VOL. 20, NO. 2
Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
REACHING OUT TO THE PERIPHERYâ€” FROM OUR CORE PLUS: ABHIJATA INTERVIEW YOGA AND SOCIAL JUSTICE TEACHING VIETNAM VETS
FALL 2016 TABLE OF CONTENTS
YOGA SAMACHAR’S MISSION
Letter from the President – Michael Lucey . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Yoga Samachar, the magazine of the Iyengar Yoga community in the U.S. and beyond, is published twice a year by the Communications Committee of the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the U.S. (IYNAUS). The word samachar means “news” in Sanskrit. Along with the website, www.iynaus.org, Yoga Samachar is designed to provide interesting and useful information to IYNAUS members to:
News from the Regions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 An Interview with Abhijata Sridhar – Heather Haxo Phillips . . 8 From Habit to Liberation – Tori Milner and Denise Weeks
Blue Collar Yoga – Molly Gallagher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Teaching Yoga to Vietnam Veterans – Anne-Marie Schultz . 16 The Oscillating Kite and the Kite Holder – Susan Turis . . . 21 Burning the Seeds of Bondage: Iyengar Yoga And Social Justice – Peggy Gwi-Seok Hong . . . . . . . . . 23 The Force Behind the Convention: Volunteers! – Ann McDermott-Kave . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Musings: Thoughts on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra I.1 – Julie Tamarkin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Lois Steinberg Receives Lighting the Way Award – Richard Jonas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Book Review: Prashant Iyengar’s Ashtanga Yoga Of Patanjali – Siegfried Bleher. . . . . . . . 33 Classifieds/Corrections
Promote the dissemination of the art, science, and philosophy of yoga as taught by B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, and Prashant Iyengar
Communicate information regarding the standards and training of certified teachers
Report on studies regarding the practice of Iyengar Yoga
Provide information on products that IYNAUS imports from India
Review and present recent articles and books written by the Iyengars
Report on recent events regarding Iyengar Yoga in Pune and worldwide
Be a platform for the expression of experiences and thoughts from members, both students and teachers, about how the practice of yoga affects their lives
Present ideas to stimulate every aspect of the reader’s practice
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Donations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Treasurer’s Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
IYNAUS BOARD MEMBER CONTACT LIST Fall 2016/Winter 2017 Laurie Blakeney firstname.lastname@example.org
Paige Noon email@example.com
Leslie Bradley firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne-Marie Schultz Anne_Marie_Schultz@baylor.edu
David Carpenter email@example.com
Carlyn Sikes firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Cleveland email@example.com
Kathy Simon firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Dreyfus email@example.com
Christine Stein firstname.lastname@example.org
Gloria Goldberg email@example.com
Manju Vachher firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Hobbs email@example.com
Nancy Watson firstname.lastname@example.org
Shaaron Honeycutt email@example.com
Denise Weeks firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Lucey email@example.com
Stephen Weiss firstname.lastname@example.org
Patty Martin email@example.com
Sharon Cowdery (Director of Operations) firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Martinez email@example.com
Ann McDermott-Kave firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 538 Seattle WA 98111 206.623.3562 www.iynaus.org
YOGA SAMACHAR IS PRODUCED BY THE IYNAUS PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE Committee Chair: Tori Milner Editor: Michelle D. Williams Copy Editor: Denise Weeks Design: Don Gura Advertising: Rachel Frazee Members can submit an article query or a practice sequence idea for consideration to be included in future issues. Articles should be well-written and submitted electronically. The Yoga Samachar staff reserves the right to edit accepted submissions to conform to the rules of spelling and grammar, as well as to the Yoga Samachar house style guidelines. Queries must include the author’s full name and biographical information related to Iyengar Yoga, along with email contact and phone number. Please send all queries to Michelle Williams, Editor, email@example.com, and we will respond as quickly as possible.
