Iyengar UK Latest News & Information

Stories from Pune #3

In the final part of our Stories from Pune series, IY teachers Hannah Lovegrove, Sharon Gleeson and Karen Bans share their experiences.

Hannah Lovegrove

RIMYI, Pune: November 2016.

At RIMYI, the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, you’ll often hear Geetaji use the phrase, “You people” to Westerners when one of us has behaved like an idiot in class. It’s true – when we arrive most of us just don’t get it; the learning curve is very steep. During my visit there in November 2016, I realised there’s a fundamental issue with our skewed Western view of the purpose of humility and respect.20161110_091700_resized_2

Take the crazy traffic as an example. The rule is: keep moving forwards, don’t waver and pedestrians: NEVER step backwards. No one stops at roundabouts with the “After you” attitude of the British give way system. Anyone who wavers causes problems for everyone else. Dogs, cattle, pigs, hand carts and street sweepers (women in lovely saris with a long wispy broom) wander up and down the roads quite safely while lorries, cars, motor bikes and scooters, often with several people on them including children and babies, are doing things you’d get arrested for in the UK. It might look undisciplined and dangerous but if anyone causes an accident their stupidity will quickly gather an angry crowd.

The Institute is a sacred place where for over 40 years, Iyengar Yoga teaching has been developed, practiced and freely given. The city of Pune and its 2.5 million inhabitants (about the size of Greater Manchester) now has four or five generations of Iyengar Yoga students and teachers. The daily classes are filled to capacity. The teaching is strong, quick and detailed; every instruction is delivered from ‘a very straight bat’. The locals love it, and their love and respect for their teachers is clearly evident. In the world-famous Medical classes, Iyengar Yoga and props come together and are used with years of skill and experience, providing relief and respite to those who need help.

Indian culture is rich with gods and rituals. Humility, homage, respect are naturally and unselfconsciously displayed by people on every street corner. Discipline doesn’t need to be rigorously applied – the Institute isn’t festooned with notices telling us what we can and cannot do – because if you behave with humility, pay attention and show respect, there’s not a lot of need for reminders. But Western stupidity knows no bounds, apparently. We saw a group of Westerners bring out a picnic in the practice hall between classes. That’s as bad as bringing your shoes into the Institute. Self-discipline and appropriate behaviour grow naturally from humility and respect.


Hannah teaches classes and weekends at Saddle Street Farm in Dorset.

Facebook @HannahLovegroveYoga
Twitter @HannahLovegrove


Sharon Gleeson

My first trip to Pune was in December for Yoganusasanam 2016.  I have been practicing Iyengar yoga since 2002 but had never been tempted by a month long stay in Pune – a journey to the unknown for a month just seemed like too much of a risk!  When the opportunity of visiting for 2 weeks presented itself it seemed a little less daunting – if I hated it I only had to make it through 2 weeks and if I loved it I could go back for a month.

I had heard lots of stories from Pune, good and bad but the time had come for me to experience it for myself and I set off on my IMG_3503little adventure with 2 yoga friends.  We flew from Dublin to London and London to Mumbai with British Airways.  Our taxi ride from Mumbai to Pune was not for the faint hearted! The traffic in India has to be seen to be believed.

We arrived to Pune and to our lovely hotel The Ketan which was recommended  to us.  We had spacious rooms with balconies and were very close to the Deccan Gymkhana where Yoganusasanam was held.  I think that the guidance of our wonderful senior teachers in Ireland allowed us to have the very best possible experience of Pune.  Aisling Guirke gave us an email guide which became our bible and we referred to it every day.  We knew where to eat, what to eat, where to shop, where to sightsee, where to find a pool on our day off, where to find great jewellery in a lovely shop that gives you chai and nibbles while you shop ! even what type of car to request when booking a taxi to the airport.

IMG_3268Yoganusasanam was wonderfully organised.  We were given backpacks containing the props we would need for the event and ID cards which were colour coded to ensure that we got to move around the room day by day.  Abhijata’s teaching was excellent and she taught with a deep knowledge of Iyengar yoga which she presented with sincerity, humour and great skill.  We loved her more as each day passed.  We also got to experience talks with Prashant and the highlight for me was when Geeta spoke to us for over 2 hours, despite her ill health.

