IYIMV Blog

IYIMV Blog

COVID-19 Crisis In India Charities

We are sharing information below that has been circulated by the UK Iyengar Yoga Association.

There is a catastrophe unfolding in India, and the situation is particularly bad in Maharashtra. The healthcare system is unable to cope; there are serious shortages of staff, beds and oxygen. India’s crisis is a crisis for us all.

A number of you have asked how you can help. Here is a list of some of the leading charities that are working to help the situation in India. Click on the name of a charity to go to their donation page.

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Yoga for MS & other Neurological Issues

Yoga class for MS and other neurological conditions

The class for MS & other neurological conditions is run by Korinna Pilafidis-Williams. It was held at the Maida Vale studios until the first lockdown of 2020 when it was moved online and taught as a weekly livestream class. The class is by application, please email office@iyi.org.uk

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Pune Pants – A Brief History

 

Scorned by some, loved by many, Pune shorts are a familiar sight in Iyengar Yoga studios all over the world. Perhaps the closest thing we have to an unofficial uniform, wearing them in public requires more letting go of the ego than many students are prepared to suffer. But where did they come from and why do we (some of us) wear them? 

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NEW CLASS – Pranayama with Richard Agar Ward

 

We are excited to be adding a new livestream class to our timetable. Richard Agar Ward will be teaching an hour long pranayama class every week starting from Monday 12 April.

 

Join Richard for a grounding start to the week and the chance to build your pranayama skills. This class is suitable for students with two years or more of regular Iyengar yoga experience and costs £6.

 

 

 

Board Vacancies

We’re always looking for Annual Members to put themselves forward for trustee/director vacancies on the Board as and when they arise. If you have expertise you think could help to guide the charity, then please feel free to contact us with details of your experience and interest. We will get in touch to answer any questions you may have and hold your details on file until there is a vacancy. Please email office@iyi.org.uk

Board members must be annual members of IYIMV of at least one year’s standing. Once a name is put forward, the proposed trustee/director must be nominated by the Board and elected at the Annual General Meeting. Members of the Board of Trustees serve for three years from the date of their election.

The role of the board of trustees is:

· to determine the strategic priorities of the charity,

· to monitor activity and outcomes, and

· to ensure compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

Our current chair, John Robinson, is due to retire in June this year, and the board is seeking one (or more) new trustees. Our current treasurer, Miguel Ortega, is chair elect and current trustee Jonathan Jones has agreed to take on the tasks of Hon. Treasurer.

 

Becoming a trustee

Trustees are annual members who voluntarily undertake responsibility for the strategic direction of the organisation, and for ensuring that it fulfils its legal and charitable obligations. They are elected at the AGM to serve for a period of 3 years. Trustees are also appointed as directors of the company (IYIMV) during their period of office.

  1. Why should I become a trustee?

Trustees represent the whole membership from entirely new students to the most experienced teachers. They consider strategy and take decisions on how the organisation is run, subject to the powers invested in them by the Articles of Association.

In taking responsibility for running a charity and a company, trustees accept obligations to fulfil the objects of the charity on behalf of its members in providing a public benefit. We depend upon this voluntary activity to maintain and improve a healthy and vibrant organisation so, if you have benefited from your experience of Iyengar yoga at IYIMV, we hope that you will consider contributing to its future.

Your contribution to IYIMV may take many forms and may be based on your:

  • business or academic experience,
  • financial acumen,
  • experience in Iyengar yoga,
  • interest in the building or design,
  • desire to expand the range of classes, courses or workshops we offer,
  • wish to promote research,

and any other skills or experience that may help to improve the work of the organisation and promote it to a wider public.

By becoming a trustee, you can support the work of the charity and make changes for the better. You should be independent minded but also prepared to act together with your fellow trustees for the benefit of all members.

  1. Am I eligible?

Potential trustees must be over 18 and have been annual members of IYIMV for a period of at least one year before becoming eligible to serve as a trustee. They must not be persons who are disqualified from holding office.

  1. What do trustees do?

Trustees meet regularly to discuss the business of the organisation, to review its activities and to make decisions on how it should operate to fulfil its stated purposes (the objects) on behalf of the members. They act collectively and have a wide range of powers which are set out in the Articles of Association. All potential trustees receive a copy of the Articles along with other training, support and guidance. Trustees are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the organisation fulfils its legal and charitable obligations and are protected from personal liability so long as they act within their powers and in good faith.

  1. What don’t they do?

The role of trustees is strategic, so they are not required to perform the day-to-day administrative and managerial functions of the organisation. These are delegated to one or more paid employees with specific contracts of employment. However, trustees are legally responsible for the work of the charity. The Chair has the additional responsibility of acting as line-manager to the manager.

  1. What experience is necessary?

There is no formal qualification for becoming a trustee save for being an annual member of at least one year’s standing. However, you should have the time and energy to devote to the responsibilities involved. We seek to achieve a balance of experience within the board. This may be in business (for example: finance, marketing or advertising, human resources, IT, governance) or other charitable work. Your involvement and interest in IYIMV classes is taken as given.

  1. How often do they meet?

The trustees have board meeting every 6-8 weeks throughout the year. They may arrange additional meetings to discuss specific matters as the need arises and may establish sub-committees to discuss specialised areas of activity and to report to the main board.

Board meetings usually last 2-2½ hours and are held at times arranged to suit as many trustees as possible.

Sub-committees set their own agendas consistent with the tasks allocated to them by the board. Currently there are three sub-committees, each chaired by a member of the main board.

  1. How many trustees are there?

A maximum of 12 members may be elected. Usually there are about 8 including a Chair and Honorary Treasurer, elected by the trustees from among their number. By convention two teacher members serve on the board.

