IYA of the Midwest


The Midwest, the original “hotbed” of Iyengar Yoga in the U.S., became home to one of the country’s first regional associations. 

Guruji made many visits to the area, beginning in 1973 with a trip to Ann Arbor, MI. His students came together to create the Iyengar Yoga Association of the Midwest Bioregions (IYAMB), incorporated in 1987. The association’s connections were “ecological,” determined by rivers and other natural boundaries, not state lines. Operated by consensus, with about 250 members, IYAMB was successful and productive, hosting a national convention in Ann Arbor in 1993. 

Afterwards, unfortunately, regional interest and energy began to wane. With the formation of IYNAUS, members focused their attention nationally. IYAMB slowly went defunct. Thankfully its last president, Senior Teacher Donna Pointer of Ann Arbor, kept track of its assets. 

When she moved to Illinois in 2006, Jennie Williford (Intermediate Junior I, Rockford, IL) joined Patrina Dobish (Intermediate Junior I, Chicago, IL) and a small group of other students and teachers in the Chicago area who were interested in re-forming a regional association. The group had two choices: they could start from scratch with their Chicago-area supporters, or revive the already-in-place IYAMB. After a series of meetings with interested members, and teleconferences and emails with Gloria Goldberg and board members from IYNAUS and successful regional associations, it was decided that the best (and most economical) plan was to revive the previous association. 

The adhoc board of the revived and renamed Iyengar Yoga Association of the Midwest (IYAMW) included Patrina, Jennie, Jess Kane (Intermediate Junior I, Chicago, IL) and Chicago students Julia Gibbs and Allison Tallard. After reclaiming funds from both the old IYAMB and IYNAUS, the association reincorporated in 2008, paying back taxes and back-filing fees to bring itself up to date. 

In fall 2009 members elected the first new board of directors, including Senior Teacher Laurie Blakeney (Ann Arbor, MI), Aaron Fleming (Introductory II, Cincinnati, OH), Julia Gibbs, Natasha Julius (Introductory II, Chicago, IL), Jess Kane, Becky Meline (Introductory II, Urbana, IL), and Jennie Williford. Once active, the board quickly launched a website, began to build member interest, and updated its bylaws for an association that now includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. 

IYAMW also decided to host the second IYNAUS regional conference in 2011. From the Heartland became the focus of energy for the board and a large group of volunteers—the perfect platform to build excitement. IYAMW more than doubled its membership through events held throughout 2010 and the sale of T-shirts that announced the region’s debut and the upcoming conference. Volunteers remember 2011 as a blur of preparation for From the Heartland, but its huge success made all the work worthwhile. Now the group has begun 2012 with new board members and new ideas. 

To stagger the board positions for three-year terms, three new board members were elected for 2012: Debra Johnson (Intermediate Junior I, Westmont, IL), David Larsen, a student from Ann Arbor, and Shaw-Jiun Wang (Intermediate Junior II, Shaker Heights, OH), who will serve through 2014. IYAMW hopes to carry the excitement of the conference through to its annual membership retreat and its seasonal region-wide events. Its 2012 plan calls for devising protocols for annual events and future plans. This fall, a new election will replace the last four original board members. 

The last six years have witnessed a great interest in the region’s growth and expansion. Some teachers in Missouri and Iowa have shown interest in having their states represented by IYAMW. Students and teachers alike have become interested in events embracing the whole region. And clarity about Iyengar Yoga and its regional Certified Teachers is growing. Of course, the ability of a regional association to serve its teachers and students depends on the energy and willingness of its volunteers.

“We hope that history does not repeat itself,” group members say, “that the energy surrounding From the Heartland does not wane and we are able to continue the legacy of Iyengar Yoga in the Midwest! We look forward to growth that allows IYAMW to be a region that serves its full purpose—a commitment to study, teach, disseminate and promote the art, science, and philosophy of yoga according to the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar.” 

—Jennie Williford, with assistance from Donna Pointer, Sue Salaniuk (Intermediate Junior III, Ann Arbor, MI), and Patrina Dobish.