ADVERTISING Full-page, half-page and quarter-page ads are available for placement throughout the magazine, and a classified advertising section is available for smaller ads. All advertising is subject to IYNAUS board approval. Find the ad rates at www.iynaus.org/ yoga-samachar. For more information, including artwork specifications and deadlines, please contact Rachel Frazee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608.269.1441. Cover Photo: Abhijata Sridhar at the 2016 IYNAUS Convention in Boca Raton, Florida Photo: James Greene
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
IYNAUS OFFICERS AND STANDING COMMITTEES President: Michael Lucey Vice President: Matt Dreyfus Secretary: Patti Martin Treasurer: David Carpenter Archives Committee Scott Hobbs, Chair
Lindsey Clennell, Elaine Hall, Linda Nishio, Deborah Wallach
Leslie Bradley, Chair through January Laurie Blakeney, Chair starting in February, 2017 Marla Apt, James Murphy, Garth McLean, Lois Steinberg
Continuing Education Committee Alex Cleveland, Chair Laurie Blakeney Peggy Gwi-Seok Hong Julie Lawrence Octavia Morgan
Leanne Cusumano Roque Carlyn Sikes Shaw-Jiun Wang
Michael Lucey, Chair
Diana Martinez, Anne-Marie Schultz
Manju Vachher, Chair Robyn Harrison, Randy Just, Lisa Jo Landsberg, Jito Yumibe. Contact Ethics at email@example.com
Nancy Watson, Chair Colleen Gallagher, Carol Fridolph, Suzie Muchnick, Gloria Goldberg
David Carpenter, Chair Gloria Goldberg, Stephen Weiss
Governance Committee Michael Lucey, Chair
David Carpenter, David Larsen
Membership Committee Diana Martinez, Chair
IMIYA – Jessica Miller IYACSR –Suneel Sundar IYAGNY – Ed McKeaney IYALA – Becky Patel IYAMN – Joy Laine IYAMW – Donna Furmek IYANC – Brian Hogencamp
IYANE – Kim Peralta IYANW – Margrit von Braun IYASCUS – Karen Dempster IYASE – Howison Hollenberg & Tay Strauss IYASW – Carrie Abts
FROM THE PRESIDENT
D E A R F E L LOW I Y N AU S M E M B E R S, Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what seems like a deceptively simple sutra from the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 4.17: taduparaga apeksitvat cittasya vastu jnata ajnatam. Edwin F. Bryant’s translation reads, “A thing is either known or not known by the mind depending on whether it is noticed by the mind.” You have to notice something before you can get to know it. Barbara Stoler Miller’s translation of the same sutra is “A thing is known or not known to thought depending on whether thought is colored by it.” Bryant informs us that it was the commentator Vijnanabhiksu who suggested that a mind noticing an object more and more fully was like a cloth absorbing color when it is immersed in dye. I remember Prashant Iyengar, in his classes, asking us to become pelvic-minded or shoulder-blade-minded or to “spine-acize” the mind. And I recall Abhijata Sridhar, in Boca Raton, Florida, last May, reminding us that it’s not just the body itself that has a periphery and a core, but each part, each individual layer that requires work to penetrate. Our mind, our thoughts, need to stay intent and focused so that they can soak in more and more of the object we are noticing. B.K.S. Iyengar translates Sutra 4.17 as “An object remains known or unknown according to the conditioning or expectation of the consciousness.” Part of what this means, he says, is that “if the mind fails to come in contact with the object, it does not perceive it and the object remains unknown.” This experience must be familiar to many of us from our yoga classes at that moment when our teacher asks us to notice something that has heretofore been unnoticed by us, unknown. But Guruji’s commentary takes another turn here, and he points out that “If consciousness is conditioned or coloured, knowledge of the object also becomes coloured.” The dye, we could say, flows in both directions. On the one hand, we have to let our mind soak in the object, take on its colors. On the other hand, we have to learn to notice that our own thoughts already have a certain color to them, which means we shade the objects we perceive in a certain way. “A conditioned mind can never perceive an object correctly,” Guruji writes. Whereas, “If the mind sees the object without expectation, it remains free.”
Publications Committee Tori Milner, Chair
Don Gura, Rachel Frazee, Denise Weeks, Michelle D. Williams
Public Relations and Marketing Committee Shaaron Honeycutt, Chair
Social Media volunteers: Rachel Mathenia, Shaw-Jiun Wang, Zain Syed
Regional Support Committee Anne-Marie Schultz, Chair
IYANW – Janet Langley IYAMW – David Larsen IYAGNY – Caren Rabbino IYASE – Lisa Waas IYASCUS – Randy Just IYASW – Marivic Wrobel
IMIYA – Cathy Wright IYAC-SR – Suneel Sundar IYALA – Jennifer Diener IYANE – Jarvis Chen IYAMN – Katy Olson IYANC – Athena Pappas
Scholarship and Awards Committee Carlyn Sikes, Chair
Lesley Freyberg, Richard Jonas, Lisa Jo Landsberg, Pat Musburger, Nina Pileggi, John Schumacher
Service Mark & Certification Mark Committee
Gloria Goldberg , Attorney in Fact for B.K.S. Iyengar
Systems & Technology Committee
These are, of course, lessons for life as well as for our practice. What aren’t we noticing in the world around us? When we do notice something, what kind of slant is there, what kind of bias, to the way we are noticing it? Ideally, our practice would be making us less judgmental, more open-minded, more aware of the slants that affect our judgment and more committed to avoiding them. “If the consciousness reflects on the essence of the seer without conditioning, bias, or prejudice,” Guruji reminds us, “the mind becomes enlightened.” A wonderful aspiration in these troubled times. IYNAUS is evolving these days. We are working hard to find new ways of helping you enrich your own practice, the practice that we all share. We are doing our best to notice new things that we could do to help both our general members and our teaching members soak more deeply in the discipline B.K.S. Iyengar has offered us. Look for more news in our monthly e-mails and in the spring 2017 Yoga Samachar on some of the ways we have reorganized to serve you better.
Stephen Weiss, Chair
Ed Horneij, William McKee, David Weiner
Volunteer Coordinator Ann McDermott-Kave
Yoga Research Committee Kathy Simon, Chair
Yours in yoga, Michael Lucey, President IYNAUS Board of Directors
Jerry Chiprin, Renee Royal, Kimberly Williams
IYNAUS Senior Council Kristin Chirhart, Manouso Manos, Patricia Walden, Joan White
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
FROM THE REGIONS
The Iyengar Yoga Institutes of New York and Brooklyn hold over 100 classes per week, but one of those classes is quite unique. Meeting every Thursday, for over a decade, the Specific Needs class is led by James Murphy, with the assistance of as many as eight Institute faculty members. Students with a wide variety of situations attend, and they must submit an application describing their specific conditions before being admitted to the class.