 

8.What guidance is available to me?

Trustees are required to take part in an induction process with the Chair and manager and, on election, to sign a copy of the ‘Trustees’ Code of Conduct’ which sets out the principles of service.

The Charity Commission produces a wide range of additional information for the guidance of charitable trustees. Copies of essential documents are provided to all potential trustees. The principal guide for individual trustees is ‘The Essential Trustee’ (CC3).

9. How do I apply to become a trustee?

You may apply by sending an email or letter to the office, or by calling into the office for further information. The manager will be able to provide you with all the information and documentation you may require in deciding to put yourself forward.

10. How does the election process work?

Potential trustees are nominated by the board of trustees at the AGM, usually held in June, and must be elected by a majority of the annual members present and eligible to vote at the meeting.

  • Trustees serve for three years from the meeting at which they are elected.
  • Automatic retirement occurs at the third AGM after election.
  • Previous trustees may be re-elected after a break of one year.

Applications would be particularly welcome from those with extensive recent experience in business or marketing.

For further information or an informal chat, please call Alan Reynolds on 020 7624 3080 or send an email to office@iyi.org.uk with ‘Trusteeship’ in the subject line, and we will get back to you.

 

Iyengar Yoga Self Practice Resources

Building self practice, or sadhana, into a regular routine has many benefits. It gives you the opportunity to develop understanding and skill at your own pace and build on what you learn in class. While it is easy to understand why self practice is a good thing, it can be a challenge to make it a part of your day-to-day life. So, we have compiled some resources to help.

 

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NEW Livestream Yogacards

We have introduced a new way way to purchase livestream classes for IYMV members. The Livestream Yogacard and Concessions Livestream Yogacard are 11 pre-purchased livestream 90 minute classes for the price of 10.

 

Livestream Yogacard £90

  • 11 x 90 minute livestream clases for the price of 10
  • Valid for 6 months from first use
  • Booking classes online is quicker and easier

Please note that you will need to log into your account to purchase.

BUY NOW >

 

Concessions Livestream Yogacard £50

The concessionary Livestream Yoga Card is 11 livestream 90 minute classes for the price of 10. It is valid for 6 months from first use after purchase. It is available for IYMV members who receive Universal Credit and have supplied proof of status.  It can be purchased by calling us on 020 7624 3080.

 

In exceptional cases, such as illness or injury, we may at our discretion extend the validity of Yogacards provided that the membership remains valid throughout the period of the extension. In these cases, the bonus 11th class will not be valid. Applications for extensions to Yogacards should be addressed to office@iyi.org.uk and state reasons for requesting an extension.

Please note: possession of a prepaid Yogacard does not confer any priority right  or guarantee a place in any particular class.

 

Livestream Classes


We offer a timetable of livestream classes for all levels delivered via Zoom.

Livestream classes are available exclusively to IYMV members with the exception of our Introduction Class for students who are new to Iyengar yoga. 

Our 1-month membership includes a free livestream class and costs £10. If you take regular classes the most cost effective option is our annual membership for £55. We also offer 3 month membership for £25. You can take out membership here >

Browse and book classes on our Live Timetable >

 

CLASS PRICES

MembersConcessionsYoga Cards (11 Classes for price of 10)Visitors
Livestream 60 minute class£6£4N/ABooking is limited to IYMV members.
Livestream 90 minute class£9£5£90 / £50Booking is limited to IYMV members.
Livestream 120 minute class£12£12N/ABooking is limited to IYMV members.

 

CLASS LEVELS

Introduction Class
For students with who are completely new to Iyengar yoga. No membership required. 

Beginners
For students who have done some Iyengar yoga before going up to two years’ experience. 

Beginners/General
For students with at least one years’ experience of Iyengar yoga.

General
For students with at least two years’ experience of Iyengar yoga.

General/Intermediate
For strong General and Intermediate students. This level is not suitable for students who are new to General level practice.

Intermediate
For students with at least four years’ experience of Iyengar yoga.

 


How do I sign up to a livestream class?

  • Visit the Live Timetable >
  • Book into the class online. Please note that booking opens 14 days before a class and closes 1 hour before the class starts.
  • Once a class reaches is full no further places can be booked
  • Check that your device is fully charged and ideally that it is plugged in to charge so you can enjoy the full class without loss of power!
  • You will receive a Zoom link to join the class by email 1 hour before the class starts
  • You do not have to have a Zoom account to attend a Zoom live class. You will be prompted to download the software, once you have clicked on the link that you have been provided. You may also wish to create an account, but that is not required to participate in a Zoom meeting.
  • Click the link to join class 10 minutes before scheduled start time
  • The audio for students participating in Livestream Classes will be switched off so that background noise does not disturb the teaching. There is a message function on Zoom so you can type comments and queries
  • If more than one person in your household wishes to attend a class and share a screen, please ensure that each person is a member and has registered for the class separately.

 

Class cancellations

Please note that you can cancel a livestream class up to two hours before the start time. We are unable to refund classes that are cancelled less than two hours before the class start time.

Classes with fewer than four students booked in to attend will unfortunately have to be cancelled. You will be informed by email and your class fee will be refunded. 

If you have any queries about livestream classes please email office@iyi.org.uk

 

Concessions

Members suffering financial hardship because of the current emergency can email or phone the office on 020 7624 3080 to obtain the concessionary rate for livestream classes. 

 

TEACHERS DISCLAIMER
All students must have their camera switched on. The teachers’ association and insurers have stated that teachers must be able to see all students online, just as in a regular class.  If you take part in a class with a teacher you haven’t practised with in real life please introduce yourself to the teacher before the class and let them know your level of experience if possible. By booking a IYMV live streamed class you assume responsibility for any risks injuries or damages known or unknown which you may incur as a result.

