Iyengar UK Latest News & Information

International Day of Yoga: 21 June 2017


About International Day of Yoga

Recognising the universal appeal of yoga, on 11 December 2014 the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga.

The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga.

The theme for the 2017 celebration, organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, is ‘Yoga for Health.’ The theme highlights the fact that yoga can contribute in a holistic way to achieving an equilibrium between mind and body. The organisers believe that this approach to health and wellbeing can make a direct and useful contribution to humankind’s quest to achieve sustainable development and move towards lifestyles that are in harmony with nature.

IY (UK) Celebrations

In 2015 BKS Iyengar’s daughter, Geeta Iyengar, sent the following message along with a special practice sequence in celebration of the day:

“We are all yoga sādhakās and sādhanā is our very breath, our prāna. The United Nations has declared 21st June as the International Yoga Day, which will be celebrated all over the world. For us every day is yoga day. However to respect this special day [the concept of which was suggested by Guruji] in a talk in Bangalore sometime in 2011- 2012, to respect Guruji, we have thought of a special practice programme for this day. Many students from across the world approached me if they could have a special sequence of practice for this day… the (summer) solstice.” 


We encourage all to share and practice in the spirit of the day.  And do share your pictures with us on social media!

For more information visit http://www.un.org/en/events/yogaday/

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IY (UK) International Day of Yoga celebrations in Exeter in 2015

Teacher Training Stories Part 2: Annamaria Sacco, Tamara Hockey

What’s it like to train to teach Iyengar yoga? Teachers Annamaria Sacco and Tamara Hockey talk about their experiences and offer some great tips for anyone considering training.

Annamaria SaccoAnnamaria Sacco,  Junior Intermediate Level 3 Teacher, qualified in 2001:
I came to Edinburgh in 1991 as an English Literature and Modern Languages student on an Erasmus scholarship. I had lived in Italy all of my life before and my life had been marked by a car crash with my parents, age 14, on a motorway. This meant I was in a lot of pain by age 19 and luckily for me, I did not trust the first bleak prognosis I had received and asked for a second opinion; I was recommended Yoga and swimming for the rest of my life.

I started attending classes in 1991 at the Edinburgh Iyengar Yoga Centre in Edinburgh. I was a student with time on my hands, the classes offered flexibility. Yoga was making me feel  so energised, happy, and calm that, although I would still not commit to a routine, I found myself in class five times per week.  After six years, I decided to apply for teacher training. I did not make that choice because I wanted to become a teacher, but rather, because I am a seeker and a bit of a perfectionist, and I wanted to learn more for myself and my own growth.

Teacher training started, Elaine Pidgeon and Meg Laing were my trainers.  Two extremely experienced and giving teachers. Enthusiasm grew. During the training, I became pregnant with my first child. I went to tell Meg full of joy, and then, for the first time in my life I had the experience of great joy and sadness at the same time. I was told I could not continue since I would be 8 months pregnant by the time of the assessment.  It meant the training took me three years and I was out of sync with one group in terms of syllabus. It also meant I made two groups of friends as I continued to go to the training with my bump, and then with my baby feeding and being lovingly passed between arms during the class. I learnt a lot about the body in pregnancy and post-natally that way. I was, in an unpredicted way, very fortunate.  Nowadays, it is not possible to continue to attend whilst expecting.

The first class I taught will always stay with me. Jean Knight, a senior teacher, asked me to cover for her in a hotel a morning class she could not take. I asked her what the class was like: “Oh, they are lovely!”  So, I arrived, with a small list and a lot of wonder of what I was going to find, to discover the ladies in class, although much older than me in age, were indeed very well taught practitioners and full of humour and understanding for my nerves. I taught there again, after 17 years, last year. One of the ladies I believe is now in her 90s…

Annamaria Sacco workshopAfter my first child I got offered a class in a club, and started teaching. I was still teaching at University at night. Then child number two came, and I wanted to feed him on demand. Clubs were no longer a possibility due to the distance. I took courage and rented a hall near our home and then, when that class became more committed, another hall to teach a Saturday morning too. After three years I had 40 committed students, as well as a husband who had been unwell a long time and needed to take time off work and change directions. Again, I took my courage and started to work on a plan at night, and ended up buying a small mews house, dilapidated actually, and turning it into Yoga Stable.  That was 2005. Yoga Stable is now 12 years old. It has survived all sorts of hits and even another yoga centre opening next door to it. We are actually good friends and help each other with keys, if we double book by mistake, or dog caring even!!!

