Iyengar Yoga at Glastonbury Festival
24th June 2019
Yoga at Glastonbury Festival
by Julian Lindars
Glastonbury Festival is known as one of the largest music festivals in Europe and is generally represented in the media as a weekend-long gathering of hedonistic excess. Beyond the vast crowded arenas and the non-stop party scene is a wealth of activities, all of which embody the “true spirit of Glastonbury” – a desire for a better world, progressive thinking, spiritual growth, celebration of diversity, and a sincere and effective attempt to put ethical and environmental concerns at the heart of its business practices.
At the back of the festival site, on slopes that rise above the hubbub of the main site, is a tranquil area known generally as the “Green Fields”, where the alternative thread that has sustained the festival over the last 50 years continues to flourish. Here you can find low-key entertainment, good wholesome foods, stimulating debates, crafts and activities, and in the Healing Field, a wide range of therapies and spiritual teachings. Many people stay up here the whole time, only occasionally making a foray into the mayhem below, but many more wander up seeking rest and recuperation, and perhaps the opportunity to experience something a little different.
The yoga dome is situated at the tree-lined upper edge of Healing Field. It is a lovely hand-built open-sided construction of tree branches and canvas tarpaulin, with carpet laid over the groundsheet. The field is arranged around four healing circles named after the elements. We are next to the Air Circle with fluttering flags and suspended sculptures creating a light, relaxing but invigorating environment. It really is a beautiful place to be and many people start the day here with their asana practice. From 9am onwards we offer a day-long program of one-hour classes free, and open to all. Many styles of yoga are represented here, and I have been honoured to fly the flag for Iyengar Yoga here over the last ten years.
For many who attend, this is the first time they have ever tried yoga – and I am always impressed by the enthusiasm and appreciation shown. The festival can be quite a demanding environment – occasionally you have to deal with the overwhelmed and confused, but generally nothing a good savasana in a quiet spot cannot fix! And of course it is always good to see familiar faces in the crowd, and meet so many people who are delighted to find Iyengar Yoga in such an unexpected place.
So if you are coming to Glastonbury this year, come and find me. The timetable is displayed on the front of the Dome – I generally teach mid-afternoon. I look forward to seeing you!
Happy International Day of Yoga
21st June 2019
Happy International Day of Yoga!
FIFTH INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA – JUNE 21, 2019
Geetaji provided us the ‘sequences’ of asanas and pranayama to be practiced for the first three yoga days and the world wide Iyengar Yoga family joined in these practices. Geetaji’s entire life was devoted to Guruji, his teaching and to retain the purity of the subject of yoga. She did not deviate from his teachings and this yoga day is a reminder to us not deviate from the path shown to us by Guruji. As Iyengar Yoga practitioners we belong to varied nationalities, all ages, both genders and variable health but there is no variation in our love for our dear Geetaji whose presence we intensely miss.
Let this 5th International Day of Yoga be a tribute to our dear Geetaji. As she would say, “Don’t do mechanically.” Let us now practice with an open heart with Guruji and Geetaji in our chest just as Lord Hanuman had “Lord Rama and Sita” in his.
Uttanasana – concave back
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Parsvottanasana with Paschim Namaskarasana
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Savasana – Ujjayi Pranayama i
Savasana Viloma pranayama 1
We have to get sthirata and sukhata in the asanas so, if needed and depending upon our health status – we may of course use props.
31st May 2019
Thanks to all who came to our Pranayama Convention last weekend, we hope you enjoyed Navaz’s wonderful teaching.
Look out for the next issue of Iyengar Yoga News in Autumn, when we’ll be publishing an interview with Navaz along with photos and notes.
Photos from the Convention are now up on our Flickr account here: https://bit.ly/2MmUOb3
Garth McClean Article: Exploration, Transformation. Evolution.
14th May 2019
Los Angeles-based Garth McLean is a senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher and Certified Yoga Therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists. He studies annually with the Iyengar family in Pune, India, and teaches yoga intensives locally and globally. Garth also offers workshops on the positive effect of yoga on MS and other neurological conditions.
Garth will be teaching at the World Yoga Festival in Reading this 18th – 21st July. Iyengar Yoga (UK) members can book at a discounted rate using a special code (we have emailed members with the code but please contact us if you have not received this). For more information, please visit www.yogafestival.world
Exploration. Transformation. Evolution.