Guruji’s birthday anniversary on December 14th was celebrated in style and we got to spend time at the Institute listening to Birjoo and Zubin sharing their memories of their time with Guruji.

IMG_3390When Yoganusasanam was finished we spent another few days in Pune and got to attend a class at the Institute.  It was such a treat to attend a class there – a place I had seen so many times in photos and in videos.  It was very exciting to see the Institute for real and we spent hours in the bookshop.

I enjoyed every second of my little trip to Pune and am already looking forward to going back.

Sharon teaches in Blackrock, Ireland


Karen Bans

My first trip was in November 2016. After qualifying in 2013 as a teacher I felt the time was ripe! My mum’s former Iyengar teacher who is now in her 80’s went to Pune in the early 1980’s and had told me about her time there. She mentioned how Guruji had spotted an injury she had even though she had not declared it. Four decades later her respect and awe of the great Mr Iyengar was still ripe. When Guruji died, I put in my application and two years later my time came.

Fate had it that Sheila Haswell who I had trained under as a teacher was there at the same time. I shared an apartment with her and she was my guardian angel, sharing anecdotes on her previous visits and allowing me to copy her notes after class. The icing on the cake was that we had Geeta teaching the women’s class twice a week. She was incisive, perceptive and brilliant and boy was I terrified of her! One of the teacher assistants at the Institute told me, “If you think she is tough you should have seen Guruji. He was ten times worse, like a fire God!” The institute during practise session was like a playground, curiosity allows you to try out the array of props and share ideas with other students and just marvel at some people’s practise. It was an awakening watching the different teachers and inspired me to change my approach to my ownpractise back home. That is too immerse myself more into the philosophy and pranayama. Having experienced the teaching of Prashant, Geeta, Sunita and Abhijata was a privilege and a joy.

Karen teaches weekly classes in Wolverhampton

Stories from Pune #2

In part 2 of our ‘Stories from Pune’ series, teachers Kirsten and Richard Agar Ward share their experiences.

Kirsten Agar Ward

My first proper visit to Pune was in 1998 to attend Guruji’s 80th birthday celebration. I had arrived in Pune rather frazzled from my stressful job, and with the beginning of what turned out to be a chronic medical condition. To top it all I had forgotten to bring a mat (and you couldn’t get them in Pune in those days)! Of course none of this mattered and the event was very special and wonderful. I don’t mean that in the way it has become commonplace these days to use overly exuberant language to describe everything, it truly was very special and wonderful; it was a privilege to be there and there seemed to be magic in the air. We were given superb yoga classes by Guruji, engaging lectures by Prashantj. I remember Geetaji looking radiantly happy as Guruji got the love and recognition he so richly deserved. I was enchanted and delighted and so thankful to have taken the leap and been there.

However the most significant thing for me personally occurred after the celebrations. Richard took me to meet Guruji personally. There was some LOYA (Light on Yoga Association) admin. to discuss, and we wanted to tell him we were getting married. My diary entry describing it commences “Today was very lovely”. Guruji was in jovial mood and very pleased about our news. I was in awe and couldn’t quite believe I was here in the library actually meeting this great man! It was rather disconcerting as Guruji was so clear in his perception that he had you weighed up immediately, there was no hiding, but that is also a relief because he was 100% trustworthy. There is that saying your friends are those who know all about you and like you anyway, well Guruji knew all about us pupils and loved us as his spiritual children and helped us anyway! On that special occasion Guruji gave us advice, blessed us and told me Richard is “a very nice man, a good man” and that he has “great clarity of mind”. He was, of course, right!

Since that time I have been to Pune 15 or sixteen times I think. All of them special and I can’t imagine how I might be now if I hadn’t had that wonderful opportunity and had the good sense to take it. Of course classes are the major thing but one of my favourite places to be would be the library where I had that first meeting with Guruji. I liked to go to just be near to him, that was always inspiring, though I always remained in awe of him. He would tell us anecdotes, stories from scripture, whoever was there could listen and learn. As Prashantji has pointed out that is where much of the real yoga teaching went on.

