Brahmacharya: channelling desire, building community

I went with a friend to find an ayurvedic doctor today, for a consultation and massage. We got lost. When we finally found the address it turned out he had moved.  A young woman came out on the front porch of the neighbouring apartment. ‘Are you from the Iyengar Institute?’ she asked. ‘Oh yes, I am a student there myself. Come, come.’

She invited us into her home and after helping us locate the doctor’s contact details told us that she had been a student at the Institute for about three years. ‘It is so good’, she said. ‘My teacher is Kishore. I have a sedentary job, designing embroidery patterns, always sitting, so twice a week when I am doing yoga it is good for that. But it is a lot of practice. Not just in class, but outside also.

Before, we thought that it was just for rich people and foreigners. We didn’t realise that local people could go there, because the foreigners came to see Guruji, and we thought it must be a lot of money, not for the likes of us. But then someone told us no, you can go there and it is not too much to pay. So we went. Everything there is so nicely done. The building is so beautiful. Look, I have this’. She produced from a large brown envelope a picture of BKS Iyengar; smiling, twinkling, piercing.  ‘He was so old but look how beautifully he kept himself’, she indicates his legendary bushy white eyebrows, trimmed neatly to reveal that gaze.

‘He did such a lot, bringing yoga across India and the whole world’, she continues. ‘He could have gone and settled in America, in Europe, anywhere, and have a lot of money, a big house. So many universities in America offered him so much money to come there. But he stayed here in Pune and taught yoga, and helped so many people.’

When the admissions for the new year’s class enrolments at RIMYI open in June, there are queues of local people from across the city wrapped twice around the block. They pay what generally seems to be regarded as an affordable termly fee and are allocated two classes per week.

BKS Iyengar was offered the untold glamour and riches of the world. For anyone, and especially for a boy from a poor village who has known real hunger, that must have represented a considerable temptation. Such was his sadhana (spiritual practice) that he stayed home on his mat, creating a local yoga community which quickly spread across the globe.

Brahmacharya is often mis-translated as just celibacy. Only in certain cases does its practice manifest as life-long renunciation of sexual activity. More broadly, it refers to the practice of continence; of the mindful control of sensuality, not its repression. Every time that life throws up a temptation, (and they will be thrown up in the most unexpected places and guises), we have a choice. We can decide to run with the desires of the senses, which will soon run out of fuel, or to re-channel the energy of that desire towards building a strong and stable community of body, breath and mind.

Continue Reading

Fire and Ice: Pune Class Notes- Raya 4.12.19 (Participated)

Ooh, what a cracker of a class. It was balanced, intriguing, challenging, and delivered with gentle ease and contagious joy. Perhaps it was due to jet-lag, but I found this combination pretty intoxicating. Usually a good sign when you can’t really speak or remember who you are for half an hour post-practice.

Disclaimer as per previous posts; this is a personal impression and mayn’t be accurate.

Invocation in swastikasana

Adho mukha virasana

Adho mukha svanasana

Adho mukha virasana- classical pose (knees together, feet apart, lean forwards. Support head if not on floor) Rest the head. Many of you have just flown in, so rest. Allow the brain to rest.  Allow the para-spinal muscles to release. Allow the muscles of the back and the intercostal muscles to spread.

Urdvha hastasna in virasana

Dandasana and urdvha hasta dandasana Raise yourself up. Be on the front of the sitting bones. Lift!

Parsva dandasana (gripping foot) Grip the outer foot near the toes and then lift away. Lift up and turn.

Bharadvajasana 1 (x 2: first time hand behind to floor, 2nd time hold the heel) Feel the diagonal breath. From the outer groin to the top chest. Bharadvajasana is a good pose in which to feel the diagonal breath. If you get stuck, look for the air pockets. Like a bubble of air that is trapped. Do not try to move on a physical level if you are stuck. You have to find out where is the air-pocket and release it, then you will move.

Bharadvajasana 2

Ardha matsyendrasana (x 2) You have all used a mixer? A blender? So you know how the sides of the container go up, parallel, and the contents inside, when you start the rotation, it goes out to the sides of the container, then up and falls back in on itself? Well in the twist here it is like that, only the contents goes the other way round; it has to lift up the inside, and then go down the parallel sides.

