Nov. 11: Drop-in Workshops & Teacher Training in Santa Barbara. Join us!

Lisa in a field of poppiesIntroduction to Iyengar Yoga for Teachers

I have been teaching this module for the Santa Barbara Yoga Center for twenty years. This year  we are changing the structure to include two workshops open to the general public. If you are an Iyengar student or a teacher in another method, come learn the guiding principles that have made Iyengar Yoga respected worldwide. The course will include a manual.

Iyengar Yoga is based on an integrated body/mind/breath exploration of the Self that employs the body as a vehicle towards the skillful mastery of the mind. Beginning with the structural conditioning of the body to ease pains or injuries while building mobility and strength, the practice deliberately trains and focuses scattered, stormy, or sinking minds. Physical vitality encourages emotional stability that leads to a deeply satisfying life. Each class is like a canvas, bare in the beginning. Each posture is a brush stroke that opens the hips and shoulders, stretches the legs and elongates the spine. Good alignment can deepen your breathing capacity.

Following the public workshops those of you in the teacher training will review the sequence, actions and applied principles from the workshops. Together we will look at each asana and review how it applies to your body and practice.

Teaching pranayama and introducing the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are my favorite part of the weekend. I hope you will join me!

Public workshop: Sat. 11/12: 10:30am – 12:30pm
Upside down and Inside out:Inversions come in many flavors: standing, chest expansiveness, restorative and full on. Inversions benefit every system in the body, and hence are considered the most important postures for a daily practice. Join us for a progressive practice that builds from standing inversions to the experience of being upside down that is right for you. If you are new to Iyengar yoga there are effective ways to modify the classic inversions. For the experienced student, you will refine the postures.

Public workshop: Sun. 11/13: 9am – 11am
Twists, backbends, the Niyamas and Ashtanga Yoga: New to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali? Asanas and Pranayama are but two of the eight limbs path (Ashtanga) in the Yoga Sutras. In this workshops Lisa will make Sutra study practical and accessible through supported and dynamic practice of back extensions.

The teacher training schedule:

Fri. 11/11: 4pm – 8pm
Sat. 11/12: 10:30 – 7pm (break 12:30pm – 1:30pm)
Sun. 11/13: 9am –  5pm (break 11am-1pm)

For more information, please visit here. I hope you can join us!


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Touch and the summer of 2016

Going off the well-worn track

What happens when I jump off the bus, or the train, or the plane? It depends on how fast I am going to somewhere other than where I am, now, in this moment. This summer I stepped out of the moving city and landed on the Oregon Coast with our new puppy Sita, and my husband. Open hours, open practice, wide open horizon and a phenomenal night sky. How to start my practice when I’m not going to teach? It was more complex

than I thought it would be, this “taking a with Mom at beachlighthouse

Touch. I was touched by the silence of opening to not knowing, and the noise of Urdhva Dhanurasana or Eka Pada Sirsasana begging for attention. I began each practice with Savasana, the touch of mind probing, sensing, softening, listening. Touch is interesting as we use it to imply so many things. Guruji notes that the skin is the largest sensory organ in the body. We can feel a firm handshake or shoes that fit too tight. We prefer soft and natural fabrics, the tactile efficiency of the right pen, or the slender stem of a wine glass. Touch is the only sense for which there is no cultural art form, such as music, art, gastronomy and perfumery.

Savasana. Invite the touch of mind probing, sensing, softening, listening. In yoga, sound is equated with the element of space, while the mind with the element of fire. I might probe to feel the difference between the two sides of my calves on the floor; but really I have to allow the sensation to come to me. I listen with my body; I soften the zealous mind and allow for nothing at first. Then, slowly, I feel the mind shifting into a state of awareness that spreads and “touches” different parts of the body from within. I find this listening to be different than a body scan or Yoga Nidra; perhaps more akin to some forms of Vipassana meditation.

I did continue with Urdhva Dhanurasana or whatever caught my fancy that day, but at some point I would “rest” in the pose. Invite the sensing, softening, and listening into the shape. Perhaps the pose was not perfect or photographic, but that is not the point. If I practice like this more often, I will not need a “vacation”, for every practice will be touching this spacious place of resting deeply, Savasana in action.