BKS Iyengar

Richard Agar Ward

My first trip to Pune was a very long time ago when I was but 21. This year marks the 40th anniversary.  Of course my memories of that time have faded. Recently sharing some photos of the 1977 July intensive, under B.K.S. Iyengar’s teaching, on Facebook I could not recall anything about most of the other faces in our group.  I have some recollections which may in time stir others.  Here are some of them.

Our flight was Air Egypt from Heathrow via Cairo. It cost £270 return, a huge sum in 1977.  I was amongst a few vegetarian companions on the flight.  We vegetarians were treated with a contempt of the kind usually reserved for suspected war criminals but we had plenty of bread and peanut butter to keep us going until we landed at Santa Cruz in Bombay.

We saw the utmost poverty.  For the first two or three days we were in a state of shock.  I will never forget miles of encampments of families with small children living along the central reservation of busy highways in Bombay who had made their homes with scraps of canvas, cloth, boxes and anything they could lay their hands on.

We stayed in rooms at RIMYI in small bunk beds at the mercy of hordes of mosquitos, bathing each morning from buckets of cold water before the class.  Who could envy Guruji, a great master of yoga in his prime, enthusiastically teaching a bunch of students from the UK and America for three weeks?  Except that it was as Guruji announced one morning to a stunned and exhausted group (words we could scarcely believe) extended to four weeks as he “was enjoying it so much.”  He was a force of nature, a very strict disciplinarian and hard taskmaster to us.  He taught us many things I still remember today despite the passage of time.  I spent the last four weeks in the “cripples corner,” as we cheerfully dubbed it (long before the days such insensitive epithets fell out of usage), with chronic back pain from months of over ambitious and faulty practice but what he taught during our course gave me the confidence and capability to cure myself over the next few years.

Richard and Kirsten teach at Bath Iyengar Yoga Centre



Stories from Pune #1

This month we’re featuring some of our teacher members’ experiences of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India.  Iyengar yoga students from around the world can apply to visit the Institute after studying Iyengar yoga for at least eight years, typically staying for a month to learn from the Iyengar family and others.

This week, Tamara Hockey and Judith Soffa share their stories.

RIMYI statue of BKS Iyengar

Tamara Hockey – January 2013

(This is an extract from Tamara’s blog https://tamarahockey.wordpress.com/ where she gives daily updates from her trips to Pune).

Day 2: 32 Tadasanas / Abijata and Guruji  What a day! Class began at 9.30am and after yesterday’s experience of being at the back with all the traffic noise, we made sure we arrived 45 minutes early and chose a good space. Abijata took the class with a microphone and relayed instructions directly from Guruji – it was amazing! I was so moved to be receiving instruction from the master himself. The class was excellent and I learned much. I am brimming over from all this new learning and that was only the first class! The method of teaching between Guruji and Abijata worked brilliantly. Abijata’s instructions were crystal clear and her delivery assertive but with humour.tamara hockey

First a lecture on coming to class with an open mind – as Guruji put it, if your cup is already full how can you receive anything?. We were to leave our egos at the door and approach the class as students whatever our certification as teachers. We began in swastikasana with no props unless truly needed. Lifting up the sides of the spine, every single vertabrae involved in upwards extension – we were told we were pushing our spines forward and there can be no extension in this case. There should be 32 Tadasanas in your back!

We did a dynamic standing pose sequence: Prasarita Padottonasana, Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, Vira 2, Ardha Chandrasana, Vira 1, Vira 3, Parsvottonasana, Prasarita Paddottonasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Sirsasana, Adho Mukh
a Svanasana,  Janu Sirsasana, Upavista Konasana, Paschimottonasana, Sarvangasana, Karnapidasana.

So much brilliant teaching contained within that I felt completely engaged and challenged throughout. Spirits soaring all round, yesterday’s despondency about class size and difficulty hearing etc. transformed.

Later on in the day I was in the lobby looking at books for sale, when I noticed Guruji sat just opposite me. There we were face to face. I nervously bought my hands together at my heart and bowed my head. When I raised my gaze he gave me a nod of acknowledgement and I felt an unexpected sense of grave respect contained within.

Tamara teaches in Bristol and Wooton Under Edge

Click here to see Tamara’s profile

t hockey 2


Judi Soffa – Pune Intensive 1982

I had just gained my Introductory Teaching Certificate and Jeanne Maslen, our trainer and senior student with Guruji, booked us into an Intensive three week course with BKS Iyengar at the RIMYI in Pune.

