Category: Community
RIMYI - A first-timer's experience, by Jackie Ruddock.

I feel incredibly lucky to have just returned from my first-time experience of a month-long intensive at the Institute. And while still in this liminal state, here is my ‘digestion’ of the experience.

RIMYI - A first-timer's experience, by Jackie Ruddock..

“Your intelligence was munching,” reminds Prashant Iyengar to the room full of students, nearing the end of a Friday evening Pranayama class. The hall windows are all open. Outside it’s dark and the heat from the day has yet to subside. Even though we look to be resting, there’s still a lot to take in. And really, I could use any one of the many adept phrases Prashant-ji uses to encapsulate the dynamism of being at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune. I feel incredibly lucky to have just returned from my first-time experience of a month-long intensive at the Institute. And while still in this liminal state, here is my ‘digestion’ of the experience.

It’s called an Institute for a reason.

In the past I’ve been fortunate to be able attend a number of masterclasses and intensive short courses, designed for developing subject-matter expertise, and being at RIMYI is no different. Here you experience practitioners living and working their ethos day in and day out. The devotion and commitment to the embodiment of yoga principles, by the people who lead, is palpable. As those who have attended RIMYI well know, the purposeful livelihood also goes a step further for the family who lives onsite. As foreign students come and go, so too on a daily basis does the cart of fresh vegetables and fruit, wheeled by the bhaji wala, up to the family residence. We study as the daily domestic rituals and chores of life are undertaken; as the children entertain themselves playing games below the hall grills. Lives progress within recurring cycles, and yet we have our own distinct pattern and duration of participation. Within this context, I recognised I was momentarily just ‘along for the ride’ within a much larger narrative. Therefore, I saw it as my job to actively observe and listen and, in so doing, try to take-in the experiential knowledge happening in real-time.

With close to half a century of studious examination of yoga just in this building alone, there is much to absorb! Incorrect knowledge is addressed, sometimes loudly, sometimes quietly. Challenges are articulated. If you’re here for yoga, then be here. All of us are pupils, within a vast and deep body of ancient knowledge. Being in situ with professionals so passionate about their purpose, is an incredible experience and RIMYI delivers in spades. Of course, this keen focus also brings continual bewilderment - well, at least for me! And so, at times, I just had to acknowledge how out of my depth I found myself, despite my efforts. I could laugh too, knowing that the often-referenced Patanjali’s Sutra II.47 is clearly still several lifetimes away for me! “Perfection in an Asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached,” BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Yoga embodied as a science, philosophy and art.

This phraseology, from Iyengar Yoga, is well-known to many, so observing these three intertwined threads enacted was captivating. RIMYI delivers learning development across a vast array of modalities (let alone bilingually). Six days a week, the daily schedule consists of attending one taught class (five asana, one pranayama) coupled with a scheduled allocation each day for self practice. Sunday mornings are devoted to a children’s class, which students can observe and delight in. Young children and teens effortlessly move from Adho Mukha Svanasana to Virasana to Ustrasana and then from Dhanurasana to Parsva Dhanurasana and into Urdhva Dhanurasana. Over, and over again!

When we as students are in class we have our own tasks. For example, we participate in asana classes where we’re asked to experiment and respond to what is happening in the moment. Questions such as; ’What do you notice today?’ ‘What knowledge does it bring you now?’ ‘How is it different from last time?’ ‘If I tell you x, y or z, how will it change your perception?’ The class room is a laboratory, and we each have a role to play. Guriji’s photos surround the walls and are regularly referred to, almost like the Periodic Table of Elements. ‘Just look at how straight his entire leg is there!’ ‘Look at that verticality of his spine!’

There are also historical films to view, including one from an overseas convention (with students wearing excellent, late-1980s, coloured yoga leotards!). Then there are Geeta-ji’s recorded classes to follow, and as well as lecture sessions. For example, BKS Iyengar’s Grandson, Srineet Sridharan invited us to examine Samkhya philosophy and its relationship to yoga. I’m pleased I can personally thank him for his and Prashant-ji’s extensive online Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Lecture Series that we study. An engaging demonstration was held by a number of teachers on how Viparita Karani could be taken in an assortment of ways. We then put this theory into practice the following day in a 2-hour back-bending class.

The architecture and interior of the space itself also demonstrates ‘design thinking’ that moves beyond mere aesthetics. These include the vast array of props (both known and unknown for their purposes) which are, as teacher Dr Naik says, “Divine!” I found by arriving early, I was able to spend some quiet time closely examining the many artworks as well as historical archives and photographs, and also the stunning Hindu statues on display. I even managed to see the hood of the many-headed snakes up close by climbing up to the roof turret!