Thank you Oregon and summer of 2016. Now to return to the spinning wheel; what web will I weave this year?


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You lose your grip, and then you slip / Into the masterpiece

You lose your grip, and then you slip / Into the masterpiece. -Leonard Cohen

In our upcoming workshop on June 9 in Malibu, my dear friend and inspired colleague, Peri Doslu, and I will create a container for this experience through the body, senses and awareness. We will use the elements as an avenue to shift attention into an inquiry of experience different from what we are accustomed to. I have enjoyed developing this workshop immensely and hope that I can share it with you. Here are some thoughts.

Daily I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have stumbled into/been drawn/destined to practice yoga. Exploring how fully I can exist with all my faculties in each moment, of feeling deeply and of honoring this gift of health and consciousness is such a blessing! The asana practice is the outer most skin and yet the complete package when I enter into it without an agenda other than to be present, fully. Yet the agenda arises almost immediately. Is my spine elongating evenly, can I refine my breath, are all fingers touching the ground. I recognize that this is part of the practice; I cease resisting what I might call the distraction of alignment, and widen my mental horizon to embrace the practice for whatever arises. In the exhalation, I accept the miracle of consciousness.

Throughout time, seekers have sought to understand and to have an experience of pure being.  It fascinates me to realize that we are another drop in this long chain of magical and mystical thinking.

In the Mundaka Upanishad, the disciple asks: What is it that by knowing all else will be known? (I.3)  The Prasna Upanishad was chronicled in the first millennium BCE. Seers and rishis asked similar questions to the ancient Greeks, and to contemporary seekers like us. What is the meaning of life? “Sir, how many gods support the body of the created being? How many of these manifest their power through it? And which one, furthermore, is paramount? (II.1)  To the disciple, the sage replied: The powers are space, air, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, vision, and hearing.” (II.2)

In his book A Trackless Heart, Tibetan Buddhist teacher Ken McLeod suggests “Rest in the field of everything you experience, and then pose the question, ‘What experiences all this?’ Do not try and answer the questions. Just pose it and see what happens.”

While the infinite quest reveals itself through not knowing, and resting with whatever arises, we can play with the exploration through our bodies, and the elements that substantiate and sustain us. In yoga this is an accepted map of experience. Guruji Iyengar says, in an 1985 article: “The skin, one of the senses of perception covering the body has the sense of touch (air), carried to the brain and from the brain to the skin. It makes us feel the vibration of the movement (ether and air). Again the sense of touch has its origin in air. After a long sadhana (practice) the students feels the sense of touch from within. While performing the asanas even if the understanding is limited only to the movements, there is involvement of the gross elements, viz, earth, air and water.” (Aṣṭadaḷa yogamālā, Vol. 2)

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Join us June 9th for an all day Malibu yoga and meditation retreat!

Join Senior Level Iyengar Yoga teacher
Lisa Walford
Buddhist Meditation teacher
Peri Doslu
at the beautiful Serra Retreat in Malibu, CA

Thursday, June 9, 2016, 9am – 4pm

In this retreat, Lisa and Peri provide a playground for us to discover our capacity to rest deeply in an asana while remaining actively engaged and present. During asana practice we may find ourselves endlessly refining a pose and tuning the instrument. Within and beyond the refinement lies the rich potential for pure experience. Can we rest deeply and hear the inner music play? As we let ourselves arrive and be replenished in active poses, we welcome the Yoga into yoga.

The luxury of time affords us the opportunity to drink in the benefit of the practice and the beauty of the sea, sky and silence which Serra Retreat so amply provides.

The retreat includes 2 sessions of Iyengar yoga interspersed with meditation that will be adapted to the capacity of all enrolled. During the lunch break Lisa and Peri will lead an optional discussion based on reading material provided to participants prior to the retreat.

Early Bird Special $140.00 now till May 25, after May 25th $160.00
To register or get more information
Contact Paige at 310-367-8785,or email
Presented by Sadhana Retreats

LISA WALFORD lisa-headshot-for-passport-72-dpiholds an Intermediate Senior Iyengar teaching certificate and has been teaching yoga in Los Angeles since 1982. She continues her studies annually with the Iyengar’s, in Pune, India, and teaches worldwide. In her rigorous and technically informative classes, she creates an ambiance of internal focus inspiring to both beginning and advanced students.