By Garth McLean
A version of this article was originally printed in the Autumn/Winter edition of Yoga Samachar, IYNAUS
The word “evolution” implies a starting point from which a process or series of experiences serves as the foundation for the formation of growth. As we explore and experience, we recruit memory as part of our evolutionary process of consciousness and biological transformation.
In Guruji’s commentary on nirvatarka samapatti (YS I.43), memory is defined as reflected knowledge of past thoughts and experiences. He explains that through self-discipline, awareness, discriminating knowledge, and perseverance of dedicated yogic practices, we may come to realize that memory merges with intelligence, memory is cleansed, and consciousness shines without reflection. Newly refined experiences arise.
The Door to Possibility
I first heard the words “Iyengar Yoga” within hours of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), and I took up the practice shortly after I was released from the hospital. The door to possibility had opened. The practice offered hope for managing the trepidation of an uncertain future with an incurable condition, in addition to polishing the unrefined (sthula) nature of body and mind. Pondering the effects the practice began to have on my physical and mental outlook, I recall thinking that if there is one other person in the world who I could help navigate the challenges of MS, it is my duty to do so. Soon thereafter, I embarked on the path toward becoming a teacher of the subject. As a newly Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT), I expressed to Guruji that when I see others who struggle with MS or other significant challenges, my heart goes out to them. “What good does that do?” he replied. “You must put that in your touch.” Recalling the impact of his adjustments on me, I instantly understood what was necessary.
While I gained experience teaching general public classes in Los Angeles, my discovery continued to deepen in study and practice. As my daily practice intensified, I came to learn more about yogic aspects of the human condition, my MS, and the nature of myself. The vehicle of the body and that which changes, nature (prakriti), and the more eternal aspect of the Self, or that which remains constant and unchanged (purusa). This resonated strongly with me.
A glimpse into this understanding, along with trial and error in practice and Guruji’s advice, all helped to refine and define my teaching of others—people with MS and people without.
Soon I recognized familiar universal truths among students. As humans, we seem to share a fundamental desire to improve the quality of our lives. We also have an inherent need to connect with others. The degree of that exploration and discovery varies, of course, depending on the student and their history—whether the motivation to explore yoga is for health, to manage stress, to do a particular asana, to maintain calm in the midst of adversity and chaos, to find the courage to face and overcome one’s fears, or to manage the physical manifestation of symptoms akin to a particular condition. All seem to be rooted in freedom. Regardless, compassionate human touch and words of encouragement can make a vital difference in one’s realization.
“As humans, we seem to share a fundamental desire to improve the quality of our lives. We also have an inherent need to connect with others.”
In 2009, with Guruji’s blessing, I first taught abroad when I accepted an invitation to teach and share my experience at the France Iyengar Yoga Association Teachers’ Convention. I was catapulted into action.
Since that time, I have been invited and continue to offer remedial and general workshops at various locations around the world, primarily in areas where there are higher incidences of MS (Northern Europe, U.K., Scandinavia, Southern Australia, South America). As interest grew, I began to see a wide range of people and ages attending the classes with varying degrees of ability, neurological challenges, and movement disorders from MS to Parkinson’s, ALS, Muscular Dystrophy, Charcot-Marie Tooth (CMT), Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), Cerebral Palsy, Machado-Joseph Disease (MJD), and more. Teachers were also interested in learning how to help their students.
Regardless of the condition or motivation, each student has shown up with hope and an eagerness to learn, take action, and enhance their quality of life, or the lives around them. The dualities of fear and skepticism usually lurk close by.
To avoid offering false hope and move things forward, as a teacher I’ve had to be candidly realistic in telling students that the practice of yoga will not actually cure these more serious conditions. However, if as practitioners we can put fear and doubt aside long enough to open up the door to possibility, we can begin to explore strategies for how yoga can alleviate many symptoms and quell our concerns. While we may not be able to cure an incurable condition, we may be able to slow progression, regain some functionality, and offer relief to perhaps change our future.
Sensitivity, Observation, and Sensibility
To properly serve people with these varying conditions—especially when seeing students for the first time—it is vital to first get a sense of students’ physical ability and experience as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is not always an easy task. In addition to communicating with the student(s), as teachers, we have to employ sensitivity, observation, and sensibility to guide our approach to teaching each class. I often refer to and encourage other teachers to look at the concept of parakāya pravesa, (the ability to enter another’s body) that Patanjali mentions in Sutra III.39 to help assess a student’s condition.