Parivritta trikonasana (x 2, hand inside the foot, then hand outside the foot. Palm to the floor). Press the fingers and press the palm.  Root the hand to the floor. From there, lift. Spread the ribs. The back left ribs should be like icicles, how an icicle melts, dripping down. And the front right ribs should be like flames, how a flame rises up. Don’t twist to do the pose, spread to do the pose.

Parivrtta parsvakonasana (x 2, palm to the floor, back foot to the floor; as in parivrtta trikonasana, hand on the inside then on the outside). Same turning actions. Your wrist and your ankle should be together, like married. I mean, fresh married; newlyweds. But don’t give your hip to your friend on the right. Keep your hip to yourself. Again, the icicles and the flames.

Utthita trikonasana What is rooted and what is shooted?


Purvottanasana x 2 Press the fingers to the floor. Lift the hips more. And lift the hips more. Now, press the fingers down, lift, and curve. Like someone is pressing your chin back, but you have to do that yourself.

Urdvha mukha svanasana x 2 Again, press the fingers and curve back. What is the grip in the buttock region?

Urdvha dhanurasana x 2 (hold for timing)  First time, lift the heels and walk in. Second time, lift the heels to walk in walk in, then, press the heels and lift the soles of the feet to make the shins go back.   Take the shins back. Then, walk the feet out just a bit and straighten the legs. Take the shins back to straighten the legs. Stay there.

Utthita trikonasana (isn’t it amazing what can suddenly be considered rest 😉 )

Sirsasana, urdvha padmasana, baddha konasana, then pull toes and soles down in baddha konasana (heels still together. Try this if you don’t know it- it gives a very good opening for the hips and groins).

Janu sirsasana In janu sirsasana, in any asana in fact, we have to be soaring like birds. You know when there is a thermal rising, and the bird catches it, and it goes around and up in the thermal? Does it beat it’s wings all the time like this? (Flap flap) No, it doesn’t have to. It is rising on the thermal. But it is not still. It does not need the gross action of flapping its wings, but if it makes subtle adjustments of it wing-tip feathers that will affect its direction and it will glide further up. So janu sirsasana is like this. Elbows up, and glide forwards and turn on the thermal. Second time, same, then release the elbows. Rest the elbows down. Find the spreading on your back. Fold your wings, but keep soaring.

Pascimottanasa Do this like janu sirsasana on both sides. Do you know what I mean? Actually the sticky mat is not the best surface for forward bends. Try doing on the floor, on a blanket, even on a cotton mattress, so the legs can glide, and move down.

Sarvangasana on 2 rolled blankets (one for shoulders, one for elbows). Urdvha padmasana. Halasana. Karnapidasana.


Continue Reading

How can you know the breather from the breath?

Yoga as an art form is at once interpretive and creative, scripted and improvised, individual and collaborative. The asanas are an expression and an exposition of an internal act of devotion, moment to moment. Each is born, lives and dies. Each tells its story of love, hate, joy, suffering, creation, destruction; the narrative of humanity.

As a yoga practitioner, as an artist, you have to look, and see, with new eyes every day. The world is rich. There is inspiration everywhere that can re-inform and re-ignite the fire of curiosity. Curiosity, enquiry, is the fuel, the engine, the life-giver of a living practice in which the pulse of the present is inhabited.

Today in class we were exploring ‘roots and shoots’; where are you rooted, and from the rootedness what shoots are growing, rising, climbing and expanding? I also had an inspiring post-class chat with dance and yoga practitioner Fleur Darkin, and both of these things sent me back to a much beloved poem. So here’s the eighth and final verse of ‘Among School Children’ by WB Yeats. It makes my heart sing. Hope you like it too.

Labour is blossoming or dancing where            

The body is not bruised to pleasure soul

Nor beauty born out of its own despair

Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.

O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can you tell the dancer from the dance?

Continue Reading

Pune Class Notes- Prashant (participated) 3.12.19

These are notes from a class I participated in at RIMYI during December 2019, which might be of interest to Iyengar yoga teachers and practitioners.

