Un-edited accounts from students, in their own words.
Students who inspire: Shikha, May 2019
3 days in village Sirmoli, Uttarakhand, May 2018
Manasa Venkataraman – Lawyer, working in Public Policy
Testimonial given May 2019, at age 28. Manasa moved to another city at the end of two years at the practice room.
Being initiated into the practice of Iyengar Yoga at The Practice Room was a life-changing experience. Little did I know when I signed up for the classes that this practice would help me get in shape not just physically, but also mentally.
When I signed up for the classes, it was only with the intention of using yoga as a break from my otherwise sedentary life. I wanted to build stamina, get fit, and inculcate a healthy routine. TPR helped me achieve all of those objectives and so much more. I would look forward to my twice-a-week classes, it was in this “yoga time” that I could allow my mind to quieten, the stresses of the day to take a backseat, and focus on maintaining my asana correctly. Practice at TPR helped get physically fit and agile, but it was also so much more than that. I learnt to become more aware of my body, both while at practice and also through the rest of the day. I began understanding what muscles I needed to focus on, what parts of my body needed kinder attention and which asanas helped me recharge. Most importantly, it helped me manage my anxiety by channeling my mind’s energies into the physical nuances of the practice.
I am immensely grateful to my teachers, Jaya and Mohan. Their teaching styles are very different, but equally impactful, personal, and sensitive. I learnt from them not only how to work on different muscles in my body with intention, or how to use just the right amount of energy to maintain an asana, bust most importantly, to try again if I failed. Jaya and Mohan both infused their classes with humour, teamwork, and actively tried to build a safe space for us to learn.
It’s been over 2 months that I moved out of Bangalore, and I sadly don’t practice at TP anymore. But thanks to Jaya and Mohan, my body’s “muscle memory” of yoga is intact! I still begin (most) days with a short at-home practice, and while they’re not here teaching me in person, I can still hear them both clearly in my head, saying “tuck in your diaphragm in tadasana” “push back with your entire palms in adhomukhasvanasana” and my favourite, “let it go and allow yourself to relax in savasana”.
Thank you TPR! You have truly been a life changing experience.
Salma Chandran – Fun-loving, adventurous Health Coach.
Testimonial on April 2019, at age 45. Student at the practice room since two years
Thank you Salma for candidly sharing your ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures. The ‘before’ was taken a couple of months after joining the practice room.
disclaimer: While yoga does help significantly in controlling ones weight by regulating metabolism, the longer-lasting effects are due to yoga’s indirect influences on how we make life choices. In addition to cultivating a regular asana practice, Salma has also made significant lifestyle changes in the last two years
I was barely 10 yrs old when my mom got hold of a copy of the famous film actor Rekha’s cassette: “Mind and Body Yoga”. It was fascinating to see my mom practice yoga asanas daily. Soon I joined her and started enjoying the practice by her side. After a few years due to my studies and school I had to stop my practice.
It was many years later, after my marriage, that I restarted yoga once again. After a year of practice I realized that there was more to yoga than mere exercise. My interest in yoga philosophy led me to reading ‘The Hatha Yoga Pradipika’. I wanted to explore deeper and incorporate what I was reading into my practice. That is when I was directed by a friend to explore B.K.S Iyenger Yoga.
I searched the internet and was pleasantly surprised to discover ‘The Practice Room’, very close to where we lived. Although I was eager to join immediately, I got to know that I would have to wait for six long months and that there was a process of registration and enrolment. While I waited, I started reading B.K.S Iyengar’s book ‘Light on Yoga’.
It was well that I read the book as it prepared me in a way for what was to come. I joined TPR in January 2017 and it took me 6 months even after joining TPR to ‘settle down’! I had to unlearn and relearn a lot of things. This is also the time I realised what developing a strong foundation in the practice of yoga asana really meant.
I had to bring forth patience and trust, sharpen my mind to focus, and receive the minutiae of the instructions, and then apply and practice them with care and attention. While I was exploring I also became aware that most of my fundamental attitudes towards life were reflected in my physical self as well – like counterparts of my mind in my body. My moods, my likes and dislikes, anger, frustration, boredom, my attention, my interest in people and things, sensitivity etc were all reflected in some way by my body behaviour too.
After completing 6 months at TPR, the workshop on Self Practice was held. It came at the right time as a guiding light towards forwarding my inner journey. Such a sacred journey required to be cared and nurtured with complete surrender, focus and discipline. After the workshop I went forth and cleared a room at home, got a few basic props and created my most favourite space – my very own ‘practice room’. This was the first most important step I took.
Next I started my ‘Yoga Instructions Manual’ where I would write down all the details of the instructions in the class by Jaya and Mohan. (A couple of my favourites: Jaya, “When you stop listening to your impulses, something else becomes available. If you are always doing things on impulse you drown out other voices”. And Mohan, “When you do an asana, you are doing various actions, quieten the mind, focus, bring all the knowledge and apply all the steps right for that particular action, breathe and align”.)
Next I started my ‘Yoga Journal’ to track and explore my thoughts, my progress, and the challenges I was facing in my Self Practice. It took me 6 months just to get my forearms fixed for Sirsasana, shoulder blades together and lifting them towards the tailbone so as to lengthen the front part of my torso. Now I am focusing on getting my upper body strong enough to hold the body weight. Soon I will have to overcome my fear of falling.
Among the many things that my Manual and Journal reflect are observations such as:
· Always relax, yet stay aware of the stretch in your body. Do not strain. Listen to your body.
· Softening the abdomen with a blanket before starting yoga opens up the belly as well as the hips creating lightness, balanced and a stable base upon which the upper body balances beautifully.
· Strapping the thighs together adds boundary and safety reducing any resistance in the body helping create awareness and deepen the practice.
As asanas became a regular part of my life, I discovered the pleasing experience of getting the body to move with grace. I found my self-confidence increasing – and, with that, the will to stick with a new diet program, something I had not been able to do with consistency in the past. Over the period of just one year I shed 20kgs and I realised how good it can feel when I don’t abuse the body.
Everything about practicing yoga involved intention – I had to set apart time in my day to do it, move in a specific manner, breathe in a specific way. And, being mindful and deliberate in the practice of yoga also created the opportunity to become mindful and deliberate in my life. Yoga has taught me how to make better decisions. The self practice efforts are well worth the time spent exploring each asana in depth. There is an invigorating and beautiful feeling of bliss & well being when asanas are practiced mindfully. And, at the end, having worked hard during the practice and being completely present and connected to my body, Savasana always brings a sense of joy and freedom which I recognize is also an expression of my true nature. At times it may be brief but yet that feeling reveals what is attainable.
It has been my observation that just about everyone who practices yoga has been touched in one way or the other by its transformative power. As people share their experiences it becomes apparent that while some simply feel better about their bodies, some others seem to experience more profound changes in their lives, relationships, and worldview. These changes often take place over time and are part of a subtle and organic process. It can, at times, be hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about yoga which helps us live a better life. But, in all certainty, by my adopting a positive approach and practicing yoga I have sensed, initially in fleeting glimpses and later in a more sustained manner, the immense value of it all. It has been a worthwhile experience for me to practice yoga regularly with an intention of self-examination and betterment and I am now able to access a different side of myself, a manifestation of the Divine – as yogic philosophy teaches us – and experience feelings of gratitude, empathy, and forgiveness, as well as a sense of being part of something blessed and much bigger.
Thank you The Practice Room!
Mahesh Devaiah – Lawyer, Entrepreneur, Runner
Quoted: August, 2015, at age 45
“My introduction to yoga was gradual. My sister-in-law and brother who live in New York are serious long-term practitioners of Iyengar Yoga. They would often talk about the difference it has made in their lives and were quite puzzled as to why we lived in India and had not enrolled in a class. So when we heard that there was an Iyengar yoga class in the neighbourhood, my wife, Arati, joined the practice room. Prior to joining the practice room, I was physically active, having played cricket and hockey at competitive levels. I have been distance running for a few years now. I also play squash and football recreationally. I thought that yoga would be an extension – another fitness activity. At my wife’s insistence, I joined the practice room to try it out; I expected the practice to be a form of exercise with sweat inducing repetitive stretches and bends. The reality was quite different but no less intense. The focus was on doing an asana correctly. I was completely taken aback and disappointed when I realised that I could not do even the most basic asana correctly. To overcome this, I threw myself into the practice using strength and intensity to try and achieve the desired position. This was counter-productive. For those who have done other activities or played sports, from the outside (the practice of yoga) looks easy, once you get in you realise how far you are. Over time, I have realised that Iyengar yoga is about precision. The precision is the most remarkable aspect – it’s what makes (the practice) effective: the precision of getting into and holding an asana is the only way to achieve the intended benefits. It is also interesting how the ego is handled. Even though in class corrections are made on students with others looking on, there is no sense of being competitive – you learn to look at your own body objectively, as a tool to learn. You realise it’s a learning environment and everyone else is also there only to learn. The practice room has taught me to really look at my body objectively, its different planes, alignments and angles. In the practice there is an interesting play between isolating body parts but looking at it as a whole; compacting one part while opening another, anchoring one part while stretching another. All of this has resulted in an acute awareness of the body. After practising for a little over 2 years, I feel a subtle beneficial change in my emotional and mental state. I am unable to identify it exactly, but I know and feel a difference. I am now constantly aware of my body, including in my routine day to day activities. For example, I try to sit with my sternum expanded and my shoulders down when I remember. I think what yoga has done for me at a tangible level is that it has brought about an awareness of a connection between the mind and body. At this point it is just an awareness but I am hopeful that I will be able to explore it further.”
Arjun Shankar – Designer, Actor
Quoted: October, 2015 at age 30
“I have been working with my body and voice for over 7 years as a part of my theatre training and practice. My main physical training has been in kalaripayattu, which I trained in for over 5 years almost daily. I have found over the years that I am intrinsically a person rooted in my brain, but a large amount of my training over the last many years has helped me disassociate my thoughts from my work on my body. I sustained many injuries in my knees as a result of this intense martial art practice and I had to stop doing it. For example, I am not able to run for more than 5 minutes anymore without my knee buckling. Post that I have been looking into physical forms that can help me deal with pain and mobility – hence yoga. I had been to a couple of other yoga schools, but I found that by the second week they were asking us to attempt complex poses. This didn’t sit right with me as I felt it was being taught like a martial art – with pushing rather than an understanding. So the practice room was another stop in me experimenting with yoga styles, but my search stopped soon. In my first class we only focussed on one small aspect of tadasana and a few other asanas, so simple and yet so detailed! I was hooked and I cancelled all other trial classes at other studios immediately.”
rati Devaiah – Child Counselor, Dancer
Quoted: August, 2015 at age 44
“I am a mother of two boys. I have also been learning Odissi from Nrityagram for the past 4 years. I started my yoga practice with Jaya over 2 years ago. I had never done any yoga before that. I am not very flexible – something that I felt would help me in my Odissi practice. My Odissi classes also required a lot of strength from me and I thought that yoga would be a good antidote – stretching and relaxing!! As it turns out I was wrong! I do believe, however, that I am stronger- both physically as well as mentally. I have been dealing with vertigo for the past couple of years now and all those who have ever experienced it might understand how wary and afraid I have been to be anything but upright. It has taken me over 2 years, but I am now open to the idea of a head stand! For me that is major progress – an opening of the mind that has occurred organically in the practice room without me even realizing it! In a way, my time in the practice room is a gift that I give myself twice a week! A time when I can completely focus on myself and what my body needs. Those needs are ever-changing but so does the practice. No two classes are ever the same and that’s what makes it interesting. The material is very vast and I am only a beginner, but I do hope to keep practising Iyengar yoga for as long as I can.”
Meghna Babu – Graduate Student
Quoted: July, 2015 at age 23
“I’ve been attending classes for the past 2 years at practice room because I like that the teacher takes the interest to make me aware about anatomy and the working of the body. I feel it is a very important aspect to learning yoga; it helps me understand my body better. The class doesn’t just end at the practice; I like how I am informed about what’s happening to my body. Nowadays yoga is highly commercialised and hyped and I feel that classes (at the practice room) are genuine. I used to have frequent headaches, which has reduced drastically in these two years. It has also helped calm my flustered mind. Being a student, it has given me clarity and concentration. It has been a great stress reliever and anti-depressant.”
Seema Shenoy – Environmental Conservation Professional
Quoted: July, 2015 at age 32
“I have been working with an environmental/ conservation organisation for the past six or so years. As much as that involves beautiful places and people and animals and plants, my work was like most office day jobs: sitting in front of a computer screen with at least one excel sheet open at any given time. I’m now going back to being a full-time student for two years. For as long as I can remember, I have been averse to physical activity, especially ‘games’, although I have almost never said no to a long walk, a swim or a run. I didn’t do much yoga as a child, but it always had that warm distant glow, and the same appeal as all of the other physical activities that I enjoyed – that what your body did, didn’t have to match the expectations of other people. And so, once I finished school and moved out of home, I tried various yoga classes, I’m not sure they professed to following a particular method or school, but I can’t deny – I did enjoy the benefits of general fitness that they gave me. Among all of the activities that I do, mental or physical, or those rare few that straddle both, I’ve found that (Iyengar) yoga, without my having asking it to, has taught me that only by being completely in the present, at every moment, does it have any meaning. In fact, the more you force yourself to do it, the less capable you become. This is so contrary to everything else that we try and do. This is a subtle but extremely exhilarating experience. And I know that this could have only been made possible by the way yoga is taught at the practice room. I had initially joined the yoga class hoping to develop more awareness about my body: apart from my extremities, and physical sensations on the skin, the rest of my body was a vast emptiness in my consciousness, and my only knowledge of it seemed to be what I saw of it in the mirror. I know that it takes decades to sew together the awareness of all parts of your body through the practice of yoga, and I can’t say that I can now locate a muscle here or a tendon there, but that landscape is slowly becoming more and more familiar, and I am able to accept and acknowledge more and more of my body as being part of the same identity as what was until now a small ball (I imagine it is orange, sometimes yellow – I don’t know why) that sits somewhere behind the eyes. I continued to go to the practice room because over and above the seriousness with which the form is taught (and the frequent stern instruction), there is a lightness (not frivolity) to the practice, and an atmosphere that instils curiosity, that makes you want to try things and learn new things. This is divorced from the assumed sanctity and piety that is otherwise associated with yoga, which also happens to sit very well with my personal politics!”
Aman Mahajan – Musician, Composer
Quoted: July, 2015 at age 29
“Since I left school, I haven’t participated in any sports or organised physical activity. Mostly, it’s been limited to bicycling. However, I have practiced Vipassana meditation; I have also engaged in occasional study and meditation in the Tibetan Mahayana tradition, along with some yoga and meditation years ago. I signed up for yoga classes at the practice room over two years ago to learn about the subject and also for some form of organised work with the body and mind. My only previous experiences of yoga were with a teacher in Hyderabad, and also occasionally with a student club in Boston. My experience at the practice room has been vastly different. I find the teaching and practice here extremely methodical. The teachers’ directions are clear and direct, often with a plan that becomes clearer in the broader picture, over a set of classes. We are also encouraged to see the subject from different angles for a broader view. I’ve noticed quite a few changes in myself since joining, which I can connect directly or indirectly to yoga practice. I have more body awareness, a better sense of balance, less overeating, better eating habits in general, more sensitivity to animals, to the environment and to the others around me, less dependence on alcohol. It’s a long list. I heartily recommend yoga at the practice room to anyone interested in the subject. “
Nishka Crishna – Social sector professional
Quoted: august, 2015 at age 41
“I work with a non-profit called VAANI that teaches deaf kids how to communicate. I have been practicing Iyengar Yoga for 1 year 9 months now. Joining this practice turned out to be a very special 40th birthday present to myself. On approaching that milestone, I felt the need to do something really meaningful and wholesome for my body. I have seen how the women in my family have aged. I carry those genes, and I felt that 40 was a good age to start doing something about it. In the past, I have signed up for other forms of yoga classes, the longest I have kept at it has been about a year. I once paid a full year’s membership at a gym, and ended up going for only 3-4 months. I have never been inclined towards any physical activity for more than a short span of time, and those who know me well are amazed that I am keeping this practice up, and making a serious attempt to attend every class when in town. I had been for an Iyengar Yoga class in Mumbai with a friend, years ago. I was totally freaked out by the actions that were being performed with ropes and grills and bricks and belts. It seemed like something only very fit and athletic people could do, and since I am neither, I was convinced this form of yoga was not for me. So it was with some trepidation that I walked into my first class at the practice room, on the insistence of a dear friend, not knowing really, what to expect. But from the first class itself, I was hooked. There was depth and gravitas to what we were doing, starting with the prayer, which works as a gateway between the everyday reality of the outside world and the focused rigour of the class. It helps focus the mind and prepare the body. At a purely physical ‘getting-the-asana-right’ level, this practice is challenging. Some days it seems like no matter how hard you try, you will never get there. But instead of despair, I feel hopeful because I have begun to experience my own body very differently from before. I have accepted that struggle is a part of the process, and most days I am really just battling with my head/mind as it tries to erect barriers to what my body can and cannot do. I have a far deeper understanding of my physical self than ever before, and a new-found respect for how strong my body actually is. This practice has taught me to trust my body’s intuition more, to recognise and try and go with my most visceral instincts, to be guided by the natural flow of the instructions. The subtlety of the practice took me by surprise in the beginning, but now I look forward to being able to make a tiny adjustment in position and effect a major change in posture. This practice brought consciousness to parts of my body I had never paid attention to, or even recognised as separate entities within me – sit bones, tail bone, front of the thigh, shoulder blades. Impossible instructions like “keep your shoulders down” or “tuck your tailbone in” are now so much more meaningful. I feel well in a holistic sense. I feel stronger in mind and body and less fussed about my bad knees, my broken ankle and my painful soles. I feel I have changed at a cellular level, and this is what brings me back week after grueling week. In the gym I went to, I often felt that in order to strengthen one part of the body, another was being violated. There was no synergy. This practice is integrating; each part of the body working in tandem with the others, and all of it being energised by the life-giving oxygen in the breath. I feel practice of this form of yoga is a commitment to a lifetime of change. Change happens in tiny, almost imperceptible steps, but is always incremental, always for the better. “
Priyankta Iyengar – Product designer, Entrepreneur
Quoted: august, 2015 at age 38
“I have tried a whole bunch of things from going to the gym to kick-boxing to various forms of yoga. I started coming to the practice room just over a year ago, with the objective of pursuing the practice seriously. I wanted to become stronger and have more control over my body. I had never done Iyengar yoga before; I started with an open mind. My objective is still the same, but my approach towards that objective has changed a bit. When I came in, I was dealing with heel-pain. I had been in physical therapy for 4 months before I started at the practice room, but without any results. Initially I was impatient about my condition, expecting it to be restored magically just a couple of months into yoga practice. Over time I stopped focusing on my pain and started focusing on my practice. It seems to be working; my pain has considerably reduced and is more manageable. (This practice) is very different from any form of yoga I have done before. Initially a lot of the instructions went over my head! I am now beginning to grasp the teaching a little better. The focus on detail, precision and alignment is less of a blur now. Over the last year I feel that I have become more disciplined and focused.”
Minila D’Souza – Writer, Designer, Animal lover
Quoted: April, 2017 at age 30
I briefly learned “yoga” for a month from a neighbour who had been learning for a while and wanted to start teaching. Winter set in, and he stopped classes saying it’s too cold to practice. I felt slightly cheated, not because the classes stopped, but because of the teacher’s lack of commitment – It’s usually students who use these excuses! I gave up on yoga for a while.
When I moved to Bangalore, I started my search afresh. I scoured through dozens of sites for yoga schools,but never felt a connection with any of them. After weeding out the hot, the cold, the artistic and the aerial yoga classes, I stumbled across the the practice room. I read the contents of the website and then re-read it. I had finally found something that resonated with my philosophy.
My first class was like how we all behave for our first day at anything new and exciting. I was up earlier than I needed to be and was ready to take on the world. In the beginning, I felt very rejuvenated after class, but I was frustrated at the lack of awareness in my body. There were times I was giving it my all, but my body just wasn’t in the mood to listen.
Then came the workshop in Bellur. Maybe it was the energy of the place, or the fact that we didn’t have to rush back to work or be preoccupied with something else before or after class, or just being able to have Mohan and Jaya all to ourselves for two whole days, but that’s where I found what I was looking for all the while. Instead of forcing or pushing myself to be able to perfect an asana (and I know at this stage I can’t perfect it, but I mean get close to what would be perfect for our current level), I would begin each session by looking at the one of the many pictures of guruji on the walls and surrendering myself to the practice. Not thinking about how long we have left, how everyone else is managing to twist themselves into a pose, or how well or badly I’m doing a certain asana. Not expecting anything, either from my body, my teachers or my peers and just being in the moment and doing what I could. I had to stop challenging myself to achieve and open myself up to what was there all along. The restlessness that accompanied me, came to rest. Having faith and knowing that if I don’t force it or overthink it and just let go, the guidance of our teachers and their teachers, all leading up to guruji, and even his teachers, will slowly and steadily find its way to me.
This honest surrender helped me,not just relax my nerves and my mind, but somehow seeped in to my muscles. My body was listening, it was aware and it was neither at rest nor restless. After the workshop, I continued to apply what I had felt and learned and day by day, I can feel myself getting better. And I don’t mean at the asanas, but getting better at the process of surrender. For me that’s what my practice has come to mean….surrender. And this eventually helps me get better with my daily asanas.
Yoga is not like all the other activities you’ve pursued. You can try your best, but you have to work with the body and mind you have been given. You may take longer and you may never even experience the fullness of a certain asana, but the process of surrender will help you accept it. And you will then make peace with it, and then, your practice will improve.”