As many of my readers know, I am not much of a workshop habitué. I’m not even much of a class habitué anymore with my full time job, three classes I teach, and family duties. I dearly miss my mentoring teachers’ classes. Needless to say, I squeeze in daily practice when and wherever I can, be it a quick rope practice after my morning class, a half hour at lunch at my work, or an afternoon home practice after I have taken care of my aging father-in-law’s endless needs.
A few times a year I do make an exception, and Kofi Busia has made it back to Honolulu after a two year absence and I was able to attend two of his workshop classes. I never go to Kofi to learn technique. My mentoring teachers have done and still do an excellent job of instructing me in that area. I go to Kofi to get a bit of perspective. He was one of BKS Iyengar’s original students when Guruji started teaching heavily in the West. Kofi was at Oxford and he was taken to Iyengar’s class by his yoga teacher. Soon afterwards, Kofi would make trips to Pune to study directly with him. Here is nice “vintage” video of Guruji instructing Kofi in a 1985 London class. Kofi comes in around the 5 minute mark. This is when he practiced without the use of props–even without sticky mats!
He gave a nice Q and A before class. He acknowledged that this was first class he had taught to the Honolulu community since Guruji’s passing in 2014. “Is there anything you want to know about Iyengar?” Kofi asked the class. Such a vast question! I asked how many students Iyengar had in the early days. Kofi responded that there were 6 regular students for a long time when he was practicing with him in 1971. He said many of the students were asked to bring props with them when they would visit. This was before RIMYI was built, and Kofi said they pretty much practiced in Guruji’s living room and had to move the furniture around to make space for class. “That all ended when teacher name withheld brought 25 students to class one day. From then on it was packed classes all the time until Guruji’s passing.”
After the nice Q and A, we proceeded with asana practice. I tried to memorize the sequence, as Kofi’s tend to be a bit unusual, but got lost about midway through when he did Salamba Sarvangasana. That pose is normally put toward the end of class, but Kofi stuck it right in the middle. I am always perplexed at his reasoning for sequences which are quite deliberate. He also teaches upwards of 20 poses per 2 hour class, which in many ways reminds me of when I first started doing Iyengar yoga via Light On Yoga with the asana courses in the back of the book, of which contain upwards of 50 asana per class. I surrendered to the class once I stopped keeping track of the asanas which was much more satisfying.
Sadly, I had a case of acid reflux and in Halasana I had to come out early. Kofi gave me a concerned look and I told him my problem and sat out the remainder of the pose. The sequence culminated in Adho Mukha Padmasana which was very accessible to me at this stage in my practice. As we settled into Savasana, he chanted a beautiful mantra about Brahma from the Bhagavad Gita.
After class I thanked him. I asked him how he felt about recent bad press toward Guruji from the likes of Mark Singleton and Matthew Remski, who are heavily promoting a Guru-bashing tell all book about misconduct from lineage based pioneers like Pattabhi Jois and Iyengar who brought yoga to the West. “People have been bashing Guruji for years,” Kofi said, “this isn’t anything new.” Kofi’s statement reminds me that Guruji’s teachings have withstood and will stand the test of time in this era of commercialized yoga. He also made me realize it is the duty of an Iyengar certified teacher to attract new students with the integrity of the system. Thank you Kofi for the perspective.