Why go to Pune?
Guest Post by Lorenzo Sacchini.
Part Two of our Pune blog series.
A long, methodical and constant yoga practice inevitably brings the practitioner to perceive space and time through a much deeper and subtle sensitivity.
In the specific contest of our own individual path (our sadhana, or practice) timeless moments will begin to emerge: moments that turn away from memory’s traditional patterns and occupy a special place of their own, because of the strong impact they have upon our personalities.
Some of these moments have a meaning that is mostly subjective, and only makes sense to ourselves: an example could be a phrase pronounced from our teacher without them giving it too much importance, but whose words lit a new flame in our inner world which will burn forever. Other episodes possess instead a latent universality and indiscriminately cause massive changes, evolution and growth in each one of us.
Within the Iyengar yoga practice, crossing the gate of RIMYI institute for the first time is without any doubt one of those latter moments for every student.
I don’t know why exactly, but a utopian and idyllic image of the institute had formed in my mind during the years, perhaps because the few pictures of it available on the internet are a bit misleading as usual. Thinking about the place where Guruji created something so big, I used to picture a quiet street full of nature, where the building octagonal plant stood up in a meditative calmness and surroundings. I realised how much a daydream this was as soon as my cab turned into Hari Krishna Mandir road (where the institute is) the night I arrived in Pune: a swarmy, busy street filled with motorbikes, rickshaws, fruit sellers and endless honking sounds. A typical Indian street.
Being quite late in the evening, I settled into my apartment and postponed my first visit to the Institute for the following day.
The next morning, walking the few hundred meters which separated my accommodation from RIMYI, I realised the bustle of the previous night had more or less doubled.
Somehow though it was not bothering me anymore as soon as I stood in front of the gate. I stayed there a few moments, feeling my heart racing up to my throat for the emotion and trying to capture the whole building structure with my eyes: something quite unique, with one-half octagonal and another one straight, on its three levels which grew in height getting smaller in a pyramid-like shape. Once I completed my registration inside, I started going up the stairs towards the practice room on the first floor.
Being my first time there, all my timetable classes, as well as my self practice time, were to be attended there. It was precisely a self practice session I was going towards, before my first class later on that same evening.
As soon as I stepped into the room, a boiling mixture of strong emotions started swirling inside my chest: astonishment, awe, respect and overwhelming joy. Astonishment because I realized in an instant how Guruji had created something so special, as everything inside the room contributed to create a vibration conducive to absorption and practice that I never felt anywhere else: pictures of Guruji and his asanas, Shiva’s and Patanjali’s statues and endless rows of props merged into a general sight which pulsated with life. This vision created in me a feeling of surrender and respect, which in turn had the effect of making me feel very very small.
At that point I did what seemed to me the simplest and most appropriate thing to do: I took a bolster and lied down in supta baddha konasana.
Finding my own pace was a bit difficult during that first practice session (which went into supported forward bends), and also in those ones during the following days.
That same evening I attended my first class, probably one of the most crowded classes I ever did.
Excitement and will of practising mixed themselves up with a light anxiety, that was soon swept away by the teacher clear and precise instructions. It was an amazing first class with a focus on standing poses and inversions. From time to time the teacher would interrupt the sequence and ask us to sit closer, as he tried to better express a concept or showed a more detailed demonstration. I went back home feeling alive and delighted at the thought that I had an entire month ahead of me to absorb these precious teachings.
So after the initial days necessary to get used to the heat, the rhythm of classes and a new city, I gradually started to enter into a new and stimulating mind/body space. When I refer to this mental and physical zone, I mean mainly the fact of being constantly immersed face to face with our own practice (daily time for self practice is up to three hours) and at the same time being exposed to new teaching and perspectives every day.
A new dimension is thus created where learning, exploring and expanding our concepts of yoga become one with the practice itself, which will go beyond our own limits and pre-established schemes. This is possible because of the exposition and assimilation of methods slightly different than ours.
Besides attending one class per day it is, in fact, possible to observe all other classes only by paying a little extra amount, and I found this privilege being of immense help.
Often times when we are at the front line sweating on the mat we could enter a state in which we only worry about our performance.
Being able to watch the dynamics and the unfolding of the class from an external point of view allow us to pick up those small things much easier: the directness of an instruction, the linearity of a sequence or simply the general pace and atmosphere created by the teacher.
The hours dedicated to self practice revealed themselves just as much constructive: the enormous quantity of props and the presence of many experienced practitioners and seasoned teachers were very inspiring towards searching other ways, approaches and methods of practice. Often times I would find myself simply observing some teacher or student performing a complicated variation of a supported backbend I never saw before, taking a mental note for my next session.
Talking again about the classes at RIMYI, I can surely say each one of them was like a little gem which opened to me infinite possibilities and directions: every teacher has a slightly different approach to the subject which makes their classes a unique experience that stands alone, often blending tradition and innovative spirit in a creative way.
Another aspect that struck me was the ability of the teachers in dealing with such large groups of people: some classes were so packed you couldn’t place the tip of a finger between each mat. The teachers would synchronize this myriad of legs and arms using methods like dividing us into smaller groups doing different things or striving to achieve the same pose for everyone in different ways in case the props were not enough.
From a human and social point of view, spending a month in Pune allowed me to build friendships with teachers and practitioners from every corner of the world, making me realize how big and vibrant this community is. We would often sit in front of a dosa (a delicious stuffed pancake) after classes, talking animatedly about our impressions and exchanging opinions. On Sundays, when the institute is closed, taking day trips around the city temples, gardens and restaurants was a nice way to finish off the week.
To summarise I felt most of anything else very lucky to be here. Quoting Bobby Clennel’s words from the Pune guide, studying at the institute is a privilege rather than a right.
As a practitioner, student and teacher who learnt everything about this practice in Australia so far I felt it was a big call for me coming here where everything began, and needless to say this won’t be my last time.
India and her people treated me very nicely and indeed showed me that this precious tool of humanity, this yoga practice which is reaching more and more people, has got as firm roots as much as many branches spreading out. What B.K.S. Iyengar created is kept alive and evolving and makes cultural barriers and differences weigh less and less.
The divinity in me bows before the divinity in you, or, more simply, Namaste.
Lorenzo discovered Iyengar yoga in 2013 when he started practising at central yoga school and has been passionate about it since then. He has been teaching at the school since 2016 and attained full teacher certification in 2017.
Over the last few years, besides developing a personal interest in yoga therapy, he has made yoga teaching his main focus and occupation in life.