Janet’s Yoga News - February 2015

I imagine that the vast majority of you reading this newsletter have attended at least one yoga class. Most of you have attended many and there are those of you like myself, who have attended many and taught many. I am consistently grateful for the opportunity to attend so many wonderful classes since my first one in New York City in 1973. Up until my first trip to Pune, India to study with the Iyengar family in 1983, I had the privilege of studying with several first class teachers in both London and San Francisco. As well as learning from the Iyengars in Pune, I was also fortunate to attend Iyengar Yoga Conventions in Canada, London and Johannesburg as well as in the United States; beginning with the First International Iyengar Yoga Convention here in San Francisco in 1984. Obviously the study of yoga has been very accessible to me and I have been able to reap the benefits on so many levels. It is impossible to imagine what my life would be like without that first exposure to yoga all those years ago.

My teacher's quote emphasizes the importance of yoga being available to all and he is one of the teachers who made it happen. When I was participating in the Teacher Training Program at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco in the early 80's I would sometimes help out in the office. On many occasions I would pick up the phone and it would be someone from New York City asking for a recommendation for a teacher there. My response was that there were no Iyengar trained teachers in New York, but there was one teacher who would visit from Philadelphia, PA once a month to teach yoga. In that same era we had short summer courses at the Institute. These were attended by students from all over the country as well as by a number of foreign students.

It is hard to believe that in this relatively short period of time, things have changed so much. This is largely due to B.K.S. Iyengar. He was a supreme yoga teacher but he was also a pioneer. He traveled to Europe in the early 60's when it was not that common to do so. He taught regularly in London for many years although he met with some resistance as far as basic things such as food were concerned. As he became better known in the West students who were inspired by him began making trips to India to study with him. As a result over the years yoga centers became a familiar phenomenon particularly in Europe and the United States. He encouraged students from all parts of the world to become teachers and spread the word of yoga in their localities. In 2011 and in his early 90’s he taught a Convention in China to 1,400 students. It is obvious that he accomplished his dream of making yoga available to all nations.

However, within each of the nations, there are those who can attend classes and those who cannot. Here in the United States it appears at times that yoga has turned into a fitness activity for the middle class. It is my desire that those of us who are blessed with the authentic teachings as taught to us by B.K.S. Iyengar make it a priority to make yoga available to all cultures. Because the subject of yoga is complete, we need to honor not just the formal practice of asana and pranayama, we need also to immerse ourselves in the precepts upon which the system is based. The foundational precept is Ahimsa (non-harming). If we were to develop a better understanding of this, our love for peace would permeate our communities and encourage a more diverse participation in yoga. San Francisco is a culturally diverse city and it would be a tremendous evolution to have that diversity reflected in our classes.

It is my wish that through my community classes (if finances are an issue) and all other classes, that my audience is not limited by 'national or cultural' boundaries and in my own small way I want to help realize one of the dreams of my yoga teacher extraordinaire – B.K.S. Iyengar. Now that he has passed away, I recall many simple but profound statements which he made repeatedly over the years. One such statement was that 'yogis should be friendly'. Displaying friendliness to all those who cross our paths in yoga should go a long way to making everyone welcome into our large yoga family.