 

 

The story of the statue of Patanjali at Maida Vale

By Alice Chadwick

Many of us begin our practice with the invocation to Patanjali. His statue sits in Maida Vale’s large studio, one of the few objects other than props in the room. Like the birds in the garden or the rain on the roof, it lends its calmness to our space. Here we can put down the things of daily life and pick up the tools of yoga. But why this particular sculpture? Where did it come from and why is it on a plinth in the corner?

The Statue is Commissioned

The statue was bought in Bangalore, India for the first Institute building in London, founded at Maida Vale in 1983. The following May, the carving was blessed in a private ceremony with BKS Iyengar. Almost a decade later, Guruji was again at Maida Vale for the dedication of the new building (1993). The statue was garlanded with marigolds and carnations, Guruji recited the invocation and a priest performed a puja (ceremony of dedication and devotion). On completion of the building (1994), a photograph of Guruji in Padmasana was placed on one side of the glass doors and the sculpture, on a high shelf, on the other.

BKS Iyengar and dignitary in the large studio at Maida Vale, 1993

November 1997: Mr Iyengar attended the official opening of the new Institute

It was his last visit. A puja was again performed in front of Patanjali but Guruji was unhappy to see the idol on its high shelf. It must be on a pedestal, he insisted, at eye level, connected to the earth and facing northeast. And so Patanjali came to be placed where we see him today, both raised and earthed by a plinth, as Mr Iyengar required.

Lord Patanjali

In the statue we meet Patanjali in his mythic form: the incarnation of the Serpent-God Adisesa. According to legend, Adisesa witnessed Shiva’s cosmic dance and was moved to become his follower. Searching for a human mother, he saw Gonika, a learned yogi, praying for a child to pass her knowledge to. She scooped up an offering of water and Adisesa, in the form of a tiny snake, appeared in her hands. She named him ‘Patanjali’, meaning ‘fallen into folded hands’ (from ‘pat’, to fall, and ‘anjali’, hands folded in reverence). Patanjali grew to become a sage of exceptional understanding and was charged by Shiva to communicate his wisdom to humankind.

Half-snake, half-human, the Maida Vale Patanjali sits on his tail with seven cobras’ heads above him. His lower hands make the Anjali mudra, as befits his name and his devotion to Shiva; his upper hands hold a conch and wheel. He bears a red ‘tilaka’ (mark of honour given during puja) on his forehead. Sacred carvings – more properly ‘murti’ (idols) – are traditionally installed by a priest, who infuses them with ‘prana’, or cosmic life force, and welcomes the divinity in.

Carved from hard black granite, the modeling is nevertheless rounded and graceful and the detail finely cut. In this respect, it is a typical Indian devotional carving. This tradition is old and cosmopolitan, with roots in

classical Greek and Buddhist sculpture. Carvings of Patanjali date back to the thirteenth century. The statue at Melakkadambur is one example: here Patanjali stands tall on his tail, a tiny dancing Shiva above his head.2

Sage Patanjali

Fused with this divine figure is another Patanjali – the author/compiler of the “Sutras” on yoga. An Indian scholar and yogi (generally placed in the first centuries CE), Patanjali gathered together what had been disparate and unwritten, thereby enlarging and profoundly deepening our understanding of yoga. His text, admired for its wisdom, beauty and concision, provides a solution to the central difficulty of the human condition – how to live well in relation to ourselves, those around us and God. In the Yamas and Niyamas (ethics), the progression from postures to controlled breathing and beyond, the sutras provide a radically pragmatic approach, as BKS Iyengar explained: ‘To comprehend their message and put it into practice is to transform oneself into a highly cultured and civilized person, a rare and worthy human being’.3

According to Geeta Iyengar, Patanjali’s conch and wheel symbolise the wisdom and protection given to us by his “Sutras”.4 The ‘sankha’ (conch) calls us in readiness to practice; the ‘cakrasi’ (wheel/disc-shaped weapon) cuts through our ignorance, ego and other dangers. Patanjali’s snake canopy also embodies his protection, its multiple heads suggesting omnipresence as well as the many ways in which the sutras guide us. The agile, ceaseless effort required of us as students is represented by his serpent’s tail, while its arrangement in three and half coils symbolises, among many things, the three sacred sounds of A-u-m and the three works sometimes attributed to him (on yoga, medicine and grammar), the half coil indicating his complete enlightenment.

The importance of Patanjali to the Iyengar tradition can, then, hardly be overstated. He is the father of yoga, our powerful protector, author of its foundational text and BKS Iyengar’s first and primary teacher. Let us turn now to a man who has dedicated his life to a different sacred art – carving.

Patanjali in Melakkadambur

Sculptor Padmanabachari

Shri Padmanabachari was born into a family of stonemasons, his ancestors having produced sculpture in the Bangalore region for around eight centuries.5 With many of his children and grandchildren apprenticed to him, the sculptor works in the traditional manner, outside, his stone directly on the earth and surrounded by chippings. The local granite is heavy and resistant; to master large blocks requires physical as well as artistic stamina. Despite this, and his advanced age (he is in his 90s), he works long hours and uses only hand tools. Rough shaping and fine carving are done with hammer and chisel and the idols are finished with polishing stones, emery and water.

