After more than 40 years of dedicated involvement in the UK Iyengar Yoga Association, Elaine has retired from her various roles to spend more time with her husband Trevor and her family.
In 1981 Elaine first went to Pune to attend an Intensive course at RIMYI with a group of teachers and students from Scotland. She remembers that there were only 25 in the class! It was the first time she had seen or been taught by BKS Iyengar. She says that Guruji was so dynamic, he taught with the speed and power of lightning and the experience of it changed her life.
Elaine had been attending yoga classes in Edinburgh, where she still lives today. It was 1976 and at that time, in the early days of what we now call Iyengar Yoga, there was a need for teachers.
Elaine trained to teach, qualified in 1980, and started to teach classes at the newly established Edinburgh Iyengar Yoga Centre. In 1983 she gained Intermediate Junior 3 certification. Soon after this in 1986 Bob and Kathy Welham, the owners of the Centre, moved away and Elaine took over teacher training for them and became the Manager of the centre, which thrived. Later in 1998 she became the owner. Meanwhile during the earlier 1990’s she qualified to become a Senior teacher, Assessor and then Moderator in 1995.
During all these eventful and busy years when Elaine was nurturing the tree of Iyengar Yoga in Edinburgh and Scotland, she had also become involved in the national association, the BKS Iyengar Yoga Teachers’ Association – BKSYTA.
She started as the Regional Representative for Scotland and as a Moderator was part of the decision making team. In 1998 she became Vice Chair and then Chairperson 2000 – 2003 during what turned out to be a rather difficult period. Many changes were about to take place which required much fortitude, steadiness, calmness and strength of character.
The first challenge was the introduction of the Certification Mark (CM) which all Iyengar Yoga Teachers have to buy each year and is the Trade Mark which shows that they are genuinely qualified. Many teachers questioned the need for this and there was much heated debate – but it was something which Guruji wanted in order to protect his name and methods of teaching yoga. Guruji’s book ‘Light on Yoga’ had become a worldwide manual for yoga and people were using his name but teaching their own methods of yoga which were not his. This was both watering down and undermining the high standards of teaching which Guruji demanded. The CM was introduced in this country in 2004 and has worked well to stop fraudulent use of the name Iyengar which strengthens the good reputation of genuine Iyengar Yoga teachers and is a mark of their authenticity.
Guruji, as the owner of the CM Trade Marks, granted a Master Licence to the IYA (UK) and Elaine became licensee for the UK with the additional responsibility for helping other European Associations implement their own Master Licences. This job involved learning about trade mark law, legal terminology, how to administer the CM and how to implement legal challenges to the misuse of the Iyengar name.
Recently adjustments have had to be made when the CM Trade Marks were re-registered, when the IYA became IY (UK) Ltd. and after Guruji died when the ownership of the CM was transferred to Geeta and Prashant Iyengar. All this Elaine has been responsible for overseeing. Now she is standing down and IY (UK) Ltd has become the recognised licensee.
The other big challenge at this time was the coming together of the two associations which existed in this country, the Teachers’ Association (BKSIYTA) and the Light on Yoga Association (LOYA), which was for teachers and students. Guruji wanted a united, single association to be formed in the UK to embrace everyone and join the two “camps”, which had been a divisive situation. The process of amalgamation involved intense work with many meetings to draw up a new structure and new Constitution acceptable to both Associations. Meetings were held at least every month for a year and each stage was reported to Guruji for his approval. The final outcome in 2004 was the inauguration of the IYA (UK) with Guruji’s blessing.
Being Chair of the Association during such a disruptive period meant many, many long train journeys from Edinburgh to London for meetings as well as travel to various other parts of the country for assessments, teaching, and other association business. Elaine was often blazing a trail once or twice every month! Additionally she was of course running her yoga centre, teaching, teacher training and moderating assessments, and practicing, and having a family life apart from yoga!
One might ask “why?” Why would anyone choose to devote so much time and energy into a highly in-
tense but completely unpaid job with such an amount of determination and good will? The answer is, as Elaine says, out of gratitude for what Guruji gave her in that life changing trip to Pune and during the following years.
She modestly says that Guruji inspired the same love and devotion in so many people, which is true of course. Many, many people volunteer their time with the same feeling that they want to give something back. Elaine’s work has been demanding, and challenging but she was happy to do it and feels privileged to have had contact with Guruji, to have corresponded with him, met with him, to have been able to be of service to him.
Now Elaine has stood back from all this and at 75 this October she truly deserves to! She is of course continuing to teach in Edinburgh and perhaps elsewhere and you may even see her at Professional
May you enjoy many years of happy retirement, Elaine. All best wishes from the IY (UK)
Published in IYN Autumn 2016