For many of us, ‘relaxing’ means crashing out in front of the TV after a busy day, or five minutes drinking a cup of tea.  But how often do we allow ourselves to fully let go and relax deeply, switching off the busy chatter of our minds?

As we try to balance busy lives with work, family and other responsibilities, we often experience some level of stress from the moment we wake up to the moment we crawl into bed.  All too easily we enter ‘fight or flight’ mode – our biological response to stress and danger – which causes tight muscles, increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Our bodies respond by releasing adrenaline and also cortisol, a hormone that can wreak havoc on our bodies: suppressing the immune system, decreasing bone formation and lengthening the time it takes the body to heal from injury.  We forget that we need time to recover, and this can lead to problems with physical and mental health.

Restorative yoga, sometimes called active or conscious relaxation, has been shown to help counter these stresses, reducing the damaging effects of the stress response, and lowering levels of adrenaline and cortisol.  It can help promote and maintain good health, bringing deep relaxation to the body and mind and is linked to higher levels of serotonin, the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemical.

The practice of restorative yoga is now widespread, but was first developed by B.K.S. Iyengar.  The practice is slow, still and meditative and benefits the nervous system, digestive system, cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well as reducing anxiety. It’s also especially helpful if you are going through a stressful time in your life, or just want a bit of ‘me time’. 

Regular relaxation practice through yoga can have a profound effect on a wide range of medical conditions, even changing our bodies on a genetic level. A study from Harvard Medical School found that people who practised yoga had far more disease-fighting genes than those who practised no form of relaxation.  Regular practise was shown to lead to greater chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain, with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.  According to the researchers, the more regularly we practice relaxation through yoga or similar practices, the more deeply-rooted the benefits will be.

In a restorative yoga class supportive props such as bolsters and blankets are used, enabling you to stay in poses for longer than usual without strain, relaxing the muscles and allowing the breath to find its natural rhythm. The result is that the whole being feels soothed and as body, mind and breath are harmonised and inner stillness is reached – our innermost peaceful Self.

Helen Clay teaches our popular Tuesday Relax and Restore classes at the Centre.  She also offers Monthly ‘Restorative Friday’ evening monthly drop-in classes, using her expertise in this field.

Forthcoming restorative yoga events at Sheffield Yoga Centre:

Monthly Drop-in Class – Restorative Fridays: With Helen Clay, December 8 / January 19 / February 9 / March 16 from 6.15-7.30pm (£9, no pre-booking – just turn up)

Restorative Workshop with Helen Clay, Sunday 3 December, 2 – 4.30pm (£20) http://bit.ly/2ziOK8p

Restorative Workshop for International Women’s Day with Helen Clay, 11 March 2018, 2 – 4.30pm (£20 – profits to charity): http://bit.ly/2jkEWnE 

Uday Bhosale-Photo

Uday taught at the Pune Iyengar Institute for over 15 years and is currently based in the UK. Frances took the chance to interview him during his recent visit to the Yoga Centre when he assisted Stephanie Quirk with her Yoga Therapy course.   

On Sunday 8 October 2017 Uday will be teaching a workshop for those with more than 6 months’ experience. Click here for details.

FH: So, can you tell us when you first started to practise Iyengar yoga?

UB: So I first started practising a bit informally, without knowing I was practising Iyengar yoga, which happened in my taekwondo class which was taught by Ali Dashti, one of Guruji’s senior students. So he taught us a nice blend of martial arts techniques and yoga asanas as well, so while doing it we thought it was martial arts exercises which would help us kick and punch! But then the techniques, the way he was teaching of course had the Iyengar method and that finesse to it, so it was quite attractive for me. It really clicked…that was the time I was doing my studies, my higher education and everything was lined up after that, but I picked up a liking for this. He saw the interest in me and then he recommended to me, if you really want to learn more, this is the place you should go.

FH: So you were living in Pune at the time?

UB: yes, I had been there since the age of three

FH: So then you went to classes at the Institute

UB: And reluctantly so, I must say! [laughs] Because that time I was a younger age – around 18/19 years – and taekwondo was something active…and I think because the impression of yoga was that senior members do it, and it’s pretty slow, so why would he ask us to go there? It seemed a little bit shocking – we were a little bit doubtful. Me and a couple of my friends were also told to do that. But you can’t go against master’s word, so if he’s said OK there we are! We went there, got the enrolment and it started. Then once I started being there I realised, ‘ah, this seems familiar,’ and now I understand why he must have said that.

