IYA of Minnesota


On his 1987 trip to the United States, B.K.S. Iyengar came to Minnesota and inspired the yoga community. A group of yoga practitioners organized fundraisers for Guruji’s visit, which were met with great enthusiasm. Guruji held a teacher training, and there was a picnic at Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Park. With the funds left over from these events, Guruji requested that the coordinating committee for his visit start the B.K.S. Iyengar Association of Minnesota (IYAMN). 

The current IYAMN has been well-served by the legal structure its first members provided. IYAMN is a nonprofit organization, directed by a seven-member board, which includes three Certified Teachers. Board members, who serve two-year terms with no term limit, are selected by IYAMN members in annual elections. 

From the beginning, one of IYAMN’s important functions has been to bring Senior Teachers into the region so that local students and teachers may benefit. During the early years, Senior Teacher Mary Dunn was extremely helpful in guiding local teachers. Many excellent teachers have come to the region for IYAMN-sponsored workshops, including Neeta Datta, Dean Lerner, Laurie Blakeney, Manouso Manos, Mary Obendorfer, and Eddy Marks. Typically, IYAMN hosts two workshops a year. In addition to the knowledge that is shared, the association gets some financial benefits that support other activities and member benefits. 

IYAMN is one of two associations celebrating a silver anniversary this year. Highlights of IYAMN’s 25 years include hosting the 2004 National Convention in Minneapolis, whose theme was Parampara: In the Tradition of Patanjali. For Guruji’s 90th birthday, a wonderful event was held at St. Paul’s Wellstone Center and included a class “led” by Guruji, via audio recording, with Kristin Chirhart assisting live at the front of the class. At monthly meetings, for two years, IYAMN offered its members sutra study groups led by Lee Sverkerson; these were very popular. Recently IYAMN donated Iyengar Yoga books and DVDs to public libraries in the twin-cities area to help spread the seed of yoga. 

The association has worked towards sponsoring a visit by a teacher from India for several years. This October, it will host Jawahar Bagera for a four-day workshop; for details, see www. iyamn.org. 

Development of the IYAMN website has been vital to the region, since most communication is electronic. The association is currently setting up a Facebook page to help disseminate information. In the past, the board published a newsletter, which was much more challenging. To document some of the work and fruits of the association’s past, the current board is hoping to start an archive project. 

In recent years, membership in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa has neared 80, including over 20 Certified Teachers. Benefits of membership include discounted pricing for all association workshops and two free “Yoga Days” per year, in which members receive a class with a local teacher certified at the Junior I level or higher, refreshments, and social time. 

IYAMN continues to support its members: established practitioners as well as newer Iyengar Yoga students. Current board members are President Katy Olson (Introductory II, Fergus Falls, MN), Membership & Outreach Chair Elizabeth Cowan (Somerset, WI), Treasurer Mary Kovar (St. Paul, MN), Special Events Committee members Steve Weiss (Minneapolis, MN) and Michael Moore (Introductory II, St. Paul, MN), Secretary Katie Franson (St. Paul, MN), and Joy Laine (Intermediate Junior I, St. Paul, MN). 

—Elizabeth Cowan