IYA of Greater New York

 25 YEARS LIGHTING THE WAY  

The Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York (IYAGNY)— the largest regional association with more than 1,100 members including 130-plus Certified Teachers across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut—marks its silver anniversary this year with the slogan: 25 Years Lighting the Way. 

Before the founding of the association, Karin Stephan (Intermediate Junior III, Cambridge, MA) and Senior Teachers Patricia Walden, Joan White, and Judy Brick Freedman spread Iyengar Yoga in the region. Judy, who also taught in New Jersey, began regular classes at the Iyengar Yoga Center of New York, along with Peentz Dubble (Intermediate Junior III, now of Newton, MA). Guruji came to dedicate the space, a Grand Street loft in Soho, with a day of puja, chanting and celebration. 

From her first study with Mr. Iyengar, Judy says, “I asked myself, ‘What can I do for him?’ First, I practice. To create an Iyengar Yoga community here: that was my next thank-you.” 

In the mid-80s, Judy organized a Manouso Manos workshop at Barnard College. Over lunch she asked him, “Can you help me get this [regional association] up and going?” She and a small group, mostly teachers, were the nucleus of the effort; they included Carol Burns (Intermediate Junior III, Brookhaven Hamlet, NY), Peentz, Senior Teacher Marian Garfinkel, Priscilla Gilmore (Intermediate Junior I, Centerport, NY), Anna Golfinopoulos (Introductory, New York, NY), Pauline Goulet, Christy Graf, Suzie Hodges (retired, New York), Esther Lampert, Ruth Leeds, and Theresa Rowland (Intermediate Junior III, Madison, NJ). Out of these early discussions in 1987 came the association. 

Senior Teacher Mary Dunn, who played a founding role in the two California associations, joined the Grand Street faculty. In time, she became president of the new association, with Joan White as vice president. 

An increasing number of classes began, across the region and across New York City—at the Jewish Community Center, various YMCAs, and rented studios and teachers’ homes. In 1989 Mary Dunn took a group of teachers, mostly from the association, to an intensive in Pune. Fired with enthusiasm from their study at R.I.M.Y.I., the group realized its next step was to find a home. Then began a two-year search for the space that became the first Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York, which opened in 1992 in an eighth-floor loft on 24th Street in Chelsea. “Mary Dunn was the spark that ignited our actions,” one teacher remembers, “and the glue that held us together.” 

The following year, Guruji dedicated the Institute in a morning ceremony on Aug. 3. Joining Mary and the group of founding faculty at the new Institute, Judy continued to teach, memorably introducing Pranayama to a generation of students. 

Geetaji, visiting the U.S. for the national convention in Pasadena in 2001, gave a speech at New York’s Society for Ethical Culture, “How Yoga Involves Mankind.” She was welcomed to the Institute with a gala dinner. 

In time, the association outgrew its original home. In 2003, the Board of Directors began a $300,000-plus fundraising campaign—Opening New Doors in 2004—for a new Institute. Beginning with “raw space,” a 6,000 sq. ft. facility was crafted from the walls in, at 150 West 22nd Street. Modern, architectural, and light-filled, a fittingly beautiful place in which to practice Iyengar Yoga, the new Institute opened Dec. 5, 2004, with a benefit workshop taught by Senior Teacher Dean Lerner. 

The following October, during his Light on Life tour, Guruji inaugurated the new Institute with a weekend of unforgettable New York City events. On Friday evening, Guruji was interviewed by filmmaker and association member Mira Nair at a sold-out event at City Center. Association teachers presented a breathtaking asana demonstration set to music, to Guruji’s obvious delight. A gala party, at the Central Park penthouse of designer Donna Karan, followed. Sunday, Guruji visited the Institute for a puja. Mary’s famous smile was never more glowing, attendees remember, than when she welcomed Guruji to the Institute, built to her dream specifications. 