My advice to anyone considering teacher training would be to do it for themselves, rather than with a set mind about having to take an exam, pass it and having to make a career out of it.  Do the training to develop an understanding of the subject in your own body. To deepen a journey and develop further, try to enjoy it as much as you can. The rest comes.  My teacher training and yoga life – which is my everyday life really – has been lea by taking care of my family and moulding around the needs of the children. Somehow, that has worked, the rest has just come.

Annamaria teaches in Edinburgh. Check out her profile on our website here and at http://www.yogastable.com


Tamara Hockey, Junior Intermediate Level 3 Teacher, teaches in Bristol and qualified in 2005:
I came to Iyengar Yoga in 1999 after an intense few years of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. My Tamara Hockeyyoungest daughter was 3 months old when I attended my first beginner’s class at Yogawest in Bristol.  Not only had I relatively recently given birth, I’d had another daughter only 16 months before THAT and I couldn’t remember the last time I had deliberately engaged in any form of exercise (hazy memories of jogging around a school field in a large pair of PE knickers suffering with the cold, a hangover and nicotine withdrawal). I struggled and blundered my way through that first class and felt stronger, cleaner and sharper than I ever had before – it was love at first sight and the perfect antidote to the chaotic and exhausting home life I was struggling through. I was so grateful to find myself getting fit, happy and finding some control.

Fast forward three years and by this time I was totally absorbed and committed. Twice or thrice weekly yoga classes were the highlight of my week and I began wondering if there was such a thing as a ‘Yoga Degree’ but of course, had drawn a blank when searching for this. Posters went up at Yogawest notifying us that they were to begin their first teacher training course and I was initially very disappointed to realise that firstly I didn’t have the required 5 years’ experience  and secondly that I didn’t have the funding to pay for the course.

However luckily for me, just as the deadline for applications approached, the minimum experience requirement was reduced to 3 years – it seemed it was ‘meant to be’ and I set about finding some funding to help me pay for the course. The first hurdle to get through was the selection day for candidates. I was terrified and seriously wondered what I was thinking, imagining that I could possibly be up to the standard required for teacher training. I was thoroughly delighted to be offered a place on the course starting in September and had even managed to find a bit of funding via the Funder finder database to help with the costs.

Looking back to our first session, we were all so completely unprepared for the moment when we would be asked to teach our first pose in front of the group. There were a lot of nerves and quite a few tears as we each took the stage and took our first faltering steps into teaching. Honestly, I don’t think it had occurred to me that teacher training actually involved standing up and teaching! As a young mother I was chronically shy and self-conscious and compared to the rest of the group, very new to the practice of yoga. Fortunately we were in the safe hands of Gerry Chambers and Lynda Purvis, who managed to strike that crucial right balance between building confidence and giving constructive feedback.

The course gave us a lot of experience of teaching each other and we would be given a list of poses to prepare for, from which each of us had two poses to teach to the group during the training day. Then the group would give feedback – always starting with the positive. Towards the end of the two year course we began assisting in real classes attended by the paying public. Standing on the stage throughout to demonstrate and teaching one or two poses within the class. While this was nerve racking to say the least, there could have been no better preparation for what was to come. The dreaded final assessment.

Nerves had reached fever pitch in the final run up and there we finally were, in group of six to eight in a classroom somewhere in Birmingham. The morning session involved showing personal practice and one by one the names of the poses in the introductory syllabus were called out with no other instruction. The assessors were wandering around the room with their clipboards, as we sweated, shook and stumbled our way through the poses.  At the end of the morning session we were given two poses each for the afternoon’s teaching assessment, so we had the lunch hour to recover and make final preparations for how we were going to teach.  My memories of the day are somewhat hazy now, but I do remember taking some small comfort in the fact that the Moderator, Sheila Haswell, was wearing woollen stripy toe socks – and seriously, how intimidated can you be by someone in knitted toe socks?!

Everyone’s experience of teacher training seems to be different. For some they find their previously uncomplicated love of yoga becomes tarnished with stress and duty as they have to meet the challenges of the course and conform to certain deadlines and criteria. It’s quite a different thing to come to your mat in the morning as an obligation to fulfil an hour’s daily practice, to the carefree days of purely practicing for pleasure or, as in my case, not having a home practice at all and simply enjoying attending classes. This conflict of love and duty has continued throughout my teaching journey and I think it’s a serious consideration for anyone contemplating teacher training. Personally though, I loved the whole process – the challenge, the learning, the chance to be more deeply immersed in the study of yoga. With the support of my teachers and the group, my confidence grew exponentially over the course until I was practically unrecognisable from the person who had set out on the journey two years before. I was fortunate enough to be offered a teaching slot at Yogawest as soon as I passed my assessment and just like when you learn to drive, in many ways the real learning only begins after you’ve got your certificate and you’re out on the open road!