What an experience it was! 

Firstly of course India was still very much third world and a revelation to me, Pune had no cars, just bullock carts, bicycles and rickshaws, no mobile phones, no shops just shacks. With only trunk calls back to the UK, which took 2hrs to get connected and letters taking three weeks, my mother was beside herself with worry.

There were two classes a day. The morning class began at 9.30am and was 2-3 hours long, and the afternoon class at around 4pm was also at least two hours. The teaching was phenomenal. Guruj was on fire..the zeal, intensity, the absolute commitment to imparting his yogic discipline to us was like nothing I had ever or will experience again. 

Some found it too intense but I knew he had to make us be absolutely in the present and if you stayed with him and followed his every instruction the rewards were there. We were taken out of our comfort zone and challenged physically and emotionally and only when Guruji was sure we had caught his instructions and we were doing the asanas with all our efforts, then he beamed and he was satisfied he had done what he was meant to do..impart the most incredible knowledge of the body, mind and spirit and lift us out of our limitations and inspire us on the yogic path.

I feel so fortunate that I have been alive when Guruji lived as there will never be another teacher like him for hundreds of years, if ever.

Judi teaches at the Liverpool Iyengar Yoga Institute

Click here to see Judi’s profile

National Iyengar Yoga Day Round Up

National Iyengar Yoga Day was celebrated around the UK and Ireland on 14 January, in recognition of the work of BKS Iyengar and to encourage people to try Iyengar yoga for the first time. Hundreds of people came to free taster classes, talks and demonstrations, many of whom had never tried yoga before.

01 Bath 1

Bath event

In Bath, Jon Hunt, Colette Foulstone and Libby Lee held a taster class at The Claverton Rooms Bath University, followed by coffee and chat in the café below the venue. There was a lot of positive feedback, with one of their attendees commenting, “You have a convert. I have done many forms of yoga but this is the best.”

03 Columbia 1

Washington class

In Washington, Tyne & Wear, Laura Jane Noble ran a well attended class that was appreciated by all, with attendees keen to spread the word amongst their friends.

Congleton Iyengar Yoga Centre’s Founder and Director Christina Niewola, along with teachers Lauren Smurthwaite and Louise Wallace,  offered free classes, a demonstration, and held a raffle and raised donations for MacMillan Cancer Support.  Christina said “This is the second year that we have participated in National Iyengar Yoga Day which is a great opportunity for people of all ages and levels of fitness to come and try Iyengar yoga for themselves. It was good to see a variety of people supporting the events on Saturday and for contributing to MacMillan Cancer Support.”

05 Congleton 1


Charlotte Rosser of Derby Iyengar Yoga taught two free taster aiming to get new people to come and experience Iyengar Yoga for the first time. 

“I absolutely loved the class!  I’ve never done any yoga before but a really good physio I work with recommended it… I couldn’t believe the difference after one short class.  I found the cross legged position at the start really difficult but by the end of the class could manage it easily.  I left feeling so much more energetic, and even my breathing felt more comfortable. I’m definitely a convert…”

07 Derby 1


09 DHIYI 1

Trinity Hall class

The Dorset and Hampshire Iyengar Yoga Institute ran two free taster classes at Trinity Hall in Southbourne, offering free hot drinks and biscuits afterwards.  Turnout was great, with new students attended as well as friends and relatives of existing students. 

In Christchurch, Dorset, 40 dedicated yogis came to an afternoon of classes, tea and home-made cake with Elaine Rees and Zoe Hobbs.  Elaine said,Dress code was black and white to reflect the colours of the RIMYI sign on the wall outside the Pune Institute.  We attempted to bring RIMYI into our yoga room by sharing a couple of our own experiences in Pune and played a recording of Prashant leading the invocation (complete with tooting!) which we all joined in with. We delivered a lesson from Pune that Guruji himself had contributed to with Abhijata and finished with a wonderful Savasana that Geeta had taught us…It was a warm, friendly and vibrant atmosphere and we felt it was a real coming together of our local yoga community. And, as a bonus, we raised £375 for the Bellur Trust.”

