A visit to the KYM! Katie Carroll tells of her recent trip to Chennai

I first heard that Andy and Helen took groups to India every year when I had just started my teacher training with Andy in 2017. I remember thinking, “oh wow I would love to go along someday.” “Someday” being the operative word. I’m not sure exactly when “someday” became January 2020 but I found myself paying my deposit and signing up for the study trip early in 2019. Andy let us all know what flights him and Helen were booking and before I knew it I had my flight booked and it was really happening! In the lead up there was plenty of support for getting e-visas sorted and what to pack etc. In the end it was a group of eighteen of us that made of this year’s group.

Most of us arrived together on the same flight from Dubai to Chennai on the Saturday morning and had the weekend to settle in, rest, and do a bit of sight seeing before starting classes on the Monday. Andy and Helen very kindly took all of us newbies under their wing over the first weekend and showed us around. On the Saturday this was a walk around the neighbourhood, which conveniently has everything you need with in walking distance. They showed us where ATMs were, made a lovely stop for lassi and coffees at a trusted restaurant and then a quick stop at the KYM on the way back to the hotel. On the first Sunday we visited the Kapaleeswarar Temple and the Ramakrishna Math in Chennai and were delighted to find there was a festival on that involved music, gymnastics and dance demonstrations. 

(We also did some lovely sight seeing on the second weekend with a trip out to Mahabalipuram where there are some amazing UNESCO world heritage sights to see as well as a lovely beach hotel with a lovely pool where we enjoyed a tremendously realaxing afternoon.) But! Back to the real reason we were there…Yoga!

Before I knew it, it was Monday morning and time for our course at the KYM to begin. The KYM itself is bigger then it looks from the gate on the outside. There are four floors with large practice rooms and plenty of small consultation rooms on each level. 

Our group had our own private program arranged by Andy and Helen in advance with the KYM. They asked all of us who had signed up for the trip for any requests for topics to cover. For this trip I didn’t have anything specific to request but it’s definitely something I would think about if I were to go again and that I think is an absolutely incredible opportunity for anyone thinking about going in the future. In the first week we looked at practical applications of the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoganjalisaram, and Skills of Observation as well as daily chanting and asana practice.  The second week we studied the Dhyanamalika, Course Planning, continued our work on Skills of Observation, chanting, and asana and also were given meditative practice every day. 

I was a bit nervous about the idea of full days of yoga, Monday to Friday for two weeks. However, I found the scheduling at the KYM to be just the right balance. The first week, our days started at 9am with two fifty minute classes with ten minutes in between them for a break, followed by a twenty minute tea break where we were served delicious masala chai by the lovely staff at the KYM. After that we had a fifty-minute session of chanting followed by two hours for lunch. This was enough time to go back to the hotel to eat and have a rest or to go to a restaurant nearby and have a leisurely lunch. In the afternoon the timetable followed the same structure, with two classes, a tea break and the final fifty-minute class being an asana practice. The second week followed roughly the same timetable but we started an hour later, which meant we also finished an hour later. 

The fifty-minute classes seemed to just fly by as the topics were so interesting and the teacher’s so captivating. Then I was grateful for the ten-minute break to jot down notes and allow a few minutes to absorb the wealth of knowledge we had just received before preparing for another amazing class.

It’s difficult to put into words, the feelings that I experienced just being at the KYM. I think the thing that most struck me was the reverence for Krishnamacharya and Desikachar. Large portraits of the two teachers hang in multiple locations in the KYM and each one is decorated every day with large garlands of fresh flowers. The room we had the majority of our classes had a portrait of each of them and it was a very inspiring feeling to have them there in the room with us. At the start of each class we would chant with the teacher to Krishnamacharya and Desikachar and I felt like I truly understood the meaning behind the chants in my heart, not just in my mind.

The true treasure of the KYM lies in their teachers that are there now to carry on this lineage. They were all unique in their way of communicating the teachings of Desikachar and Krishnamacharya, but what they all had in common was a thorough understanding and a deep connection to the teachings. I remember being on the verge of tears during class many times because I just felt so fortunate to be sitting in that room, receiving the teachings from them. Many times I sat reflecting after class and felt that it would have been worth coming all the way to India for just a few minutes in the presence of these teachers. 

I have returned home with a new level of understanding and appreciation for this tradition of yoga, as well as a notebook full of notes that I am sure I will be pouring over for many years to come. Andy and Helen take a study trip there every two years and they have already booked the dates with the KYM for 2022. (Just saying!) However, if you can’t wait that long to experience it for yourself, the KYM also offer lots of courses that are open to anyone which you can find on their website. If you have any questions about my experience, I would be more then happy to answer them, you can email me at [email protected] 

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