Due to the rigor involved in being a yoga teacher in the Iyengar tradition, one can be fairly certain of the technical competence of the teacher. We have learnt much from the instructions given by our teachers in the class, but equally enriching has been the sometimes unsaid aspects of life and yoga we learn from them.
Coming from a culture that holds a 'secure career' in high esteem, we have always been in awe of people who can follow their hearts, unfettered by such thoughts of security. If we did not personally know these people - who work hard at their practice, work hard to make a living in the City, and repeatedly travel thousands of miles to Pune to pursue their chosen vocation - we perhaps would not have understood the value of Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar and Iyengar Yoga practice. Yoga has exploded in the West into a million different 'styles'. With all the hipper, more glamorous, more athletic styles of yoga, it takes a special kind of conviction to practice Iyengar Yoga, which focusses on the classical, olad-fashioned values of hard work, sincerity and long-term commitment. We witnessed this special quality in the people we came to know in New York. And through their busy lives, they showed immense kindness and generosity in making us feel at home.
Studying yoga with a teacher in India is different from doing so outside the country. It is a closer, more personal relationship, where one is not a 'client' or 'customer', but a 'student'. Since our return to India, Zubin Zarthotimanesh has been our primary teacher. Zubin and his wife Parizad run the Iyengar Yogabhayasa in Matunga, Mumbai, a literal heaven right in the middle of crowded city.
As a teacher, Zubin's credentials are impeccable. He studied directly with Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar from a young age and maintained a close connection with his teacher till the end. His devotion to Mr. Iyengar is complete, imbuing his work not just with skill and technical knowledge, but a certain spiritual zeal. Zubin is now a much sought-after teacher, frequently invited to other countries. However, the most striking quality of Zubin is his passion for the subject - like a volcano he fiercely pours out knowledge and inspiration. He inspired us not just to learn, but also to teach, so that the flame of yoga can be spread wider. He also sensitised us to the 'subjectivity' of yoga, and the importance of teaching the 'person' and not just teaching a diffused mass of people.
For more than seven years, we spent a significant part of our lives in and around Iyengar Yogabhayasa in Mumbai. We continue to make short trips to Mumbai, and regard Zubin not just as our primary teacher, but our mentor in the vocation of teaching.
By the time I ( jaya) made my way to RIMYI, B.K.S. Iyengar had already stopped teaching regular classes. But frequently, he was there; sometimes instructing through Abhijata, sometimes teaching the students directly. Simple physical instructions would usually lead to deeper physiological, philosophical and spiritual ones. And, of course, it was inspiring just to see him there, practicing next to us, sometimes upside down for a good 40 minutes.
Geetaji's observations, analyses and instructions are so directly related, they sound absurdly simple when she points out the connections. Geetaji's absolute simplicity comes only from absolute clarity. She personifies the power of experiential practice, keen observation, and the wisdom that comes from unalloyed clarity and innocence of mind.
We know that yoga s one of the six schools of Indian philosophy. In Prashantji's classes, the philosophy takes centre stage. But he is no arm-chair philosopher. These philosophical queries are triggered while we are in trikonansana, twists, and upside down (sometimes for very long periods). The breath also takes centre stage, tempering the aggression of the body and the mind. Prashantji is also a master of the spoken word, creating, dissecting, re-engineering words to convey the practical meanings of esoteric concepts.
B.K.S. Iyengar was known for his fierceness as a teacher. Both Geetaji and Prashantji teach with passion that is sometimes feared. However, we wish more people could experience the great sense of humour that seems to run in the family.