The Thread of Iyengar Yoga at Shrewsbury House
The yoga teachings of B K S Iyengar have been practised at Shrewsbury House for over 40 years. Iyengar yoga was endorsed as a method to be taught at Adult Education Institutes throughout the Inner London Education Authority during the 1970s and 1980s. Shrewsbury House was one of these institutes with varied daily activities taking place, including Iyengar Yoga.
But what is Iyengar yoga? A sequence of poses or ‘postures’ are introduced sequentially – standing, sitting, bending forwards, bending backwards, twisting etc. The instructions for the postures are very precise, in order to focus on the correct alignment of the body to ensure students learn to work safely. Great attention is paid to strengthening the legs and arms. Appropriate adjustments are made by the teacher, either physically or by careful and clear instructions. Everybody is included. Mr Iyengar developed the use of props so that poses can be attained to the best of any person’s ability; maybe with a good stretch, but no strain. Can you reach your toes with legs straight? No – then use a belt around the feet. Can you sit on the floor cross legged, with your back straight? Most of us can’t, so we sit on one, two or three blocks, in order to sit with the spine erect. Generally, sessions last for 90 minutes, with a relaxation period at the end.
Perhaps most importantly, over time what seems to be a physical activity impacts on our minds and our sense of wellbeing. What we learn in our yoga classes is not just ‘on the mat’. It directly affects our mental state and therefore our social interactions.
Iyengar yoga sessions were taught in the 1980s by Pat Davis, who had learned her yoga directly from Mr Iyengar in India where he conferred her teacher status. I attended her classes early in the 1980s when I was very much a beginner. Her classes flowed, generating energy and enthusiasm in her students. Now in her eighties, she still teaches yoga in Blackheath.
Then on Tuesday afternoons in the 1980s Iyengar yoga continued to be taught by Sue Purl, with Pat still teaching on Thursday mornings. I was working on Thursdays but was lucky enough not to be working when Sue was teaching and so could go to her classes. Shrewsbury House was still an Adult Ed centre then so we would pay per term at the ‘stable door’ of the office outside Room 7. Sue used to attend many yoga events and workshops run by senior teachers, all of whom had been to the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India, to be taught by BKS Iyengar himself, or by his daughter Geeta or his son, Prashant. We all benefitted from her attention to detail and enthusiasm and her ability to convey what she had learned; an important aspect for any teacher.
By that time teachers of Iyengar Yoga had to have completed at least 3 years of regular yoga class attendance and then to take part in teacher trainer sessions and workshops for two years prior to being assessed by seniors in order to become certified Iyengar Yoga teachers.
I can be contacted either by email at email@example.com or text 07487864145 or phone 0208 855 6587.
Mondays 7.00pm to 8.30pm
Thursdays 10am to 11.30am
Contact: Cressida Senkus
Phone: 020 8855 6587
Cost: £9.00 waged, £7.00 unwaged (adults only)
This is a general, mixed age and ability Iyengar Yoga class. It includes standing poses, sitting poses and some inversions. All students are encouraged to work safely and to their individual ability, resulting in improved posture, felxibility and a clamer state of mind.
The Iyengar method of yoga is named after our teacher B.K.S. Iyengar. Through the practice of a sequential system of standing and sitting poses - asanas - it aims to unite the body, mind and breathe to encourage health and well-being. Iyengar yoga places great importance on precise alignment of the body to ensure that students are working safely, with maximum benefit to strength, stamina and flexibility. It encourages calmness and improves concentration.
Classes start with simple poses, gradually moving towards more challenging asanas and end with a period of relaxation, focussing on the breath.
All my classes are suitable for beginners or those with more experience - you don’t have to book but you can call me before coming if you wish.
I started attending Iyengar yoga classes 30 years ago when my children were small. All teachers of Iyengar yoga are trained to high standards and in 1997 I began my 2 year Introductory Teacher Training course, before starting to teach Iyengar yoga for Bexley Adult Education.
I have been to the Iyengar Yoga Institute in India, twice, for the month-long courses that are held there and felt honoured to be taught by the Iyengar family and to be among so many students who learned their yoga by the passing on of such great teachings.
I feel extremely fortunate to be Iyengar teaching yoga at Shrewsbury House. I live within walking distance and came to Adult Education yoga classes here over 20 years ago and have taught here for about 10 years. How lucky we are to have clean, warm, airy spaces in which to practice this ancient system of poses that bring harmony to mind, body and breath.