Running 'yoga for men' sessions

After a first successful men only session in April we have decided to run a regular class for men only. Jonathan Millett has recently joined the teaching team at IYISL and  will be teaching these sessions.

We asked him some questions about why he thinks these classes are needed.

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Going deeper - developing your yoga practice

Recently we were lucky enough to have two days of inspirational yoga with Rajiv and Swati Chanchani. With many years of teaching Iyengar yoga in India, the Chachani’s are wonderfully adept at melding teaching of Asana with awareness of breathing and a wonderful range of images draw from their wide experience all combined to create insightful Yoga classes.

The Asana work we did with them involved posses that were held for longer periods of time so that we could become aware of our breathing in each pose and the effect it has on the mind and body. The Chanchani’s told us to think of the Asana as creating different types of landscape through which our breath flowed like water in ways that depended on the shapes the Asana created in our bodies.

They taught us poses with the meticulous precision associated with the Iyengar Yoga helping us to add a deeper layer and built our ability to observe in fine detail the flow of movement of our breathing.

They also talked about what it means to deepen your yoga practice.

Developing awareness

   
  
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        “Awareness must be like the rays of the sun: extending everywhere, illuminating all.”    ………………………………………..    SRI B.K.S. IYENGAR      

 

“Awareness must be like the rays of the sun: extending everywhere, illuminating all.”

………………………………………..

SRI B.K.S. IYENGAR

 

Iyengar Yoga starts with the Asana which are practiced in increasing detail in a way that helps develop our focus, concentration and awareness.  In a natural way this leads to the development of breath awareness in poses.  Moving deeper this leads to Pranayama, yogic breathing, as a natural continuation of the practice.

The two days of teaching with Rajiv and Swati left us with feeling that, whatever our starting point, whether starting to understand Asana or moving inward to incorporate an awareness of breathing or starting to practice Pranayama -  we should always aim to deepen our yoga practice.

 

 

Breathing - our essence

 We are all so busy, rushing around, we don’t allow ourselves time to be still. Pranayama can be thought of as a form of meditation and it give us the opportunity to bring stillness to our body and mind.

The benefits of a regular practice of meditation have been shown to include:

  • Improvements in our emotional well being with reductions in feelings of anxiety, depression and stress
  • Health improvements such as reduced blood pressure and increased energy levels
  • Mental improvements such a improved ability to focus and improved memory

The Chanchani’s told the story of a deer they had seen in the forest near to where they live. The deer had been attacked by tigers and what remained was it’s head - with eyes wide open, untouched and beautiful. They said that, despite its beauty, with no breath its essence had gone.  This was a strong image to help us understand that our breath, which we usually pay so little attention to, is entwined with our essence and our life force.

breath

Written by Anstey Bligh and Marion Sinclair

Yoga on and off the mat

I recently had a conversation over coffee with a friend who was concerned about the impact on her life and health of doing a busy and demanding job and balancing that with her family life.

I recommended yoga to her and she asked why? She was interested but wanted to know how it would benefit her.

It’s a good question. In my experience, the benefits of yoga and the work you put in on your yoga mat deeply and positively influence you, your home and working life off the mat.

People decide to try yoga for a whole range of reasons – to get more flexible, to develop the muscles that most other exercise doesn’t reach, to relax reduce stress and feel healthier, or out of curiosity … or maybe for a little of everything.

I have been doing yoga for a long time and liked it so much I trained as a teacher (as well as still doing my day job!). I thought it would be a good idea to answer the question by asking other people what they felt about their first experiences of yoga. These are some of their responses.

 

 

 

‘My most memorable experience of my first yoga class was standing with my feet together on a mat, raising my arms and stretching my hands and fingers up to stand up straight. I was 44 years old and I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I really experienced standing still, with my body stretched and straight. It was a simple but powerful moment for me. I stood tall!’
‘The first class I went to was a restorative class on a Saturday afternoon, I remember thinking how strange it all was with everyone looking zonked out in various poses using lots of bolsters and blankets  and belts over their eyes! I soon discovered how lovely the programme was. I remember the feeling of air in my lungs after chair Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) … wow.'