Self-practice and -reflection, within the collective.

Anne O’Brien writes, “Yoga is replete with paradoxes; the deeply personal, individual practice of yoga is at the same time a group exploration,” (Iyengar: The Yoga Master, edited by Kofi Busia, 2007). I read her article within this book collection in Pune, and being at RIMYI, it pertinently spotlighted this insight. Ultimately, we know, it’s you on the mat. Teacher Raya Uma Dutta highlighted, at one point, that the sustained benefits in yoga are gained through self-practice. More explicitly he reiterated this argument because the ‘dosage’ within taught classes won’t always be applicable to benefit everyone, as our needs and requirements are as diverse as each of us.

The 3-hour self-practice sessions 4 days a week were an excellent opportunity for me to ‘test’ these theories. What I did, and why I did it, was solely up to me. ‘I’m here now, so what will it mean I actually do?’ Physically, I learnt most directly about both stretching and looking up more often, to help lift and draw-in my spine, and make my trunk more active. Mentally, I experimented with no set timings for two-sided poses, as well as for the entire sessions themselves. No focus on the clock, simply moving from asana to asana.

Solo. Although a single entity, you’re also surrounded by the larger RIMYI community. This includes not only the local and abroad yoga students, but also the whole RMIYI team, who with commitment and dedication, do everything they can to ensure that all runs smoothly. The care shown is patently clear. Not only are there significant personal challenges that arise but there is also the large-scale human suffering in countries which directly affect people here. So students help students, teachers help students, people chat, console and laugh between sessions. People attend the therapy classes. Particular attention is paid when and where required.

On a Sunday shortly after my arrival at the Institute there was the ‘Beginners Orientation’ introductory session led by Mrinal Pate and well-attended by local students. Warmth and depth were consistently shown in talking about the many aspects of collectively studying yoga. This included a philosophical base as well as an overview of asana sequencing and also incorporated people’s own personal reasons for being there. Finishing the session with tea and (what I’m pretty sure were Santosh Bakery) veg pastries, helped too! Which is to say, I witnessed the collective spirit of yoga in a myriad of ways.

As to coming here by myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew, of course, that so many have done this all before, and for decades (when there wasn’t nearly as much sage advice to draw upon). But, as Head of RIMYI, Abhijata Iyengar well-reminded us in a practice one day, ‘first times’ carry their own particularities. In her case she was discussing this notion in regard to developing the ability to stay in asana and then progress to learn more difficult asana. Abhijata reminded us what it is like to try and breathe the first time you go into Supta Virasana. No matter really what the experience is, for someone it’s going to be their first time. Meaning too, of course I made non-deliberate, cross-cultural mistakes as well as general errors per se. I was grateful for the thoughtful and caring responses to no doubt, many gaffs. The community aspect of RIMYI is an integral part of the whole… that said, be warned, the neighbourhood community/stray dogs were not always so welcoming at 5:20am in the morning as I made my way to class! Dr Naik’s joyful wisdom still rings in my ears, when he said in one of his classes, “We humans bark at each other like dogs, when we should be stretching like dogs!”

Eyes open!

When I first came to India (a year ago for a holiday) I wore a bandage over my eyes at the end of some days when practicing. It was my attempt to calm my optic nerves. India is a bedazzling rainbow gem and, as a person who loves colour, my eyes were and are perpetually wide open here!

This time, another jewel also presented itself. That of being able to observe classes. Yoga observation is a precious gem. Some days I would watch up to three classes in order to be exposed to the various teaching styles and techniques used by the teachers and support staff. Their expertise is astounding because you can see that it has been honed by repeated practice, feedback, practice, reflection, practice. Constantly evolving. I observed over 16 of the RIMYI teachers take classes, some of them multiple times. Being able to watch how, and in what ways, students respond to a teacher’s instructions was another excellent learning experience. To watch how a group of people react to the same set of instructions individually in order to take action was fascinating. It gave me an insight into how instructions are processed in each of us differently depending on our bodies, what we hear, and how we interpret the message. Therefore, that the students themselves accept RIMYI as a teaching school is great. That we were given the opportunity to participate in this way was incredibly valuable.