PERI DOSLU periis a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation teacher. She began her meditation practice in 2001 and in 2009 completed a three-year Teacher Development Program under the guidance of her Tibetan Buddhist teacher & author Ken McLeod. Peri teaches privately and in small groups in Santa Monica CA. Her teaching, her practice and her commitment to sitting long solitary retreats has enabled her to develop a unique and accessible way of teaching meditation.

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Effective Communication and the Business of Yoga

The first time I heard the term “industry of yoga” was in 2004. It was a portent of what was to come. I had to upscale my involvement with marketing, media, and management. Fortunately, now there are resources to help.  Join me along with Lynann Politte (manager & promoter of yoga teachers) and eight other highly experienced yoga experts in a one of a kind online experience designed specifically for yoga teachers who are serious about creating and growing profitable businesses that allow them to increase their reach and teachings in a simple and authentic way. Click here2016 BtE Teacher Marketing Slides - Lisa Walford_Square #1 for more info.

  • March 1st – Enrollment opens.
  • March 31st — FINAL day for registration.
  • April 1st — BtE course begins.

This “elephant” is what we often hesitate to talk about. A big part of management and marketing has to do with communication. I have served on several Boards for non-profit organizations as well as worked with management for multi-studio corporations and found effective communication is a fundamental skill. Once words leave your mouth, you cannot retrieve them, unlike an asana which you can refine and practice the next day. I found that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali held valuable keys to organizing the internal voices so that I could express myself with clarity and compassion.

Taking the time to continually nurture your business the way you do your teachings and practice is fundamental to finding ease, flow, expansion and success in your own life and what you offer to the world.

Balancing the Elephant offers the insight and knowledge direct from over 221 years of combined experience teaching yoga and running yoga businesses in the modern world. Over the course of 90 days you will receive wisdom, tips, tools, mentoring, exercises, personalized feedback and more. My colleague Lynann Politte will personally guide, support and inspire you on your unique path as a yogipreneure from exactly where you are.

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April in Tokyo at YogaPlus (all are welcome)

DSC_0869I return to Tokyo next month and will be teaching at YogaPlus. They invited me in 2007 to teach their first conference. I look forward to seeing you!

Fri Apr 15 19:00: Shoulder joints & Hip Joints
Sat Apr 16 19:30: Observation Skills for Teachers
Mon Apr 18 19:00: Pranayama and Restorative

Apr 16 (Sat) 9:30 Twist +Wall Rope
Apr 17 (Sun) 17:30 Backbends
Apr 18 (Mon) 14:00 Inversions
Apr 19 (Tue) 19:00 Iyengar Vinyasa

For more info, please visit
or email

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connecting with the elemental fabric in our body – 01-Apr-16 at Triyoga Camden

connecting with the elemental fabric in our body

Fbday 2012rom the Prasna Upanishad: “What powers support this body? Which of them is manifested in it? And among them all, which is the greatest?”
The sage replied: “The powers are space, air, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, visions and hearing. All these boast, “We support this body”.

In this series of workshops we will explore how different elements support and condition the body and mind through asana. Yoga practice mirrors natural forces and adds the power of awareness. As the Tao Te Ching says: “Let stability be the source of your lightness; Let stillness be the source of your actions.” By understanding the elements at play in your body and mind, yoga practice become the dynamic balance of polarities.

fri 01 apr 19:45: pranayama: vitality + tranquility
sat 02 apr 10:00: stability in standing poses: the element of earth in your bones
sat 02 apr 14:00: open to the universe: backbends will challenge, grace + release
sun 03 apr 10:00: cultivating expansive awareness: the element of space
sun 03 apr 14:00: beyond hip openers: eka pada sirsasana

pranayama: vitality + tranquility
fri 01 apr 16 – 19:45 to 21:45 – all levels welcome

Prana is a resonance that permeates all of life. When we quiet down, we can access this vital life energy to explore and focus it in different ways. In this evening we will use a restorative practice to reduce tension and open the body before introducing breathing techniques to prepare for seated pranayama.

