Yoga for the Young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The solid marble yoga hall at Bellur Iyengar Yoga Center is gentled to pink by the sunlight rising through its open doors. Another dawn in the birth-blace of BKS Iyengar, where the legacy of his life’s work is honoured and furthered through the practice of many of its inhabitants. I am here to meet a group of young yoga students who were introduced to Iyengar Yoga through the community school built and run by the Bellur Krishnamachar Sheshamma Smaraka Nidhi Trust and who, now aged between 17 and 20, have much to offer local and international Iyengar yoga communities through their practice and teaching.    

 A group of eight young men and women arrive, shy and smiling. Throughout our conversation, all articulate with passion and dedication their approach to the work of sharing the teachings of their beloved Guruji.

‘Guruji is the star in Bellur’, remarks Prashant. ‘Everybody knows him. The gift of Guruji is to cure our bodies. He cannot just stay in silence. When he sees a mistake in yoga practice, he has to correct it’.

‘He struck me’ adds Venkatachara with pride, his eyes flashing in remembrance of that illuminating touch. Guruji’s kindness and compassion towards children has often been observed, and here in his home village he raised within the secure boundaries of his love a generation of young practitioners of inspiring humility and integrity.

 All of these young people have benefited since childhood from the Bellur Foundation, which has brought schools, colleges, clean water, a hospital, employment opportunities and of course the dissemination of yoga practice to their community. And they want to give back. All of them want to go on to become professional teachers of Iyengar yoga. Venkatachara wants to teach yoga to the Indian Army, ‘so that our soldiers will be healthy’. Lakshmi wishes to teach in schools so that other children can experience the same benefits that she has. Between them they already teach classes at 5.30 am every morning in several nearby villages and in the Yoga Center, offering yoga for better health and wellbeing to local people; children as well as men and women who are mainly agricultural workers.  They teach their parents as well as their younger siblings. The concept of yoga for health is a key factor that emerges again and again. These young people have experienced first-hand the devastating effects of poverty, and are determined that yoga goes hand in hand with improved diet and hygiene to improve health and comfort and increase longevity.  ‘I want to offer service to poor people’, says Sunita. ‘I have to fulfil Guruji’s dream, to spread Patanjali yoga in India and across the world’.

 

Back in the UK, I am lucky to be part of an established and growing Iyengar yoga community in my home town of Hereford. In January 2017 we opened the UK’s first publically funded Iyengar Yoga Centre and, inspired by Bellur (and other Iyengar yoga centres worldwide) have made it our mission to make the benefits of yoga recognised by and available to the whole community. Last year we delivered almost 300 free yoga classes to local community groups, including blind people, women suffering domestic abuse, the housing association, NHS staff and college students. As part of this outreach programme we are developing a comprehensive project with local primary schools. In four local schools, pupils taking part in weekly yoga classes have benefitted, according to their teachers, from improved concentration, body awareness, confidence and the reduction of stress symptoms. By introducing the practice to children we hope to offer them the best chance of integrating these benefits into adulthood.

 At Hereford Yoga Centre, we are keen to develop the pedagogical skills and knowledge of our regular teachers, and others who have an interest in sharing yoga with children. Bobby Clenell will be visiting to teach a workshop on 24-26 May 2019, and the Friday will be focussed entirely on the teaching of children. Yes, it’s the same weekend as the National Convention (!) but do come by Hereford on your way to Nottingham and join us for the first day! This will be followed by workshops by experienced teachers later in the year and the further development of our schools programme.

 We hope that over time everybody in our small community we will be provided with an equal opportunity to experience the vitality and peace that comes with a consistent Iyengar yoga practice. From a small village in Karnataka to a small corner of rural England, the dream lives on.

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HYC Selected in Top 30 Yoga studios nationwide!

Well, we were selected! Thanks to ALL of our amazing students who bring so much joy and dedication to their practice. It’s great to have a specially designed studio, all the props, the right shorts, and to have the work we do recognised with a gold award badge. But when everything is stripped away, the two pillars of abyhasa (practice) and vairagya (detachment) are there to uphold the hearts and minds of all practitioners and form the foundation of any yoga community.

Click here for the article- we are featured as Top in the Midlands region….

The 30 Best Yoga Studios In The UK: The Definitive List (2018)

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We’ve Been Shortlisted!

We’ve been contacted by one of those organisations that publishes the ‘top 50…’ in the UK. They are doing Yoga Studios, and Hereford Yoga Centre has cropped up in their initial survey. They asked me to forward a paragraph about why I think our students have voted for us. So I thought I’d share my response:

Why do you feel your Yoga Studio was recommended based on its unique benefits to its customers?