“Eyes open!” was verbalised by teachers across many classes, and especially in therapy. I got to experience and witness how, when things get physical, and our bodies are ‘opened’ in new directions, we often shut the eyes and move inward. By students having their eyes open allows the teachers to literally see some of the students internal responses. It’s a way to check whether the person is okay and, in turn it helps the student ‘face’ the feelings that are arising. “Eyes open” literally jolts us to wake up to what’s going on.

What does it mean to attend RIMYI?

How ‘close’ to Iyengar does one need to be to ‘do’ Iyengar yoga? How does experiential philosophy change over time? Worldwide, is it now the norm that the majority of Iyengar students themselves never met or learnt directly from Guruji and Geeta-ji, nor that their own teachers learnt directly from them either? Or was it always the case that much of the ethos of Iyengar has been transmitted by a much-wider and committed group? How do we as individual students experience the ripple effect of the yoga lineage - specifically - what makes it feel ‘strong’ for some and ‘weaker’ for others? Plus, what effect did (and will) the pandemic have on the continuing dissemination of Iyengar yoga?

I heard discussions here and there about ‘changes’ occurring at RIMYI. I think part of the mythology of anywhere special is cultivated by our own human nature to try and work out how, where and why we fit in, and what makes an experience special, or conversely, what we think we missed out on. I also met people who have come here many times and often over decades, who reflected gently how it’s always been changing. Or, listening to students discussing what repeated RIMYI experiences have provided for them by what they proffer themselves. Ultimately all perceptions are subjective. I have no ‘baseline’ from which to compare how this ‘RIMYI’ is different from any other.

What I do know is how much my own teacher prepared me for the wonderful experience of being at RIMYI. It is through the firm and lasting dedication of many senior Australian teachers that I, and countless others, have been steadily introduced to the concepts RIMYI use daily. This was a reaffirming and welcome realisation. My thanks to all those committed to teaching. To reiterate also, the zeal I feel I was exposed to right here, right now, by the dedicated and amazing RIMYI team was nourishing. In class one day a local student was wearing a T-shirt which said, “Yoga. India’s greatest gift to the world.” RIMYI as an Institute - both a literal and phenomenological location - has its own array of discourses. As such, if we are willing to engage, it has much to offer. I hope to return.

Jackie Ruddock travelled to RIMYI in October 2023.

Afterword:

With regard to Prashant-ji’s “munching,” a massive shout-out to Pune’s extraordinary vegetarian eating. This place is a vibrant, busy city. It has a long tradition of manufacturing, IT and academic pursuits. The population and land area size is akin to that of Sydney. So there’s much happening! And, being at RIMYI 6-days a week basically from 7am to 8pm - with only a long break for lunch - made me incredibly focused on what I’d eat out each day. Thanks to Google Maps and the ‘Pure Veg near me’ search function, I ambulated the streets daily to be introduced to nearby neighbourhoods, and found SO many amazing restaurant establishments (both the people working within, and the food itself). As someone who doesn’t consider themselves a ‘foodie’, the simple joy a good, tasty meal brings while you’re on an intensive experience cannot be underestimated!

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Looking back! - The IYA Inaugural Newsletter from 1985

Have a read through the inaugural IYA Newsletter from 1985. It includes a great interview with BKS Iyengar from ABC radio in Sydney, plus member contributions from when the association had 90 members.

IYA Inaugural Newsletter 1985.

Link to pdf of full article.

IYA Inaugural Newsletter 1985

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Yoga on the Island.

Fiona Rawson from Churchill Island has written a lovely article called "Yoga on the Island" about the outdoor Iyengar yoga classes which ran for 20 years, enduring heat, mozzie's, rain, and a stampede of highland cows, peacocks stutting through and more....
Churchill island is a small island in Southern Victoria accessed by single-lane wooden bridge from Phillip Island in Westernport Bay.

Yoga on the Island.

Churchill Island is a small island in southern Victoria. It is accessed by a single-lane, wooden bridge from Phillip Island in Westernport bay. It was once frequented by the Boonwurrung/ Bunurong Aboriginal people before being settled as a wheat farm by Europeans in 1801. Today it is a tourist attraction boasting original settler buildings, ancient trees, rose gardens and sweeping lawns. It is still a working farm with Highland cattle, sheep, turkeys, horses and chooks.

In 1998, I was approached by a Nature Parks ranger asking if I would take a yoga class on the lawn there on a Saturday morning over the summer holidays. The class would be at 9 am before the island opened to tourists. It was promoted as Yoga With The Birds. The setting was so beautiful and peaceful that we soon had regular students.