Sculptors are considered the descendants of Vishvakarma, architect to the gods, and their sacred task is governed by long-established codes of practice. Specific prayers and mantra are recited throughout the process, asking blessing and drawing the divinity into the stone. As well as these devotions, Padmanabachari

emphasises the importance of study. Sculptors must learn Sanskrit, he insists, to better understand the gods they are making. Due to poverty, his own formal education was not extensive but his family was ‘rich in tradition of sculpture’.6

It was BKS Iyengar who first asked Padmanabachari to carve a Patanjali, as the sculptor recorded. ‘He [Guruji] wanted a stone idol of Sage Patanjali made. I was not that comfortable then, as I couldn’t visualize how exactly the sage looked? For that matter, I even didn’t know Guruji then. But out of spontaneity I had agreed […] to make one…. and that was the start of my association with sage Patanjali and of course with Guruji.’ Bellur, Guruji’s birthplace, is a short drive from Padmanabachari’s village. Having heard of him by reputation, Mr Iyengar arrived carrying Sanskrit texts. The two men studied together and an initial drawing was made. This sketch was the basis for the first Patanjali, a statue that took two months to carve. Padmanabachari then made it his life’s mission to carve Patanjalis ‘out of the toughest stones’.

If Padmanabachari was initially unsure what Patanjali should look like, we might imagine that Mr Iyengar – deeply knowledgeable about Patanjali – was absolutely clear about what he required. Some of Patanjali’s attributes go back centuries; others, like the conch and wheel, are entirely new to the Iyengar carvings. They are described, of course, in the invocation to Patanjali: ‘sankha cakrasi dharinam’, he (Patanjali) holds a conch (sankha) and a disc (cakra); ‘sahasra sirasam svetam’, and is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra. The statue brings, then, the poetry of the invocation before our eyes in concrete sculptural form.

Padmanabachari’s first carving was installed in the courtyard at RIMYI, Pune, where it remains a welcoming sight for visitors. To put the Pune and Maida Vale Patanjalis side by side is to be struck by a close family resemblance. It is no surprise to learn then, that after the first Pune sculpture was finished, a new statue was commissioned from Shri Padmanabachari. This Patanjali – the Maida Vale carving – was

shipped to London in a wooden crate; on arrival, its considerable weight surprised everyone.

BKS Iyengar with sculptor Shri Padmanabachari

Yoga & Carving

As a yoga teacher learns to read a body, to see beneath its surface and see with compassion, so a sculptor learns to read stone. ‘We are specifically taught how to identify and then be friendlier with the material we choose,’ Padmanabachari has explained; ‘there is a unique way to test the right stone especially for the idols, even before we hammer our first chisel on it. This kind of knowledge […] comes only from experience’. The sculptor must see the deity in the stone and find a way to bring it to life. The courage required to progress is significant – there are risks to the sculptor as well as to what he creates. Padmanabachari himself drew a comparison between the rigorous determination required by his art and that displayed by Mr Iyengar who, particularly as a young man, pushed himself to the physical and mental limits of what is possible in yoga.7

Equally striking is the comparison made by Guruji between breath in pranayama and the pneumatic drill, a tool used in quarrying stone.8 Both are at once powerful and dangerous; as well as courage, both require

wisdom and control. ‘Every stroke of our hammer is an act of responsibility’, Padmanabachari has said, a comment equally applicable to the teaching and practice of yoga.

If there is a kinship between making sculpture and teaching yoga, there is another between the statue in our studio and our practice of yoga postures. Seated comfortably on his coils, Maida Vale’s Patanjali is, in a literal sense, in a yogasana (the word ‘asana’ means seat). This compact, stable pose, together with his symmetrical upper body and benign expression, embody one of Patanjali’s own great yogasutras: ‘sthira sukham asanam’ (‘Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit’9). The carving’s snake-human form also reminds us that the asanas are rich with the power of animals, plants and gods to shift shape. But perhaps it is in Bhujangasana, cobra pose, when we might think especially of Patanjali. Here we are half snake (legs working together, spine supple and coiling) and half human (reluctant shoulders moving back, chest lifting up). If we begin our practice with an attempt to summon Patanjali’s serpentine fluidity, we end by seeking his unshakeable stability. Through long practice, the body, and ultimately the consciousness, find stillness. The carving’s stately bearing provides an image of this equilibrium, the inner stability that represents Patanjali’s definition of yoga itself.10

The collaboration between the sculptor and the yoga guru was long and productive. They were also friends. Perhaps Guruji recognised in Padmanabachari a fellow traveller: from a small village in southern India, he became a craftsman of great strength and skill, an artist of profound sensitivity and a man deeply committed to his sacred work.

Conclusion

To our opening questions, we can answer that the statue came from a village close to Guruji’s birthplace and was made by the sculptor Padmanabachari. We know of the deep connection between Patanjali and Iyengar Yoga, to this we can add the close partnership between Mr Iyengar and the man who carved the Patanjali idols. Together they took up an ancient iconography and gave it new life.

As to why the statue is in the studio, a number of suggestions can be made. First, it reminds us of the living relationship between Patanjali’s “Yogasutras” and our practice. His disc and conch represent the practical tools set out for us in his text; his metamorphosis reminds us of the suppleness and effort required if, like him, we seek transformation. To inspire our work, the statue provides an image of the perfect asana; in it we glimpse the equanimity of the fully evolved soul. Secondly, Patanjali is present as our protector. He shelters our practice and his writing guides us though difficulties. Thirdly, Patanjali provides the foundation for our knowledge of yoga. The carving reminds us of a legacy of scholarship and teaching that stretches back many centuries.

A final reason: in a recent class, we were instructed to stand up on two bricks in Tadasana. ‘We put a sculpture on a plinth’, the teacher said, ‘to give it importance’. I stood on the bricks feeling remarkably tall. ‘Step down,’ she said. ‘Feel the pull of gravity as you return to earth’ (it felt strong). When we sit down before Patanjali, we

step off the pedestal of our egos. We fold our hands and bow our heads, returning his Anjali gesture. Learning requires humility, as Geetaji has taught us: ‘you know that you are very small in front of that greatest soul […] you are “coming down” to learn something. And you can’t learn anything unless you come down’.11 Each time we step down before Patanjali, we receive the opportunity to remake ourselves as students.