Our membership continues to grow—we welcomed 32 new members into the Iyengar Yoga Association of Los Angeles (IYALA), and our current membership now well exceeds 500. We also welcomed four new IYALA board members this year: Laura Baker, Amy Brown, Holly Hoffman, and Mary Ann Kellogg. We are grateful for the other board members who continue to serve, including Mike Montgomery, Don Vangeloff (the new treasurer), and Jennifer Diener, who continues in her role as president.
Sometimes a regular student of the Institute will attend for a while because of an injury or a situation. It could be purely physical, such as learning how to work with a pulled hamstring, or it could be a more complex organic issue, such as dealing with the effects of cancer and chemotherapy. Some of our students are amputees; some have had accidents that have limited their ability to perform certain movements. Many have multiple issues to address. One of the functions of the class is to offer space to move along with focused instruction and hands-on guidance. We teach them how to use supports and props available to help them participate in general classes if that is appropriate. Some of the students have serious disabilities and require assistance to get into and execute the asanas that are helpful to them. In these cases, James and the other teachers in the class assist and guide them throughout the class. One of these students is Zachary, pictured here hanging in Sirsasana. He is a young man with cerebral palsy who recently graduated from college and aspires to be an accountant. In his first class, he stretched his arms over his head. He says that he felt like he could breath as never before, and the following days when he woke up, it didn’t take as long. “When I opened my eyes, it was an ‘instant awakening!’” We are grateful for the opportunity this class provides to share B.K.S. Iyengar’s teachings and to see the profound impact on members of our community.
Zachary, a student with cerebral palsy, hangs in Sirsasana during the Specfic Needs class at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York.
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
In May 2016, many Iyengar Yoga practitioners from the LA area attended the 2016 tri-annual Iyengar Yoga Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. Abhijata—granddaughter of B.K.S. Iyengar— charismatically guided all of us through four days of asana and pranayama with the focus of “practice.” Through her teaching, it was evident that she paid close attention to her many years of studying with her grandfather. She delighted attendees with story after story of her grandfather’s teaching, yet at the same time taking us deeper into the postures—many of us catching glimpses of the core, allowing us to dwell in our own true splendor (Sutra 1.2 Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam). Abhijata showed us all that she is the next generation of Iyengar Yoga, and with it she carries the legacy and splendor of B.K.S. Iyengar. We are in good hands! Returning home after the convention, Keri Lee taught a delightful class that served as an overview of the convention for those unable to attend. Keri reviewed Abhijata’s golden nuggets of wisdom through practice and recollection of many of the stories. It was wonderful to see such a large group of yogis turn out for Keri’s class, including many of our teachers, board members, and the wider community of students. Also at our Institute, the three-year teacher training program continues to thrive. We have 12 students currently studying in LA with teachers Gloria Goldberg, Marla Apt, and Diane Gysbers. Our teachers in training and the wider community of students benefit from our senior teachers through Sundays with Gloria and weekend workshops with Manouso Manos. The Institute and other local studios hosted several Iyengar Yoga assessments in September 2016, including the Intermediate Junior III, in which over 90 students participated. Of the nine teachers going up for assessment, seven were from our region. We are grateful to have so many gifted teachers in our midst. Our students are excited to support the teachers and IYNAUS during these important assessments. Outside of the Institute, we are fortunate to have many wonderful yoga studios where Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers (CIYTs) offer classes and workshops. Our website lists over 50 studios where Iyengar Yoga classes can be found in and around Los Angeles (www.iyala.org). 3
Los Angeles is also fortunate to have many CIYTs across a wide range of levels. Among these, we recently welcomed back to our midst one of our long-standing teachers, Nancy Sandercock, who returned to Los Angeles after completing her master’s degree in performance studies at the University of Alberta in her Canadian home. Many of Nancy’s students have been delighted to have the opportunity to study with her again in classes and workshops. The Yoga Center Palm Desert also has ongoing IYNAUSapproved teacher education courses with Cathy Rogers Evans. Groups are limited to 15 so each attendee has an opportunity to teach and receive personal attention, as well as to develop a clear understanding of teaching with ample time for feedback. We have many exciting workshops planned for the upcoming season with visiting senior teachers as well as quarterly five-day intensives. See www.yogacenterpalmdesert.com for details. Iyengar Yoga students in and around Los Angeles always have access to a plethora of excellent classes and workshops, including Ayurveda workshops for each of the three seasons by Jeff Perlman (see www.threeseasonsayurveda.com) as well as teacher training intensives by Marla Apt (see www.Yoganda. com) and Carolyn Belko. Jim Benvenuto’s Twist Workshop at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles (IYILA) last spring was a rare opportunity to experience Jim’s teaching. Jim has been teaching for over 20 years and he provided insight into the Iyengar method of practicing twists, layered with yogic philosophy, detailed explanations of Sanskrit language, and unique ways of exploring the twists. So many yogis attended this rich afternoon of practice, and much gratitude is expressed to Jim and IYILA for their commitment to offering excellent opportunities to study the art and science of Iyengar Yoga. Earlier this year, the Institute also hosted guest teacher workshops including H.S. Arun’s creative use of chairs and other props, Carrie Owerko’s playful practice and many others. Koren Paalman continues to offer her Conscious Grieving workshops at various Los Angeles locations, as well as Iyengar Yoga
IYALA members at the Florida convention Photo: Nancy Baldon
retreats in Los Angeles, Ojai, California, and South Africa. She also has an upcoming retreat in Hawaii in early 2017—see www.inventiveascent.com for details. We are delighted to share the wisdom from our talented teachers with fellow Iyengar Yoga students both at home in Los Angeles and around the globe.