3.12.19 Prashant 

The parts in italics are paraphrased, and necessarily represent my subjective understanding of what was taught. Although the list of postures is complete to the best of my knowledge, the comments are very incomplete; just the bits that I picked up and which stuck (with some helpful reminders from friends). They do not necessarily relate directly to the pose they come after- we were working on the asanas in rotation and his discourse could have been inspired by anything he saw happening in the room. I am planning on purchasing the recordings they are now offering of Prashant’s classes, as there is so much he says that I will have forgotten already, or not registered or understood the first time around. So these notes may well get an update once I can listen to the class again!

  1. Swastikasana for invocations
  2. Swastikasana Do swastikasana as an asana. Not only somehow to sit for the invocations. That is very important. But now as an asana where is the aspect of awareness, sensitivity, observation? Swastikasana from the base of the trunk. From mulha bandha. So what is the base? It is the support. The support of what? Of these aspects of awareness, sensitivity and all the processes of body mind breath.
  3. Parsva swastikasana
  4. Adho mukha swastikasana In the asana there is function and there is conditionality. What is the relationship? You put the body in a certain condition, and what are the resulting functions? Or there are functional processes occuring- what are the conditions that enable those?
  5. Sirsasana
  6. Utthita trikonasana (foot to wall, holding rope, hand on brick) When we build a building, we create foundations. What are the foundations of a building there to support? They sustain a structure. The structure of the building. But what is the function of the building? This is a place for learning yoga, but in 200 years maybe it will be a community centre, or a music academy, or somewhere where people meet to play cards and carom board. The structure is sustained, but the functionality has endless possibilities. In yogasana we are creating and sustaining a structure and observing the functions within it.
  7. Supta baddha konasana
  8. Upavistha konasana Look at the picture of Tadasna. We put the body-mind in the condition of Tadasana. That is the structure. But what are the potential functions? They are endless. 
  9. Parsva upavistha konasana
  10. Utthita hasta padangusthasana 2 (lateral, foot supported) Like a Swiss-Army Knife. If you tell someone about the Swiss-Army Knife they will think it is a military knife from Switzerland. You have to open it out and see all the possible functions within the structure in order to understand its potential. 
  11. Rope sirsasana I wonder why humans are classed as the most intelligent creatures. OK we are the most intelligent creatures  ut we are also the most foolish. We are so easily fooled. If there was a big advertisement for fodder, would a cow see it and think ‘Oh I must go and get that type of fodder’? No. It would be happy with what it has. But if  there is a big advertisement for anything, say boot polish, a human being will immediately think ‘Oh, I must go and buy that one’. I wonder that we are apparently so intelligent and yet so foolish. 
  12. Bharadvajasana 1 As yoga practitioners we have to study linguistics. This is very important. Language is indicative of condition and function. We understand through language. For example, we can say someone is spineless. We understand what that means. Why then do we not refer to someone who is ‘spineful’? Would you not rather place your trust in someone who was spineful rather than spineless? Those aspects of honesty, compassion, integrity, courage etc etc built up from the base of the spine.
  13. Bharadvajasana 2 Sometimes people will say, oh I can’t do this or I can’t do that because of this or that genetic problem, this or that hereditary problem. We use this genealogy to say we can’t do. But what about the things we think we can do well? We never say ‘oh I am good at that because my grandfather was very good at it’. We are happy to say that it’s because we studied hard and we ourselves became wiser or more proficient. So why use genetics in one case and not the other?
  14. Supta virasana The pose has a root, a base, a certain condition, but what about the route r-o-u-t-e? This is the functionality, the route r-o-u-t-e of body mind breath. Follow the route from the root.
  15. Virasana Do whichever pose you are in from mulha bandhasana. That is the condition. Condition of pelvis, condition of spine, condition of breath, condition of mind. 
  16. Sarvangasana and halasana or sethu band sarvangasana (with brick)
  17. Savasana


Continue Reading

Pune Class Notes- Gulnaaz (observed) 2.12.19

These are notes from a class I’ve observed at RIMYI during December 2019, which might be of interest to Iyengar yoga teachers and practitioners.

This was a lively, dynamic Intermediate level asana class. Gulnaaz is funny! She has a laugh with her students. She pokes fun, and I’ve included some anecdotes here, but really want to stress that the atmosphere was most definitely friendly and accepting; there was no ‘naming and shaming’ for being late etc.

