Friendship Yoga

Friendship Yoga
1231 Gilbert Court
Iowa City, IA 52240


Maitri Yoga Education Fund


In 2004, the Maitri Yoga Education Fund was established by the Friendship Yoga Community. Maitri (pronounced “my-tree”) is the Sanskrit word for friendship. Its purpose is to support Iyengar Yoga Education in the Iowa City/Coralville/Johnson County community and to provide access to classes, workshops, and supplies for individuals of limited financial means.

To that end we have created the Theresa Semel Memorial Scholarship. Theresa Semel was a longtime student at Friendship Yoga who passed away after a long illness in November 2003. I was honored when Theresa asked me to speak at her Memorial Service and what follows is the text of my remarks.

Theresa was my friend, yoga student and a fervent supporter of our yoga community. I know that she badgered many of you, her friends and colleagues to try a yoga class, and maybe her inviting me to speak today is really her one last attempt to get the word across to you. In fact, I can not help but think that she would probably be delighted for me to turn the sad event around, now that I have you all here as a captive audience, close the doors and turn this a yoga class, but I will pass on that opportunity.

Theresa started attending classes at Friendship Yoga approximately 6 years ago after studying on her own for many years from a book. For those of you who are unfamiliar with yoga, it’s an art, a science of health, and a spiritual practice. One of Theresa’s favorite poses was sirsasana or headstand. Unlike many of us, she had a natural inclination to stand on her head, and in fact, from what I hear, had been standing on her head at parties for years going back to her graduate school days. However from what she learned in class and from her own practice, her headstand was tranformed from a party stunt to something far more sublime. Every yoga posture is supposed to exemplify two qualities: the sanskrit words are sthiti and sukka, steadiness and delight. Theresa always seemed to radiate those qualities.

B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the foremost practitioners and teachers of yoga in the world today, describes the benefits of practicing headstand in his book Light on Yoga. He writes: “regular practice of headstand develops the body, disciplines the mind, and widens the horizons of the spirit. One becomes balanced and self-reliant in pain and pleasure, loss and gain, shame and fame, and defeat and victory.” Theresa proved him right.

Not all of my students embrace the notion of going upside down with Theresa’s enthusiasm. I have to cajole those who feel more fearful that the perspective gained from studying the world from an inverted position will prepare them to face with courage and confidence the inevitable events in life, which turn our worlds up side down, and unhinge us from what seemed settled, secure and fixed. Theresa exemplified this in her ability to maintain grace and equanimity with the tragic onset of her illness, and throughout its course. Although at times I honestly was not sure it was the right thing for her to do, she insisted on continuing with class over the past four years and did so consistently until the beginning of this fall. She resisted any attempts I made due to her illness to modify her practice and remained a resolute and unwavering participant throughout.

We were all inspired by her determination, friendliness, exuberance, and compassion for others, especially in the face of her own struggle. Even as her illness progressed and her health deteriorated we were awed by the clarity and beauty of her spirit. She was a truly an inspiration to us all.

You can mail your contribution to Maitri Yoga Education Fund c/o Friendship Yoga, 1231 Gilbert Ct. Iowa City, IA 52240.

A limited number of work/study scholarships and (partial) tuition waivers are available for both on-going classes and workshops/retreats. Submit the Maitri Scholarship Application Form (.doc) or contact


  "Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life."
B.K.S. Iyengar