Advice wise, I would encourage trainees to get as much experience as possible teaching in real classes with feedback from the mentor. Get the nerves over and done with at this stage and the assessment will be a lot less daunting. For the assessment itself, the main thing is not to overthink it and tie yourself in knots. You don’t have to be perfect; everyone has problems with certain poses and body obstacles they have to work around.  A sensible and organised approach to injuries and impediments will go a long way to securing a pass – if you don’t look after yourself, how are you going to show your students how to look after themselves?

Tamara teaches at Yogawest in Bristol and runs local classes in Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire as well as taking groups to the Maldives in the winter months.  Visit her profile on the IY website here




Find out more about training to teach here

Teacher Training Stories: Kate Goodwin, Janice Longstaff

This month some of our teacher members are sharing their stories of training to teach Iyengar yoga, and offer some sound advice for those thinking of starting their teaching journey.

This week newly qualified teacher Kate Goodwin shares her experience, and Janice Longstaff talks about her journey towards qualifying in 1992 after a suffering a broken back.

Kate Goodwin, Introductory Level Teacher, qualified in 2016:

I knew when I signed up for the teacher training course it would be one of the hardest things I had ever done but also one of the most rewarding. I have two friends who have qualified as Iyengar Yoga teachers and they wholeheartedly encouraged me to do so also but they made it clear what I was letting myself in for.Headstand on beach

The course demanded a minimum of 2 years training, one Saturday every month. On these days we were stretched to our physical and mental limits. However I usually felt fantastic on the Sundays after such a deep yoga practice the previous day, even if my body and mind did ache after such intense work.

Watching my fellow trainees develop over the two years and having the chance to see my own understanding of yoga deepen made it worthwhile doing the course alone, regardless of passing or failing.

The sense of personal achievement when I did pass the course was phenomenal. I gave everything I had to passing the course and in the end all the time, effort and energy paid off.

After the assessment day I had to wait one month to get my result in the post. On the day it came I happened to climb a light house, this was the message greeting me at the top! I was on top of the world!image2 small

Having completed the training I now enjoy my personal practice more than ever before. Assessment pressure is a thing of the past. Now it is lesson planning and teaching my own students which is constantly refining my yoga practice and development in the subject.

Yoga teaching fits in perfectly with having a young family. I needed something flexible and I have found it, both figuratively and literally!

I teach two classes a week and am about to start a third. I qualified in November 2016 and started teaching in January 2017. This is when the real training in how to be a yoga teacher begins. Where you encounter real bodies in real classes with 75 minutes to fill and no one to fall back on but yourself.

I am delighted that teaching yoga has turned out to be so rewarding. I do my best after each lesson to pinpoint what I could improve on for next time. Becoming a good teacher will take many years of experience. The best yoga teachers make teaching look effortless – I know it is anything but. 

Teaching requires stamina, focus and a calmness. Therefore looking after yourself and maintaining your own practice is critical. I still attend a weekly class and remain in close contact with my teacher trainer who I see monthly for a lesson.

Two of my favourite things about the training course are; one, the fantastic people it brings you into contact with and two; what it teaches you about yourself. I was pushed to my physical limits but at the same time I unearthed an inner strength I was unaware I possessed, which presented itself somewhere at the very edge of my comfort zone.

The world is a fast paced place and yoga offers much calm, peace and happiness to those who get on their mat, whoever they are, wherever they are. Being able to bring a little of what yoga has offer to others is where the heart of my job satisfaction lies.

The future looks exciting, I’m currently in discussions with a friend to see if we have enough students between us to run a yoga holiday in Spain next year. Watch this space…
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Kate teaches in East Riding of Yorkshire



Janice Longstaff, Intermediate Junior Level 1 Teacher, qualified in 1992:

My teacher training started way back in 1977!  I was 17 and started with Sylvia Prescott at a Higher Education class in London. I had started Iyengar yoga at 16 with a lovely lady, Daphne Pick, a little rotund lady who could do amazing things with her body.

Sylvia was strong and inspirational but then fate stepped in and landed a blow, literally, in a horse-riding accident that broke my back and took months of recovery, learning to walk again, it was devastating. In time Daphne picked me up to aid my recovery immensely.

