She went on to tell us to never leave the path that her father blazed before us. She explained to us how fortunate we were to have the benefit of all Guruji’s writings on the subject of Yoga to study and said she did not have that same material available to her at the outset of her practice and teaching.

To honor Geetaji and her desire for us to immerse ourselves in the teachings, the newly-formed Astadala Yogamala Study Group will be known as “Gems of Wisdom: A Study Group for Members of IYNAUS.”
For more information contact me.

Namaskar,
Holly Kostura
Intermediate Senior I – CIYT
Director, The Iyengar Yoga Center of the Lehigh Valley
Author, “Your Year of Yoga: Learning to Love Practice”

UPCOMING EVENTS

JANUARY 2020

Yoga Philosophy, Pranayama, & Meditation Ongoing Study
Gary Reitze
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
January 4

New Year’s Asana & Pranayama Workshop
Angie Woyar and Lisa Wolf
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
January 4

Practice and Study
Lisa Beckwith Wolf
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
January 10-12

Basics 6-weeks Series
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
January 12 – February 16

Basics 6-weeks Series
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
January 14 – February 18

Craig Kurtz Workshop
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
January 18

Yoga for Knees Workshop
Kathy Curran
4 Corners Yoga
January 25

Asana & Philosophy
Craig Kurtz
Santosha Yoga
Wheatridge, CO
January 25

FEBRUARY 2020

Yoga Philosophy, Pranayama, & Meditation Ongoing Study
Gary Reitze
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
February 1

Practice and Study
Lisa Beckwith Wolf
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
February 7-9

Backbending with Props
Kathy Curran
4 Corners Yoga
February 15

Yoga for Cancer
Deborah Baker
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
February 21

Craig Kurtz—Twists: Parivrtta Sthiti
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
February 22

Yoga for Strong Bones & Osteoporosis
Deborah Baker
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
February 28

Teaching Yoga to Cancer Patients and Survivors: A Workshop for Teachers, Volunteers, and Cancer Survivors
Deborah Baker
Park Hill Yoga
Denver, CO

March 2020

Practice and Study
Lisa Beckwith Wolf
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
March 6-8

Yoga Philosophy, Pranayama, & Meditation Ongoing Study
Gary Reitze
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
March 7

Elise Miller Yoga
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
March 13-15

Backward Extensions
Craig Kurtz
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
March 21

April 2020 and beyond

Yoga Fiesta
Nancy Stechert
April 2020

Senior Teacher Weekend Workshop
John Schumacher
Yoga Shala
May 15-17 2020

Rebecca Lerner
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver
Iyengar Yoga Center of Boulder
Iyengar Yoga Center of Ft. Collins
June 2020

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