The Denver and Boulder Iyengar yoga communities were fortunate to host guest teacher Devki Desai in May. Devki traveled to us from the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, the home of Geeta Iyengar and Prashant Iyengar, Mr. Iyengar’s son and daughter, and Iyengar Yoga. Devki has been a direct disciple of BKS, Prashant, and Geeta Iyengar since 1984 and began teaching at the Institute in 1995. Today she is one of the few teachers trusted to teach the Advanced Class at the Institute. This makes us in Colorado very lucky to have the opportunity to study with her.
From the first class I took with Devki Desai, I knew it was an honor and privilege to study with her. As expected, she was knowledgable and precise about the yoga asanas (yoga postures). The rest of her was a pleasant surprise to me. She was small in stature, but a commanding, vibrant, charismatic, and remarkably humble presence in the yoga room. She effortlessly wove accessible and practical philosophical wisdom throughout each class she taught.
I came to find out that in addition to adult classes, she teaches the children’s class at the Institute, and in her personal life is a devoted and loving mother. These qualities shine through in her teaching, which is something I appreciate and resonate with. I found her classes to be nurturing, challenging, playful, and intelligent.
I met Devki a few years before I went to study at the Institute in 2013. I was told that her teaching embodied a balance between the teachings of Prashant and Geeta Iyengar, which I had no context for at the time. When I went and had the opportunity to study with these teachers, I found this to be very true. She synthesizes the attitudes, philosophy, and sequencing that each of these teachers gives us, and communicates that melody she creates beautifully.
I was fortunate enough to meet and spend some time with Mr. Iyengar in 2005 when he came to teach for the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park, CO. However, for a number of reasons the thought of traveling to India to study hadn’t entered my realm of possibilities yet. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to study with Devki that I was compelled to make the pilgrimage to India and study with the Iyengar family.
Devki’s primary objective throughout the weekend workshop at IYCD involved teaching us about stress relief, which was a theme she built upon from the previous year. She taught different types of stress relief sequences (ranging from a restorative sequence given from the Institute to hip openings to sun salutations to back bends), she taught through her unique perspective on yoga philosophy, and shared healing meditation techniques.
She reminded us all that when we practice yoga, we should come to it with the innocence of a child. Mr. Iyengar actually would refer to those of us practicing as his children of yoga. Then she told us, children don’t get stressed! They are not stressed out about the next time they are going to play! Similarly, we must learn how to release the stress from our daily life. Yoga can help us with this in a number of different way.
She also told us that when we practice our yoga asanas we should feel like we are coming home. When you come into your home, it should not trigger stress, but relaxation and ease. Devki told us during the workshop that for her, coming back every year to teach in Denver is like coming home. Similarly, every year that she comes to teach in Colorado, I feel that I come home. I surrender a bit deeper to my yoga practice, whether it is the physical practice, the philosophical practice, or the spiritual practice. And for that I am grateful.
You can see Dana at her Monday/Thursday noon classes!