My sincere thanks to Penny Chaplin, Jake Clennell, Gerry Chambers, Abhijata Sridhar, Alan Reynolds, Korinna Pilafidis-Williams, Stephen Richardson and Sallie Sullivan for sharing knowledge and images for this article.

References

1 Gudrun Bühnemann, ‘Naga, Siddha and Sage: Visions of Patanjali as an Authority on Yoga’, in “Yoga in Transformation”, K. Baier, P. André Mass & K. Preisendanz (eds), Vienna University Press, 2018, pp. 575-622.

2 Photo: Raja Deekshithar, 11 Feb 2007, with kind permission of Ian Alsop; http://asianart.com/articles/ratha/28.html.

3 BKS Iyengar, “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”, p. 1.

4 For Geeta Iyengar’s comments on Patanjali: Peggy Cady, ‘Exploring the Invocation to Patanjali’, iyengaryogacentre.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Patanjali-2.pdf.

5 For Padmanabachari’s working life and details of his first meeting with Mr Iyengar, I am indebted to

Jake Clennell, director of “Iyengar: The Man, Yoga, and the Student’s Journey” (in conversation).

6 Blogpost, V. Gayathri, July 9th 2010: http://creative-talk.blogspot.com/2010/. Further comments by Padmanabachari also come from this post, unless otherwise stated.

7 For Padmanabachari’s comments on courage, as well as footage of him at work, see the trailer for

“Sadhaka”: http://clennellfilms.com/documentary#/doc-sadhaka/.

8 BKS Iyengar, “Light on Yoga”, p. 431 (Pranayama, Hints and Cautions, 3).

9 “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”, II, 46, BKS Iyengar’s translation.

10 ‘‘yoga chittavrtti nirodhah’’ (‘Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness’), YSP, I, 2.

11 In Peggy Cady. pp. 2-3.

This article is taken from Dipika, the Iyengar Yoga Maida Vale Journal, 2020. If referencing this article, please credit as appropriate.

The science and philosophy of OM-AUM

By Ainhoa Acosta

Ainhoa has a Masters degree in Audio Production and has worked as a Promo Producer and Creative Executive for the World Service and BBC News. She teaches the children’s yoga class, a beginners’ class and an introductory course at Maida Vale.

She currently teaches a livestream class for Beginners on Mondays at 18.15 BST >

 

 


When going to a yoga class for the very first time, some students may be surprised that we start the class chanting ‘Om’ three times. Some feel at ease straight away, while others might feel self-conscious or wonder why we chant a word in Sanskrit without knowing what it means. Sometimes that first Om is strained, not harmonious, only to become a smooth and pleasant sound by the third repetition.  

Often there is the question of whether it has a religious connotation.  

Let us look at this more closely.

The philosophy of Om

In yoga philosophy, Om is considered a sacred syllable. “Like the Latin word ‘Omne’, the Sanskrit word ‘Om’ means ‘all’ and conveys concepts of ‘Omniscience’, ‘Omnipresence’ and ‘Omnipotence’” (BKS Iyengar, ‘Light on Yoga’, p. 445). Om is a sacred ‘mantra’. It is considered a universal sound, the seed of all words without reference to any specific religion or god. According to the Big Bang theory, Om is the cosmic sound that initiated the creation of the universe.

This sacred syllable is not just one sound, it is actually three. The ‘Pranava’ (power) mantra comprises three syllables: ‘a’, ‘u’, ’m’, indicating the continuity of past, present and future. The Aum sound encompasses the masculine, feminine and neutral principles. It also addresses speech (‘vak’), mind (‘manas’) and breath (‘prana’) and alludes to the famous trinity of Indian cosmology, the creator (Brahma), the maintainer (Vishnu) and the destroyer (Shiva). By chanting Aum at the beginning of class or practice, the divinity within each of us is addressed, invited and called in. When we perceive the sound of our own voice, we notice our own presence. Through sound, an invisible yet physical expression, we are closer to perceiving our true self and our true nature. We are never separate from sound; even if we can’t speak or hear we feel its physical vibration throughout our bodies. 

At the point of chanting Aum, there is no thought, no separation. Regular practice enhances a sense of centeredness. It is also said that while chanting Aum, the syllable is the target and our attention becomes focused on one point (‘Ekagrata’). Like holding the bow and using the Self as the arrow, chanting gives us a clear sense of direction and focus. It is the beginning of the inward journey and thus the beginning of the class and of practice.

The science behind Aum

The effects of chanting Aum at the beginning of each class go beyond the philosophical realm. It is well recognised that sound is a powerful tool for healing and can have profound effects. The ancient yogis knew and practised many methods that are now becoming accepted by the scientific community. One of these is the chanting of mantras.

Mantras are syllables that exert an influence or effect through sound vibrations that resonate on specific parts of the body. Different syllables vibrate at different sound frequencies and so they will resonate with certain organs and parts of the body. The human hearing range is 20Hz to 20KHz. Aum vibrates at 432 Hz, which is quite low within our hearing range. This means that the sound wave is longer and its frequency of vibration slower than a high-pitch sound at, let’s say, 15KHz. The physical result of this is that these sound waves will affect bigger surface areas.