While I have yet to develop the skill to actually enter into another’s body, I try to imagine what the person may be going through. I then draw on my knowledge, experience, and practice. With discriminative intelligence and memory, I work to safely present and adapt asanas and pranayama that have proven beneficial in managing my own course of MS or that have had profound positive results for ongoing students in Los Angeles and abroad.
Initially, I felt a responsibility to share the entire scope of everything that has worked for me to help others on their journey. As a teacher I may have an idea of what can help a particular student on any given day. But I also need to be judicious to not overwhelm students so they can actually apply what is taught and ultimately help themselves deal with the challenges life presents. I’ve observed, this principle holds true for teaching regular classes.
For instance, in my experience inversions have had a profound impact on brain health. So as a teacher, I would like to share this with my students, especially those who have MS. because experientially and intellectually I understand that inversions help to balance the immune system, which is a vital aspect of managing MS. Even if one does not have MS, a balanced immune system is important. However, if a student is weak, unstable in body and unable to use their organs of action (the legs and arms), or if a student suffers from vertigo, it’s important to recognize that student’s level of ability and understanding. As teachers, we have to adapt the poses accordingly so the students can safely practice the inversions as part of their day-to-day discipline—and to allow them to have a long-term beneficial effect.
Over the years, I’ve learned that less is more. Many students have a multitude of challenges; there may be a knee or low-back problem as a result of a gait imbalance or other dysfunction of the condition they may be addressing. What I’ve found to be most effective is to efficiently distill what is most needed down to a few asanas and offer what can be effectively realized in a limited amount of time. I try to present fewer asanas, adapted to suit individuals with minimal use of props, and focus on what students can more readily do. This approach has helped remove a lot of fear and provides those with significant challenges the tools to embrace the practice and change their lives. Students with no physical limitations or challenges also benefit and find this of value—to harness a greater sense of confidence and create new avenues of possibility to explore and expand. With increased confidence, we can naturally build upon a foundation of perceptible growth to move beyond what we might have otherwise thought impossible. This technique has been of extreme value in more challenging cases.
“If as practitioners we can put fear and doubt aside long enough to open up the door to possibility, we can begin to explore strategies for how yoga can alleviate many symptoms and quell our concerns.”
For example, one student with Parkinson’s is often rendered physically immobile (bradykinesia) when faced with new or unfamiliar situations and never thought it would be possible to balance on one leg. Through the evolution of practice and minimal use of props, he now regularly practices Virabhadrasana III to help culture greater stability, enhance his stride, and face the unknown with newfound confidence.
I also have a student with MS who became depressed and isolated after losing mobility and strength in both legs. Through consistent practice of Utkatasana, with the support of a kitchen counter to hold on to in front and a seat behind so she can sit if she tires, she has regained the strength, ability, and confidence to get up and down from the floor. Learning the actions of a chair twist or seated Bharadvajasana has helped some students regain the articulation and freedom of movement to accomplish the simple human function of going to the bathroom unassisted—which in many ways is far more practical and rewarding than being able to accomplish Natarajasana. (Though being able to do Natarajasana is pretty cool!)
Community and Inclusion
Sharing in each others’ struggles and victories also helps build a sense of community and inclusion among students and dissipates feelings of isolation and depression. A student with MS in Moscow who has continued with the practice after a recent workshop reported, “During the classes we are filled with the warmth of the soul of each of us—the best anti-depressant.”
I am a lucky man to continue to teach in many locations around the globe. Even though we are pretty similar as humans, every location has a different set of variables. The approach needed for students in Paris one week may be radically different for those in Brazil the next. What works one day may not work the next.
To truly be of service, I need to honestly connect with the human being in each student and “continue to be a learner,” as Guruji so often advised. Humility, flexibility, and adaptability are essential when dealing with all students and especially those who have conditions that are as unpredictable as MS, Parkinson’s, and other chronic ailments. As a teacher, I have to be able to think on my feet and be prepared and willing to change the approach at any given moment. As memory continues to merge with intelligence, a broader foundation forms, which in turn informs what is needed with refined efficiency and alacrity. The one thing that remains constant throughout is the touch of human compassion.
