A recent article in the Huffington Post summarized the myriad of health benefits that are now being scientifically attributed to yoga: Improved brain function, lower stress levels, improved sexual function, reduce chronic neck and lower back pain and more! But you knew that already didn’t you…


The Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco is so much more than just a building on the corner of 27th and Taraval. Big, red, bold letters reading “YOGA” on the outside of the building attract the eye and intrigue many passing by. The words offer the purpose of the building, but not until you open the door, walk in, and meet a few of the people inside do you begin to feel the heart of what makes up the Institute. Whether your purpose is to teach, learn to teach, study, or practice Iyengar Yoga there is a place for you at the institute. It is the variations of purposes of the people inside that make the institute thrive. This segment of the blog is meant to highlight just that, what brings people to the Institute, and what they have gained from being a part of it. Learn more about the students, faculty, and staff of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco.

CHAD BALCH: Yoga Teacher and Alumni

I came to yoga pretty much accidentally, or so I thought, in my late 20’s when I began attending a free lunchtime yoga class at a workplace. I thought the stretching might be a nice complement to my outdoor and athletic pursuits. Ha ha. By fate this lunchtime class was an Iyengar yoga class, and after several weeks of coming back to it, that special combination of physical and mental focus beckoned me to go deeper. Little did I know that later in life, through the vicissitudes of relationships, family life, educational pursuits, and career paths, the tail of my yoga practice would be wagging the dog of the rest of my activities.

Daily yoga practice is my touchstone, my way of staying as sane, stable, and healthy as I can manage in a world that is all at once exciting, tiring, rewarding, frustrating, and often trying to throw me off balance. I do yoga for my health, fitness, and well being, but more importantly, as a path of personal transformation, a way of being that reminds me over and over that life is a magical opportunity happening right now, with incredible possibilities to discover who you are and how who you are relates to everything else. I have a wife and two daughters, and although they are not always keen on yoga for themselves, they support me in my dedication, and count on me to support them. In some very important ways we are all on this ride together in the context of a delicate web of relationships, and in other ways it is just me, exploring and learning, taking an inward journey.

After continuing with weekly yoga classes for a few years, I began to develop a daily home practice and took occasional workshops at IYISF. About 6 years after my first yoga class I traveled to Pune to immerse myself. I had dabbled in teaching though I had no formal teacher training. This single trip to Pune gave me a clearer perspective on the importance of yoga in my life, and cemented my commitment to practice. Upon my return I was determined to make teaching Iyengar yoga part of my path, and promptly enrolled in the IYISF Advanced Studies program. My first class for credit was a workshop with Mary Dunn. It took me about 9 years to finish the 2 year program, perhaps setting a lesser-known record for elapsed time from enrollment to graduation at IYISF. Continually challenged with demands of family, work, and community responsibility, I look to B.K.S. Iyengar as a monumental example of a “householder yogi”.

Since attending my first workshops at IYISF, I have been connected with the Institute in various ways for perhaps 20 years. My time spent in the Advanced Studies program gave me an invaluable foundation to evolve my personal practice, to teach more effectively, and to become a certified Iyengar yoga instructor. My involvement with the Institute spawned connections and friendships with many other Iyengar yoga teachers and practitioners, local and beyond, a vibrant community of yogis and yoginis who share the same values about the importance of Iyengar yoga in their personal lives and how it can make a difference in the world.

Yes, Iyengar yoga has profoundly influenced every person who practices yoga today, regardless of the style of yoga they practice. And yes, IYISF, through its teachers, former teachers, and programs, has been a cornerstone of Iyengar yoga since its founding in the 1970’s, not just in San Francisco but nationally and even internationally. But what inspires me most about IYISF and its current plan to relocate and expand its reach and programming is the potential for the Institute to play a much stronger community role, the vision to evolve IYISF not just as a successful yoga studio or teacher training program, but as a highly visible San Francisco community hub and institution for yoga. Because of the difference Iyengar yoga can make in people’s lives, and the prospect of bringing Iyengar yoga to many more people who will benefit from it, not just today, but for years to come, I feel a strong need to be a part of IYISF and contribute to its evolution.