11 Elaine Rees 1


Students from Sheila Green’s remedial class for breast cancer joined in with new students at Garway (Herefordshire) Iyengar Yoga Studio to celebrate National Iyengar Yoga Day (and her birthday!). Afterwards the students enjoyed lunch and donations given of over £100 will go to The Haven Breast Cancer Centre in Hereford.

13 Garway 1


Jenny-May While reported that more than 300 people came to enjoy a free lesson of Iyengar yoga at the open day of Hereford Yoga Centre, including Mayor of Hereford, Jim Kenyon. Ages ranging from 6 to 72 attended 6 taster sessions.  The studio buzzed with activity and many of the visitors enjoyed a free massage or reflexology treatment from local experts. Delicious smoothies from Raw Food Rosie’s and pasta delights fromThe Cooking Cooks kept the crowds energised.  The mayor, who has practised Yoga before, delighted the Children’s class with his appearance and took part in an hour-long YoGuy (men only) class. 

15 Hereford 1 Jenny-May While at HYC instructs children


Marion Sinclair and Priscila Dinisz at Iyengar Yoga Institute of South London shared this feedback from their event: “Early on the 14th January it was a rainy and cold grey winter morning and we wondered who would join us. By 9am the hall was at capacity with 28 students – a nice mix of ages and about half men, half women. We were really pleased to see this mix. We ran a busy and enjoyable class…and got many thanks and positive comments – one man said it was much much better than he expected!”

17 IYISL 1

South London

Karen Brindle ran a free class at a village hall in Cuddington, Cheshire and had a great turnout with a range of ages, from late twenties to early eighties.  It was a slightly daunting and challenging experience for Karen, who has only just qualified as a teacher, but she found it equally rewarding and enjoyable and lots of interest was shown in joining a regular class.

19 Karen Brindle


Louisa Elliott held a free yoga class at Canford Sports Centre in Wimborne, DorsetLouisa says,Everyone took the time to tell me that they enjoyed the class & one person even enquired about training to teach Iyengar Yoga!”

20 Louisa Elliott NIYD Wimborne


Jill Johnson and Evelyn Crosskey of Oxford & Region Iyengar Yoga Institute held a morning session for existing students which was well attended, and very positively received; they also held free sessions for those new to Iyengar yoga.



Sheffield Yoga Centre held a free class especially for NHS workers with Emma Norminton, a general free taster class with Carolyn Usher and a talk by Centre Director Frances Homewood titled ‘ A Yogic Lifestyle – What Does this Mean?’  Lots of new people attended and tea and homemade cake were enjoyed afterwards.   And the Centre had possibly the oldest attendee of the day – a 98 year old man who was keen to learn more about yoga. 

22 Sheffield 1

24 Sheffield 3 NIYD oldest attendee - 98 year old man


The Warwickshire Iyengar Yoga Group’s Pete Burnham, Di Harris, and Elaine Spraggett ran an event at North Leamington School. Their taster class was well attended by a range of people from beginners, complete newcomers and sports people. 

25 Warwickshire 1


Manchester & District Iyengar Yoga Institute held  events on the day which were reported on by a local paper: https://tamesidereporter.com/2017/01/iyengar-yoga-day-celebrated-in-dukinfield/

Jane Lane at the YogaHut in Falmouth reports that their event was well attended, with several people signing up for classes afterwards.  Feedback was very good, with people happy to have the chance to try Iyengar yoga for the first time.

Claire Ferry, Tracy Stuart & Louise Sarri at Maitri Studio, Belfast ran three classes and most in attendance had never visited the studio before.  They received some good feedback including people keen to attend classes.

Taster classes at The Bhavan in West London were led by Elaine Morrison and Suzanne Gribble. The free event began with an introduction to Iyengar yoga, a one hour general taster class, refreshments and a showing of the film Leap of Faith on the life and teaching of BKS Iyengar. A memorable and special day was had by all.

Norah Phipps ran a class in Hexham, Northumberland that was attended by quite a few more than she expected!  Some were current students bringing friends who were interested, and some have signed up to take a regular class.

Thanks to everyone who organised events and took part in the day – we’re looking forward to the next one already!

Convention 2017: Book Online

Bookings are now open for the IY (UK) 2017 Convention with Jawahar Bangera in Birmingham.