  • Adho mukha virasana
  • Adho mukha svanasana
  • Uttanasana (classical, feet together)
  • Supta tadasana
  • Supta urdvha hastasana push your knees down, arms down
  • Supta padangustasana 1, 90 degrees, arms in urdvha hastasana (no belt)

(A phone starts to ring). Oh, now we do yoga to music. I have given up telling them to turn their phones off (another phone rings) so now you have to enjoy doing your yoga to music. All the different ring-tones you will hear.

  • Eka pada supta pavana muktasana

(A woman enters late for class by about 15 or 20 minutes) Yes my special madam? What was it? Traffic? You know we have traffic. Family? Husband? Work? There are so many excuses. None? OK, no excuse, never mind. Come on.

  • Supta padangustasana 1 90 degrees, with belt and elbows on floor alignment should be outer heel buttock
  • Supta padangustasana 2, belt with short loop balance with your hands
  • Supta padangustasana 1, 90 degrees, arms in urdvha hastasana
  • Urdvha prasarita padasana (UPP) 90 degrees, not belt, from floor
  • UPP dynamic x 50

I have some students here who go to the gym to prepare coming to yoga. Where is gym boy? Ah there you are. For you, 100. Hnh? You take belt? Belt is for Aunties! (older ladies)

  • Supta tadasana
  • Urdvha hastasasna dandasana- UPP 90 degrees (in rotation) x 25
  • Urdvha hastasana dandasana- supta tadasana (in rotation) x 25 Not rolling. You are not rolling to halasana
  • Dandasana Legs have ot work
  • Supta urdvha hastasana- urdvha hasta dandasana x 25 Move. Move a little bit. Aunties, go slow. Do ten.
  • Supta baddha kınasana, holding ankles
  • Sirsasana
  • Eka pada sirsasana
  • Parsvaikapada sirsasana Go back to supta padangustasana 2. Allow the leg to come down in line with the hip. Come down from sirsasana with straight legs if possible, like UPP and urdvha dandasana
  • Sarvangasana Feet and hips together, and lift up. Lift higher. If you can see your legs it’s not good- you have to go further back
  • Eka pada sarvangasana Arch of foot open, toes down
  • Parsvaikapada sarvangasana
  • Halasana
  • Supta Konasana
  • Karnapidasana Your knees should touch the floor
  • Uttanasana (feet apart) Extend yourself down. The sharpening is in the knees. Your eyes should tell your knees to go back.
  • Virasana
  • Urdvha baddangulyasana in virasana
  • Supta baddha kınasana (hands holding ankles, the arms on floor)- 5 mins
  • Savasana- 5 mins
Continue Reading

Agency and accuracy

I have been really looking forward to observing the medical classes here. I live too far away from a medical class to be able to assist regularly in one, and have had to rely on workshop training. It’s quite a different thing to see the hall full of regular students here at RIMYI, and how they’re helped.

Rather than a sequence of poses (everyone has their own programme) or describing the poses (I had no idea what each person’s particular medical problem was, so there’s no way of applying what I observed at this point), here are some general observations.

There were maybe around 20 students in the class, and almost as many teachers and assistants. Some students seemed to be paired up with teachers for the duration of the class (1hr45m); other assistants ‘floated’, offering help where they saw it was needed or when they were asked. It isn’t clear to all assistants what each student’s medical problem is.

It was impressive how each student was familiar with their personal programme. In fact often they seemed to be the experts, and the teachers were the fetcher-carrier-adjusters.

I heard one old fellow near me directing his young assistant: ‘Put this here, that there. Now get two wooden bricks and one foam one. We will need those. And the blanket just here. This is how Geetaji showed me. Now leave it for six minutes and wait for the magic to occur. I have confidence that everything will be alright’.  Someone told me that this twinkly-eyed grandpa has leukaemia.

The anecdote above really illustrates for me how the student, the sadhaka,  is absolutely at the centre of Iyengar’s work. There is a lot of press about super-star yoga gurus at the moment; not much of it good. What I saw today was students with agency; individuals taking responsibility for their own health, for their own yoga practice. The teachers were firmly cast in the supporting role, which they performed with skill and accuracy.