Then I was hooked. How wonderful that yoga could quicken my recovery, gave me full confidence in its invaluable healing ability to body, mind and spirit.

In time I continued my training in Cornwall, where I have lived since ’89, with Elizabeth Connolly and attained my Introductory Cert in 1992 and then with Judi Sweeting for my Intermediate training, both strong, inspirational Iyengar teachers.

Iyengar Yoga has always been my life-long passion and main career. At times very demanding on ALL levels to get through the assessments, but absolutely worth it, if one has it at an innate Soul level and an awareness of how it can lift the consciousness of Humanity on a massive scale.

Janice teaches in the South West of England. Check out her classes on the South West Iyengar Yoga Institute page here:


Find out more about training to teach here


Convention 2017

The IY (UK) 2017 Convention with Jawahar Bangera is taking place this weekend 27-29 May in Birmingham.

The Convention is being held 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





Iyengar Yoga Development Fund Teacher Profile: Helen White

The Iyengar Yoga Development Fund is a non-registered charitable fund that was started with the support of BKS Iyengar to assist disadvantaged groups in accessing Iyengar yoga classes.  40% of the licence fees paid by Iyengar yoga teachers each year goes towards this invaluable work.

The IYDF enables Iyengar yoga teachers to reach some of our society’s most challenged members. This week, Helen White shares her experience of teaching at Leeds Prison


HMP Leeds

“HMP Leeds is a large, local, men’s prison quite near where I live.  I have been teaching Iyengar Yoga classes there since 2008, but the places where I teach have varied a lot over that time.  Originally I taught men on a Safer Custody programme, where groups of men would spend an intensive three weeks looking at addiction, relaxation, harmful behaviour, bullying, and many other aspects of their lives, together with yoga once a week.  When this programme closed, I then took referrals from the mental health nurses who ran a waiting list of men keen to attend the classes.  I saw them for 6 weeks.  There was then a time when I didn’t teach because of staff cuts, but I went back about 18 months ago to a long-term wing where I teach men who would not fit into other wings of the prison – because of mental health problems, bullying, health issues, or they are on a 24 hour watch.  The advantage is that I can see the same men over a longer period; the disadvantage is that some of them have ailments that make them unable or unwilling to attend the class.hmp leeds

During all my time there, I have been aware of the benefits of teaching yoga, even if only for one class (as often happens).  At the least, it gives the men 90 minutes out of their normal space – they can tune in to their bodies, notice that their hamstrings are tight, or their shoulders uneven, and also realise that they are really good at some poses.  Some of the men have said that when they are in the class, it’s as if they aren’t in prison for that time.  They also say that they sleep better after the class.

After my class there, I am tired and exhilarated.  I’m so lucky to be able to go in and teach Iyengar Yoga, and very grateful to the IYDF for their support over the years.  My salary for teaching these classes is shared by the prison and by the IYDF.   I also get support from the Prison Phoenix Trust who send newsletters in to prisoners, and support the network of yoga teachers who work in about 94 prisons currently.”

See Helen’s teacher profile and classes here 

To make a donation to the IYDF please click here



Iyengar Yoga Development Fund Teacher Profile: Jen Henwood

The Iyengar Yoga Development Fund is a non-registered charitable fund that was started with the support of BKS Iyengar to assist disadvantaged groups in accessing Iyengar yoga classes.  40% of the licence fees paid by Iyengar yoga teachers each year goes towards this invaluable work.

The IYDF enables Iyengar yoga teachers to reach some of our society’s most challenged members. This week, Jen Henwood shares her experience of teaching yoga to recovering addicts at Brighton Housing Trust’s Recovery Project.

“I have been teaching an IYDF funded class at Brighton Housing Trust’s  Recovery Project (RP) for nearly three years.  BHT’s RP provides safe housing and  rehabilitation programme to enable residents to sustain abstinence and rebuild their lives following addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.

Jen Henwood in India

Jen Henwood at the RIMY Institute in India

The RP explores the individual circumstances of each client and provides a programme of support which enables residents to learn the skills they need to maintain their recovery, within the safety and support of the recovery community. The programme includes keywork and groups, in which residents are given support  to look at the reasons behind their substance use and the consequences of it, to learn how to live without alcohol and drugs, and to develop self-responsibility and the skills needed for independent living.

In addition, the RP offers a range of classes, such as art, creative writing, and yoga, to support residents in building more healthy and satisfying.

