Tag Archives: Geeta Iyengar

Post holiday reflections

It’s a nice rainy day after Christmas in Hawai’i. Probably the closest we’ll ever get to a White Christmas. A good day to reflect, sip tea, and write. According to my jyotish calendar, I am right smack in the middle of Sade Sati, or a seven-and-a-half year period of intense personal challenges. Given the way things have gone in the past two years, I’d say that I am starting to have more belief in my chart. That being said, Sade Sati is supposed to conquer one’s ego and strengthen one’s resolve.

There are certain remedies for Sade Sati, namely an intense yoga practice, mantra-s and songs for Shani who represents Saturn (the astrological placement during Sade Sati) and Hanuman who represents intense devotion and resolve. Also doing good deeds for the less fortunate also decreases the malefic effects of the current planetary placements.

In this morning’s early class I had one student show. She braved the rain and post holiday hustle and bustle to make to class. Small classes are a gift for teachers as they allow you to explain things in greater detail, use more props if needed, and even discuss more philosophical aspects of yoga.

I was able to help her with her pronunciation during the seated invocation to Patanjali and give more of an overview on why we chant this before class. I taught this student how to use a wall rope for adho mukha svanasana for spine traction, and also hang in rope sirsasana. We did supported sarvangasana with a chair and cross bolster setu-bandha. It was a supported, inverted sequence to take the edge off the frenetic holidays.

Now that the pressure is temporarily off for assessment, I feel I can teach with a bit more freedom and go back to poses that I have neglected teaching for a while–the basic salt and pepper poses that season a good practice. There will be plenty of time this year for the more exotically spiced asanas.

My good friend Sonia emailed me an audio recording she took on her phone of Geetaji’s inspiring speech during Guruji’s 99th birthday celebration last week. Geetaji pointed out that Mr. Iyengar never had to get a certificate, he just had devotion to his teacher and his teachings. He just had his practice which spoke for itself. Geeta said that one day Krishnamarcharya’s granddaughter asked Iyengar whom he considered his best student. She said Iyengar replied “Sundararaja.” Sundararaja was his best student. Now if I can only find this “Michael” guy and teach him a thing or two…

Happy belated birthday to Geeta and Mr. Iyengar! Thank you for all that you teach us.

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An early birthday recognition for Geeta Iyengar

Geeta Iyengar turns 72 in a few days. I would like to take a moment to recognize some of her many contributions to yoga.

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Being trained intensely by her father, BKS Iyengar, Geeta has helped in the development of a systematized curriculum for certified teachers. This has allowed for high standards to be maintained while utilizing an apprenticeship model mirrors how yoga has been traditionally taught for centuries.

Her book Yoga: A Gem For Women in an excellent companion to her father’s seminal work Light On Yoga. In reading this book for my certification and training, I have found it beautiful weaves philosophy with asana practice. She has also developed wonderful teaching materials in the Yoga in Action series which recently added an intermediate course.

gem-for-women

She has graciously taught many Western Iyengar instructors (including my own teachers) which has helped build the Iyengar method of yoga worldwide. She is still active in the certification process and has been signing diplomas of newly certified teachers since her father’s passing in 2014.

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She has developed many methods on treating issues specific to women’s needs through asana. She has also written many books aside from “Gem” about sensible practice for women at every stage of life. She now leads the medical classes at RIMYI in where people with specific medical conditions are given prop intensive asana treatments and sequences to help them manage their illness and conditions. She also trains teachers on the therapeutic Iyengar methods during these classes.

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In the past few years, her birthday celebration has been concurrent with the Yoganusasanam event in Pune where she and her niece Abhijata teach hundreds in a large badminton stadium.

geeta stadium

What is dear to my heart about Geeta is how she did much of the above while being a caregiver for her father during when he was ill. As a caregiver and yoga teacher, her example is an inspiration of what can be done as an ardent yoga practitioner. Happy birthday Geeta!

 

Message from Geeta-ji

This came straight from the institute (RIMYI) regarding International Yoga Day on Tuesday June 21:

 

A Theme for Your Practice

In his early days, Guruji used to practice and teach forward extensions on Tuesdays.
Forward extension asanas: Janu Sirsasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana, Adho Mukha Upavistha Konasana, Paschimittanasana, Krounchasana, Kurmasana etc.
Then the Eka Pada Sirsasana cycle: Eka Pada Sirsasana, Skandasana, Bhairavasana, Kala Bhairvasana, Chakorasana, Durvasasana, Ruchikasana, Yoga Nidrasana etc.
Finally ending with the twisting asanas such as Bharadvajasana, Marichyasana III, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Pasasana.

He would do the forward extensions for 2 to 3 minutes on each side and stay for as long as
10 minutes in Paschimottanasana.

This will be the theme for our practice on yoga day this year. Let us do asanas from this
category according to our level of practice and ability.

…Below is from IYNAUS….

RIMYI also advised us that “As regards the other events, we can open out our centres for new students to experience a class of Iyengar Yoga. This would mean following the simple asanas as listed out last year from the Preliminary Course. We can also show a film/video of Guruji’s practice, talks, teaching as that is ever inspiring.”

For those of you who would like to take up the suggestion of following a forward extending sequence suitable for early and intermediate level students, we offer the following sequence as an option. Please use any modifications you are familiar with that are suitable to your condition.
Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Uttanasana
[If you have a regular practice of inverted poses, add those here.]
Paschimottanasana, feet apart
Janu Sirsasana
Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana
Marichyasana I twisting
Marichyasana I forward bending
Paschimottanasana feet together
Upavistha Konasana
Bharadvajasana I
Marichyasana III
Ardha Matsyendrasana I
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Supta Baddha Konasana
Savasana

iyengar paschimottanasna

 

Be well, and best wishes for International Yoga Day 2016.