Continue Reading

Pune Class Notes- Prashant (participated) 2.12.19

These are notes from a class I’ve participated in at RIMYI during December 2019, which might be of interest to Iyengar yoga teachers and practitioners.

2.12.19 Prashant 

This is my second session with Prashant, and my first asana class.  The parts in italics are paraphrased, and necessarily represent my subjective understanding of what was taught. Although the list of postures is complete to the best of my knowledge, the comments are very incomplete; just the bits that I picked up and which stuck. They do not necessarily relate directly to the pose they come after- we were working in rotation and his discourse could have been inspired by anything he saw happening in the room. I am planning on purchasing the recordings they are now offering of Prashant’s classes, as there is so much he says that I will have forgotten already, or not registered or understood the first time around. So these notes may well get an update once I can listen to the class again!

  1. Innvocation in swastikasana
  2. Tadasana
  3. Urdvha hastasana
  4. Urdvha baddangulyasana Exhale, go further, connect body, breath, mind
  5. Parsva swastikasana (x 2 or 3)  You can choose to ‘do’ the pose. This is outer body, sports method, gym method, for those of you that are exercise fanatics. You want to get up and exercise your body. So do it this way. Or maybe you choose to do it because you know you have a specific problem, so you want to release your shoulder or your back, so you do for that. This is not yoga. Yoga is not doing. Inhale, exhale to flush out. Body breath mind. This is connectivity. 
  6. Utthita trikonasana (x 5) at the ropes, in the space You are thinking that ‘I am doing trikonasana’, straight legs, straight arms, leg turned out etc etc. But this ‘I, I, I’, what is this? You are not doing, Your legs are doing, your arms are doing, you are not doing. What about if you put your arm on your waist? Or you put your arm overhead like on Parsvakonasana, or your arm further back to open the shoulder, or you have the hand on a brick, or the brick in the top hand and the weight takes the arm back? Then OK you will find the shoulder opens here, I get more of a stretch here or here. You know all these things. But where is the breath? Where is the connectivity? Many of you are coming here 3o, 40 years and you still want your teacher to tell you what to do. This I know very well. You should know! You should be thinking ‘teacher, shut-up, I know this’. If there is study of connectivity you will be thinking this, not coming every day to be told what to do.  
  7. Utthita parsvakonasana (x 2)
  8. Adho mukha svanasana- in rope
  9. Rope number 1 (x 2) There are many teachers who want to keep a student for life. Who get upset if the student goes to another teacher and so on. What is this? You should not want just that your student to stays with you. In that case you want them to be your client. This is what some teachers are looking for; life-long clients. But teacher and client is not a pair. Teacher and student is a pair.
  10. Sirsasana
  11. Sethu bandha sarvangasana (with brick)

Followed by a superb thali from the Jain Boarding House.

What a great morning!

Continue Reading

Pune Class Notes- Children (observed) 1.12.19

These are notes that may be of interest to Iyengar yoga teachers and practitioners- they are from a class that I observed at RIMYI December 2019.

Sunday 1.12.19. Children 

My first class at the institute! I had heard a lot about the ‘Pune’ style of teaching children- that it was very militaristic, fast, with a lot of shouting. It was certainly fast; also fun and engaging, and with not much shouting. I need to find out the teacher’s name (will cost here when I have)- I found him to be compassionate, encouraging and demanding. He kept the kids very busy, but when he felt they were flagging would take a small break to explain one or two things in a bit more detail. This allowed them to stay focused. The class lasted one hour, and around30 children of ages approx between 8 and 15 attended. Unless stated, all of the mini sequences listed were repeated many times over.

Little ones at the front, bigger ones at the back. ‘Aum’ and invocations to Patanjali and the Guru standing, in Tadasana.