However, Victoria isn’t known for consistent weather, and it became obvious we needed some shelter for rainy days. The heritage buildings were small, and the sheds were occupied by animals, so we were given a large tarp strung up between the trees. This did the job, but it was wise for students to arrive early and place their mats away from the edges of the tarp. The rain water would pool on the low points of the tarp and when a gust of wind came through, it would lift it like a sail and pour a torrent of water over the sides, splashing everyone nearby.

With the eventual construction of a visitors’ centre, providing us with a room when needed, we were able to continue the classes year round. There was a dedicated group of locals who came all through Winter, but in Summer the classes were hugely popular. One beautiful, sunny morning in the holidays we set a record with 57 students dotting the lawn on their mats. Flies, mossies, heat and cold were no competition for the ambience of looking out to sea, surrounded by nature.

On another day, the Highland cows escaped from their paddock and stampeded through the middle of our class. Students and cows scattered in panicked confusion, but we were able to regroup once the farmer gathered the herd.

The resident peacocks would strut their stuff between the mats, occasionally pecking at someone’s shoes, and leaving small landmines of dung in the grass.

The most memorable visitor though, was a koala. He made the trek across a ploughed field, under a railing fence and up a small, nearby tree about half way through our class. He sat there, watching, until everyone was lying down in Savasana, then quietly climbed back down and made his way back across the paddock, his curiosity satisfied.

When my first son was born, my partner would bring him along in a pram and they would have all the farm animals to themselves while I ran the class, then I could breast feed him at the end. However, by the time I had my second child, I felt it was time to pass the class on to someone else. It ran for a few more years, re-branded as Yoga At Churchill Island, finally finishing after almost 20 years from those first classes under the rain-filled tarp.

Yoga can take you to some very special places.

yoga on the island 2

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Iyengar Yoga in Gariwerd National Park.

Everyone who comes to Griffins Hill experiences a slice of the yogic peace we have found. We live alongside kangaroos and other wildlife, including Miles the Emu, surrounded by bush and mountains. Kangaroos graze right outside the yoga studio windows and the National Park walking trails start at our front door.

Iyengar Yoga in Gariwerd National Park

By Frank Jesse Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher

In 1995 with the support of my partner Jane I created the Clifton Hill Iyengar Yoga Studio. It was among the few dedicated Iyengar yoga studios in Melbourne at that time. Over the next 14 years, we built a large loyal following. By 2009, when we decided to leave for the country, it was one of Melbourne's most loved and popular yoga schools.

Leaving such a great group of fellow yogis would always be hard.

Although we loved inner city life, Jane and I felt a strong desire to move into a more natural environment in rural Victoria. We'd both grown up in the country. Developing an Iyengar Yoga retreat seemed like a natural progression for this phase of our lives. Our plan was to offer a haven for people to disconnect from the chaos of daily life and find solace in a natural setting.

We moved from Clifton Hill to Griffins Hill, a lovely six-acre property 1.2 km from the Western Victorian town of Dunkeld. This is Djab Wurrung country at the southern tip of Gariwerd (the Grampian mountains). Gariwerd's distinctly rugged mountains rise from the flat western plains. Today, it is mainly sheep country, but it is an ancient landscape famous for its walking tracks and natural beauty. We believed it held immense potential as a distinctive yoga retreat.

Our passion for yoga and nature spurred us on as we embarked on this new chapter. Everyone who comes to Griffins Hill experiences a slice of the yogic peace we have found. We live alongside kangaroos and other wildlife, including Miles the Emu, surrounded by bush and mountains. Kangaroos graze right outside the yoga studio windows and the National Park walking trails start at our front door.

 Iyengar Yoga in Gariwerd National Park 1

Yoga practice in nature

Practice is essential to teaching Iyengar Yoga. Through practice, we develop a deep understanding of the correct alignment and action needed in an asana. We experience the effects of the asana on our body and the nervous system and can guide others towards those experiences. Practicing yoga at the base of the Gariwerd mountains, surrounded by early morning bird calls, adds another layer to the emotional context for my yoga teaching.

Our Iyengar Yoga Retreats are between five and seven days. This means the students have a chance to deeply immerse themselves in the peaceful environment. It's just yoga, delicious organic food and nature. These retreats also allow me to take student deeper into themselves to explore specific aspects of practice, such as inversions or backbends.

Why Griffins Hill is an important place to us

We live below Wurgarri to the west and Mud-dadjug to the North and pay respect to this place by acknowledging the original inhabitants and ecosystems. Peaceful cohabitation with fellow mammals defines 'place' for us and what we do. Our delicately balanced ecosystem is fragile. Australia is quickly losing species, with a poor history of protection. At Griffins Hill, we are involved in a campaign to stop the commercial killing of kangaroos in our area. This is an extension of the yogic practice of Ahimsa (non-violence), and it offers a genuine contribution to 'place'.