 

Why this is a perfect Virabhadrasana II

In this age of selfies we are inundated with people doing “advanced” yoga postures. This is a picture of a younger Geeta Iyengar taken years before digital photography. She is doing  Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), a “basic” standing pose. But she is doing it with mastery few could match. I will show different segments of her posture that show why this one of the best Virabhadrasana II photographs I have seen….

The Base:

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The first thing that comes to mind in her posture is how wide her stance is. It seems infinite.

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Notice the outer edge of her foot is pressing down. That is keeping her from slipping on this oriental carpet. No sticky mat needed.

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The knee is at a 90 degree angle and the femur bone appears parallel to the ground.

The Torso:

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Despite the asymmetry of the legs in Virabhadrasana II (one straight leg, one bent knee leg), her torso is even and side ribs are lifted and shoulders are down.

The Arms:

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The level wall makes a nice point of reference for the arms. Notice how one arm is slightly above the other. That is not a mistake. The slight elevation of the arm gives the pose a sense of lightness. In your own practice, try level arms versus the bent leg arm slightly lifted and you’ll notice a huge difference in the prayatna shaithilya (effortless effort) aspect of the posture.

The internal practice:

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Virabhadrasana II is a strenuous pose. If it is held for more than a minute, fatigue rapidly sets in. It is not known how long she has been in the posture, but the softness of her countenance shows that she could stay for a long time. Her posture not only shows effortless effort, it shows the iconography of the spirit of a warrior. Geeta is certainly a warrior as today she continues to teach at 70 years of age.

Thank you for sharing this photo with the world!

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International Yoga Day Everyday

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Happy International Yoga Day! In some parts of the world it is June 21 already. We are very fortunate to live in a time when the world can recognize India’s gift to humanity: the art, science, and philosophy of Yoga. Here is the UN’s official statement on this day:

Addressing the UN General Assembly on 27 September 2014, the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi had said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”

To commemorate this day, Geeta Iyengar constructed a sequence. Some of the poses here can be found in my blog’s “Asana-s” page.

  • Tadasana – Mountain Pose
  • Namaskarasana – Palms together (prayer pose)
  • Urdhva Hastasana – Extend arms upward
  • Uttanasana – Standing forward bend
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward facing dog pose
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward facing dog pose
  • Uttanasana – Standing forward bend
  • Tadasana – Mountain pose
  • Utthita Trikonasana – Triangle pose
  • Utthita Parsvakonasana – Side angle pose
  • Virabhadrasana I – Warrior Pose I
  • Parivrtta Trikonasana – Revolved triangle
  • Parsvottanasana – Intense side stretch forward bend
  • Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide stance forward bend
  • Dandasana – Staff pose
  • Janu Sirsasana – Head to knee seated forward bend
  • Adho Mukha Upavishtakonasana – Upright wide angle seated pose
  • Virasana with Parvatasana – Hero pose, clasped hands up
  • Swastikasana with Parvatasana – Cross-legged pose, clasped hands up
  • Parsva Dandasana – Staff pose twist
  • Bharadvajasana I – Twist named after the sage Bharadvaja
  • Marichyasana III – Twist named after the sage Marichi
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward facing dog
  • Dhanurasana – bow pose
  • Ustrasana – camel pose
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana – downward facing dog
  • Sirsasana – head balance
  • Sarvangasana – shoulder balance
  • Halasana – plow pose
  • Chatushpadasana – bridge pose variation
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – bridge pose
  • Savasana – corpse pose
  • Sit in dhyana (meditation)

May you have a peaceful and happy International Yoga Day!

Geeta Iyengar wins Jijamata Puraskar Award

geeta adjusting

Geeta Iyengar fine tuning Utthita Trikonasana

 

I’m a little late posting this, but wanted to share the great news that Geeta Iyengar won the Jijamata Puraskar Award earlier this month. The award is given to mothers who brought up sons valuable to society.

Although Geeta does not have any of her own children, she encapsulates true matriarchal power in her teaching. She said “I do not belong to the category of mother as such. But still my family is a rather larger one.” With certified Iyengar instructors in over 80 countries worldwide, she has a large family indeed.

The award recognizes courage of  women who have transcended difficult circumstances, and who have established this spirit of courage their personal or professional life. The award also recognizes the pioneering contribution of an individual in empowering women and raising women’s issues. Geeta has done all of the above. Like her father, she has used Yoga to overcome illness in her younger days. She has also refined the Iyengar teaching method and has published several books on how Yoga addresses women’s issues.

Many continued blessings to Geetaji for her service to man and womankind.

Happy Birthday Geetaji!

Geeta Iyengar

Geeta Iyengar celebrates her 70th birthday today. She is the daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar and has been instrumental in shaping the Iyengar method of teaching. She is celebrating her birthday not by taking it easy, but by teaching a 10 day intensive at a sports stadium in her hometown of Pune, India. I wished I could be there for the intensive, but it wasn’t in the cards this year.

geeta stadium

Like her father, she used Yoga to overcome illness in her younger years. By direction of her father, she was able to gain her health back. She uses her deep knowledge rooted in ayurveda to create sequences for women’s specific health concerns.

geeta teaching

Her teaching style is directive and uncompromising. However, when you see how compassionate she is with her motives to cut through straight to the truth, you see that her technique is pure gold. Students have said that she “sees everything.”

She has written and co-authored many books on Yoga. Her classic book Yoga: A Gem For Women, remains a staple in the Iyengar canon. It is one of the essential books we use in our teacher training. Like Light On Yoga, it gives precise step-by-step instructions on how to do poses and has asana courses for those who study on their own.

a gem for women

 

Happy birthday Geetaji! Thank you for keeping the light shining on Iyengar Yoga.