The Convention will take place from 27 – 29 May 2017 at the Birmingham International Convention Centre and is open to all members

Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to learn from one of Guruji’s most senior teachers.

Click here for more details and to book (you need to be signed in as a member to book; if you’re not a member and would like to join, follow the ‘join’ link on the homepage)



Assessment Volunteers Needed!

Assessment Volunteers Needed!

Intermediate Junior Level 1, 2 and 3 Assessments are being held in March 2017 at the Iyengar Yoga Institute Maida Vale (IYIMV), Manchester and District Iyengar Yoga Institute (MDIIY) and at Sheffield Yoga Centre. The venues would welcome volunteer “students” to be taught by candidates during the teaching part of the assessments. Please contact the venues direct (contact details below) to volunteer.

To be a volunteer at Intermediate Junior level, you should have been practising for at least five years and be attending General or Intermediate classes.  You should be able to perform Sirsasana and Sarvangasana on the day of the assessment ie should not be menstruating, nor should you have neck, shoulder or back problems that would prevent you from practising these poses or others.

Volunteers who are teachers must hold a certificate below the level being assessed. Volunteers who are teachers taking assessment this year, may volunteer at an assessment of a higher level than the one they are themselves taking, eg, if you are taking a Level 2 assessment this year, you may also volunteer at a Level 3 assessment.

IYI Maida Vale is hosting Intermediate Junior Assessments as follows:
Level 2: Sat 11 March and Sun 12 March
Volunteers are required from 1.45 til approx. 4.30/5 pm. For further information and to volunteer, contact: Mary Newton, mary@iyi.org.uk

MDIIY, Manchester is hosting Intermediate Junior Assessments as follows:
Level 1: Sat 18 March and Sat 25 March
Level 2: Sat 4 March, Sun 5 March, Sun 12 March
Level 3: Sat 11 March, Sun 19 March
Volunteers are required from 12.45 til approx. 3.30/4 pm. For further information and to volunteer, contact: Clare Tunstall, clare_tunstall@yahoo.co.uk

Sheffield Yoga Centre is hosting Intermediate Junior Assessments as follows:
Level 1: Sat 25 and Sun 26 March
Volunteers are required from 12.45 til approx. 3.30/4 pm. For further information and to volunteer, contact: Lorna, Volunteer Coordinator, info@sheffieldyogacentre.co.uk

PD Days 2017

Click here for a list of Professional Development Days for teacher members in 2017

National Iyengar Yoga Day: Saturday 14 January 2017


The date for the National Iyengar Yoga Day is set for Saturday 14th January.  To celebrate the work of BKS Iyengar, we’re inviting people around the UK and Ireland to attend a free class on the day.  Iyengar yoga teachers will be organising demonstrations, charity events, film screenings and lots more.

So if you’re new to Iyengar yoga, now’s your chance to give it a try! Classes are suitable for all, no matter how flexible or fit you are.  

Find out what’s happening near you (click on the markers for class details):

(View National Iyengar Yoga Day 2017 Map of Events in a full screen map)

Find out more about Iyengar yoga here.  You can also use the search facility on our homepage to find a teacher or class near you.

Here are a few pictures from last year’s National Iyengar Yoga Day:


iyoga-dublin-event zagyoga-event



National Organisational Standards for Yoga in the UK

National Organisational Standards for Yoga in the UK

Over the last few days many of you will have seen and heard in the press about the proposal from the British Wheel of Yoga to ask SkillsActive to develop National Organisational Standards for Yoga.  We were made aware of this and the Chair of IY(UK), Jill Johnson, attended the meeting for all interested parties that was held on the 24th October, 2016. We are awaiting feedback from SkillsActive, and we will post details on the website as soon as possible.


We are very sad to announce the death of Silvia Prescott, who passed away at home peacefully in her sleep on 3rd November 2016. Silvia first met Guruji in 1971 and was one of the first Iyengar teachers in the UK. She first visited Pune in 1977 and attended classes there most years, probably around 20 times in all. She said that her trips to RIMIYI became part of who she was. In the article that Silvia wrote for The Guardian in 2014 following Guruji’s death, she recounts how , during an early visit to the UK, someone asked Guruji,  “Why do you practise yoga?” He  thought for a few moments and then said: “Because I want to make a good death.”