After dedicating over forty years to practicing and teaching yoga, I love sharing the spirit of Griffin Hill just as much as I enjoy teaching Iyengar Yoga.

Iyengar Yoga in Gariwerd National Park 2

Iyengar Yoga in Gariwerd National Park 3

Griffins Hill Retreat acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land we are on, the Gunditjmara and Eastern Maar Peoples and their elders past, present and emerging.

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Iyengar Yoga Australia is celebrating International Yoga Day! This year’s yoga sequence is by James Hasemer from Central Yoga School!

According to the UN, International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga – and we know, yoga is more than a physical activity. In the words of B. K. S. Iyengar; “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

Download the sequence via the link and have Happy World Yoga Day everyone! 🙏🏼 🧘‍♀️

Happy International Yoga Day 2023!

🧡 Iyengar Yoga Australia is excited to celebrate International Yoga Day by showcasing some of our community members demonstrating this year’s yoga sequence by James Hasemer from Central Yoga School!

Teachers and students from around the country have generously contributed 1 or 2 poses for this fun video to help celebrate the day and as a guide for your practice.

According to the UN, International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga – and we know, yoga is more than a physical activity. In the words of B. K. S. Iyengar; “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

How will you commemorate the art, philosophy and science that is Iyengar yoga?

Download the sequence via the link and have Happy World Yoga Day everyone! 🙏🏼 🧘‍♀️

IYD2023 Sequence

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Guruji's 100 Years

Guruji's 100 Years Article - Linda Apps.

Guruji's 100 Years

This month marks the eighth anniversary of Guruji’s passing - a time to reflect on the considerable body of work he described as “an art and a science”.

There has been much written about the life and teachings of Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (BKS) Iyengar including his international acclaim as the “father of modern yoga”. Guruji died in Pune, India, on 20 August 2016 at the age of 95, and we are eternally grateful for everything he has bequeathed to us.

To read more about his remarkable life, see the attached pdf of the article below. "Guruji's 100 Years" was written by Linda Apps in 2019 for Australian Yoga Life magazine.

Iyengar Article - Guruji's 100 Years

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A sequence of 108 asana to celebrate International Yoga Day 2022

Happy International Yoga Day 2022! In 2012 BKS Iyengar suggested that an international day of yoga would be a good idea, and in 2015 the first UN International Day of Yoga was celebrated on June 21. It has been marked on that date by the yoga community around the world ever since. We hope you enjoy this sequence of 108 asanas!

Happy International Yoga Day 2022!

In 2012 BKS Iyengar suggested that an international day of yoga would be a good idea, and in 2015 the first UN International Day of Yoga was celebrated on June 21. It has been marked on that date by the yoga community around the world ever since. We hope you enjoy this sequence of 108 asanas!

Download — IYD2022 Yoga Sequence — with Photos

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Let's Celebrate International Yoga Day 2021

Happy International Yoga Day! A big thank you to each of our members who responded to our recent call-out to participate in our celebration of International Yoga 2021. Here’s what we created with your contribution.

Happy International Yoga Day!

A big thank you to each of our members who responded to our recent call-out to participate in our celebration of International Yoga Day 2021. Here's what we created with your contribution.

To mark the occasion Iyengar Yoga Australia have asked Senior Yoga Teacher John Leebold to prepare a sequence. You can download it via link below, let’s celebrate Yoga on this special day.

Download — IYD2021 Yoga Sequence by John Leebold — with Photos

Download — IYD2021 Yoga Sequence by John Leebold — Text Only

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India—How we can help.

Iyengar Yoga Australia and our community are extending our best wishes for the well-being of people living in India as they navigate through the devastating rise of COVID cases and fight through this awful stage of the pandemic.

Right now, India is going through its most challenging time in the pandemic. Daily COVID-19 cases continue to soar, setting record highs, with hospitals at capacity and in dire need of urgent supplies to cope with the ever-increasing number of patients.

Iyengar Yoga Australia and our community are extending our best wishes for the well-being of people living in India as they navigate through the devastating rise of COVID cases and fight through this awful stage of the pandemic.

We express our deepest concerns and sympathies to RIMYI and the Iyengar family and all who work at the Institute; they are in our hearts.

Although we may feel powerless when seeing the numbers and news from India, we can help by donating to charities working locally and on the ground.