Some students have told me that they feel better in themselves, more balanced and co-ordinated since attending yoga classes. Others have reported have that their breathing is better, their mood is lifted, that they feel less anxious and that they sleep very well after class. One student, on leaving RP after successfully completing the programme, said that the yoga had really helped her and her recovery.

Yoga has so much to offer people who are trying to transform their lives.  It offers to recovering addicts an alternative way of coping with life’s inevitable challenges and difficulties, as well as a structure for developing self-discipline, self-respect and self-confidence. I hope that yoga may help residents when they leave the RP and need to maintain abstinence and a healthy lifestyle whilst living independently.”

See Jen’s teacher profile and classes here 

To make a donation to the IYDF please click here

To find out more about the BHT’s Recovery Project, visit their website here


Assessment Volunteers Needed

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 and to get an insight into the teacher training process. 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.

MDIIY, Manchester are hosting Introductory Assessments on Sat 10 June and Sat 17 June. Volunteers are required from 12.45-4 pm approx. For further details and to volunteer, contact: Clare Tunstall, clare_tunstall@yahoo.co.uk

Iyengar Yoga Institute Maida Vale are hosting Introductory Assessments on Sat 10, Sun 11, Sat 17, Sun 18, Sat 24 and Sun 25 June. Volunteers are required from approx. 1.45-5 pm on Saturdays and approx.. 2.15-5.30 pm on Sundays. For further details and to volunteer, contact: Mary Newton, mary@iyi.org.uk

Dublin Yoga Centre, 265 Crumlin Road, Dublin 12 are hosting an Introductory Assessment on Sat 24 June. Volunteers are required from 12.45-4 pm approx. For further details and to volunteer, contact: Aisling Guirke, aisling_guirke@hotmail.com

Iyengar Yoga Development Fund Teacher Profile: Laura Potts

The Iyengar Yoga Development Fund is a non-registered charitable fund that was started with the support of BKS Iyengar to assist disadvantaged groups in accessing Iyengar yoga classes.  40% of the licence fees paid by Iyengar yoga teachers each year goes towards this invaluable work.

The IYDF enables Iyengar yoga teachers to reach some of our society’s most challenged members. There is a wide range of people in classes throughout the country benefiting from the Fund, including:

  • People recovering from addiction
  • Prisoners
  • People with mental health conditions
  • A women’s refuge

This month we’re looking at some of the classes supported by the IYDF and how they benefit the people involved.


Teaching people with enduring mental health problems in a class supported by IYDF

Laura Potts teaches yoga to students with mental health conditions

Laura Potts

This class, at a local community recovery services centre run by the local authority, was set up in 2010. Staff at the centre knew me from teaching Iyengar yoga in the city’s psychiatric hospital, and knew there was a need for a class to sustain and support people’s health when they were not in acute care settings.  It has gone from strength to strength in that time, offering a regular weekly class to many, many students.  Classes are full: there are around 20 people on the register at any one time, with space for the 10 or 12 who come on any day.

The Iyengar approach to teaching makes yoga accessible to students who may be used to feeling that they are outside society and can’t do regular activities. Their problems range widely, but there is certainly a trend to there being more people with greater vulnerability, deeper trauma and more complex issues. For instance, they may have experiences which mean the common instruction to ‘take your legs wide’ is a trigger to relive past abuse, or they may be unable to be comfortable lying supine on the floor for Savasana for instance. These students often have no money after years of ill-health, rely entirely on public transport, may not be safe going out in evenings, and would not be able to cope in a class that didn’t recognise and explicitly support their mental health needs; the funding from IYDF is passionately appreciated by students. 

The value of Iyengar yoga in the transforming lives of these students is very apparent. A young woman who has recently had intensive in-patient treatment for an acute life threatening eating disorder, told me that the class was the first thing  for which she had wanted to leave the house or her bed in years.  Students report yoga as helping them to be more stable, steady and able to cope with often very difficult lives. They tell of being more focused and relaxed, less panicky and dissociated or paranoid.  I observe a caring and supportive environment; the class is welcoming to newcomers and looks out for students who don’t attend for a few weeks. 

These comments are taken from regular written evaluations:

  • ‘calms and focuses me and stops the mind being so busy’
  • After class ‘feel calmer and more grounded’
  • ‘it gives me a space that helps distract my mind’
  • After class ‘feel relaxed inspired hopeful’

Laura teaches in York. Visit her website at http://yogaforallyork.wordpress.com/

Click here to see Laura’s teacher profile

If you would like to make a donation to the IYDF please click here

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