After more than 20 years of teaching at Maida Vale on Sundays, Alaric will be taking a well-earned twelve month sabbatical. We wish him many enjoyable weekends!
This year the Sunday 10.15am Intermediate and 12.30pm General classes will be covered by Marco Cannavo, Sophie Carrington, Penny Chaplin, Richard Agar Ward, Ofra Graham and Judy Smith. Please see the live timetable and the teaching schedule below for details.
Thursday Intermediate Class The Thursday evening Intermediate class will continue to be taught by Alaric as usual.
Workshops with Alaric Alaric will also be holding Friday afternoon workshops on the following dates. Workshop level and theme details to follow.
Over the holiday season there are some changes to our regular timetable. Please also note that we are closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. We look forward to seeing you for some seasonal yoga!
Let go of the concerns of the week and prepare for the weekend with our Friday evening Restorative & Pranayama class. The class is taught by our most experienced teachers and is suitable for all students at a General level and above. This means you have been practising Iyengar Yoga regularly for two years or more.
Restorative Practice Expect to hold postures for longer than usual. Often props like bolsters, blankets and blocks are used to support the body. This physical support helps you stay in postures comfortably without straining. The muscles can relax, heart rate lowers and the nervous system can be soothed. Restorative postures help calm the mind and open the body for pranayama.
The word Pranayama is made up of two Sanskrit words. Prana means breath, energy, life force and vitality. Ayama means, control, restraint, extension or expansion. Pranayama is the practice of controlling or conditioning the breath. It is the fourth of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga and consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process. Pranayama practice focusses on the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions, and trains students in an approach based on self-observation.
If you are new to Pranayama the Friday evening class is a great place to start!
We’re happy to announce that Judy Waldman will be taking over as the new teacher for the 60+ class on Fridays in place of Joyce Furrer, who has now retired. We’re grateful to Joyce who was a dedicated teacher until the age of 90!
There will be cover teachers for the next two weeks and Judy will teach her first class on Friday 15 November.
Judy Waldman is an Intermediate Level 3 Iyengar Yoga teacher. She has been a passionate practitioner of Iyengar Yoga for over 20 years and teaching since 2007. Judy has a keen interest in how the practise of yoga can aid recovery from particular health problems and to avoid future injury. Her 20 years of experience as an Art Psychotherapist in the NHS made her aware of yoga’s empowering effect on one’s emotional and mental state, explored through the canvas of the body
Members £7.50 or 11 classes for £75 with a Yogacard / Non-members £10
Join us for an evening of storytelling, music and poetry to recount the old tales and myths of Indian and Persian literature.
Sudarshan Singh, tabla player and Zahra Afsah, storyteller saw each other perform at the Centenary Celebration for Guruji last year and decided to join forces and work on some projects together. This is their first collaboration.
They will be unveiling the stories behind miniature paintings from the 14th to 16th century to reevaluate our oral understanding with regenerated sensations.
Saturday 16 November
Adults £10 / Children & Concessions £5
Sallie started practising Iyengar yoga in 1980. She has been a dozen times to study with the Iyengars in Pune where she has also assisted in the medical classes. She taught the Introductory Teacher Training Course at Maida Vale for 25 years and is an assessment moderator for the UK Iyengar Association.
learning only from Guruji in the UK, my first experience of classes with Geeta
was in Pune in 1992. She was clear, energetic, demanding and quite scary. I
adored and respected her in equal parts from the very first class. Her first words to me in that class were
prosaic to the point of banal: “Have you been to the toilet?” I had indeed left
the class to go, and returned to the hall with dry feet, not knowing I should
have washed them. She sent me back feeling like a naughty schoolgirl to wash
them. One soon learnt that nothing escaped her penetrating hawk-like gaze. This
power was still in evidence in the closing days of the Centenary course when
she called students onto stage.
Later that month
in 1992 I had a sudden attack of sciatica – I blame the hard Indian mattress. I
was early into the hall and settled to do some chair twists. Just before the
start of class, I told her my problem. She was abrupt – “chair twists won’t
help,” were her only words. Then she began the class with a sequence of leg
stretches with specific points that cleared the sciatica on the spot. That was
so often the way – a class that was perfect for someone’s specific problem yet
at the same time a cracking good class for everyone. And she didn’t look for
thanks, in fact sometimes rebuffed it quite roughly.
occasion that month, she taught with even more than her usual volume and vigour
in the women’s class – she couldn’t bear inattention or failure to practise –
then paused. “When I shout, you feel it here!” she declaimed, and with her fist
struck herself in the centre of her chest – the heart centre. Right on!
