As I sit within this time of passing and remembrance it occurred to me that August 2016 exactly marks the 40th anniversary from the first time I met and worked with Desikachar in August 1976.
The setting was a small group of students, especially by todays seminar norms, amidst the august settings of Cambridge University at a week organised by a student of Desikachar from that era, Ian Rawlinson.
I remember the first moments of Desikachar coming onto a small platform in the room, a shy somewhat reticent person and asking us to show to him our personal Yoga practice, already not what we were expecting at our first meeting.
So we as a group did our floor bit and on reflection it was little different to the class situations we so often encounter today in that it was heavy on postural activity and not without additional elements of demonstrating our personal prowess, especially in front of this eminent Indian Yoga personage. So lots of standing Āsana, inversions and complex back bends coming to the fore amidst lotuses and leg stretches.
Throughout all our postifications he quietly sat and observed. Afterwards he thanked us and offered two questions to the group:
Firstly why was there no consistent use of the breath within the practice and secondly why were there no seated postures (Dhyānāsana) with such as Prāṇāyāma? Thus the seeds started to be sown, not by telling us what to do but by asking us to look into what we were doing and inquire into its fullness and extensiveness in terms of the practice of Yoga as against just the practice of Āsana.
This sense of looking beyond the sticky, though as such they had arrived on the scene yet, extended further through his lectures, which did not hide behind complex terms or spiritual homilies, yet were deeply rooted in the textual philosophical and psychological teachings that underpin Yoga. Though I would add I did not yet appreciate how skilful this bridging process was.
The first page of my notes from that week contain four quotes that are as vibrant this day as they were different then. Furthermore, for me these quotes represent one of the important hallmarks in Desikachar’s teaching priorities in that they bridged the complex reflections that underpin our pursuit of the unpursueable across to our cultural, psychological and emotional starting points, for example:
“Yoga solves problems only in the fact of anticipating them
and lessening the problem.”
”Yoga uses an intelligent approach
which is applied to all things
and during all the day.”
”Yoga is trying to do something for oneself.”
”Yoga is not an escape from life
but an approach to living.”
I will write more from my notes and memories of this first meeting which marked the beginning of my journey with Desikachar and my first trip to India for a two year stay studying in Madras from 1979.
Meanwhile deep gratitude’s and respects to Desikachar for all that he guided me towards and gifted me with, may he rest in peace at an endeavour very well done and one whereby he did not forget his own roots as a student of Yoga amidst planting seeds within others.
Further posts around my studentship with TKV Desikachar……