Today, under Director James Murphy, the Institute has more than 70 weekly classes, including Women’s, Gentle, Pranayama, and Restorative classes. The Specific Needs Class, taught by James and Brooke Myers and staffed by many assistants, provides specialized instruction for various conditions. Free weekly classes are tailored to breast cancer survivors, people living with HIV, veterans, and amputees. Also free are the regular Sutra Study classes. Spring /Summer 2012 Yoga Samachar

 

The ongoing workshop program has featured Iyengar Yoga teachers from around the world, including Manouso Manos, Patricia Walden, Jawahar Bangera, Faeq Biria, Laurie Blakeney, Kristin Chirhart, Neeta Datta, Gabriella Giubilaro, Felicity Green, Arthur Kilmurray, Dean Lerner, Donald Moyer, Ramanand Patel, Father Joe Pereira, George Purvis, Chris Saudek, John Schumacher, Stephanie Quirk, Joan White, and many others. 

The Institute’s two-year Teacher Training and ongoing teacher education programs are at the heart of its educational mission; it also regularly hosts assessments for teacher certification. Association teachers gather at the free Teachers’ Class, often taught by teachers returning from Pune to share inspiration from R.I.M.Y.I. Every other month, students, friends, and family are invited to Community Night, for free screenings of films about Iyengar Yoga. 

The Institute faculty also includes Senior Teachers Bobby Clennell, Lindsey Clennell, and Carrie Owerko. 

The association’s Outreach program aims to expand Iyengar Yoga via a planned satellite Institute in Brooklyn, classes in community and senior centers, and by increasing opportunities for Certified Teachers to hold classes across the four-state area. Public yoga demonstrations have been one element of this program. 

In December, association members gather for the annual meeting. New board members take office, the board reports to the membership, and Guruji’s birthday is commemorated. In spring, members come together for the biggest event of the year, the Mary Dunn Celebration/Yogathon. This fundraiser, Mary’s brainchild, endures as a celebration of her memory and the spirit of her teaching. IYAGNY continues to challenge itself to raise funds for ambitious goals such as an Archive Project to preserve tapes of classes and make them available online. 

The city Institute is home base for the regional association and its Executive Director, Ann McDermott-Kave, and current board, including President Alexander Vreeland (New York, NY), Vice President Sylvia Kier (New York, NY), Secretary Julia Shaida (Introductory II, Dobbs Ferry, NY), Treasurer Joe Talamo (New Caanan, CT), and Nicole M. de Jesús (Long Island City, NY), Judith Friedman (Introductory II, Chappaqua, NY), Christopher Lacovara (New York, NY), Seth Laderman (Weehawken, NJ), Gayle Miranda (New York, NY), Elizabeth Stanton (New York, NY), and Adam Vitolo (Introductory II, New York, NY). 

The four-state region has many other vital centers of Iyengar Yoga. Philadelphia is home to Senior Teacher Joan White, who operates the B.K.S. Iyengar School of Central Philadelphia, offering a full schedule of classes, workshops, and teacher training, and to Senior Teacher Marian Garfinkel. The Iyengar Yoga Institute of Central Pennsylvania is headquarters for Senior Teachers Dean and Rebecca Lerner, and offers classes, workshops, and teacher training. In Greenwich, upstate New York, and Connecticut, many teachers taught by Mary Dunn are now teachers themselves. In Charlotteville, in upstate New York, Judy Freedman holds classes. Long Island is home to Senior Teacher Shernaz Sethna and longtime teacher Jeff Logan (Intermediate Junior I, Northport, NY). New Jersey’s many Certified Teachers include Theresa Rowland, who offers classes and teacher education at Studio Yoga, in Madison. She also operates Tools for Yoga, one of the pioneering sources for Iyengar Yoga props. 

Regular and special classes, workshops featuring distinguished visiting teachers, outlets for Iyengar Yoga books and props, and community social events—these signs of the vital and growing Iyengar Yoga community abound across the four-state area. 

—Richard Jonas