She had a
great sense of humour. On one of my times at RIMYI, the women’s class had the
job of shifting a whole heap of props for an imminent event. Casting her eyes
over us she announced what had to be shifted where – then thoughtfully gave a
lighter task to those of us with grey hair. A thought struck her: “And the ones
who dye your hair, you decide what to do.”
learnt names except those of the old-timers and pre-eminent westerners and
certainly never knew mine. At Crystal Palace, when I had the chance to teach
Bhekasana in front of Geeta, she found fault with my technique and my resulting
rock-hard buttocks. Later in the Q&A she gave me help with the same problem
in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. Soon after, I was back in Pune. In the first
class, she walked between the rows all in Tadasana, looking at our back view.
She stopped right behind me, came round in front to see my face and gave a
grunt of recognition. With a mixture of annoyance and amusement, “buttocks like
rocks,” she said. Later during that visit, with an open palm she half brushed
and half sliced downwards across my buttocks, and at last I got it, a blessing
not a slap.
As Abhi, her grandniece, described in her moving tribute at the end of the 13 days of mourning, Gita could be rough in manner, rude even. When they were recording Geeta’s classes, Abhi would try to note the time of any strong outburst, to tell the technicians to delete that part. But sometimes, Abhi said, that would just leave too many gaps. Sometimes she was so loud they could hear her in the family home across the courtyard. Often, although classes always started on time, the pranayama class in particular could overrun by 15 or even 30 minutes. It got to the point that they only gave the start time for pranayama on the timetable, not the ending. Holding back tears, Abhi told us how from now on the Institute would be a quieter and more polite place; they can put the finishing time on the timetable for the Friday pranayama class, and something very precious has been lost.
This article was first published in Dipika, the journal of Iyengar Yoga Maida Vale, Issue No.51, July 2019.
Geeta Iyengar died aged 74, still working tirelessly to assure the legacy of her father and guru BKS Iyengar. After his death she stepped up to oversee the teaching at RIMYI. Her ill health and failing strength was an obstacle but her spirit soared above it. Family and friends asked her to slow down and save herself for Guruji’s 100th birth anniversary. She promised: “Don’t worry, I will be with you for the centenary, then my work will be done.”
She taught the second half of the 10 day Centenary celebration course with immense energy and insistence making sure every one of the 1,300 participants kept up with her. There followed two days of celebration and she died two days later on 16 December 2018.
We have compiled a selection of interviews with Geeta and tributes from senior teachers.
Uday Bhosale spent fifteen years studying, assisting and teaching at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune with the Iyengar family. In addition to teaching the Childrens, Beginners and Intermediate classes at RIMYI, he assisted in Geeta Iyengar’s medical classes. He recently moved to the UK and teaches regular classes and workshops.
Do you remember your first class with Geetaji?
Oh yes, I do! I was 19 years old and was used to strong and active
work in class because I came from a martial arts background. Our martial arts training used to be strict and
disciplined. You followed the instruction
and dared not do more or less than that. Seeing my interest and keenness to learn more,
my first teacher of both martial arts and yoga, Ali Dashti, suggested I should make
the effort and go to Geetaji’s class.
Hence I went to the evening classes with her. The control and command she had over the entire class was so inspiring for me. What I remember particularly in that first class was the clarity of her instructions. Clear, precise wording along with an impactful voice pinpointing to the exact parts of the body we must work on and where we were dull. It felt like she was reading me and talking to me individually. It felt like I was getting private tuition in a crowded hall. Only later I came to know that it is nothing new, almost everyone had a similar experience in her classes. Ha ha!
Were you scared of her?
Not really, but there is something in my mother tongue which can be roughly
translated as: “to respectfully fear someone”.
Do you remember any amusing incident in her classes?
