IYA of the Northwest


The history of the Iyengar Association in the Pacific Northwest begins with the story of two births. The first came in the summer of 1993. A group of yogis (primarily from the Seattle area) created the Iyengar Yoga Association of the Northwest (IYAN). Their hard work and determination kept the organization going until 1998. But sadly, politics, along with the logistics and cost of maintaining a group over such a wide geographic area, proved too difficult, and the group disbanded. 

After a hiatus of eight years, the organization had a rebirth in 2005. The desire for a formal organization had been building for years. Finally, the elements and timing were right. Not least of all, the growth of the internet, with wider availability of email and internet access, allowed easier communication over this large region, which includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. 

The second birth began at a lively meeting of interested members during the 2004 IYNAUS Convention in St. Paul, MN. Pat Musburger, one of the association’s founding members, noted that the meeting took place during a tornado, which lent urgency and excitement to the formation of the organization. The new organization was still called the Iyengar Yoga Association of the Northwest, but now the initials IYANW were used to signify the Northwest. The group sent out emails, and students and teachers from across the region responded enthusiastically. They willingly gave of their time to get things going. 

Interim board officers were appointed and the first official meeting of IYANW was held in Portland on January 29, 2005, with Pat Musburger (Intermediate Junior I, Shoreline, WA) as president, Senior Teacher Felicity Green (Mill Creek, WA) as vice president, Nadine Sims (Introductory II, Bend, OR) as treasurer, Paul Cheek (Intermediate Junior I, Camas, WA) as secretary, Nina Pileggi (Intermediate Junior II, Portland, OR) as membership chair, Don Gura (Intermediate Junior I, Boise, ID) as communications chair, and Judy Landecker (Intermediate Junior II, Helena, MT) as scholarship chair. 

Several members were instrumental in re-establishing the organization. Carmen Viola (Introductory II, Renton, WA), then an IYNAUS Board member, advised, cautioned, and encouraged the new board in many areas. Felicity Green had continued to hold the vision of a regional board during its hiatus. Her knowledge and wisdom guided the new group. Pat Musburger and Nina Pileggi were the engines that kept the board going, while the rest of the board and members at large provided the energy. 

The board that started in 2005 established important precedents for the association, including a website, regular newsletters, a lending library, a scholarship fund, and free classes for members. The original website was set up by Don Gura. With his design background, he created the logo, the layout of the website, and the newsletters. Denise Weeks (Introductory II, Bellingham, WA), current communications chair, recently oversaw and implemented a major revamping of the website with the help of Carmen Viola. Information has been streamlined and more photos have been added. The site contains a comprehensive list of both studios and Certified Teachers in the region, a link to the grant application, a list of materials available in the lending library, archived newsletters, meeting minutes, upcoming workshops, and information about the board. 

Besides the website, communication with members is maintained through a print newsletter mailed twice a year and online newsletters sent electronically four times a year. Contributions from members are welcomed, and past topics have ranged from workshops with senior teachers to working with significant injuries. 

In spring 2005, the scholarship fund began with seed money from a benefit dinner. Seattle formerly hosted an annual Northwest Yoga and Meditation Festival, attended by nearly 

1,000 students from many traditions. During the festival of 2005, Felicity Green presented several lectures, and John Schumacher taught over the course of four days. IYANW capitalized on the event by hosting a dinner for Iyengar Yoga practitioners. A group of 30 gathered for food and fellowship and, in the course of the evening, the association raised $300 for the scholarship fund. The board currently awards four scholarships a year, up to $300 per award. 

The lending library, which opened in fall 2008, is housed at the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center in Portland, and contains more than 40 books, 45 magazines, 20 VHS/CDs, and various newsletters from Iyengar Yoga associations around the world. Members can check out items through the website. Materials are mailed postage-paid to members, who then pay for return shipping. This resource allows members access to rare items pertaining to Iyengar Yoga and general yoga philosophy. 

Free classes for members have become an important benefit of membership in IYANW. Because the association covers a large area, the board has worked hard to offer classes throughout the region. Last year, classes were held in Portland, Seattle, and Bellingham. In July, 13 members attended a free workshop offered by Felicity Green on asana, Pranayama, and philosophy. Afterwards, a lively member meeting elicited many suggestions for the board. In the future, IYANW hopes to schedule member class in Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. 

Elections will be held this summer for three new board members. Each serves for four years and elections take place every two years. In any given election, only three to four seats become vacant, maintaining continuity and expertise and allowing more experienced board members to “show the ropes” to newcomers. 

Current board members are President Anne Geil (Introductory II, Shoreline, WA), Vice President Marcia Gossard (student, Pullman, WA), Treasurer and Scholarship Chair Karin Brown (Introductory II, Portland, OR), Secretary Angela McKinlay (Introductory II, Everett, WA), Membership Chair Tonya Garreaud (Intermediate Junior I, Portland, OR), and Communications Chair Denise Weeks. The board usually has seven members but is currently one member shy after Paul Cheek, who had served on the board since 2005, resigned at the end of 2011. 

At its rebirth in 2005, there was a deep hope that the board would establish itself as a long-lasting entity. Now in its eighth year, this second flowering of the regional association shows signs of maturation. With sustained effort, there is growing confidence that the board can maintain its continuity while fulfilling the mission of disseminating yoga according to the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and his family. 

—Anne Geil