IYAMN The Iyengar Yoga Association of Minnesota (IYAMN) has a new website, thanks to the initiative of one of our board members: Shannyn Joy Potter. We believe this website will better serve our members by allowing for online payments for workshops and yoga days. More importantly, the new website provides excellent resources, including links to research projects associated with the practice of Iyengar Yoga. We’re excited to finally have a website that will truly serve the needs of our community and that lends itself to further development. In recent months, IYAMN has hosted two successful events. Michael Moore, one of our local teachers, taught the summer yoga day in celebration of Guru Purnima Day. The event was held at The Marsh in Minnetonka, and about 50 students gathered to learn and practice yoga together. After Michael’s class, there was time for socializing and viewing the movie “Ultimate Freedom” as a way to celebrate the teachings of Guruji. Immediately after Labor Day, we hosted Eddy Marks and Mary Obendorfer for a third consecutive year. Mary and Eddy, as was the case last year, were able to spend a week in the Twin Cities teaching two classes each day. Practitioners in our area enjoy this opportunity to have an ongoing relationship with two senior teachers. Mary and Eddy have been focusing on Geetaji’s teachings from the 2015 Yoganusasanam Convention, a real boon for those of us unable to travel to Pune. We look forward to hosting another yoga day in December and are planning an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar’s birth.
Mary Obendorfer instructs students in Adho Mukha Svanasana.
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
IYAMW In the heart of the Midwest encircling the Great Lakes, Iyengar Yoga continues to have a lively presence, preserving the legacy of our tradition, while expanding its boundaries. A huge contingent showed up from our region for the IYNAUS Convention in Florida and left inspired and invigorated by Abhijata Sridhar’s stellar teachings. We renewed friendships, shared notes and meals, and engaged in important discussions about the role of Iyengar Yoga in our lives and in our communities. The Iyengar Yoga Association of the Midwest (IYAMW) Annual Fall Retreat was held at the Palmer House in Chicago, Sept. 23–25. Chris Saudek and Patrina Dobish provided several in-depth asana and pranayama workshops for both continuing beginners and seasoned students, as well as philosophy discussion. Six need-based scholarships were given out to members and nonmembers as an effort to broaden the community. It was fun to be in the middle of downtown sharing time together as a community and taking in experiences beyond the mat. Stay tuned to www.iyamw.org for details about our 2017 retreat. Lois Steinberg’s Iyengar Yoga of Champaign/Urbana (IYCU) began providing a “Modest Women’s Class” where Muslim woman are free to practice in a safe and supportive environment. Since this is a women-only class where the windows are covered, the hijab can be removed. Gwendolyn Derk started teaching this class at IYCU after her volunteer service at the Central Illinois Islamic Center Mosque. Muslim women who gather there requested an all-women’s yoga class, and IYCU was quick to jump on board. In the fall, Jeanine Berlocher will teach these classes to build community and share culture. Iyengar Yoga Detroit hosts 2nd and 4th Friday Community Gift Restorative Yoga classes, to provide a much-needed oasis for rest and recuperation, on a sliding-scale payment basis. The 2nd Fridays’ “Resilience and Resistance” with Peggy Gwi-Seok Hong is specifically geared for social justice activists and artists, to build inner resilience and cultivate camaraderie as we advocate for human rights and healing in our community. IYAMW launched its Community Engagement Fund, to support projects such as the above, and more. We invite Midwestern Iyengar Yoga teachers to apply for $500 mini-grants to build partnerships and collaborations to bring Iyengar Yoga to communities that may not otherwise have access, and also to support teachers who come from these communities. The funds can be used to provide props, pay teachers, cover space rental, and as seed money to raise more funds. For more information, visit www.iyamw.org.
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
IYANC In June, the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco (IYISF) and the Iyengar Yoga Association of Northern California (IYANC) held its most successful Yogathon event ever, “The Great 108.” Teachers and practitioners throughout Northern California used an online fundraising platform, as well as word of mouth, to raise funds leading up to the Yogathon event, where IYISF teachers led a three-hour, 108-asana class. A reception and silent auction followed. The event energized our community, bolstering our spirits and energy levels as well as our institution’s budget. In March, IYANC held its Annual Membership Meeting at IYISF. We updated members on finances, membership, and programming. Valuable member feedback was collected using targeted questions around our strategic goals of organizational stability, the growth of our association and institute through expansion of regional activity while attracting and retaining students, and continued commitment with integrity to the Iyengar Yoga tradition. Member feedback included ideas for marketing Iyengar Yoga as unique among the many yoga choices in Northern California, expanding community events, and further exploring opportunities to align ourselves with the San Francisco Bay Area medical community. Outgoing Board President Randy Loftis has taken the opportunity to relocate to North Carolina. IYANC and IYISF both extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to Randy for his three years of excellent service to the board, with his last nine months as IYANC president. Current board leadership includes Athena Pappas, president; Karen Woods, vice president; Chuck Han, treasurer; and Karen Tercho, secretary. In addition, Patti Martin now serves on the IYNAUS board as our Northern California regional representative. IYISF programming continues to be robust and unique, including a successful four-part series taught by Victoria Austin, “Asana for Practitioners with Health Conditions,” and a five-day training on “Yoga for Scoliosis” from Elise Miller. These healthrelated workshops have attracted students and teachers who are keen to discover more about healing the body and mind through Iyengar Yoga.