People generally recall her strictness, but
she definitely had a fun side too. She
used to crack jokes, at times mimic and mock sometimes. I remember an incident that happened during my
early days in her class. In my martial
arts background, we were trained to be attentive and quick-respond to instructions
as fast as possible. On that day she was
teaching “jumpings”, my favourite back then! She was explaining something while we were in
Tadasana. She used to call the name of
the pose first and then mention what she wanted us to work on and then we would
do it. So in her strong voice she
announced the next pose we were going to do: “Chaturanga Dandasana!” Her voice was so strong and commanding that in
a flash I was on the floor and in the pose. And then I looked around wondering why I was
the first in the pose! Guess what? Of course I was the first as I was the only
one to go into the pose. Everyone else was
still standing in Tadasana in anticipation of her further instructions. So I jumped back to join them, hoping she had
missed my foolish mistake. But there she
stood almost laughing and said aloud: “That is only the front brain working; he
is not using the rest of it.”
When you think of Geetaji now what is the first thing you see in your head?
Her smile and her eyes for sure.
Which of her character traits spring to mind?
It’s more of her caring side. I’ve always felt a motherly love from her and
how she cared for everyone. Definitely it
was not pampering. Her instructions and guidance
to students as well as patients in therapy classes made everyone easily feel
her caring nature behind the strictness. Even in her scolding there was a caring approach.
That compassion makes me miss her very
You were at all Yoganusasanam intensive courses in Pune. Do have any specific memory of being in a pose and being shown on?
Yes! There were many participants who remember this. I think it happened in 2014 – the year Guruji passed away. I was on the stage with one of my colleagues. It was a pranayama session. We were anticipating the invocation to start so we sat in our position upright ready to chant. Geetaji started to explain something, it went on further, a bit deeper and then on to a few more things.
It was common before a class for Geetaji to give an introduction but this one went on and on and on. It was more than one hour! I had taken my position and knew that the video cameras were focused on the stage and us. Sitting next to her feet while she was describing every detail, how could I dare slip into a dull, slouching pose? I was afraid of causing a distraction if I would fidget around to change my pose. So I struggled but sat straight all that time barely moving. My legs and back were getting so tired but I somehow kept going. Eventually we chanted the invocation. Thankfully we were made to lie down in a supine posture after that!
Who asked you to teach the children’s class, Geeta or Guruji?
She asked me to start assisting and then later I was teaching it. She would frequently come to the regular Sunday morning classes for children. Often Geetaji would check on us teachers and tell us how to teach. She would crack jokes, tease us teachers and have fun with us.
Can you describe Geetaji’s love for children? Both on her 70th birthday at Yoganusasanam 2014 and in 2018 she wanted the children’s class to be there to perform.
Teaching children was always something
close to her heart as Guruji had asked her to teach in schools when she began teaching. She was always keen to teach younger
generations. During both these events,
she was not happy that the children would miss their Sunday morning class at
the Institute because their teachers were busy at the Yoganusasanam event. So she wanted the children to be there with us.
She was also keen for others to have a
glimpse of how to teach children and understand the difference in approach, compared
to the general classes that we mostly train for.
With children, you
have to inspire them with your performance on stage. You have to do more, move faster, jump higher
to keep their attention. Otherwise they easily
lose their focus. In 2018, while we were
jumping from Tadasana to Uttitha Hasta Padasana, she commanded in her loud and strong
voice to jump higher and wider. I think
I managed to jump higher than ever before!
Did you see that she was tired during the intensives, especially after Guruji’s death in 2014 and the last one in 2018 before she passed away?
She had various health conditions all her life from childhood. But the way she practised and managed her conditions as well as all her other commitments was phenomenal. The way she taught her classes and the amount of energy she put into them was amazing! Especially during her later years, the way she managed everything despite her frailty was inspiring and humbling. After Guruji’s death she was emotionally very low and it obviously made her condition worse. But she slowly started to regain strength. We could see her looking so weak but when she went on the platform she was a different person. Once she was on stage she would talk and command even though sometimes her voice would go and she would cough. She would never hold back when she was teaching. She would give it her all.
What does it mean to you that she is not with us anymore?
Definitely I miss her! When Guruji passed away, everyone was sad but we still had his children with us. In a way I felt it helped to soften the blow. But now Geetaji is not there anymore. Of course we have Prashantji, but her motherly love, her caring touch, her control, her genius we will miss. It is a big loss. Saying that, as students and teachers we have the responsibility to continue our practice and to continue to share the great work the Iyengar family have dedicated themselves to. We should continue to contribute and share what we have learnt in our own individual capacity. We also need to stay together and grow further!
This article was first published in Dipika, the Iyengar Yoga Maida Vale Journal, in July 2019.