 

'In regular classes even when I found it difficult   I stuck with it because after every class I could feel a tiny change for the better. I love that yoga is a lifelong journey and I’ll never stop learning.’

 

 Standing tall

Standing tall

 Embodied

Embodied

‘I enjoyed the yoga classes from the start. I liked following the teachers instructions (as well as I could) and feeling the response in my body. At the end of the class the teacher must have seen the happiness on my face and said isn’t it great when you find something you’ve been looking for. She was right!’

 The challenge

The challenge

 

 

‘Finding time and willpower to keep going is difficult at first. I wasn’t particularly strong physically and it wasn’t easy for me but at the same time right from the beginning it made me feel better about myself. Gyms are all about results and vanity and while yoga gives results too (I am so much stronger and more flexible than I was) it does help you step out of that and question why you are so critical of yourself.’

My advice to is to just  make a start; commit to doing a yoga a class once a week for three months. Schedule a time in your diary and just go each week without thinking about it. Focus on learning with an open mind and see what happens for you.

The cartoons that capture the yoga feeling so perfectly are by artist and Iyengar Yoga student Divyam Chaya Bernstein.

https://divyamchayabernstein.wordpress.com/

 

 

Hugely popular taster Session

National Iyengar Yoga Day is a fantastic opportunity to get a taste of the practice and discover why we're all hooked. Despite the wintery weather, we opened our doors to dozens of newcomers who were curious to find out more about Iyengar Yoga.

  A full house at the IYISL

A full house at the IYISL

I was delighted to meet so many fresh faces at our taster session on Saturday 14th January to mark National Iyengar Yoga Day. Every year, yoga centres across the UK and Ireland celebrate National Iyengar Yoga Day and offer free classes to their local communities. For all of us who teach and practice at the Iyengar Yoga Institute South London, it was a wonderful opportunity to start the new year as we mean to go on - introducing more people to the enjoyable and rewarding practice of Iyengar Yoga.

The morning started out rainy and cold so we wondered who would venture out to join us on a such a dreary winter's day. By 9am, our hall was at capacity with 28 students - a real range of ages and roughly half men, half women. We were really pleased to see this mix of new people. 

It was a lively and enjoyable class, which I like to think left everyone feeling energised and keen to come back for more. Hopefully, everyone got a feel for the variety that is Iyengar Yoga - varied pace with some poses taught slowly, in detail and with careful and considered use of props and other poses, to a slightly faster tempo. As ever, we ended the session with a peaceful set of restorative poses.

It was a lively and enjoyable class, which left everyone energised and keen to come back
  Energising poses

Energising poses

It was great to receive so many thankful and positive comments. I'm fairly sure that we did a good job of introducing Iyengar Yoga to our newcomers and judging by how our classes are booking up, many are already hooked!

Thank you to our dedicated teachers and to everyone who took the trouble to join us on such a chilly Saturday morning. I look forward to practising Iyengar Yoga with you again very soon.

A fresh start for this hidden haven

Nestled amongst a thriving pot plant garden, in the midst of the clamour of the A2 traffic, there’s a corner of Deptford that invites us to search for an inner calm.

  IYISL's secluded patio garden

IYISL's secluded patio garden

In stark contrast to the bustling south east London neighbourhood, the Iyengar Yoga Institute of South London, focuses on the traditional values and teaching of Iyengar Yoga.

Yoga has been the sole focus of this building for the past 22 years and it was inaugurated by B.K.S. Iyengar himself on December 14th 1995. Prior to that, the building was the home of the small New Cross Building Society and the building, which dates from 1866, makes an ideal yoga space.

As London yoga centres go, its peacefulness is rare, but welcomed by its loyal students who dedicatedly visit the Institute each week to practise Iyengar yoga.