IYANW Our IYANW teachers continue to reach beyond their studios and into the community to share Iyengar Yoga. Here is news from three of our studios. This fall, the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center in Portland, Oregon, changed its name to Jewel Yoga. The studio has a new website, www.jewelyogapdx.com, and logo, but otherwise it remains the same in every way, with Julie Lawrence as the senior instructor. Jewel Yoga announced its new name at its
annual picnic on Aug. 20, honoring the second anniversary of Guruji’s death. The studio also announced a significant contribution to Living Yoga, a nonprofit organization with the mission of bringing yoga to vulnerable and marginalized communities. Julie Lawrence and well-known author Kim Stafford offered a workshop at Jewel Yoga called “Writing with Yoga” in November, in which authenticity on the page and on the mat were explored together. The Moscow Yoga Center, located in downtown Moscow, Idaho, offers level 1–4, gentle yoga and restoritive classes. Several students have been studying there since it opened in 1991. The studio recently added a middle-school yoga class. Instructor Rebekka Boysen Taylor reports that the students’ favorite pose is Savasana, and they want it to last longer! This is a good reminder of how important relaxation is. Moscow Yoga Center also began teaching two-week mini-courses that meet three times a week for one hour and 15 minutes. Jessica Ting, the instructor, noticed rapid progress with the three times a week structure. Tree House Iyengar Yoga in Shoreline, Washington, works to be a part of the overall Seattle community. This summer the studio raised $200 to support NPR station KPLU, and in June it held a Surya Namaskar class to celebrate International Day of Yoga. Instructor Angela Dawn donated all proceeds to Treehouse for Kids, a local foster care facility. Tulafest was held on the banks of Lake Union in Seattle in July. Tree House instructors Anne Geil and Fred Dowd taught public classes for beginners with no Iyengar Yoga experience. The festival promoted and benefited local nonprofits including Yoga Behind Bars, Street Yoga, Earth Citizens, and Yogafaith.
Students practicing at Tulafest on the banks of Lake Union in Seattle
IYASCR The Iyengar Yoga Association of the Southern California Region (IYASCR) has had a jam-packed summer and fall. Starting on May 1, we had a vigorous membership drive workshop at Full Circle Yoga as Suneel Sundar, our association president, taught “Surya Namaskar for Everyone.” Of course, we enjoyed the 2016 IYNAUS Convention in Boca Raton. Abhijata was exceptional. Her anecdotal presence and sense of humor as she shared stories of Guruji were so heartwarming. The way she engaged all of us was a testament to her lineage. We look forward to her next visit—we hope it’s soon! On June 19, Aman Keays taught “Iyengar Yoga for Stability and Balance” at the International Yoga Day celebration in Balboa Park. It was a celebration of all modalities of yoga in the San Diego area. Aman was the ideal ambassador for Iyengar Yoga, and his teaching was a welcoming introduction to practitioners who had not practiced our method. We look forward to similar future events. Our Aug. 21 Membership Drive was held at San Marcos Iyengar Yoga Center. We began with the 2014 commemorative sequence in honor and memory of Guruji. Then Kathleen Quinn, our vice president and the studio owner, lead us in our quest to understand “Paksa Pratipaksa Bhavanam” and how these opposing actions become complementary in practice. Our Nov. 2016 Membership Drive workshop with Kimberly Zanger-Mackesy was as dynamic as Kim, with a verve and joie de vivre that we all enjoyed. In association business news—we have become FB’ers, again to expand our reach of Iyengar Yoga in our area. And, we received great news from India—Birjoo Mehta has graciously agreed to return for a weekend of yoga and study! We will host him over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-4, 2017. More details will be announced later, but the date is firm, so make your plans.