At a physical level, the Aum syllable addresses the whole of the human sound instrument: we open the mouth (‘a’), move the lips closer to each other (‘u’) and then close the mouth (‘m’). This activates the larynx fully. ‘A’ resonates in the stomach and chest, ‘u’ in the throat and chest and ‘m’ in the nasal cavity, skull and brain. By chanting Aum we move the energy from the abdomen up to the brain. Those of us who chant Aum daily before our practice, feel how it helps us to calm our mind and clear our thoughts.

Specific scientific research

Modern technology, such as sound spectrum analysis and brain imaging technology, has made it possible to analyse the structure and quality of soundwaves produced by chanting, as well as the physiological responses induced by the repetition of the Aum sound. Separate research studies were carried out on volunteers who have never chanted before. The recordings and the sound waves were analysed before and after some weeks of chanting Aum on a regular basis. The soundwaves of those who had never done any chanting showed irregular patterns, indicative of unsteadiness of breath and more restless minds. By contrast, the soundwaves recorded after a period of regular chanting were smooth, evenly spaced and harmonic, a clear indication of more regular breathing.  There was an increased connection between the breath and mind, which resulted in an improved sense of calmness.1 In another experiment, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans (f-MRI scans) were used to analyse the brain and measure the response of the nervous system during and after the Aum mantra chanting. It’s findings showed that the regular chanting of Aum can be effective in the treatment of depression & epilepsy.2 Other studies have revealed that regular Aum chanting can help lower high blood pressure.3 Other effects of chanting Aum regularly are improved concentration and a reduction in stress levels.4 

Modern technology and science confirm what ancient yogis knew about the healing power of Aum. 

So much in just one sound.


References

OM sound from NASA: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRu_hG3X3bI

The Power of OM: 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012mzsp

Sound file of what the big bang AUM might have sounded like:

http://faculty.washington.edu/jcramer/BigBang/WMAP_2003/BBSnd20.wav

The sound of the big bang:

http://faculty.washington.edu/jcramer/BBSound_2003.html

1 Gurjar, A. A., and Ladhake, S. A., ‘Time-Frequency Analysis of Chanting Sanskrit Divine Sound “OM” Mantra’, IJCSNS International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, Vol. 8, August 2008, pp. 170-175; http://paper.ijcsns.org/07_book/200808/20080825.pdf

2 Kalyani, B. G., Venkatasubramanian, G., Arasappa, R., Rao, N. P., Kalmady, S. V., Behere, R. V., Rao, H., Vasudev, M. K., and Gangadhar, B. N., ‘Neurohemodynamic correlates of ‘OM’ chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study’, International Journal of Yoga, January 2011, 4 (1), pp. 3-6; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21654968

3 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1258234/Chants-fine-thing-It-sound-daft-doctors-believe-meditation-really-lower-blood-pressure.html

4 Gurjar A. A., Ladhake, S. A., Thakare, A. P., ‘Analysis Of Acoustic of “OM” Chant To Study It’s Effect on Nervous System’, IJCSNS International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, Vol. 9 No.1, January 2009, pp. 363-367, p. 366; http://paper.ijcsns.org/07_book/200901/20090151.pdf

This article is taken from Dipika, the Iyengar Yoga Maida Vale Journal, 2020. If referencing this article, please credit as appropriate.

Yoga props for your home practice

Many of us have been improvising props at home. This can work perfectly well for home practice and livestream classes and Mr Iyengar himself was known for his innovation in repurposing household items to create new props. But, if you would like to upgrade from books, towels and cushions we can recommend the selection of equipment below.

We have chosen props that are similar to the ones we use at Maida Vale so that they will be familiar and easy to work with if you have attended classes at our studios.




Foam Brick

At Maida Vale we use wooden, foam and cork bricks. Foam is a good option for your home practice as it is lighter and less expensive than wood.

£7

View now >

 


Cork Brick

Cork bricks are slightly heavier than foam so some students find them slightly more stable to work with.

£12

View now >


Yoga Belt

 

£7.50

 

View now >

 



Natural Cotton Blanket

New blankets can shed rather a lot of fluff. Try washing your blanket before use to minimise shedding.

£24

View now >



Tall Chair

At Maida Vale we have longer-legged chairs like this one for tall students.

£45

View now >


Bolster

New bolsters can be a bit big and puffy. Over time they settle, soften and become more comfortable to use.

£38

View now >


The Pune Shoulder Jacket – try it to counteract hunched shoulders


Have you tried The Pune Shoulder Jacket?

IYMV remedial teacher Korinna Pilafidis-Williams demonstrates how to put the Pune ‘shoulder jacket’ on. This is a great method to counterbalance your shoulder girdle when you’ve been hunched forward over a computer all day.

If you don’t have a yoga belt at home and you would like to try this technique, you can find a belt similar to the ones we use at Maida Vale here >

Sunday Pregnancy Class – New Time

Please note that the Pregnancy Class will now start at 3.30pm. The time change is in effect from Sunday 8th March.

Pregnancy Class
Sundays
3.30 – 5.00pm

Members online class booking

Occasionally classes at Maida Vale get so busy that Members have been turned away. While not a regular occurrence, this is particularly frustrating for Members who travel from outside and across London to get to class. Online booking already works effectively for Workshops and Pregnancy Classes at Maida Vale. So, we are introducing class booking to our Members so they have priority access to busy classes.

A limited number of class places are available to book online. Every class also has drop-in spaces available so you can choose whether to book or not.


How it works

  • Visit the Live Timetable >
  • Click on the ‘Sign Up Now’ button next to the class you want to attend. You will then be prompted to log-in to your account to confirm your place.
  • If you have a prepaid Yogacard then class payment will be taken from that card. Otherwise you will have the option to buy a single class at the Members’ rate.  
  • Booking opens 14 days before classes are scheduled and closes 2 hours before the class starts.
  • Once you have booked your place you can cancel up to 2 hours before the scheduled class time without penalty. Classes cancelled within two hours of the scheduled start time will be charged.

