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Impressions from the Bellur Workshop with Manouso Manos, december 2016

We are old-fashioned single-teacher students.  The few yoga workshops we have attended so far have happened by coincidence and not by design.

However, Manouso Manos has inspired us from far for many years.

The small glimpses we have caught of him have been in recordings of Guruji’s classes – usually seated in the front row, enthusiastically springing up whenever a demonstrator is called for.  His few talks/ interviews that are available on the public domain are some of our favorites –  the enthusiasm, the passion, and the wisdom showing through.  That he holds one of the only two Advanced Senior Certificates in our tradition is something we came to know much later.  Over the years we have also caught sight of Manouso in-person at the various events/ functions organised at RIMYI in Pune.  But he lives and teaches on the other side of the world, and we dont get to travel much these days (wasn’t it Geetaji who said recently that teaching yoga is not a money making business?)

In december 2016 the Yoga Hall at the Bellur Centre was inaugurated.  And exactly a year later, there he was in person – teaching a five day workshop. We went.

At the time of writing this essay, it has been more than six weeks since those five days.  We are listing here a few things we learnt during those five days which have both penetrated in and have stood out.  Since all lists must have an order, we  have made this list in the order of increasing technicality:

– endowing sanctity – while Bellur holds a special place in the hearts of all of us students, it was clear that for this teacher, the place was sacred.  Manouso expressed this both in words and in conduct – his devotion to his teacher and to his subject is palpable. And when Manouso made the daily trip to the Patanjali Temple, he was perhaps trying to inculcate within us a spark of that devotion.  Beyond his technical expertise, it was the recognition of this sanctity that made this a special workshop.

– the children – Many of us are familiar with the Bellur children.  They have enthralled and humbled us with their yoga demonstration on more than one occasion (including this one).  However, this time they were in class along with us.  These were some of the kids from the Bellur village, who want to take forward the tradition of teaching yoga.  The perfect closure to the loop of progress that Guruji initiated in the village of his birth!

– so many stories… – For so many of us who have had very little or no personal interaction with Guruji, it was a treat to listen to all the stories of Manouso’s personal experiences – narrated with wit and wisdom.

– the evolution of Mr Iyengar through the evolution of trikonasana – as practitioners we have all experienced the wisdom that permeates within us as we address and adjust our physical body – from the skeleton to the skin.  For many of us, being in the asana is the closest we have come to a truly  sublime experience.  But we often neglect to recognise that most of what we are doing in each asana, was devised by Guruji during his lifetime. When he started out, most of our familiar asanas looked quite different. Manouso beautifully communicated guru’s own journey in researching and refining his craft,  through the interactive story of the evolution of Trikonansana

Shri T Krishnamacharya, from Yoga Makarand, 1934

Shri T Krishnamacharya, from Yoga Makarand, 1934

Trikonasana in Light on Yoga

Trikonasana in Light on Yoga

Guruji in Trikonasana, 2003

Guruji in Trikonasana, 2003

– skillful softness in action – the teacher with the reputation of being fierce and ‘intense’ (“This is an Iyengar Intensive.  And we are going to be Intense” – Manouso’s words in one of the recordings available online) worked with great softness and sensitivity – both in asana and pranayama sessions.  In asana, this translated to working with the soft tissue (rather than the bone) on the feet.  in pranayama, this manifested as working with extreme sensitivity towards the breath, the mind and the body.

– the foundation – from the soles of the feet to the buttocks – 5 days (ultimately reduced to 4 days) are not enough to touch upon all even the gross locations of the body.  But starting at the soles of the feet, we had the opportunity to look at all the important adjustments of the shin/ thigh/ buttocks complex, the ankles/ heel/ hinges of the feet grouping, the knees/ calves/ back thighs grouping, the groins/ thighs/ bottocks connection.  this was explored in the through the entire panoply of standing asanas from adhomukhasvanasana to ardhachandrasana and parivrtta actions, and also the seated postures of baddhakonasana, upavistakonasana, virasana – and the most beautiful malasana experience.

in parsvottanasana – directing all instructions first to the back leg

in parsvottanasana – directing all instructions first to the back leg

manouso_ardhachandrasana.jpg

manouso_malasana.jpg

– that sarvangasana – Manouso often said that everything he knows about yoga was taught to him by Guruji.  But he gave credit to Geetaji for this  version of sarvangasana – done with the feet to the wall, but awakening the backbody in a powerful way by completely removing the support of the hands.

Lastly, as Manouso often remarked himself, the Yoga Hall at Bellur is one of the most beautiful and well equipped places to learn and practice the subject.

And did we mention that the organisers were fabulous – we got personalised certificates at the end of the workshop and planted our own trees with name tags.  Cant wait to go back to see how those trees are doing!

first batch graduating from a BKSSNT workshop

first batch graduating from a BKSSNT workshop

mohan with his mango sapling

mohan with his mango sapling

 

All photo credits – Pradeep Naidu at BKSSNT.  More photos of the workshop can be found in the photo album on the BKSSNT facebook page.

As always, all impressions are filtered through one’s personal lens and do not do  justice to the actual teachings.

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