IYNAUS members from Southern California in Boca Raton Photo: Nancy Baldon
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
IYASE We are proud and fortunate that IYNAUS chose to hold the hugely successful convention within our Southeast region. Florida teachers, as well as IYASE members throughout the region, worked tirelessly to provide a stellar experience for everyone. From the location at the lovely Boca Raton Resort to a well-organized program, beautiful banquet with memorable entertainment, scholarships for many of our members, and the commemorative magazine, we thank everyone who made this convention special. One outcome of the convention was a surge of membership in the IYASE region. We went from 370 members to over 500. Now we face the challenge of retaining and providing services to those members, to make a membership with IYNAUS and IYASE a worthwhile commitment. Looking forward, we are developing an Iyengar Membership Outreach and Education program, also known as Iyengar MORE. We recognize that many areas of our large region are not served by Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers (CIYT). IYASE is composed of 70 percent general membership and 30 percent teachers, and on a recent query of the membership distribution, we learned that many members have no teacher within 60 miles. In addition, like the rest of the country, many major cities have no CIYT. We aim to reach out to these areas to find studios willing to host reasonably priced one-day workshops. If you are interested in hosting, finding a teacher, or know of a studio that will host a workshop, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Our newly redesigned website is a thing of beauty and functionality. Go to www.iyase.org and browse our resources area. From press release templates for newly certified teachers to a new blog by Rhonda Geraci, the site has increased our ability to offer more information and resources. Soon, we will be adding practice plans for our members to download to use in their home practice. We also have plans to launch a YouTube channel with videos of our regional teachers teaching poses. Watch the website for these exciting member benefits. In 2017, we will sponsor two teacher training opportunities. Our annual Introductory I/II teacher training and a “How to Handle Common Conditions” workshop. Watch the IYASE website for further information. Participants in either event will be eligible for scholarships through IYASE. In addition, we offer scholarships to help defer the cost of certification and trips to RIMYI for eligible IYASE members. Check the website to find applications for our scholarships.
rains fell and the smell of creosote filled the air, we connected with local members on Aug. 20 for a “Summer Restorative.” The purpose was to bond with current members and grow our numbers. We gained several new members and were able to showcase the new rope wall, which is finally complete. Several dedicated members donated money, and Scottsdale Community College (SCC) students purchased t-shirts to help raise the funds necessary to make the rope wall a reality at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Scottsdale. Come practice with us when you are in town! Some of us attended the Yoga Rocks Festival on Sept. 23 and again on Oct. 16. Our booth was buzzing with activity, and people wanted to learn more about classes taught by Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers. It was also a great time to promote the awesome teacher training program at SCC, where most of our CIYTs started their training. We currently have six students doing teacher training with mentor Carlyn Sikes, Intermediate Junior I, to prepare for future assessment. This assessment preparation is not possible without our advising senior teacher, Carolyn Belko. Look for stories about these teachers’ path to becoming certified in future IYASW updates. On Oct. 23, for the first time in Arizona, IYNAUS hosted one of its continuing education sessions for certified teachers. Held at Scottsdale Community College where the Iyengar Yoga Center of Scottsdale is housed, regional teachers had the opportunity to study with senior teacher Laurie Blakeney. We were thrilled to see so many Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers in one room and look forward to hosting future events. Our region is growing! Barbara Gitlin, newly certified in 2015, opened The Yoga Room in Prescott, Arizona, to share her love for Iyengar Yoga. Katherine Maltz, Intermediate Junior I, was Arizona’s very first CIYT. We want to thank Katherine for paving the way for all of us in the southwest and congratulate her on teaching for 20 successful years at the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Studio of Tucson. The B.K.S. Iyengar Center of Las Vegas is having a silver anniversary, celebrating 25 years teaching the legacy of Iyengar Yoga to students. Congratulations and thank you for the commitment to your students. We are looking forward to the Sedona Yoga Festival on March 9–12, 2017, where we will spread our wings with a more regional focus. The festival will be a chance to meet and introduce future students to the benefits of studying Iyengar Yoga.
IYASW The spirit of B.K.S. Iyengar is flowing through the Southwest. Our new board was successful in promoting the benefits of Iyengar Yoga at local events this summer and fall. As the monsoon
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
Spring news deadline: Feb. 15, 2017
AN INTERVIEW WITH ABHIJATA SRIDHAR
ON THE EVOLUTION OF HER PRACTICE, LEARNING FROM GURUJI, AND THE FUTURE OF IYENGAR YOGA BY HEATHER HAXO PHILLIPS
“ We have a habit to form a shell, to say that this is all we can do. If things get difficult, we want to avoid it. But once it’s over, you realize it’s not that bad.” Heather Haxo Phillips: During the Florida convention, you told us about your master’s program and how you came to RIMYI. How did you decide that you wanted to teach? That didn’t seem to be your intention when you came to Pune. Abhijata Sridhar: After my graduation in 2005, I wanted to pursue academics, as well as come in to myself through yoga. I spoke to the head of my department, saying that I want to do a Ph.D., but that I wanted to do it by coming to the department only for half a day because I wanted the other half for yoga. She said that I’d have to give a full-day commitment. I think for five years, she said. I thought that’d be too much, so then she told me to go to the U.S. and work on my Ph.D. for a shorter time, if possible. I didn’t want to do that, either. So I decided to take a break from academics for a year to study yoga, to learn yoga. Just learn, do some more classes, do some practice. I planned to see how it went and then get back to my Ph.D. after a year’s break. And that year—it never stopped! Practice went on, and then Guruji told me to start coming to the children’s classes. HHP: To start teaching the children’s classes? AS: Just to come to the children’s classes! To see what was happening and to speak for five or 10 minutes in those classes. Then I started helping in the therapy class, where Guruji was going. Because he was going, I started attending those classes and seeing what they do. I was interested in how they were healing people so miraculously. One day, Guruji asked me to start teaching the children’s classes. I was not confident at first, but he said, “Just start.” HHP: So what was your teacher training experience like? AS: There was no separate teacher training session. None. It 8
was just attending the classes with my aunt and uncle. I would attend classes every day, six days a week when I was in my post-graduation phase. After my post-graduation, I think I cut down on the classes a little and focused on my own practice a little more. There was no teacher training, as such. HHP: How did your relationship with Guruji change as you began studying with him, going from being his granddaughter to being his student? AS: In the beginning, he was just my grandfather. I knew he was a famous man. Then, I started knowing he was a great man, but when I came to Pune, he was just my grandfather. We would write each other letters. When he went abroad, he would buy gifts for when he came back to India, so it was just that. When I started learning from him, during the first five years, I did not practice much. It was mostly attending classes. When I attended the women’s classes, Guruji also told me what to do when Geetaji was teaching—so I had two simultaneous teachers in the class. I don’t know when the relationship of the grandfathergranddaughter faded and the guru-sisya relationship came about. It was not a very clear demarcation. I think it was a fuzzy boundary, and it would just fade in and fade out till the very end. HHP: The sheer physical pain and fear involved in practicing under Guruji’s eyes—how did you make it through that? How did that change you? AS: Once I went through that, once that was over, I realized it was not so bad. We have a habit to form a shell, to say that this is all we can do. If things get difficult, we want to avoid it. But once it’s over, you realize it’s not that bad. Nothing happened. I didn’t die. I didn’t break a bone. I didn’t break a muscle. It’s just Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
Abhijata Sridhar at the 2016 IYNAUS Convention in Boca Raton, Florida Photo: James Greene
getting through that, and it just needs courage from inside. Unfortunately, few of us are able to bring that up on our own. Thankfully, I had Guruji to show me. Everybody has the potential to face it. But it’s not on the surface; it’s well-hidden and dormant. HHP: How has your personal practice changed since Guruji passed? Since he left his body? AS: For the first few weeks, I didn’t feel like practicing at all. I missed him. I mean everybody missed him. But I didn’t have the guts to even go into the institute hall because in our tradition, we have a 13-day mourning period. The institute was closed. In those 13 days, I did not have the courage to go to the hall at all, because I didn’t know how I would face that—knowing Guruji would never come back there again. But then, I became afraid. I was afraid that Guruji would get angry if I didn’t practice, and that’s what made me start my practice again. The fear that he would revoke his blessings or be upset at me. I had episodes where I would go into a certain asana and I would recollect what would happen [when Guruji had been there]; then I would get emotional. The place where he Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
always practiced—seeing that, sometimes I would get emotional. But then his teachings would come back; I would hear his words again. I don’t think you ever forget that. When they say time heals, I don’t think it heals in the sense that it takes off the magnitude of the loss. But time takes your mind to so many other things that you’ll stop thinking about it. HHP: The memories of your grandfather will always be there, but your practice has become your own now, in some way, or it’s becoming your own. AS: In the beginning, I would feel lost. The feeling of being orphaned was so strong, but then I also realized that I was just being selfish. I realized I was being selfish because I wanted him to be there because I wanted to learn from him. I wanted him to be there because I wanted him to teach me, and I realized that’s a very selfish thought that I had for such a selfless man, who all his life was so selfless. The reason I wanted him to be alive is that I wanted to continue learning from him. When that realization came, I think my practice got independent. It just happens now.
“ Yoga is the only thing that makes you objective and subjective at the same time.”
HHP: The way so many of us practice is goal-oriented. Whether we are trying to explore our forward bends in a deeper way or set some other goal for our practice. But Guruji never seemed to set goals for himself. Or at least I never saw him as being goal-oriented. I’m curious about whether you think that’s true— that he didn’t set goals. And also, do you set goals? How do you approach your practice when you are thinking about what you are going to do that day or at night, when you’re planning what you want to do the next day? AS: Did Guruji set goals? I don’t know; it would be speculation. If he made up his mind that he wanted to do something, he would do it. There were instances like that, but I don’t think they were of the nature that we know of, for example, to say “I will do 108 Sirsasana drop backs today.” Or “I will do 108 Rope 1 today.” Or “I will improve my Marichyasan twistings today.” I don’t think his goals were ever like that. I think he passed that years and years ago. Decades ago.
HHP: You think at one point he did set goals? AS: He must have. In his early days, he said, he would practice in front of his Guru’s photograph. He must have. He was not a born genius, he says. He says he was not born with this. He had to practice hard to get where he got. HHP: Do you think that we need goals? Maybe that’s what we all need at the beginning?
Altar at the front of the practice room at the 2016 IYNAUS Convention Photo: James Greene
needs your experience. Maybe. I’m guessing. Because all of this is from his own experience. There is something about the subjective nature of yoga. HHP: Do you have that in you, too? Do you think you have books in you, or do you not think that far ahead? Like, the desire to write books. AS: I don’t have a desire like that. No. There’s so much more that’s to be done in the practice that I’m thinking about. There’s still far more to experience.
AS: I don’t know. He has said in class, “You have with you 80 years of my experience.” [At first] he didn’t know that [practicing] mechanically was not the answer. His practice after many years might have told him that was not the way, but now we already know that, so we should probably take off from a higher place. It’s like in the days before aircrafts were invented, you had to travel the long distance, but now you have the aircraft, so you can take a shortcut.
