Director... Nancy Footner, Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher
Friendship Yoga will be 20 years old in 2013; a mere child in comparison to the longevity and maturity of our teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, who began his 95th year on December 14, 2012. Mr. Iyengar became a student of his brother-in-law Krishnamacharya at the age of 16. He was sent to live with his sister and her husband, a renowned guru of the time, as his parents were desperate to find something to reverse the effects of childhood tuberculosis and his ongoing poor health. So at 94 he has been practicing yoga without interruption for 78 years.
"I cannot say that I have completely mastered this art and science even today. Perfection eludes us, but this should not reduce our efforts. The more I work, the more insignificant my efforts appear to be. I have to be content with this divine discontent that drives me on." B.K.S. Iyengar
Guruji began teaching in his twenties; married, started a family, and lived and worked in total obscurity. Often he had just one student to teach in the 2 room flat that he shared with a wife and 6 children. Most of his time he spent practicing 9-10 hours a day. He was “discovered” by Yehudi Menuhin, the great classical violinist, in the 1950’s who, having heard about Iyengar’s expertise in yoga therapeutics, sought his help when he was in India for a performance. Menuhin arranged for Iyengar to travel to Europe and Great Britain to teach, requiring him to leave his family behind in India for long stretches of time. It was only in the early 70’s, when he was at mid-life, that Mr. Iyengar had the financial resources to build his own institute in Pune, which became and continues to be the destination of his more serious students from around the world, to this day. Over time he, his daughter Geeta, and son Prashant developed and continue to refine a distinctive method that we know to be Iyengar Yoga.
Most of my teachers travel to India yearly to study at the Ramanami Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. I have made 4 trips in the last 20 years; most recently in 2011. It is not an easy journey; the classes are quite challenging, but the experience in totality deepens ones sense of purpose and commitment as a student and teacher that can’t be replicated in any other way. I wish everyone who is a serious yoga student could have this experience. It’s life altering.
In 1991 when I moved to Iowa City there was no Iyengar Yoga. Prior to moving here, I had been a casual student in San Francisco, but all of my teachers were serious, highly trained and dedicated to the Iyengar method, I had gained a lot from their teaching as I struggled with the residual physical and psychological effects of a serious automobile accident I had survived in my early 30’s. Finding myself in Iowa without a teacher, there was no doubt in my mind what I had previously taken for granted: the attention to alignment, the skillful use of props, the precise, intelligent, and creative ways the asanas are taught, and how the method was systematized, within a class and from class to class, were imperatives!
I think a certain kind of person is drawn to Iyengar Yoga. She is thoughtful and likes to think. she appreciates that learning is a process. She will check her ego at the door. She is grateful that Iyengar Yoga is not trendy but a thoroughly modern and innovative approach to an ancient and enduring art, science, and philosophy.
I feel so grateful that Iowa City in 1993 was fertile ground for planting the Iyengar Yoga seed. My original goal was simple...to find some folks to practice with, thus the name, Friendship Yoga!
"In our spiritual quest, it is required of us that we develop our body in such a way that it is not longer a hindrance, but becomes our friend."
Winter term begins January 7, 2013
Try a free class:
Wednesday, January 23rd, 7-8:30 a.m.
Wake up to Iyengar Yoga begins January 30th, 7-8:30 a.m. New Class
Journey to a Healthy Back begins January 19th, 9-10:30 a.m.
(an intro class modified for those with back issues.)
Save this weekend!
15th Annual Spring Retreat at Prairiewoods
May 17th - 19th, 2013 with Eddy Marks
Unlocking Our Potential by Robin Ungar
I love reading Mr. Iyengar’s book Light on Life. I am now re-reading it in very small portions almost every day. It's like biting into something so succulent and delicious that taking more than a mini-serving might overwhelm the enjoyment. Re-reading it means that I come across light pencil ticks that attract my eye to sentences and phrases I considered important on my first reading. Perhaps an idea was new to me, or clicked with my own experience, or I just hoped it would reside forever in my mind.
Today Mr. Iyengar told me (I imagine that he is speaking directly into my ear) how the quality of sensitivity is one of the keys to unlocking our potential (page 25). I thought about the class I had taken the morning before. As with every class, it was challenging for me. Who knew that a restorative class could be so full of doubt and effort? "Doubt" meaning I often wondered if I would survive getting into and out of a pose; and "effort" meaning I found myself working very hard to attain a posture. What was going on during this process of well, following Nancy's cues like an obedient student? At each step I was checking in with my body. There was a lovely little, interior dialogue and an intense awareness of and (aha!) sensitivity to each sensation, which told me this was OK, or this was not OK and something needed to be different. Then there was the letting go, the relaxing of tension and the re-relaxing of tension. And for a moment or two, I was there. I felt soft and open.
Mr. Iyengar says that sensitivity is not weakness or vulnerability. "It is clarity of perception and allows judicious, precise action." And by this he is referring not only to our physical being, but to our mental being as well. Remaining insensitive, he says, leads to rigidity, prejudice and narrow-mindedness. This creates a hard shell that separates us from life’s possibilities. So, the pathway to reaching our potential (in yoga class and as householders) is as simple as paying attention and developing sensitivity to our body and surroundings.
Recent interviews with B.K.S Iyengar on CNN:
"The intelligence we are now developing depends upon emotional and moral maturity, the ability to value truth and and respect ethical conduct, the capacity to feel love in its more universal sense as compassion."
teacher has to be able to not only stand on her head, but think
on her feet, as well..." John Schumacher, Senior Iyengar Teacher