December 7th is the Birthday of Geeta Iyengar, BKS Iyengar’s daughter. After her passing two years ago, today she would have been 76. Geeta was a strong and impressionable teacher in her own right and carried the wisdom of her father to all those who studied under her. This morning, Abhijata Iyengar, Geeta’s niece, gifted us a class straight from Geeta’s own words, transcribed from a class given 6 years ago.
As always, it is not really WHAT is taught but HOW that matters. Abhijata has her own individual voice in teaching, just as Prashant Iyengar, and BKS himself, and all of us who strive to be teachers in this Iyengar method. And, there was only ONE Geeta. This simple sequence of standing poses under her direction can become a deep study of the shoulder blades, connecting to issues in headstand or otherwise. Beyond that, it becomes even a deeper study of our own reactions and approaches to practice itself. And, as always, Geeta made the practice ultimately a direct look at our own Self.
Abhi made sure to take on as much of that voice as she could, sometimes the burden a bit hard to bear, the two-year old sorrow and loss still raw and obvious. She gave us her own glimpses of Geeta through her experience of teaching and studying so closely under her for so many years. No one, even her dear niece, was exempt from Geeta’s piercing gaze and unrelenting wish for us to learn and show up for ourselves.
Throughout the class, there was sharing of photos and images and a couple of recordings to hear Geeta herself. My memories of her are vivid and palpable, her voice and presence so HUGE, even in such a small frame. Her incessant urging between instruction of “YOU FIND OUT” always sticks with me. Never a “don’t” or a “try”, just “do” and “find out”.
This demanding presence sometimes grew into a frustrated temper, making Geeta an infamous and complicated figure. Abhijata acknowledges that at times she herself even tried to change the way her aunt came across to students, went home crying in humiliation some days, and avoided her after scoldings. However, in this morning’s class, Abhi pointed out that for her there was always a difference between “yelling” and “scolding” – yelling is for yelling’s sake and scolding is to hope for something better. If Geeta didn’t care, she wouldn’t have even tried half as hard to get her message of yoga across. And through this fierceness, she did “inject” her wisdom into those around her.
I am eternally grateful to have been in classes with Geeta Iyengar. Each of the Iyengars are people with extraordinary energy and focus on this incredible subject of yoga. I am sure that we will not see another family of individuals so committed to this subject again in our lifetime. Times have and will change, new voices and more voices on the subject will be shared, but Geeta Iyengar’s light will shine for a very very long time. She made sure of that. And, as in life, there will be no avoiding her gaze even in death.
In each of our practices, and as we look more deeply into our own Self, her voice will be there, her urging will be there, so what will “YOU FIND OUT”?