  1. Urdvha baddangulyasana – on tip-toes
  2. Jumping (‘hopping’- on the spot- small and high jumps)
  3. Chataranga dandasana- AMS- UMS- Uttanasana- Urdvha hastasana- Namasakarasana- jumping in between
  4. Pascima namaskarasana
  5. Virasana- parvattasana in virasana
  6. Child to lead surya namaskar (chanting the 12 verses)

+ nakarasana

+ trikonasana

+virabhadrasana 2


+ ardha chandrasana

  1. Full arm balance (at the wall)
  2. AMS- UMS
  3. AMS- utthita trikonasana diagonal legs (with and without AMS in between)
  4. Dandasana
  5. Padmasana- Tolasana and swing (lift from knees side; tight and compact padmasana)

Teacher discussed ‘Sports Week’ coming up in schools, and that ‘the arms and legs should be in a commanding position’ to help with performance in sports

  1. Urdvha hastasana – Urd. hast. in Dandasana
  2. Malasana- Uttkatasana- AMS
  3. Dwi hasta bhujasana
  4. Eka hasta bhujasana (ankles crossed as in astavakrasana stage 1, then classical)
  5. Surya namaskar x 1
  6. AMS- Lolasana- Dandasana
  7. Bhujapidasana- teacher discussed firm fixing of legs over arms for balance. ‘6 attempts on your own, and we’ll see who is doing it porperly’
  8. Astavakrasana (pose name means ‘crooked in 8 places’). Teacher had the children look at the picture of BKS in the pose, observing the straightness of the legs. ‘Straight legs makes the body lighter and avoids undue weight on the hands’.
  9. Surya namaskar
  10. Sirsasana (3-point head stand)- learn how to roll down if balance is lost. Elbows must form a right-angle
  11. Sarvangasana- Sethu banda sarvangasana
  12. Rolling: Sarvangasana- Halasana- Pascimottanasana
  13. Halasana- Urdvha hastasana
  14. Savasana ‘eyes wide open’
  15. Padmasana for the closing invocations
  16. Choose a pose that you can sustain for the final prayer
Continue Reading

Twenty Years Later

1999, Cardigan Road Community Centre, Leeds. An A5 poster shows a black and white photo of a woman in Ustrasana, a long plait of hair dangling down to her feet. It is a pleasing image of dynamic movement, balance, stillness. I go to a class. There are lots of footless tights, Karate in the room next door and a tin at the front for my £3 payment. I am still in my teens and have been practising yoga already for a few years. I think that maybe I kind of get it. A bit. But…..wait a moment. This is different. This feeling. This is to engage consciously in action; to awaken the senses and all the faculties of body and mind; not just to do but to be. To be in doing and not-doing. This demands a physical, intellectual and creative rigour and vigour that I haven’t experienced in any other class I’ve attended. This feeling. What is it? This is Iyengar yoga.

2019, Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune. The sign on HKM Road is modest, unobtrusive; but to Iyengar yoga practitioners this is the hub to their wheel, the stub to their ticket, the back-stage to their pass, the Home to their Away. From that day in 1999 my daily practice and studies have provided a firm foundation to my existence as an adult human. It’s twenty years (almost to the day) since I stepped into that class in Leeds. So why has it taken me so long to get here?

Well, in my early- to mid-twenties I was studying fairly intensively with my teacher Faeq (and didn’t look further than his teaching, which is extraordinarily comprehensive). In my mid- to late-twenties I started a family (and wasn’t prepared to leave my young children for a month). In 2014 I booked a month in Pune and then suffered a bereavement (and had to forego my place). In 2017 I opened a Yoga Centre in Hereford (and needed it to bed in before having the confidence to let it run without me for that long). The usual stuff, in other words. Life.

I’ve always known that RIMYI was here, informing my teachers and heading up the global Iyengar yoga movement. Do I regret not coming sooner? Of course it’s a shame to have missed BKS and Geeta, but apart from that, no, I’ve been doing other things which I hope have been equally worthwhile. And I feel lucky, very lucky, to have this opportunity now. I look forward to learning from all the teachers here, both the older and younger generations.

The global Iyengar community is on a cusp; we are in a state of transition after the deaths of BKS Iyengar and Geeta Iyengar. It will be interesting and informative to see how this great ship is being steered, and in which direction. Forwards, with an anchor in tradition, an eye on the horizon of possibility, an acceptance that the wind will always change and, inside, infinite stores of compassion and integrity? At the age of 39 and having practised over twenty years, I hope to approach the next weeks with an open mind and an open heart. I have no previous Pune experience with which to compare what I’m about to participate in. It’s that feeling again. I am a complete beginner.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading