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Sheila and Uday in Bakasana pose

Uday Bhosale’s Charity Work

by Sheila Haswell

UDAY BHOSALE has been in the UK now for about 11 years and has really made his mark here in Iyengar yoga and in the wider community. He was recently awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to charity. I was honoured to be invited to the ceremony to accompany Uday and his wife Sonali. When the invitation came, I had ideas of maybe a London venue, one of the Royal Palaces perhaps! It turned out to be at Reading Town Hall, close to where Uday and Sonali live. It was a great day with a lot of respect shown for all those who were receiving awards.

Uday with Sonali at the award ceremony

Uday was granted the BEM over a year ago, but because of Covid restrictions it took many months before the ceremony was planned and announced. This medal was awarded for Uday’s generosity and services for charity work, with particular mention for the NHS event which he and Sonali organised in May 2020, whilst the country was still in lockdown. The online weekend classes were attended by hundreds of people and raised over £40,000.

In case you missed it here is what happened: Uday and Sonali came up with the idea of using this (new) online format to deliver a series of classes over a whole day, to be taught by several senior Iyengar Yoga (UK) teachers. He called me and we talked over their suggestions. I thought it was a great idea yet I was still a complete novice with Zoom and online teaching, but it was for such a worthwhile cause.

So, five teachers were invited, Uday was to be the sixth, but then he had an idea to invite Abhijata Iyengar to join us. She agreed so Uday gave his teaching slot over to Abhijata.

The classes were planned as a developing practice throughout the day from standings to backbends, inversions, forward extension and restorative. Each lesson stood alone as a complete program but together they evolved during the day.

Uday and Sonali organised it so that attendance was free for everyone, but they asked for donations and we watched as the donated figure grew and grew, beyond what was initially hoped for. I think that so many people had seen how the NHS had responded and were dealing with this new crisis, this unknown condition, and how they were using all their energy, time and resources to help and to keep people safe. This was about the same time that the country was taking to the doorstep applauding for the NHS each week.

After those first talks with Uday about this planned day of classes I had a thought that maybe we could use a second day, and do something specific to help those people who were suffering with Covid symptoms (Long Covid had not yet been heard of). I put my idea to Uday and we took it forward from there. Uday was instrumental in making the Covid recovery video happen. Although it was the Therapy Committee members on the screen, Uday was out of view making all the screen changes, recording the whole event and essentially holding it all together. I believe Sonali was in charge of letting participants into the Zoom class so she was also very busy behind the scenes as there were several hundred participants. We couldn’t have done it without them.

Uday told me that on hearing that he had been awarded the BEM he at first felt that he didn’t deserve it, but that he would accept it on behalf of all those people who taught and made the event happen. They are: Abhijata Iyengar; Julie Brown; Jayne Orton; Kirsten Agar Ward; Richard Agar Ward; and me. On the Sunday it was the Therapy Committee: myself; Edgar Stringer; Elaine Martin; Lorraine McConnon; Larissa McGoldrick and Judith van Dop.

Of course, we know that Uday does deserve the BEM and I am sure that others will join me in congratulating him.

What was not mentioned at the award ceremony was the other charity work that has also happened. After the NHS fund raiser, Uday and Sonali raised £12,000 for the India Covid Appeal. They ran some Halloween classes for children and raised £2,000 for Honeypot and then £800 for the Trussell Trust. After this, Uday taught a workshop for a yoga studio in Poland and donated his fee to the Iyengar teachers in Ukraine who were helping people on the ground. Uday and Sonali then organised a workshop with Raya (their friend and a teacher from RIMYI, Pune) with Raya teaching for no fee and all attendees making donations directly to charities helping war victims in Ukraine. As I said he definitely deserves that recognition, and I also recognise Sonali’s part with all of the charity work and her support for Uday’s teaching.

Uday receiving his medal

Now a little background and a dip into the past: I first saw Uday in Pune, he was teaching the children’s class at RIMYI. I was amazed by his energy, his bounce, his enthusiasm and he hasn’t lost these qualities even 20 years on. I had also taught some children’s classes back in the UK so I was keen to see how they were done at RIMYI. The children’s class was held on a Sunday morning and we were allowed to sit in and watch. In order to follow his classes I just drew stick figures. The asanas came so fast there wasn’t time to write anything.  I have shared here my drawings from one of those classes led by Uday – it is just amazing how much was included.

Many years later I heard that Uday was coming to the UK to live. Sonali was already working here and living in Reading. I invited Uday to come to my studio, Sarva, in High Wycombe to practice and then to teach. It was quite a trek for him, especially as initially it was all by public transport, until he was able to drive in the UK, but he turned up regularly and eventually we taught a workshop together. Sonali took photos and we had a big group of attendees.

Now Uday needs no introduction to yoga students here in the UK and our association benefits from someone who has worked closely with BKS Iyengar, who was trained by Geeta S Iyengar, who studied with Prashant S Iyengar and learnt alongside Abhijata and some of the other RIMYI teachers. He absorbed so much from his time learning and teaching in Pune and is willing to share this with those who come to his classes and workshops.

Thank you Uday and Sonali for being such an inspiration.  

Sheila and Uday in Bakasana pose
Sheila and Uday in Bakasana at Sarva in 2012

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