HHP: Clearly, you’re very well steeped in yoga philosophy. How did that come to be? Of course, you were born into certain traditions, but that’s completely different than understanding Sanskrit words.
HHP: In Western psychology, there are many theories about what makes somebody great. One theory is the human ability to learn from our forbearers. That’s why people can run twice as fast today in a marathon as they could 80 years ago. It’s because they’ve learned the techniques. However, there’s nobody who has even begun to achieve the greatness of Guruji. If you just think about the categories of his greatness—his writings, his teaching, his practice—nobody has achieved such greatness in any category much less all of them. What is that?
AS: I did my formal study of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras with my uncle Prashant. I did that for over a year, sutra by sutra. He would explain to me what it means, what’s the context.
AS: I think it’s because yoga is the only thing that makes you objective and subjective at the same time. That’s something he said. If it’s an objective and a subjective science or art, then it
I think it is the teachings. I started my interest in philosophy from the practical point of view. Guruji, Geetaji, and Prashantji would describe the philosophy in the classes. And it really
AS: I don’t think I’m so steeped in yoga philosophy. HHP: Okay. Can you tell me about your study of it?
We met maybe thrice a week for over a year until we went through all the chapters of the Yoga Sutras. Then I sat with him again for Vyasa’s basham [commentary] of the Yoga Sutras. I haven’t read philosophical books by anybody other than my grandfather, uncle, and aunt.
Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
“ I have a wish for myself. That I should be truthful and honest in what I’m doing, so I guess that applies to all students—being honest and truthful.” attracted me. I got interested in knowing what it meant. Then, I went to them and asked them what it meant. It just grew. HHP: Can you talk about your process of incorporating philosophy into your asana class? AS: I have been seeing this for so many years. If you spent 16 years in Pune, attending all the classes with Guruji, you would have gotten the same thing, felt the same thing. It just comes. HHP: From experience? AS: Yes. They just kept giving and giving and giving. They just keep giving and giving and giving. Guruji often said that if you look at yoga philosophy as philosophy and try to understand it from that angle, confusion may arise and you may not know how to put the two together. From a practical point of view, once the interest seeps in and you approach the theory, it starts to make sense. Instead of starting right away from the theory, start with the practical first. Once you get interested, you’ll naturally want to know what the theory means. HHP: Do you have advice for teachers who are just beginning to explore bringing yoga philosophy into their classes? AS: I think I had the world’s best teachers, so I never had to face that problem. HHP: Going to the source, to Pune, is certainly inspiring. How has being a mother effected your practice and your teaching? AS: Apart from the logistics? HHP: Yes. AS: Well, we live in a joint family—my husband, my parents-inlaw, and sister-in-law who is still not married. Then on my mom’s side, my dad—I meet them so often. They came to the institute when Guruji was there. They were taking care of him. There’s somebody always there to take care of my daughter because it’s family. I don’t have to worry about whether she’s being fed on time. That comfort, that security is there. I am thankful because my family and in-laws, my husband, they’re all supportive of what I’m doing. Apart from the logistics, has it emotionally affected my teaching? I think it might have. It should have. It makes sense. I don’t know. I’m not able to pick what has changed, but I think an evolution happens. People tell me it’s changed, but I don’t Yoga Samachar Fall 2016 / Winter 2017
know what’s changed. HHP: I have some questions about the future of Iyengar Yoga. As we think about groups of potential students who might be on the periphery, how can Iyengar Yoga instructors bring them into our community? Do you have ideas? I’m thinking about what Manouso said in his keynote speech at the convention—that we should continue to work hard to bring groups of people who don’t have access to yoga into yoga, to reach out to communities who aren’t doing yoga. AS: I think you guys are doing a great job already—all the teachers of our system, wherever they are. It’s because of them that the student base is growing. So many people are interested. Of course, Guruji [has been part of that, as well as] Geetaji and Prashant-ji’s touch, undoubtedly. But it’s the work of the local community that builds up the system. Undoubtedly, you are already doing a wonderful job, for which the family is thankful. HHP: What is the role of Iyengar Yoga for society? AS: I think it has a great role because it makes one better. It makes one better physically; it makes one better mentally. That is going to contribute to a healthy society. Once the individual starts getting better, society is going to get better. HHP: During this convention, you’ve given us many clues about how we should practice. In the days and months to come, we must observe more and we must practice from our heart, so we must not fear pain. Do you have any other wishes for us? AS: I have a wish for myself. That I should be truthful and honest in what I’m doing, so I guess that applies to all students—being honest and truthful. Honest and truthful in our practice, honest and truthful in our learning, honest and truthful in our teaching. If we are courageous enough to look at ourselves, to know whether we are doing the right thing for the right purpose, then there’s no problem. HHP: I really thank you for your time. AS: Thank you. Heather Haxo Phillips (Intermediate Junior III) is the director of Adeline Yoga Studio and former president of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco/Iyengar Yoga Association of Northern California. Please send any thoughts or suggestions to email@example.com. 11
B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States P.O. Box 538 Seattle, WA 98111 www.iynaus.org
Abhijata Sridhar teaches Utthita Parsvakonasana to nearly 1,200 students at the 2016 IYNAUS Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. Photo: James Greene