As we progress in a rapidly changing world, evolving technology, online learning, social media, and increasing artificial intelligence, I am reminded that to survive our accelerated evolution, I must go on learning, adapting, refining, rethinking, redoing, and polishing my understanding of Guruji’s teaching. From Los Angeles to London, Sydney to São Paulo, I’ve witnessed many students, like myself move beyond the fear of an uncertain future and perceived personal tragedy. The memory of the teacher’s refined human touch is often a gateway to deeper exploration, a transformation of consciousness and perhaps the ultimate evolution of body and mind toward kaivalya. In our increasingly digital world, that human touch is an experience that’s impossible to download.
Assessment Volunteers Needed
3rd May 2019
Assessment Volunteers Needed
Introductory Assessments are being held in June. The venues hosting the assessments would welcome volunteers to be the students for the teaching part of the assessments. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how our teachers are assessed. Please contact the venues direct (contact details below) to volunteer.
To volunteer for Introductory Assessments, you should have at least a year’s attendance at classes and already perform Sirsasana and Sarvangasana. You should be willing to be helped up into Sirsasana (head balance) at the wall and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and must not be a remedial student or injured (stiffness is fine but no injuries). Teachers may not act as volunteers but we can take Introductory Level 1 trainees and trainees just starting their second year of training.
MDIY, Manchester are hosting Introductory Assessments on Sat 8, Sat 15 and Sat 22 June. Volunteers are required from 12.30-4 pm approx. For further details and to volunteer, contact: Clare Tunstall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Iyengar Yoga Institute Maida Vale are hosting Introductory Assessments on 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 29 & 30 June. Volunteers are required from approx. 1.30-5 pm on Saturdays and approx. 2-5.30 pm on Sundays. For further details and to volunteer, contact: Mary Newton, email@example.com
iYoga Dublin are hosting an Introductory Assessment on Sat 22 June. Volunteers are required from approx. 12-3.30 pm. For further details and to volunteer, contact: Margaret Cashman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Win tickets to the World Yoga Festival (closes 10 May)
26th April 2019
From 18-21 July in Reading the World Yoga Festival will include teaching from various Iyengar yoga teachers, including Garth McClean. The organisers of the festival have kindly offered two free tickets to the event to our members. To be entered into the prize draw all you need to do is answer a simple question by midnight on 10 May here (you will need to be signed in as a member): https://iyengaryoga.org.uk/prize-draw-2019/
The winner will be announced on 13 May on this page. For more information about the World Yoga Festival, see their website: http://www.yogafestival.world/
Abhijata Iyengar: Opening Speech from the IYNAUS Convention 2019
24th April 2019
Watch Abhijata’s opening speech from the recent IYNAUS Convention:
For more videos from this Convention visit the IYNAUS website
17th April 2019
We would like to make you aware of the following development in the Iyengar Yoga community in the USA:
IYNAUS have reported the results of the independent investigation of allegations that Manouso Manos had engaged in inappropriate touching of students in his classes. The investigation has concluded that this was the case between 2005 and the present.IYNAUS provided Prashant Iyengar and Abhijata Iyengar with the Report and Executive Summary, and they have confirmed that the conduct of which Manouso was accused is improper in Iyengar Yoga.
Prashant and Abhijata have informed IYNAUS and Manouso that he must now cease using the Iyengar Yoga name and the Iyengar Yoga certification mark both in the name of his studio and in connection with his teaching.
The implication for us in the UK and Ireland is that Manouso Manos cannot be invited to teach in any affiliated centre or by any member group. You will find the full statement by the US association here:
Benefits of Yoga Discussed in House of Lords
26th March 2019
Benefits of Yoga Discussed in the House of Lords
Yoga was on the agenda in the House of Lords on Thursday, with various peers discussing the benefits it can bring. The government was asked how yoga can be included in healthcare, with requests that ministers meet with peers to draft clear plans.
Iyengar Yoga News: Spring 2019
13th March 2019
Iyengar Yoga News: Issue 34 out now
The Spring issue of our biannual members’ magazine, Iyengar Yoga News, is out now.
Contents include tributes to Geeta S. Iyengar; an article on pranayama by BKS Iyengar; this Virabhadrasana I article by Arti Mehta; reflections on the 2018 Convention, and more.
If you’d like to sign up or renew your membership to receive a copy, click here