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Open Practice

Friends asked me why I was going to all the effort to spend a month in Pune to study Iyengar yoga. My answer was for my practice. Not for teaching or your studio?  No for my practice.  Those of us who teach know that we can't really separate practicing from teaching or teaching from practice. But still my intention was clear.

An essential part of the month long session is Open Practice. Four days a week there is a three hour Open Practice in the morning and the other two days there is a two hour Open Practice in the afternoon. No classes or Open Practice on Sunday.

Seventy-five to a hundred students gradually enter the Main Hall, a semi-circular space with windows along the wall .  There is an extensive selection of props: wall ropes, backbenders, halasana benches, trestlers, blocks, bolsters, weights, and more. Everyone does their own thing.  Looking around the room, each day I see a full range of asanas done in a variety of ways. And there is Iyengar in his corner doing his remarkable practice.

I expected this long practice period to be daunting.  I certainly had never practiced for three hours at home.  Instead it has reminded me of when I was an Early Childhood Educator and taught a combined first and second grade at an innovative private school in Atlanta.  Here are all these wonderful props to experiment with in different ways just like the educational games and materials in my classroom.  I look around and learn from my fellow students as my young students did.  So many ways to practice Trikonasana or use the ropes.  Prashant talks about practicing in an experimental, observational way instead of a mechanical, habitual way.  This open classroom environment invites playful experimentation and svadyaya (self study) at the same time.  The three hours pass by easily.

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