You will learn how the position of the abdomen, chest and limbs effect the expression of energy in the body. First with supine and supported postures to enable a separation between the abdomen and chest, you will learn how to define and quiet the diaphragm to still the nervous system. This is the essential state from which pranayama can begin, when the body, breath and mind are quiet. On leaving the workshop, you will have learned how to begin your practice at home.

stability in standing poses: the element of earth in your bones
sat 02 apr 16 – 10:00 to 12:30 – all levels welcome

Tadasana is the root and foundation from which the standing poses build strength and determination. Our bones connect us with this earth element. This session will introduce and cultivate sensitivity on how to work through the bones in standing poses. We will work with variations of classic postures that are beneficial for issues with your hips, knees, shoulders and spine.

We are each different, and this workshop will help you understand your unique arrangement of bones. How your shin bone aligns with your thigh bone will affect your knee, hip and back. The stretch and spread of the skin on the foot effects the ankle and up into the rest of the body. This is essential for the health of a life long practice.

open to the universe: backbends will challenge, grace + release
sat 02 apr 16 – 14:00 to 17:00 – for experienced practitioners

Be humble, for we are made of the earth
Be noble, for we are made of the stars (Serbian proverb)

With the feet and attention firmly rooted into the element of earth, we can expand, lift and open into the nobility of backward extensions. Stability, strength and skill will enable you to approach standing drop overs.

A progressive sequence with supported and active back extensions will help you isolate different parts of the spine, shoulders and psoas, and strengthen and elongate the front of the body. We each have a different shape, and one preparation or set-up may be more effective for you than another. Come to study, learn and practice.

For students who are able to push up off the floor into Urdhva Dhanurasana.

cultivating expansive awareness: the element of space
sun 03 apr 16 – 10:00 to 12:30 – all levels welcome

Savasana becomes the seed to explore how you can remain alert while resting deeply. This is the ultimate practice, to connect an attentive, reflective mind with the sensory body of awareness so that you feel how energy percolates throughout your being. Supported back and forward bending, twists, and breath all contribute to this elegant practice.

beyond hip openers: eka pada sirsasana
sun 03 apr 16 – 14:00 to 17:00 – for experienced practitioners

Do you ever wonder what lies beyond hip openings? Kurmasana is just the beginning of deep forward extensions that require suppleness in the hips. These asanas can relieve back pain and internalise focus to create deep peace.

Deep forward extensions require supple hips. Many seated postures along with arm balances focus on the hips. This workshop will show you how to isolate, strengthen and release the outer hip, deep hip joint, gluteal and inner thigh muscles.

All classes at TriYoga Camden – 57 jamestown road, london, nw1 7db, uk (google map)

For more information, or to sign up, please visit:
email, or call +44 020 7483 3344

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Śīrṣāsana – King of Asanas

Inversions are the centerpiece of a mature practice in Iyengar Yoga. Many yoga students who practice Sirsasana  (headstand) and Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand) and are not familiar with the potent variations that accompany the King and Queen of asana. Just as the standing poses are the front door for beginning students in Iyengar Yoga, inversions become the “go to” asanas for health and healing.

In standing poses, the work in the arms and legs help students improve mobility and stability while they learn to access the spine. In inversions, the intelligence and muscular strength gained through the standing poses prepare the spinal and shoulder muscles for the variations. Students learn to stabilize the torso and spine while isolating actions in the hip joints.

In 1961 a British newspaper ran this headline: Yoga is becoming popular in the U.K. Impressions of an Indian Guru. The World of Topsy Turvy People. Everything seems better when your’re upside down – even a Queen stands firmly on her head. Why don’t you try? This was the year when Guruji first visited London. He had taught the 81 year old Queen of Belgium to do Sirsasana, at her request. Today we understand that, when practiced conscientiously, the “topsy-turvy” poses have a profound effect on the endocrine, digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems. They can invoke the relaxation response along with all of the mental, emotional and physiological benefits that come with deep relaxation.

In his pivotal book, Light On Life, Shree Iyengar gives only one sequence of poses. It is called Asanas for Emotional Stability. Over half of the poses in this sequence would be considered inversions. They are all supported, thus making them accessible to most people.