If you would like to donate to support India's ground efforts, we have compiled a list of organisations.

— PMCARES (official Prime Ministers fund for relief)

— KETTO

— Give India

— MILAP

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Please help—Australian Bush Fire Emergency

Australia is in a state of emergency with catastrophic fire conditions across most of the country.
The destruction of land, animal habitat and life, homes and human lives is beyond comprehension.
Let us support in any way we can.

Australia is in a state of emergency with catastrophic fire conditions across most of the country. Most of these fires have been burning since September last year.

The destruction of land, animal habitat & life, homes and human lives is beyond comprehension.

More than 14.5 million acres (6 million hectares) of native flora have been decimated—thousands of homes and building structures destroyed, an estimated half a billion animals have been wiped out—human lifes lost and there is no end in sight. The fire perimeter is more than 10'000 (16'000km) miles long—that is nearly the distance from Sydney to London.

As a comparison, the fires currently burning in Australia are three times the area of the 2018 California fires and six times the size of the Amazon fires in 2019. Help is much needed.

For those wishing to support, below links to organisations taking donations to provide relief efforts. Every little bit counts.

— Victorian Bushfire Appeal

— Red Cross

— Bushfire Disaster Appeal

— NSW RFS

— CFA VIC

— Salvation Army Disaster Relief

— Wildlife Victoria

— Foodbank

— Givit

— Wires Australian Wildelife Rescue Organisation

— WWF Australia

Our thoughts and hearts are with everyone affected by the fires and all the fire rescue out there protecting life and land. Stay safe.

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New Ethics Committee Member Craig Mackie

Meet Craig Mackie. Craig recently joined the Ethics & Certification Committee as a legal counsel. He is a barrister specialising in commercial litigation and also a certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, based in Hobart.

Meet Craig Mackie. Craig recently joined the Ethics & Certification Committee as a legal counsel. He is a barrister specialising in commercial litigation and also a certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, based in Hobart.

How long have you been practising Iyengar Yoga?

I started practising yoga around 2004 and first attended classes to help with workplace stress and a long term shoulder injury which I have from playing cricket.

When did you start teaching yoga?

In 2016 I received an introductory level teaching certificate and now teach at the Hobart School of Iyengar Yoga.

What do you do outside yoga?

I am a barrister. Next year I will have been admitted to practice as a lawyer for 30 years, specialising in commercial litigation. I have a large Anti-Discrimination law practice and also work with people like doctors, nurses, architects, vets and real estate agents who are being investigated by their regulatory bodies. I am also a member of Tasmania’s Disciplinary Tribunal, which presides over allegations of misconduct against lawyers. Besides yoga and law, I keep bees; I’m an accredited cricket coach, and, like all good Tasmanians, I enjoy bushwalking.

What do you hope to bring to the Ethics and Certification Mark Committee?

For some time now, I have been helping the Ethics & Certification Committee review and redraft IYA’s Ethical Guidelines. Like most policy documents, which have been written some time ago, I realised they needed updating to consider an approach that was thorough, transparent and reflected current community standards.

These documents are on the IYA website, and I encourage everyone to take time to look at them. The review and implementation of these guidelines is an ongoing process.

By coming onto the ECMC, I join the other committee members in attempting to ensure the practice of Iyengar Yoga is safe and rewarding for all.

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International Yoga Day, 21 June 2019 - Geeta Iyengar Sequence

Today is the 5th International Yoga Day; a day to celebrate all yoga. In saying that, let us do that
every day. Let us celebrate kindness, mindfulness, yoga and our wonderful community every single day.

In celebration of the 5th International Yoga day, Pune sent us a practice sequence from Geeta Iyengar to share with our community. So here it is. Happy practising.

IYA - 5th Internantional Yoga Day - Geeta Sequence Pune

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Tricia Shannon, The Yoga Room Orange (Interview)

The Yoga Room, located in Orange, in Central West New South Wales, celebrated its 20th birthday last May. Tricia Shannon is the principal teacher of the school, and there are three other teachers on the roster, with 11 classes as well as a Led Practice session every week.

What is the most challenging thing about running a yoga studio?

The most challenging thing in the first ten years was educating the public about yoga. The public perception in Orange 20 years ago didn’t match the reality of what happened in an Iyengar class.

Another challenge was staying afloat and keeping the doors open until a core student body was built. I had a great mentor and teacher in Alan Goode who gave me sound advice in the early days: ‘Don’t give up your day job’.