FH: So how did you come to teach and assist the Iyengar family at the Institute?

UB: So after I got in there in this manner, of course it was a really happy time and I thought, ‘wow, I’ve come to a dream place where I can learn so much more’ and was keen to do it. And the Iyengar family they have an eye for that, I must say – automatically I think they just saw perhaps the interest and the keenness in me…of course, I was not picked up for assisting straight away. I did go in to do a few assisting kind of things, but then Geetaji saw the rawness…and said before you do assist you’d better come to my classes. And then I was given more classes than what a regular student would be given. So she said first, do the classes regularly, and that became an informal or unstructured training kind of thing, which was after every class. And that’s how it started, and then within class, they would say ‘go and check this, go and adjust that, do this, why did you do it like this,’ and ‘can’t you see that this is…’ so that is how, gradually, they started developing the eye to find out what needs to be adjusted.

FH: So she kind of trained you in the classes really, to assist and observe and teach

UB: Initially that’s how it happened, then once a decent degree of experience happened then we were asked to come to the therapy classes, where you would be asked just to bring some weight, bring a bolster, bring a belt, whatever prop needed. Hold here, support here…and thereafter, as the understanding increases then you go on adjusting and doing things like that. So it was gradual…it wasn’t like, OK, today our training starts…

FH: Right, I see – so it’s very different from our British system where you start the teacher training and it’s two and a half years, and then you take an assessment. So the Indian system is very different. It’s like an apprenticeship really…

UB: I must say it used to be until now. Still it is like that, but then I think recently things have started to change where students come straight away with that inclination or intention that ‘I want to become a teacher’. But still they are made to work, because this has to ease into it or you have to grasp a lot of things before you start helping or assisting anyone else.

FH: So how many years did it take from when you first went to the Institute to really starting to properly teach?

UB: I think around 2005 or 2006. I went there first in 1999 just like a reluctant student, as I said, but then thereafter it started in 2002. There was a teacher training programme from 2001 and 2002; I was there for 2002 and there I think again that’s where some qualities or certain things were seen and they kind of took efforts on me after that. After that Guruji said, “Go and tell Pandu that I have asked you to take a class.”

FH: Wow! A big responsibility

UB: It was a shock actually. And it didn’t happen actually that day for some reason, maybe the time that was set or whatever, I didn’t go back and report it to him. Next year he remembered and he said, “I told you to do that, why haven’t you done it? Last year only I told you!” I was like – wow, he remembers that! And I was kind of reluctant because of the Institute, and it’s such a big place – and to be a teacher there…but then when he said it for a second time and he remembered that, I thought I had better do it!

FH: So what’s brought you to live and work and teach in the UK?

UB: Basically first of all the main reason is my wife moved here for work, so that’s the main big reason. She came here first, she started working and she enjoyed working here, it was really nice for her to be here and work, experience-wise, time-wise, and of course the monetary aspect as well – it was good, rather than being in India. So she kind of liked it here, but my reluctance was I didn’t want to leave the Institute, because I had seen by now people all over the world crave to be there, they start counting their days and hours spent at the Institute. And I always felt, if I leave this place it’s going to be foolish. That’s how I ended up sticking around even while I was doing my Batchelor’s and Master’s programme because otherwise as these higher education studies become a bit intense, my friends, those who joined, they drifted, they went along with the academics. For me, the academics were like an extra-curricular activity! [laughs] But I should thank my family as they let me do this. So I had this keen interest in this and went on doing it – it was quite difficult for me to leave it and then come here…

So by then we had got married, I was working and doing my classes here. In the morning I would teach private classes, then full daytime office work, and in the evening I used to come to the institute for classes, so it used to end up being a very long day. So for a few years it was quite a stretch. Because the office was also quite demanding…so I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time for my own practise, I wanted to read things but I couldn’t do that. And that’s when my wife said, “Why not try and come here for some time? You don’t even need to work in the beginning. Take a few months off, you wanted all that time for yourself, do whatever you want – practise, read, see how it goes.” That was the kind of bed I think she put for me and I went for it…and I am glad. Of course there’s no doubt about missing the Institute, I miss being there and being taught by these great teachers, but what I noticed after coming here is, it would give me time to assimilate or let those things sink in. Because there, all these big teachers, there’s constant input. And the years were also always outwards. To see what someone is saying, what they are doing, what they’re asking. And here, everything stopped suddenly. So it was just me and the props on my mat. And that’s when things started to come, and when I am doing it on my own I am not trying to do it…because even in the practice hall…you are kind of performing….