The unique benefits that accrue through the Sirsasana and Sarvangasana come when you can stay in a safe and stable posture for five to ten minutes. In the beginning, it is essential to build the strength and suppleness in the shoulders and upper back before introducing the variations. The sequence to prepare for the safe practice of inversions will vary depending on your experience. Seek a qualified teacher to introduce and develop this satisfying practice.

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A prop is first and foremost a teacher

Abhijata and IyengarThis was the first afternoon presentation of the conference. Abhijata introduced the session with images of the many ways that we support and participate with one another. We seek support to grow, for guidance (a child and teacher), for emotional support (hands of an older couple clasped together) and physical support (a blind person being led and rock climbers wall hooks). Life is ripe with ways that we give support and are supported. Abhijata is an excellent orator, and I was able to type quickly. This post covers just a small portion of her presentation, but I am able to give you her words.

“The story of props is one of evolution; that started in 1924 and continues now.” Form the time when Guruji first arrived in Pune he sought ways to help his students. She recounted how one day Guruji was strolling down a road and saw a roller bin that smooths the roads. He lay down over the roller and thought that it might be helpful. When he returned home he found a water drum (at that time there was no running water, she added). He then called a wood worker to fashion what we now call the Viparita Dandasana bench.

“One day a VIP, the principle of Fergusson College came and asked Sundaraj (Iyengar’s first name) for help. It was 1937, this man was 85 and could barely walk. Now, most people might suggest that this man go and do something else, not yoga!” Abhijata is a charismatic speaker, and we were all enthralled.

“So, Sundararaj thought that he would make this old man do standing poses lying down.” Abhijata explained; “He tried to get him down on the floor. Once the principle was prone, his tried to spread his legs apart. But the man’s legs kept coming back together. So he put a rod between the legs. Now, this is a big shift, to take the standing poses lying down. Some might say that this was an aberration, but Sundaraj wanted to help the school principle. This was the beginning to the use of props. With this story, Sundaraj put an end to the idea that yoga could not be done by older people.”

Abhijata then discussed our notion of giving help, how do we really support one another. “In general, when we see someone who is having problems, we feel sympathy, and we want to help. However, props have not come about because of sympathy; they have come about through empathy. You have to put yourself into their shoes and see what they are going through. Patanjali makes no mention of sympathy, what he refers to is 1.33: Maitri (friendliness), and Karuna (compassion towards anyone who is in “dukha”), this is empathy.”

“A prop is an upholder, a support. In India, the sage would have a vision of a mantra, and they would then take Darshana (deep contemplation) and come to understand the meaning. For us, Guruji has given us the props to take Darshana on the poses.”

Abhijata next demonstrated several ways that she practices Ardha Chandrasana. Using a trestle (also known as a horse), she placed her lifted leg over the top rung of the trestle and braced her standing leg against its end. The touch of the trestle on her lifted leg guided her as to where she was not extending. She next took Ardha Chandrasana at a right angle to the trestle and placed her lifted leg knee on the top rung. A weight was placed on her foot. This drew the inner knee in line with the rest of her leg. Otherwise her knock knee projected out. She showed several other ways that most of you readers probably are more familiar with, facing away from the trestle with a stool support for the leg and then facing the trestle. The touch of the trestle guided the alignment of the legs, back, and knees.

“So the prop is not there to help you, it is not there to support you; it is there to inform you, like a good teacher. The prop gives you courage, it gives you confidence. Guruji always said that you must first instill in your students courage and confidence, for the students will then take up the path of yoga.”

“Guruji made the prop lively, it is not an external thing to use as support, it was to be an extension of you. People may say that we can become dependent on the props. If you are caught up in the physical framework, then yes, you might. But if you use the prop to inform your practice, then it becomes a teacher. “

In closing, Abhijata framed the use of props in the bigger context of Yoga Sadhana. If props can inform and guide us to connect and feel what is really happening, we can then communicate within the body to adjust and improve our pose. This process is how we continue to refine, integrate and deepen our perception in the poses and in life in general.

“We say that yoga is union, but before union we must first connect, and then communicate, then integrate, and there can then be union.” -Abhijata

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Gravity and the heart

Padmasana210Guruji’s writings will seed lifetimes of contemplation. This summary of Eddy Marks’ talk at Yoganushasanam includes my own midnight musings.

