I’ll admit it, travelling to India may be everyone’s idea of a good time. For some (certain unnamed family members and those loving folks who advised my wife and I to make other plans for our honeymoon several years ago), travelling to India isn’t even a good idea. For me, however, the idea of standing in the presence of Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar, and studying yoga inside the institute that he has built has become, well, a bit of an obsession. The more I study Iyengar Yoga, the more I fall in love with Iyengar Yoga. It’s that simple. And so, the desire to be near the man, and the family, who has created this inspiring yoga methodology has grown in me, to a burning point.
I feel some readers might be a bit interested in the History of this longing. For others, I will hope you will see in this story an age-old truth that yogis, mystics, and spiritual thinkers have espoused throughout the ages: namely the idea that your deep, driving desires become your destiny. The ancient yoga text, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads states this idea almost verbatim; authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoureau, and Wolfgang von Goethe espoused it: the father of the “Self-Help” movement, Napoleaon Hill, wrote about it in the 1920s, Tony Robbins and other motivational speakers today say the same thing: Dreams of a certain calibre are capable of seemingly causing their own fulfillment.
I should back up here and say that there once was a time when I wouldn’t set foot in an Iyengar class. At one time, I would drive nearly 2 hours from Bellingham to Seattle, WA to take a yoga class, but never made the 10-minute bike ride to the local Iyengar Yoga studio to study with a rare and precious Senior-level teacher. (Ironically enough, I flew from Detroit to Seattle, then made that same, 2-hour car ride to that studio in Bellingham–the one that used to be 10 minutes away by bicycle–to take my Introductory-Level certification test.) So this desire to study at the feet of B.K.S. Iyengar was not always with me; quite the contrary, in fact.
By 2005, however, this was hardly the case. By then I made the decision to resign my affiliation with another yoga method to pursue Iyengar Yoga teaching and certification solely. It was then, that the desire to travel to India began to take root in me. It was also then that I realized that to be eligible to study at the Iyengar institute (officially named the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute or “RIMYI” for short) I needed a minimum of eight years’ practice of Iyengar Yoga plus the endorsement of a senior-level teacher. I began my Iyengar studies in 2002. This meant I would be eligible to attend classes at RIMYI in 2010.
So much about my Iyengar Yoga experience has required (if not forced) and, ultimately blessed me with patience. So there I was looking at five more years of study before I’d have the chance to get to India. But in 2008 a door opened slightly. A special set of events were arranged at RIMYI in honor of Guruji’s 90th Birthday. Though the events would not include any participation in yoga classes at the institute, there were no requirements or restrictions set for attendance. Tracy and I began to make plans to attend, but those plans were soon cut short by a combination of hesitation, a short time span to prepare and implement the trip, a seeming lack of funds for the trip and, quite significantly, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (where our tentative flight would have been landing) in 2008. So again, the plans were postponed.
In 2009, after a conversation with my teacher, Laurie Blakeney, I realized that there was generally a two-year waiting list to get into classes at the institute. So I decided to fill out my application for study in the fall of 2009 and hope I’d get lucky and get in sometime in late 2010.
I filled out my application and submitted it to Laurie for her endorsement. After some discussion, she “signed off” on me and so the ball started rolling. It didn’t roll very far, however. Not long after Laurie endorsed my application, my wife Tracy and I discovered that she was pregnant. Needless to say, the India plans were postponed.
And so, the fire smoldered for a spell but began to rise up at the beginning of 2013. In fact, one of the goals I set at the end of 2012 was to study in India by 2014. In late October, I again filled out my application for study at RIMYI. In early November, Laurie again “signed off” and, a couple of weeks later, I sent my application plus (non-refundable) deposit to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, first-class, via the U.S. Postal Service.
The evening of 16 December I dreamt. I dreamt that I was practicing yoga. At some point in the midst of this practice, I realized I was being taught by B.K.S. Iyengar’s granddaughter, Abhijata. Soon after, I realized, “oh my God, I’m in India . . . I’m at the Institute.” Then, in the dream, Guruji, B.K.S. Iyengar, appeared. He came into the room where Tracy and I were sitting after class. I cannot remember the order of events of the dream, but certain things stand out as remarkable to me. First, there was a very friendly, warm, familiar quality to our interaction. Secondly, I remember kneeling and touching his feet. This is a custom in India by which students show affection and reverence for their guru and his/ her teaching. For me, it represents an attempt to humble myself and surrender to a higher knowledge—a higher power, if you will—than my own. The third thing I remember is being so moved by the love and affection moving between us, by the sense of ease and belonging in his presence that I began weeping tears of joy, relief, gratitude . . . hmmm . . .
At another point, Guruji looked me in the eye and said, “Why don’t you stay here and practice.” I told him that we were only registered for the one-day and were expected to leave at day’s end. He laughed mischievously and said, “well, you do have your monies for classes, don’t you?” I told him we hadn’t brought them because we were told we could only stay for one day, but I assured him that I would make whatever arrangements I needed to make in order to be able to stay on and study, that nothing would stand in the way.
I awoke the morning of December 17, a bit dazed from sleep deprivation (that baby Tracy was pregnant with in 2009 had been up half the night with the croup). Normally I wake and practice for as long as possible before “plugging in” for the day. But I decided to check my email. At the top of the list of new emails was an email from one Mr. Pandurang Rao, secretary at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. It contained the following subject: “Hi . . .,” and the following message, “Dear Christopher, received your draft for $___ and thank you for the same. As per your request you are welcome in June / July 2014. Please note that the advance is part of the fees and same is not transferable or refundable. Regards,”
So, there you have it: God willing (because it really does look like it’s going to take a power greater than me), I will be attending the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India (home of Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar, his daughter Geeta, his son Prashant, his granddaughter Abhijata, and several other family members) to study yoga from June – July of 2014. I must admit that it seems a bit daunting, arranging my life to spend two months in India with my family. I also must admit that, from a certain perspective it seems foolish, somewhat impractical and definitely irresponsible. From yet another perspective, it seems impossible. After all, I’m not a monk. I have a house to maintain, a business to run (!), a family to support, mouths to feed. I don’t have two months to devote to studying the yoga methodology developed by a man I’ve never met (and, given that he’s 95 years-old, may not meet). I have only 6 months to arrange this all—the expense, the time off, care of house and business. And India isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of a good time, after all, hmmm . . . What am I thinking?
God willing, I’m not thinking . . . I’m dreaming. And I hereby put my faith in the notion that makes all the difference!