Hereford Yoga Centre occupies a special place at the heart of a wonderful community. It’s our small city’s only facility dedicated solely the study and practice of yoga, serving a largely rural population who have limited access to the kinds of high-grade facilities found frequently in large urban centres. It’s the FIRST Iyengar yoga centre in the UK to be publicly funded (with a grant from Sport England) and boasts a beautiful, fully equipped, bespoke designed studio. Hereford Yoga Centre is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the whole community by providing the highest quality teaching through inclusive methods. As well as offering specialised classes for kids, teens, women, men and older people, we deliver a comprehensive outreach programme in community settings such as mental health services, schools and colleges, and with local charities tackling domestic abuse and the difficulties associated with visual impairment. Hereford Yoga Centre is a not for profit organisation. Our students know that the fees they pay, as well as providing them with tools and knowledge to develop a more active, healthy and balanced way of life for themselves, offer the same opportunity to those in need free of charge. Healthy individuals means healthier communities and a healthier, more equal society. That’s worth practicing for.
We hope you agree!
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So, what do you do?

 

We all get asked that question. My stock response is ‘I’m a yoga teacher’ or ‘I’m an Iyengar yoga teacher’, because people generally mean ‘What do you do to earn money?’.  A more truthful response to the actual question would be ‘I do yoga’.

Some people then ask if I don’t ‘get bored doing yoga every day?’. My stock response is ‘Oh no, because it changes all the time.’ But here’s a more accurate one:

Move.

Study kinetics, mathematics, physics. Study biology.

Chemistry, biomechanics, semantics, aesthetics.

Athletics.

Study sociology and etymology.

Ethics.

 

Breathe.

Study physiology, psychology, philosophy. Study theology.

Art, drama, architecture, time-space, space-time.

Relativity.

Study geometry, anthropology. Pedagogy and cosmology.

 

No. I’m not bored. And you?

 

Be.

Study Self.

Conflict, revolution, resolution.

 

Cultivate friendliness, compassion, detachment, joy.

Practice

Peace.

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Faeq Biria Spring 2017

We are delighted that Sri S. Faeq Biria, one of BKS Iyengar’s most senior students and a teacher of global renown will be coming to teach a 2-day workshop at Hereford Yoga Centre, 22nd and 23rd April.

Faeq is director of the Centre de Yoga Iyengar de Paris and his highly inspirational teaching is in great demand across the world. He travels from China to Brazil, from Russia to Canada to the Philippines, from Poland to Japan, disseminating with faithful accuracy (and much humour and humility) the teachings of his revered Guru BKS Iyengar.  People flock from all over the world to his famous summer ‘intensives’- and yes, they are just that. A workshop with Faeq is an experience you are unlikely to forget.

Faeq is fitting a visit to Hereford into his demanding schedule to lead us in a celebration for the opening of Hereford Yoga Centre. This will take the form of 2 workshop days:

Day 1, Saturday 22nd April: for all students with at least 1 year’s regular Iyengar yoga practice

Day 2, Sunday 23rd April: for teachers, teacher trainees and students with at least 5 years’ regular Iyengar yoga practice.

On Saturday evening we will celebrate with a Puja (this means the spiritual celebration of an event) and a shared vegetarian meal. All attendees from both days are invited to join us for this.

You can book one or both days, and the cost is £60 per day.

Click the link to book, or you can do it in person at HYC.

FAEQ BIRIA WORKSHOP 22-23 APRIL- BOOK NOW

We very much look forward to seeing you here for a special couple of days of practice, study and celebration.

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Meditation on Action

First invocation to Patanjali in the studio

Hello!

We’ve had a brilliantly memorable few weeks here at Hereford Yoga Centre. It’s been a long time in the making, and we’re finally home.

I thought I’d share just a few of my highlights (in no particular order)….

  1. ‘The volunteer sessions’; I was completely blown away by the level of support for the project. People turned up and put hours of graft into making the centre ready. They cooked, cleaned, sanded, built, advised, painted, governed, drove, taught, scrubbed and fixed. This has engendered a feeling of shared ownership, pride and responsibility at the Centre. It’s planted the healthy seed of what we envisage will become a flourishing yoga community!
  1. ‘My first class’ taught in the studio on Open Day, 35 children aged between 6 and 11 learning about peace and respect for others (whilst having loads of fun and howling like dogs). They are the future!
  1. ‘The radio interview’ with Andrew Easton from BBC Hereford and Worcester, and Nickie, a student who courageously spoke on air about her experiences of being in an abusive relationship and how yoga helped her through. Hats off to Nickie! Click below to hear the clips.

    Clip 1

    Clip 2

  1. ‘The hanging of the photos’ of BKS Iyengar in the studio. These images are hard to come by, so heartfelt thanks to Jayne Orton of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Birmingham for the thoughtful gift. Western culture sometimes grapples with the concept of ‘Guru’, but these 2 photos have already provided inspiration and discussion points for several classes. It’s the simplest of relationships really; take inspiration and give respect.
  1. ‘The facial release’. Watching students, especially beginners, in Savasana (the relaxation pose at the end of the practice) I can see the tension release from the different parts of their face. The skin becomes smooth as the physical technique transforms into a mental surrender to the moment that is rarely found in life’s everyday activities. I love my job.

                                    

I may not have much to write very often as I’ll be mostly practicing and teaching, but will use this space to keep you updated on activities at HYC and, if it’s of any interest, my personal experience of this journey.

So until next time, Aum and Prem (that is, Peace and Love)

Jenny-May

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