“Intelligence is in every cell in the body, but dormant. You have to learn how to tap it.”

Some of this material can seem elusive. Eddy began by giving a practical application of this quote. Gravity is always with us, he said. As yoga practitioners we are always negotiating with gravity, folding into gravity or lifting up away from it. We have to learn to work efficiently with it so that there is vitality in the body. He called Jordi Marti (Spain) onstage.

He wanted to compare the relationship of the arms with the plumb line in the body relative to the effect of gravity. Eddy asked him to take Urdhva Hastasana. Jordi first pretended to have stiff shoulders. He did not take his arms vertically up. His arms were in front of his body and his upper back rounded, like a stiff person. Eddy explained that, in this case, gravity would win, as the muscular effort to hold the arms up was excessive. This would be an exhausting practice. He next asked Jordi to take the arms alongside the ears so that the plumb line of the arms ran even with the elongation of the spine. Echoing Geetaji’s instruction from that morning, he told Jordi to extend from the bottom armpit all the way through the elbow and to keep going. Open the armpits! The shape began to light up with vigor. Here, there was little muscular effort and the action of the arms opened the shoulder. Finally Eddy asked Jordi to take the arms behind the ears. In so doing, he had to dig the shoulder blades into the body and open the chest. Now, Eddy said, “your existence is felt in the chest.” The position of the arms behind the plumb line worked with gravity to draw the back body in toward the front body. While it’s challenging, it’s exhilarating as well. The position of Jordi arms created a vibrancy that presented his inner being as the chest opened.

Building on an image Zubin introduced in the previous presentation, Eddy said that most of us practice as if we are on a life raft, trying to survive rough waters, rather than navigating a ship. Guruji’s practice, however, was akin to a submarine. A submarine is high tech, efficient, and able to travel great distances. Guruji had cultivated such intelligence in his body where he could use minimal effort to achieve great benefits. He fanned the spark of his innate intelligence into a flame that he could readily tap into. Anyone who studied with him knew the heat of his inspiration.

Eddy’s talk sparked my creative juices. I have always been fascinated with an idea that gravity is not limited to Einstein’s theory of relativity, “what goes up must come down” (very very simplistic here). The gravity we are most familiar with draws from the center of our planet, even though our direct experience with it may be a linear “what goes up must come down”. So gravity really is centrifugal.

Our mind generally “gravitates” toward sensory stimulation and gratification, and we seem to have little control. With the will to cultivate particular attitudes and behavioral patterns we can change these instinctual impulses. So just as the earth has its elemental gravity, our mind has its instinctual gravity. We can refine and transform the reactive mind into a benevolent and skillful one through the ethical, physical, sensory and reflective practices inherent in yoga Sadhana.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities in the master mind there are few.” (Shunryu Suzuki) This iconic statement encapsulates Guruji’s practice and Eddie’s presentation. Intelligence knows; there is no further vacillation between likes and dislikes, preferences and prejudices.

I believe that there is a gravitational pull towards all things relating to the heart and its attributes. It is as if the heart is the epicenter of our own planet, and we are naturally drawn toward it. Sutra 25 in the third pada of the Yoga Sutras says that one understands the nature of consciousness by contemplating the heart. The heart can plummet into depths of despair and we feel a heart ache. It can reach the highest heavens when in love or when captivated by great art. These extremes mirror our daily existence, and it can be exhausting to bounce around in these emotions.

Sutra 33 in the first pada says that consciousness becomes benevolently disposed when we contemplate the qualities of friendliness, compassion, joy for the virtuous and equanimity towards adversity. We no longer suffer inside a turbulent mind, and yet we will still recognize the vibrancy all around us. The mind becomes quiet, knowing, intelligent, and the heart will rest.

Eddy’s presentation was truly inspired, and it nourished my own inquisitive mind and heart. This is what Guruji meant when he asked us to build a community and grow together.

I have known Eddy for over thirty years. He is a veteran of RIYMI. Senior certified and living in Hawaii, he travels to teach and frequently spends long bouts in Pune studying with the Iyengar family.


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