1999, Cardigan Road Community Centre, Leeds. An A5 poster shows a black and white photo of a woman in Ustrasana, a long plait of hair dangling down to her feet. It is a pleasing image of dynamic movement, balance, stillness. I go to a class. There are lots of footless tights, Karate in the room next door and a tin at the front for my £3 payment. I am still in my teens and have been practising yoga already for a few years. I think that maybe I kind of get it. A bit. But…..wait a moment. This is different. This feeling. This is to engage consciously in action; to awaken the senses and all the faculties of body and mind; not just to do but to be. To be in doing and not-doing. This demands a physical, intellectual and creative rigour and vigour that I haven’t experienced in any other class I’ve attended. This feeling. What is it? This is Iyengar yoga.
2019, Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune. The sign on HKM Road is modest, unobtrusive; but to Iyengar yoga practitioners this is the hub to their wheel, the stub to their ticket, the back-stage to their pass, the Home to their Away. From that day in 1999 my daily practice and studies have provided a firm foundation to my existence as an adult human. It’s twenty years (almost to the day) since I stepped into that class in Leeds. So why has it taken me so long to get here?
Well, in my early- to mid-twenties I was studying fairly intensively with my teacher Faeq (and didn’t look further than his teaching, which is extraordinarily comprehensive). In my mid- to late-twenties I started a family (and wasn’t prepared to leave my young children for a month). In 2014 I booked a month in Pune and then suffered a bereavement (and had to forego my place). In 2017 I opened a Yoga Centre in Hereford (and needed it to bed in before having the confidence to let it run without me for that long). The usual stuff, in other words. Life.
I’ve always known that RIMYI was here, informing my teachers and heading up the global Iyengar yoga movement. Do I regret not coming sooner? Of course it’s a shame to have missed BKS and Geeta, but apart from that, no, I’ve been doing other things which I hope have been equally worthwhile. And I feel lucky, very lucky, to have this opportunity now. I look forward to learning from all the teachers here, both the older and younger generations.
The global Iyengar community is on a cusp; we are in a state of transition after the deaths of BKS Iyengar and Geeta Iyengar. It will be interesting and informative to see how this great ship is being steered, and in which direction. Forwards, with an anchor in tradition, an eye on the horizon of possibility, an acceptance that the wind will always change and, inside, infinite stores of compassion and integrity? At the age of 39 and having practised over twenty years, I hope to approach the next weeks with an open mind and an open heart. I have no previous Pune experience with which to compare what I’m about to participate in. It’s that feeling again. I am a complete beginner.