Download the IYMV app

Book classes easily and quickly from your phone:


Let us know what you think

The IYMV team and Board of Trustees will be monitoring Member booking for classes closely. Please let us know your feedback and ideas by emailing office@iyi.org.uk


Don’t want to book online or having technical problems?

If you prefer not to use online booking you can drop in to classes as usual.

For any technical problems please email office@iyi.org.uk

Forgotten your login details? Reset your password >

Alaric Newcombe – 2020 Teaching Schedule

Alaric Newcombe, Iyengar Yoga Teacher

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.

Friday 17 January
2.30-5.00pm

Friday 20 March
2.30-5.00pm

Friday 26 June
2.30-5.00pm

Friday 21 August
2.30-5.00pm



Sunday Teaching Schedule

10.15am Intermediate Class 12.30pm General Class
5 JanuaryMarco CannavoMarco Cannavo
12 JanuarySophie CarringtonSophie Carrington
19 JanuaryJudy SmithJudy Lynn
26 JanuaryOfra GrahamOfra Graham
2 FebruaryPenny ChaplinPenny Chaplin
9 FebruaryOfra GrahamOfra Graham
16 FebruarySophie CarringtonSophie Carrington
23 FebruaryOfra GrahamOfra Graham
1 MarchMarco CannavoMarco Cannavo
8 MarchPenny ChaplinPenny Chaplin
15 MarchSophie CarringtonSophie Carrington
22 MarchRichard Agar WardRichard Agar Ward
29 MarchRichard Agar WardRichard Agar Ward
5 AprilRichard Agar WardRichard Agar Ward
12 AprilTBCTBC
19 AprilMarco CannavoMarco Cannavo
26 AprilSophie Carrington Sophie Carrington
3 MayPenny ChaplinPenny Chaplin
10 May Ofra GrahamOfra Graham
17 MayRichard Agar WardRichard Agar Ward
24 MayRichard Agar WardRichard Agar Ward
31 MayOfra GrahamOfra Graham
7 JuneMarco CannavoMarco Cannavo
14 JuneTBCTBC
21 JuneRichard Agar WardRichard Agar Ward

2020 Friday Restorative & Pranayama: Dates for your diary

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.

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!



2020 Restorative & Pranayama Class Schedule

Members £11 / Non-members £14

Friday 10 January 6.30-8.00pm Penny Chaplin
Friday 17 January6.30-8.00pm Marco Cannavo
Friday 7 February6.30-8.00pm Marco Cannavo
Friday 21 February6.30-8.00pm Amparo Rodriguez
Friday 6 March6.30-8.00pm Amparo Rodriguez
Friday 20 March 6.30-8.00pm Marco Cannavo
Friday 17 April6.30-8.00pm Marco Cannavo
Friday 24 April6.30-8.00pm Penny Chaplin
Friday 1 May6.30-8.00pm Penny Chaplin
Friday 8 May6.30-8.00pm Marco Cannavo
Marco.Cannavo_Penny.Chaplin_Amparo.Rodriguez

Remembering Geeta Iyengar

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.



 

 

Geeta on pranayama >



 

 

Growing up with yoga >


 

 

The benefits of yoga for women >


 

 

Uday Bhosale remembers Geetaji >


 

 

 

A personal tribute by Sallie Sullivan >




 


IYIMV Outreach Programme – Open for applications

Are you, or do you know an Iyengar yoga teacher who would like to teach classes to vulnerable or disadvantaged adults?

IYMV has established an outreach programme to bring Iyengar yoga to those who might not have access to regular yoga classes. We are inviting teachers to suggest a London based organisation to work with such as a community project, women’s refuge or centre, prison, special needs school or recovery project that does not already have funding.

Successful applicants will receive funding to teach a weekly class at their proposed organisation for an initial period of 6 months.

Continue reading →

Iyengar yoga classes for MS and neurological conditions


Following the success of our workshops with Garth McLean we have launched a regular class for students with multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions. The classes are based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar with specific input from Garth McLean.


12 September to 17 October (6 sessions)
Thursdays
12.00-1.30 pm
Members £69 / Non-members £84

**Please note there will be no class on 24 October.**

31 October to 12 December (7 sessions)
Thursdays
12.00-1.30pm
Members £69 / Non-members £84


Places are by application only and fees are paid half-termly in advance. 

Come to class in t-shirt & leggings or shorts so that the teachers can observe how your body is working.


Classes are led by Korinna Pilafidis-Williams with assistance from other teachers. Korinna has been practising Iyengar yoga since 1983 and started teaching at IYMV in 1995. She is a Junior Intermediate teacher and is part of the remedial and teacher training teams at IYMV.  


Please apply by completing the form below and emailing to office@iyi.org.uk

APPLICATION FORM >

NEW Friday early morning class


This summer we are running a second early morning Beginners/General class with Amparo Rodriguez on Fridays. Join us to make the most of the bright mornings and start your day right!

Our early morning classes are 75 minutes long so you have time to practice before you get on with your day. The new Friday class starts on 14 June and will run until the clocks go back. The last class of the season will be Friday 25 October.

Wednesdays 7.00-8.15am

Fridays 7.00-8.15am

Members £8.50 / Non-members £11

Moving up from Beginners to General level

 

BKS Iyengar and his daughter, Geeta, were always clear about the stages of progression of practice and how poses link with each other like building blocks. Each syllabus has a clear list of poses which create the basis of practice at whatever stage you are at.