He was right; I kept my day job until the school was established and known in the community.

Apart from the common challenge most women face of running a business - having children and keeping everyone happy - the other challenge is teaching staff. As we all know in the Iyengar community, teacher training is a path that requires a commitment in terms of time, resources and as is the case with us here in Orange, travelling and being away from family for periods of time.

I have three amazing teachers who have trained and worked alongside me over the past 16 years. I am very grateful for their devotion and support, and I hope to see more students undertake teacher training and join our staff.

What is the most rewarding?

The most rewarding things are firstly, the opportunity to create a yoga community and educate people about the many benefits of yoga.

To watch students grow as yoga practitioners, and become healthier and more accepting and content as individuals makes my heart happy.

Many strong and long-standing friendships have been formed over the years in the student body. I have had the pleasure to observe the most amazing support for those who are grieving and in need of help. I have observed food cooked and delivered in times of need; birthdays celebrated, babies born, difficult times made a little easier over a coffee and lots more.

The second most rewarding aspect for me has been the connections I have made with people, both students and other teachers who share a passion for yoga. I am particularly grateful for the guidance of Alan Goode over the years, and Lulu Bull when I started teacher training. I am so lucky to have the friendship and support of Steph, Fiona and Sharon who teach alongside me at The Yoga Room.

Tricia Shannon, The Yoga Room Orange

Describe your demographic.

Mostly females over 35 years but we also have consistent yet small groups of 16 and 17-year-olds who are looking to try yoga for the first time, and there are always a few HSC students each year. Unfortunately, male students are a small proportion of our demographic and retired females would make up around one-third of our student body.

How do you market your business?

I market the business through the website, flyers, Instagram and Facebook. At least half our business is word of mouth.

How do you feel Iyengar Yoga sits in the wider yoga community?

I feel Iyengar yoga is well respected in the wider yoga community for its consistency. This is sometimes a double-edged sword as young, aspiring yoga practitioners can see it as a little rigid.

What is your one (or most important) piece of advice for someone wanting to start a yoga school?

I think it is so important to have a purpose in life. To anyone wanting to start a yoga studio, if they feel yoga is their purpose and their heart tells them yoga is their path, I would say GO FOR IT! The most important piece of advice I can give is to realise that you need to wear a few hats. You need to be the teacher of yoga, the practitioner of yoga, the business manager, the marketing manager and the financial controller. These hats all require different skills. Be prepared to pay a professional for help or spend money to learn these skills.

Tricia Shannon, The Yoga Room Orange

Anything you would do differently if you started from scratch tomorrow.

I would do lots of things differently if I started from scratch tomorrow. Firstly, I would acquire the skills needed to run the school as a matter of priority. It took me a long time to get the school to where it is now, and I wasted a lot of time. There’s still so much to do, but I feel better equipped to move into the next 20 years. I have now set some short and long-term goals, have some systems in place and can measure outcomes.

What did you do before you became a yoga teacher/started a school?

I’ve had many incarnations before becoming a yoga teacher. I worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and spent two years in Beijing on a posting; I went to art school for a year, I worked as an events coordinator and a Public Relations Consultant, I worked in bars, I’ve been a student and have travelled. Through most of my adult life, I have practised yoga on and off. Training to become an Iyengar Yoga Teacher is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Tricia Shannon, The Yoga Room Orange

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Tim Oddie, Geelong City Yoga (Interview)

Established as Geelong’s first permanent and dedicated yoga studio, Geelong City Yoga has been running for just over 14 years. Tim Oddie, the director and principal teacher of the school, works alongside one other teachers to provide 21 classes per week, 14 of which he runs himself.

What is the most challenging thing about running a yoga studio?

Of course, there are all the challenges of running a business and making it viable, but I think one of the most challenging points is marrying that to your development as a practitioner, a teacher and being the one responsible for the unique culture of your school. I belong to the greater fraternity that is Iyengar Yoga, and I am the product of a senior teacher lineage (in my case Peter Scott). But understanding, developing and communicating to others how B.K.S Iyengar’s teachings manifest in me is the most fundamental and critical issue.

Not having the sufficient level of certification (I’m currently JI2) to run a teacher training program has been a real and frustrating handicap in the development of that process.

Not only does teacher training provide another income stream, though that would be useful, but more so that it would encourage progression, for me, for the student body and the school.

Over the years I have steered students keen to undertake teacher training towards senior teachers in Melbourne, which has had some success but on some occasions, they have discontinued because of the difficulties associated with having to travel or because I am their teacher and they wanted to develop under my tutelage.

