“Movement never lies. It is a barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who can read it.”
As I settled into my second week of classes, I began to notice the connections between movement and stillness as a means of going deeper. It became clear that only when there is stillness in movement, we can manifest the universal rhythm of our soul. Sitting still suddenly had a deeper meaning. We were asked to “find out” how the body, mind and breath come together into a unified state. Devki asked, using the breath, can you evacuate the heaviness in the head? “Find out” is a key phrase I hear over and over again. Both Prashant and Devki brought the element of sound into pranayama. Working with sound on the inhale and then on the exhale, we explored how the breath connects to sound. Then Prashant pointed out, “how the breath and sound sublimate the brain connecting you to the cosmos.”
On Thursday evening, Abhijata taught a beautiful class based on the Guruji’s sequence for emotional stability. We used head support and held the poses for extended periods. She asked us to explore sirsasana in a sattvic manner. Sirsasana is normally a heating pose but she talked through holding the pose by letting go of efforting. The power of stillness and exploring from a quiet and focused mind was apparent. The next morning at 7:30am, however, began with jumpings. Abhijata skillfully showed how cardiovascular work alone is not good and why there is more potential in asana. After a half hour of jumpings, she switched to working with simple asanas such as Adho Mukha Svanasana and arching back in Uphavista Konasana. She masterfully used these asanas to illustrate how you can squeeze the kidney band and work the upper and middle back muscles. On the release, Abhijata said, “there is a flushing which aids the organs because of the squeeze and release action.” She repeated this in several other asanas allowing the students to gain a true understanding of the power of asanas to help the organs in a way that cardiovascular exercise alone cannot.
This past week, I also had the pleasure of observing the Senior’s Class taught by Sushama Chitale. Sushama has taught the Seniors classes for 6-7 years. Her past work assisting physio-theraphy and her training with Geeta Iyengar, adds a certain depth and sensitivity to her teaching. She doesn’t miss a thing! Her class is for students ages 60 and up. There is a range of beginners and experienced students. Some students have arthritis, knee and hip issues as well as other conditions. These students are quite dedicated and tend to never miss class.
Sushama has incredible warmth. She sees the whole of each student. By looking beyond the outer body, deep into their eyes Sushama sees where her students are emotionally, spiritually as well as physically. She too uses movement to help the students break through areas where they may feel stiff. Unlike the fast paced movement in the kid’s class, movement here is much slower, methodical and a key way to help with coordination and balance. Guruji once said, “Youngsters are always in the future, too much in their heads; seniors are in the past. Through yoga we need to bring them to neutral by lifting the emotional zone to the intellectual zone…”
When I asked Sushama why yoga is important for seniors as opposed to exercise, she said, ” yoga asks them to correct their postures. Exercise alone does not ask us to look at our postural habits.” In class she takes the time to show the students how to use props to help with their posture. She also teaches them how they can use household props – a table, a wall, a dining chair. Each week they are given homework. Simple things they can do to keep their bodies active and moving. Her goal is to make them independent in their yoga practice so that sense of accomplishment will carry over into their everyday lives. All the personal interactions that occur between student and teacher, as well as student to student form a vital connection for the seniors. The class is an important social outlet for them. When I asked Sushama what she likes the most about teaching the Senior’s Class, she said she loves helping them develop more intelligence in their bodies. However, the biggest reward is the smiles on their faces at the end of the session!”
Each day here I marvel at how many ways Iyengar yoga has been adapted to fit everyone’s needs. Whatever the age, or condition, Guruji and Geetaji brilliantly made it accessible. Everyone can experience yoga’s health benefits. At the Institute, there are classes for every age group – women, children and senior’s as well as the medical classes. Sutra I.14 states that abhyasa – practice is firmly established only if one engages in it with devotion over a long uninterrupted period. This sutra is a reminder that the practice of yoga is a lifetime journey and it evolves and changes as the student evolves and changes. Life is a movement, a constant movement in our relationships, thoughts and practice. How fortunate we are that Guruji has shown us how to age gracefully. With his wisdom, we can embrace stillness and movement in all the stages of life with yoga.