Greetings as I return from China. I wanted to share with you all a few precious moments from the extraordinary event that was BKS Iyengar’s historic trip to China. This was the largest group that he has ever taught – 1000 students were expected and almost 1400 were present. In an interview with the Times of India, Guruji spoke of the importance of the event and described it as being the latest step in the thousands of years of cultural exchange between India and China. Chinese speakers likened BKS Iyengar to the Bodhidharma (who brought to Buddhism from India to China) and Lao Tzu (one of the founders of Taoism). The Chinese community received Guruji and the senior teachers with overwhelming love and appreciation. Guruji was indefatigable, dynamic, and passionate. His teachings were simple yet profound.
At the summit, before the conference, Guruji received a rock star greeting at the convention hotel. There were so many students and well-wishers assembled that we were concerned for a bit that he was going to be trampled!
Before the summit began, there was a day of sightseeing that lasted late into the night. Then, the next day, a press conference where Guruji came in to the sound of the Star Wars theme! On that second evening, there was a fifteen course banquet and two hours of talks by yoga teachers from all over Asia.
Guruji talked a lot about the heart continuously and the divinity that lives within it. His words were simple, direct, and profound. He ended his talk by telling us to love each other and live peacefully. He told us how to approach learning at the convention: with an empty brain, letting go of our own ideas, heartful, with eyes wide open, and with heartful, attentive awareness.
He began the first day of teaching by holding up a leaf and comparing it to our feet. He was poetic and inspired. He then taught Tadasana, Utthita Trikonasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Prasarita Padottansana, Parsvottanasana. He explained that these are the most important standing poses.
He said, “The brain becomes light when we have good alignment. Our movements should be dynamic, lovely and lively.” He ended the class with a very deep savasana.
Guruji was scheduled to teach for two hours the first and second days. The first day, he taught all 1400 students for three to three and a half hours. He had been scheduled to teach two. He stood the entire time, and came back halfway through the afternoon class that Birjoo Mehta was teaching (a review of the morning class) to see if the students were “understanding well.” Hard to believe our beloved Guruji is in his 93rd year.
On the second day, he taught for three and a half hours and reviewed the standing asanas from the first class, and then taught Bharadvajasana, Virasana, Parsva Virasana, Marichyasana III, and Pascimottanasana. He wove in many of the yoga sutras: I.2, I.14, I.16, II.34, II.17.
He taught and explained the elements and wove them into his teaching with a special focus on the skin (akasa), both inner and outer. “To work with motion,” he said, “the skin has to be soft.” Here’s a taste of this teaching: in Bharadvajasana on the back body, the posterior skin moves down. On the front body, the inner skin turns. The skin on the back body should be soft to turn.
On the third day, Guruji’s teachings were beyond words during another three and a half hour class. He taught with simplicity, but at the same time it was subtle and practical. He began by responding to what he observed in the students, saying that some practice for fitness and to be physically attractive and that “This is important, but it’s the beauty of yoga is that it makes you naturally beautiful.”
“Don’t practice for cosmetic beauty, practice for cosmic beauty. Practice for inner beauty and inner light. When you have inner light you have inner beauty, cosmic beauty. Go from cosmetic state to cosmic state.”
He then began teaching through demonstration by his granddaughter Abhijata. His focus was on how to practice when your are in a mudha (dull) state. He showed Supported Backbends and Supported Inversions. For tamas or dullness, he taught to work from the periphery. For a rajasic or over- active state the same poses done differently. For rajas you work with the inner body.
Tamas turns to rajas, and rajas turn to sattva. In other words, dullness and lethargy transforms to attachment and activity, and this ultimately transforms to wisdom and peace.
The rest of the class was like a teacher training. He taught five different ways of doing Sirsasana, Sarvangasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana. He taught how to begin working with inversions. It was a very beginner group so he taught from the base in all the asanas, but once again he balanced simplicity with subtlety.
We broke at 1:00 came back at 3:00 for question and answer. Then we had a group photo with all 1400 people. This was followed by yoga demonstrations and talks. We, the assistants, were honored and garlanded. Then Guruji was garlanded and honored again, and again and again. The Chinese students sang us a song about love lasting for ten thousand years. It went right to our hearts. The event was scheduled to end at 6, but we went until 8:30. It was a spectacular event. The Chinese community welcomed us from their hearts and showered us with love.
We are part of an extraordinary lineage, in which the teachings have been passed down to us faithfully. We have a tremendous opportunity to practice what we have been given and transform our lives.
I return from this experience with joy, fullness and love in my heart. I will be sharing my experience of the convention and some of Guruji’s teachings at my evening class on Tuesday, June 28.
With love and blessings to all,