“There is a universal reality in ourselves that aligns us with a universal reality that is everywhere.”
― B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life.
If you do a natural google search on yoga after you clear the browsing history and cookies, “yoga retreats” often come up on the top of list. Coming to Pune, India to study Iyengar Yoga at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) is nothing like escaping to an exotic locale with serene scenery, organic meals, prearranged accommodations with yoga teachers a short stroll from your cabin.
Pune is not exactly anyone’s ideal place to recharge or relax in the conventional sense. The city is heavily polluted with an increasing number of constructions and cars. Noises are common place and getting around in English is not always easy. It can easily overwhelm a newcomer. Moreover, to apply for a month-long study at RIMYI, one should be practicing “Iyengar Yoga” for at least 8 years. This should include regular practice of inverted postures such as Sirsasana, Sarvangasana for 8-10 minutes. The institute does not provide transportation or lodging accommodations. In other words, you are responsible for them, without mentioning food and other amenities that often come with a yoga retreat. Classes at RIMYI are conducted in Indian English and the props are not in their top form.
So. Why do so many come to RIMYI every year?
There are different reasons for different people. As Geeta Iyengar once said, our Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar is like rain, it touches everyone. The mysterious transformations one experiences in Pune cannot be definitely qualified or quantified as yoga is a personal, experiential subject. I often tell my students that my intentions to spend a month at RIMYI are not to acquire new techniques or to learn new poses. There are plenty of Iyengar Yoga workshops and intensives in the Unites States. What unique and irreplaceable about coming to RIMYI for me are two-fold.
First, the sense of community is strong and special in Pune. Teachers and students of Iyengar Yoga are all just students or seekers of yoga here. The layers of responsibilities, roles, pretense we often carry back home are to be abandoned, at least temporarily to make room for something purer. Being educated in yog is the focus, the one-pointedness. This one-pointedness is a much needed condition for transformation in yog. As it presents itself, our abilities to overcome obstacles (klesas) improve significantly.
Secondly, perhaps more importantly, studying at RIMYI brings us “nearer to” the feet of our Guruji. “Upanishad” is to sit down near. B.K.S. Iyengar arrived in Pune in 1937 and passed away here in 2014. RIMYI has been the mother ship of Iyengar Yoga since 1975. The memories, imprints and vibrations of this locale and its environs lend support to our yoga path when we stay open, receptive and humble. The gravitational pull toward yog is stronger at RIMYI despite the seemingly never-ending movements and hubbubs around.
A realization came when my pranayama practice since my arrival weeks ago. It has been enriched in duration and in inner connections in spite of wood burning odors and noises of all sorts. When external supports are absent, internal supports from being nearer to the source prevail.
On the 98th birthday of B.K.S. Iyengar, we continue with our parampara by coming to RIMYI. Millions of candles can be lit from just one single candle. Even after the single candle has burned down, its flame continues. 🙏🏻