Iyengar is a form of Hatha yoga that places emphasis on detail, precision and alignment of posture (Asana) and breath control (Pranayama). Through the use of props - such as belts, blocks and blankets – and with highly-qualified teachers, students can focus on exploring and improving their ability to perform the Asana.


As soon as you walk through the gate into the secluded patio garden, buffered from the traffic noise with the foliage and flowers from the dozens of potted plants, and in through the doors of this old building, you at once feel a sense of calm and tranquillity.

Don’t underestimate the value of a purpose-built space in getting the most out of yoga practice. The Iyengar Yoga Institute of South London is a dedicated space, which envelopes you with its stillness as soon as you enter. The props, so essential to Iyengar teaching, are ready and waiting in their correct places and its walls are adorned with inspirational pictures of B.K.S. Iyengar in the full range of asana.

The Institute’s community is friendly and grounded. They appreciate both the teaching and this unique space. Many students contribute their skills to help with the running of the Institute and students treat it as somewhere they care about, not just somewhere they go for a yoga class.

At the end of last year, Marion Sinclair took over management of the Institute and she has plans to enrich the programme, increasing and broadening the use of the Institute to make it a hub for Iyengar Yoga students and teachers in South London introducing new teachers, workshops and events.

For the current community of students and teachers who currently use this Deptford yoga centre, it is a well-kept secret. For those interested in yoga across south east London, it is a hidden gem that is worth discovering.

  Natural light brightens the IYISL space

Natural light brightens the IYISL space

 
As soon as you walk through the gate into the secluded patio garden... you at once feel a sense of calm and tranquility
  Autumn berries in the IYISL garden

Autumn berries in the IYISL garden

  Cyclamen's bring a splash of colour

Cyclamen's bring a splash of colour

 

Authenticity and why it’s important to my yoga teaching

Iyengar Yoga is a huge part of my life and I'm thrilled that my passion for this traditional practice has led me to take over the running of the IYISL.

  Marion teaching at the IYISL

Marion teaching at the IYISL

Glenys Shepherd, who had created and grown the Institute, decided to retire from managing the Institute after 22 years and hand it on to someone new. Although Glenys will no longer be running the Institute, her legacy will remain -  not least as Glenys will continue to be welcomed as a guest teacher. I have learnt much from Glenys over the years and I continue to be inspired by her approach and her passion, focus and the principled approach to Iyengar Yoga teaching. I too have utmost respect for the foundations of Iyengar Yoga and I am proud to teach under the auspices of the late B.K.S. Iyengar.

When I was invited to take over as manager of the Institute, I immediately started to think about what changes I might make to open it up to more students. A new website, a refreshed timetable, new faces to the teaching community, widening our appeal to a new audience?

After careful deliberation, all of these changes are in motion. Over the coming months, you’ll see new classes and a diverse range of teachers joining us at the Institute.


  Statues of Indian deities

Statues of Indian deities

I wanted to give the Institute a fresh start, but I also started to think more deeply about what makes it special as there are many things I don’t think should change.

If you join our community at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of South London, you’ll find that our yoga asks for focus, reflection and patience as well as plain hard work! Nothing will change in this respect because of the benefits that come from this type of practice.

  Plaque marking Guruji's visit

Plaque marking Guruji's visit

At 90 minutes or longer, our classes are not at all your typical express exercise class, but I believe this time is necessary for focused learning and reflection. Our classes are challenging, but you won’t necessarily break a sweat. You will find a holistic experience for the body and mind. 

 

Beyond classes we are also a community of students and teachers that quietly support one another. Outside the focus of classes there is a friendly feel and a shared connection.

Authentic Iyengar Yoga is important to me and our style and approach to teaching will always stay true to the principles of Iyengar Yoga. I hope many new students will join our community to share our passion and appreciate the benefits of true Iyengar Yoga.