Patricia Walden: Lighting the Way

By Richard Jonas
Photo Laura Barisonzi

Patricia WaldenShe is an ambassador of Iyengar Yoga, sharing Guruji’s teachings, many imparted personally to her, with the larger community. She is a “face” of Iyengar Yoga—and its incredible back-bending silhouette—advancing the method with yogis of other styles.

Patricia Walden’s life is a continuity that begins with her personal practice and extends to her classes, her decades of volunteer work at the regional and national levels, and her worldwide reputation as one of the most beloved Senior Teachers.

Patricia received the Lighting the Way award at the From the Heartland regional conference in Chicago this fall. Created by IYNAUS to commemorate distinguished volunteer service, Lighting the Way has been awarded previously to Senior Teachers Joan White, Mary Dunn, and Felicity Green. 

Patricia was co-founder with Victor Oppenheimer of the Iyengar Yoga Association of Massachusetts, and president for its first four years. “We were the second tier of American students of Guruji,” Patricia recalls of herself, Oppenehimer, Manouso Manos, and a few others, “after Mary Dunn, Joan White, and that group that brought Iyengar Yoga to the U.S.” 

One of the first teachers to join the Certification Committee, she remained a member until very recently; she continues as an assessor. She has also served on four curriculum committees for national conventions and is vice president of the recently-launched Iyengar Yoga Association of New England.

Patricia also chaired the second national convention in 1987 in Cambridge, where Guruji gave “one of his most exceptional demonstrations” at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. “He was no longer young, he had already begun to grow his hair long, so it was even more incredible, the power of his asanas,” Patricia remembers.

The Lighting the Way award was designed to highlight volunteer service and inspire newer teachers and students to join in. “I didn’t even think about it as volunteer work. We just did it, although of course we’d complain at times,” Patricia laughs. “But we always felt absolutely privileged to serve. We—Mary, Joan, and I—always felt that not only were we serving our community, but we were serving Guruji. There was something deeply satisfying in helping to carry out his wishes in as many ways as we could.

“Many of us feel very fortunate to be a part of a community. And we love the opportunity to serve the community: that is part of yogic practice, part of the yogic life. The Bhagavad Gita has many verses and chapters on this. The essence of Karma Yoga is that you do without any expectation of appreciation or anything in return. That’s Nish Karma.” 

Here, members of the Scholarship and Awards Committee that choose the recipient, Senior Teachers, and our beloved Guruji himself, congratulate Patricia:

“It is heartening to hear that the Iyengar Yoga National Association in the United States (IYNAUS) will be honoring Patricia Walden with the award of Lighting the Way in the month of September, at the time of the regional conference in Chicago. As far as my understanding goes, no doubt she is a deserving person for this award. May the award inspire her more and more towards the practice of yoga. With my grateful appreciation to both Patricia Walden and IYNAUS, With Love.”
—B.K.S. Iyengar

“Patricia Walden has risen from being a yoga practitioner to being one of its icons. Her pictures worldwide have come to symbolize yoga in the modern age. This is common knowledge, but those of us who know her have witnessed how tirelessly she works to spread this subject. She encourages others to work to their true potential and stands as a beacon in the yoga world, calling others towards its greatness.” —Manouso Manos, Advanced Senior I, San Francisco, CA

 “As a woman practitioner, I have appreciated Patricia’s balance of strength and grace. I was glad the greater public would see her gorgeous asanas and follow them back to the source, B.K.S. Iyengar and Iyengar Yoga. Watching Guruji give her personal instruction in the Pune practices, we all learned. Her devotion to Guruji is inspiring. Patricia’s volunteerism in the certification process and regional organization inspires newer teachers to give back, makes us all a stronger voice for this tradition, and enriches our community.” —Mary Reilly, Intermediate Senior I, Petoskey, MI

 “Patricia has given many gifts to all of us. She is one of my dearest friends and I am very happy for her and proud of her and her life of dedication and accomplishment. One note: Although Patricia has brought so much to her students and colleagues through her superb teaching and her tireless work for and in the community, I appreciate most the inspiration she provides through her passion for practice and the example she offers to all of us as someone who lives what she teaches.” —John Schumacher, Advanced Junior I, Bethesda, MD

“Patricia and I have been close friends since 1974 and I know firsthand how hard she has worked and how dedicated to this method she is. Her endurance and will power, self-discipline, and dedication have been an inspiration to me and to many, many others.” —Joan White, Advanced Junior I, Philadelphia, PA

“Patricia has done so much for our community with her open hearted-approach to Iyengar Yoga. Nationally she has been at the helm of a convention, a conference, and the Light on Life tour. Her Teacher Training Program has enriched aspiring teachers; many have gone on to become Certified Iyengar Yoga teachers. She introduced Edwin Bryant to her students and has championed in-depth study of the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. She has been an inspiration to me on many levels!” —Linda Di Carlo, Intermediate Junior III, Cranston, RI

“Her grace and eloquence connects with those who are not part of the Iyengar community and introduces them to its joys of balance in all things. She allows us to watch as she continually matures in body, mind, and spirit. She freely shares this journey with us, and that act is particularly meaningful to women. Patricia is not one to think of herself as a role model but she is, and I can think of no better one.” —Pat Musburger, Intermediate Junior I, Shoreline, WA

Chris Beach, Board president, and Leslie Freyberg, Scholarship and Awards Committee chair, present Patricia Walden with the Lighting the Way award. Photo by Steve Wiley
Chris Beach, Board president, and Leslie Freyberg, Scholarship and Awards Committee chair, present Patricia Walden with the Lighting the Way award. Photo by Steve Wiley