Continue reading →

Geeta Iyengar On Pranayama

In the May 2002 issue of Dipika, the Iyengar Yoga Maida Vale journal, we published an intervew with Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar on the subject of pranayama by Lois Steinberg. Many thanks to Lois for allowing us us to share it here.   Continue reading →

Interview with Geeta Iyengar – 1999

Dr. Geeta Iyengar passed away on Sunday 16th December at age 74. She made a profound contribution to  the yoga community around the world with her dedication to sharing the teachings of her father and guru, BKS Iyengar. Her seminal work ‘Yoga – A Gem for Women’ has had an enduring influence on yoga techniques for women. Reportedly when asked about living in her father’s shadow she replied, “It was not his shadow, it was his light.”

In 1999 Mark Tully, the BBC’s India Correspondent from 1964-1994, visited Pune. The result of this visit was a memorable interview with BKS Iyengar for the BBC Radio 4 production: Head to Toe. BBC producer, Vanessa Harrison, has kindly shared the interview transcripts. This is a section of the interview Mark held with  Geeta.  Continue reading →

BKS Iyengar’s Demonstration at the Barbican in London, 1984

 

21 May, 1984 was a momentous occasion in the history of Iyengar yoga and for the Iyengar Yoga studios in Maida Vale. BKS Iyengar gave a talk and demonstration before an audience of 2,000 at the Barbican Centre in London. He talked about Patanjali and the eight limbs of yoga and he gave a demonstration of pranayama and asanas. The occasion also included a performance by some of his close students that had been rehearsed at Maida Vale. Guruji generously donated the entire income from the evening to the Maida Vale building fund. 

One of his students who took part was our Senior teacher, Penny Chaplin. Here she remembers this special evening.

Continue reading →

2018/19 Pop-up Intermediate Class Schedule

 

Following on from the popularity of our Sunday afternoon Pop-up Intermediate classes we have scheduled classes for the New Year. These are all drop-in classes so no need to book in advance. Just note the dates, come along and enjoy.

Members £14 / Non-members £17

 

Continue reading →

Moving up from Beginners to General level Iyengar yoga class

Barbara Norvell has been teaching Iyengar yoga since 1999. Here she shares her thoughts on how to decide when to move up from a Beginners Level class to General Level. At IYMV we ask that students go to Beginners classes regularly for two years before moving up to a General class. Some students are keen to move up quickly while for others the prospect can be a little daunting. We hope this will help you decide when the right time is for you. Continue reading →

An Interview with Uday Bhosale

uday_iyimv

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.

Continue reading →

Silvia Prescott

bks-and-silvia

One of our most senior and respected teachers, Silvia Prescott, died peacefully at home on Thursday 3 November.

Silvia was one of BKS Iyengar’s first British students, having practised Iyengar yoga since 1970, and taught at Maida Vale for many years.

The funeral will take place at Golder’s Green Crematorium on Thursday 17 November at 1.00pm

No flowers by request. Donations to Age UK or Shelter will be welcomed.

Read Silvia’s memories of her teacher BKS Iyengar in The Guardian >

See Silvia’s photographs of BKS Iyengar’s practice >

Sunday Intermediate pop-up class

pop-up_teachers

This winter we are offering a series of Sunday afternoon Intermediate classes. These are all drop-in classes so no need to book in advance. Schedule them in to your weekend and keep your practice on point over the chilly months. Continue reading →

7 Day Summer Visitor Pass

If you’re a visiting Iyengar yogi or an IYIMV student with yoga friends visiting from out of town this summer, our 7 Day Summer Visitor Pass is for you. It’s a great value way for non-members to attend classes. Continue reading →

Assessments update – Congratulations to our teachers!

BKS Iyengar observed that ‘a good teacher helps you explore to the maximum’ and this description will ring true to anyone who has found themselves leaving a class feeling inspired and restored. It is through dedication to their own development that Iyengar yoga teachers are able to guide their students courageously and safely.

We are lucky to have an exceptional group of teachers at Maida Vale and we’re proud to announce that Marco Cannavo, Ofra Graham, Barbara Norvell and Kate Rathod have all recently passed senior assessments.

Continue reading →

Taking an Iyengar yoga assessment

Ainhoa Acosta has been a student at Maida Vale for many years and recently passed her Introductory Level 2 Iyengar yoga teaching assessment. Well done Ainhoa! She tells us about her experience of taking Iyengar yoga assessment.

Continue reading →

Are you ready to move up from General Level classes to Intermediate?

It can be hard to tell when you are ready to move up a level from General classes to Intermediate. Our guidelines at Maida Vale are that you need two years of experience for General and four years for Intermediate classes. But, we know it can be daunting to think you might be expected to perform perfect, advanced postures and it can feel safer to stick with your regular class. So, if you’ve been considering moving up this quick guide will help you decide whether now is the right time for you.

Continue reading →

Alaric Newcombe on BKS Iyengar’s ‘Asanas for Emotional Stability’

Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher and trainer, Alaric Newcombe, has taught at Maida Vale since 1991. He holds an annual retreat for teachers, trainees and experienced practitioners. The daily routine includes an hour and a half of pranayama, a three hour asana class and two to three hours of self practice, overseen by Alaric, where students work though the Asanas for Emotional Stability from BKS Iyengar’s book Light On Life.

The Asanas for Emotional Stability are a sequence of fifteen supported asana presented with detailed instructions and illustrations on use of props and timings. Here Alaric shares his thoughts about teaching this sequence to his students and trainees.

Continue reading →

20th August Commemorations

On Thursday 20th August it will be one year since Guruji’s death. Teachers will be marking the day in their classes. If you’d like to pay your respects with a personal practice please feel free to come and use the studio between 1-6pm. Continue reading →