All of this then leads to the issue of ‘staffing’. Over the years it has been challenging to staff the school with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers and when I have, they have often been of a different lineage to me and were not able to a provide a cohesive learning environment. They have never been students of mine or my school and have no inherent commitment beyond earning a wage.

It is in no way a criticism of those teachers, but they are not products of nor fully integrated into the culture of the school.

What is the most rewarding?

I have been in the same place for 14 years now. I have observed students go through all sorts of ups and downs and it gives me great satisfaction to witness how vital a constant practice and the school is to their wellbeing.

Through relationship dramas, marriages, pregnancies, family deaths, career upheavals and health issues, students often tell me that yoga is their time, on the mat and at the school that has enabled them to cope.

Like all schools, many students come through the doors a few times, and you never see them again; however, you see when someone is profoundly captivated by the possibilities that Iyengar Yoga has to offer, and you know that it will be with them for life. There is no better reward.

Describe your demographic.

Geelong is undergoing a shift, and so are those attending classes. Traditionally the average student has been close to 50 years old, but there are also some in their 20s and others in their 70s.

Predominantly women, though I suspect I have more men in my classes than most other schools given, I am one of the few male teachers around, and I even run a specific male class.

Over the last few years, people have been less inclined to drive into Geelong CBD to attend classes, and there are more and more yoga schools in the surrounding suburbs, so numbers have decreased.

However, we are starting to get a few younger students and more office workers coming to classes, particularly with the offer of our new lunchtime classes.

Until about four years ago, we operated purely on an enrolment basis, and most people enrolled for and attended one class a week. Now we have unlimited passes, and class credit and students attend two, three and even more classes per week.

We seem to get less of the fitness-oriented students into our classes than other schools. Not much Lululemon or fluoro tops in our classes!

Tim Oddie, Geelog City Yoga Tim Oddie, Geelong City Yoga

How do you market your business?

We try to encourage ‘word of mouth’ referrals, and we hold regular events at the school, such as concerts, International Yoga Day celebrations to boost our profile.

We put flyers in some local businesses, and we always keep brochures outside the front door as we located in an area of high level of foot traffic.

We also write directly to surrounding corporations, and place editorial content in local media whenever possible but stopped paying for print ads some years ago. Increasingly we invest time and money into social media, predominately Facebook.

How do you feel Iyengar Yoga sits in the wider yoga community?

I sense that we are sort of begrudgingly respected but considered to be somewhat elitist, insular and not a lot of fun!

There are now quite a few new yoga schools around me and they nearly all seem to share a growing number of casual, mostly younger teachers who seem to do ‘cool’ somewhat better (than me at least!). Plus they are all offering teacher training programs.

What I can say is that very few people who come through my door for the first time have much knowledge about Iyengar Yoga, if they have even heard the term before.

They come in cold, or they have heard that Geelong City Yoga is the place to go if they have some physical issue or are a bit older. About 15 percent come looking for Iyengar Yoga, and even then, it is nearly always because they have practiced the method somewhere else.

What is your one (or most important) piece of advice for someone wanting to start a yoga school?

If you are starting a school, be clear that it will take over, or more accurately become your life. You will scarcely ever be able to go away for any length of time, and you will probably not make very much money, so you really need to love teaching! And like any other business, keep your overheads as low as possible!

Anything you would do differently if you started from scratch tomorrow.

It seemed much simpler when I started, or maybe I just had the energy and blind optimism of a younger man!

There were far fewer people doing yoga, but there was also much less competition. I started Iyengar Yoga in 1991 and did my teacher training in 94/95. Iyengar Yoga was the new, cool yoga; the yoga younger people were doing as opposed to the Hatha style that mums were doing in the dusty local hall. When I started the school in 2004, I didn’t doubt that it could work. There were no other permanent yoga schools in Geelong, and the Iyengar style was a strong currency. There were no social media platforms to negotiate, and the fitness and fashion industries had not overrun yoga. It had not yet been so commoditized.

If I were starting out tomorrow, I would want a reasonable amount of money behind me. I also firmly believe it requires a team effort of complementary skills. Finally, I would ensure that the school had a clear path to teacher training. I would not undertake to open a school unless either a partner in the business or I could offer teacher training or I had an understanding with a senior teacher to be able to provide training at the school.

What did you do before you became a yoga teacher/started a school?

Before starting the school, I worked a lot in community theatre and in organizing social and environmental projects.

Tim Oddie, Geelong City Yoga

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