We asked Jessica a couple of questions to introduce her to the IYISF community!
Check out her interview:
What’s your connection with yoga and when did your journey begin?
“My connection to yoga has taken many forms throughout the past 10 years. I began doing yoga with my mom when I was young–we would go to yoga classes for fitness at local gyms and studios. As I moved into high school, I began doing yoga on my own and started developing a home practice to better manage my stress and depression, though my practice was never very consistent. After returning home from living in Rwanda, where I studied the 1994 Genocide in depth, I got very serious about yoga. I enrolled in a yoga class that met three days a week and I built up a consistent home-practice. Yoga became a part of my mental and physical healing process during the trauma and chaos of my return home.
In my final year of school, I also took a comprehensive Hinduism course in which we read the Yoga Sutras, the 8-Limbs of Yoga, the Bhagavad-Gita, and more. It was the intense reading and discussion of Hindu texts like these that helped push me to accept yoga as much more of a spiritual practice, alongside a physical and mental one. The story only continues from there! I graduated and moved out to California with a strong love for yoga and desire to learn more!”
How did you end up at IYISF?
“This is a funny story, actually! Very serendipitous! So, I had heard about the studio and an opening position from a friend, before I even graduated and moved out to the Bay Area. Unfortunately, various circumstances prevented the opportunity from coming through. After I moved to Berkeley, however, I was invited to a yoga class by another close friend who actually took me straight to IYISF’s front door! I began attending classes at the Institute and when the position of Student Service Coordinator opened up, I jumped on the opportunity.
I am so blessed and excited to be welcomed into this community with such love!”
We would like to take a moment to thank Patti for her time and dedication to the Institute. Patti Martin has served on the board for the last 3 years helping guide us for the future with her expertise in HR among many other contributions. Her time has come to part ways from the board, and we wanted to show our appreciation for all of her contributions by dedicating this blog post to her.
We recently interviewed Patti on the topic of growth within IYISF and what sets us apart from other yoga schools. In this time of transition her words solidify the continuing transformation and exciting future of the institute.
Since you have joined the board can you discuss how much the organization has grown?
“When I joined the board IYISF had the front door at Taraval Street closed and locked during most of every day. To the persistent public, during the hours that the Institute was open, you needed to walk around the corner and through an unmarked door to enter the building. Once you entered the building it was rather dark and after you walked by the trash bins you were presented with a flight of stairs going up. When you reached studio level there was no-one to greet you. It was only the hardy that made it as far as the office which was only open a few hours a day, a few days a week. Needless to say, business was not booming!! The fact that IYISF survived is totally a testament to the great teaching that was happening and how word of the teaching was spread by word of mouth.
You can see for yourself how we have changed!”
What are some of the main areas of improvement you have seen take place in the last three years?
“We are more welcoming to new students. Our new more welcoming approach combined with the more central location has resulted in a fresh lively stream of new people being introduced to Iyengar yoga. It is exciting to spread the value of the practice with a greater number of people.
A greater number of classes at new days and times, and an increase in the number of instructors makes yoga more accessible to people with busy schedules.
We have invested not only in a beautiful new studio, but have also invested in hiring and training smart, engaged people who want to help us fulfill our mission to spread the teachings of BKS Iyengar and his family. The right people make all the difference.”
What are three key things that set us apart from other yoga schools?
“1. We are a nonprofit. Profit is not a motivation for us. Our goal is to spread the teachings of BKS Iyengar and family. However, this is not to downplay the importance for us of having sound and prudent financial planning since this is essential to fulfilling our mission. Income is important for us to repay the costs of the relocation; to pay our teachers, faculty and staff a living wage; to improve our existing programs; to extend our current boundaries with new programs; and to provide a legacy for those who will follow in our footsteps.
2. We are not responsive to fads and/or providing people with “entertainment”. We help people awaken to the value of yoga in their lives.
3. We do not have a “target demographic”. Our yoga is for everyone. We are not trying to appeal only to people who “look good” in spandex. (The great thing about Pune shorts is that absolutely no-one looks good in them!)”
Anything else you would like to add?
“I encourage people who love what is happening at IYISF to become more involved. You can volunteer your time in a myriad of ways. You can make a contribution to sustaining our mission and securing our legacy by making a financial donation. You can offer a scholarship so that a deserving student who wishes to train to be an Iyengar teacher but does not have the financial resources can join the program. You can serve on a committee or consider becoming a board member. Or, you can create your own niche, and contribute in a way that is unique to you. We our grateful to all our contributors.”