FH: Yes, and there’s also a little bit of competition I think, sometimes?

UB: Competition and at times trying to just be safe and not to get picked on

FH: Yes

UB: Like, “You are just lazing around” or “you are foolish, who taught you like this?” – things can come up like that, so you are trying to just make sure none of this happens! So it’s still trying to play something or playing a role there. whereas here, it’s nothing like that. And that’s when things started to make sense in a different way.

FH: It’s like you could absorb all those years of learning

UB: And I’m still feeling that…so do I miss the Institute? Yes, but then, am I really sad about it? I’m not saying no, but the learning doesn’t stop, I feel. So I am really glad about that part of it. And of course, being here, I gradually started getting opportunities and invitations. It seems people are liking the way I am teaching…

FH: Yes definitely, we’re really pleased you’re here. It’s like having a little taste of Pune here in our lives.

UB: I’m really glad about that!

FH: So here in Sheffield, this course, you’ve been assisting Stephanie [Quirk] which we’re really pleased about. Do you find any differences between the health issues of students in India and in the UK? Or what are the differences, do you feel?

UB: To be honest I have been just at the Institute, so in Pune we used to get students coming for therapy sessions from different areas, different parts, and of course all over the world. Because of their name, because of the kind of work the Iyengars are able to do. So the local population of course was coming with common ailments, common problems which we can see everywhere I think. Suffering from back, neck, blood pressure, heart conditions, things like that. So that was there, but then complex cases were coming for the medical classes as well. And here I think of course I haven’t had a chance yet to run a medical class or be part of a medical class over here. So all of the cases have just been common problems in the regular classes, like some knee issues, or someone having back issues and things like that. Which is kind of the same everywhere. I can see people are a bit more into running, cycling and things like that. I can see a lot of them are much stiffer – those who are doing such activities than is commonly observed.

FH: Stiff in the legs, in the hips?
UB: Yes. Hips a bit more, because in India sitting cross-legged on the floor is pretty much common, or you can easily…it depends, you might not be able to sit for long hours, but you could sit down. For some of them over here, that can be a big task. So these are simple structural differences which I have noticed. At times some of them are quite stiff in the shoulders as well.

FH: And do you find that the lifestyle, the Western lifestyle, does that seem like it’s more stressful than what you’ve seen or experienced in India? Or do think it’s getting to be the same?

UB: [laughs] In India I’m sorry to say we are catching up really fast on that!

FH: Catching up with our stress levels…

UB: If not caught up already…and at times I might go to the other extreme and say that the stress levels are pretty much higher in the other sense, because work stress, and all those things – yes, that will be everywhere depending on what kind, of job you do. But apart from that the other stress of commute, all those things can add up much more. Which perhaps over here they are not to that extent. As you must have seen in Indian cities…

FH: Yes, and the traffic…yes

UB: So that way it is a bit less, but again, stress-busters or whatever you may label it as…in India the way we commonly end up meeting friends or doing things…I don’t know if it happens to that extent over here, I feel it’s a bit more structured or a little bit more formal than the way it happens in India. Like if you and me are good friends but still I will ask you if you have time at the weekend, or should we come and meet up, whereas in India we would just say ‘hey, I’m coming to your place, I want to do this,’ or ‘let’s go there’ even if you say ‘no, I have to do something.’ [laughs]

FH: So that connection is there, yes

UB: It must be over here as well, but it depends…

FH: Yes I think so but I know what you mean, we’re a little bit more formal in how we communicate…

UB: A bit more polite

FH: Yes

FH: That’s great, we’re looking forward to you coming back to teach a workshop for us in October so that’s brilliant, it’s lovely to have all that background information so thank you.

UB: Thank you, I’m looking forward to being here.

On Sunday 8 October 2017 Uday will be teaching a workshop for those with more than 6 months’ experience.  Click here for details.


Welcome to our new monthly blog series where Frances talks about various aspects of yoga philosophy. This month, Frances explains the concept of Vrittis.


In this year’s Summer School taught by Frances, the very core purpose of yoga was explored.

According to the most ancient yoga textbook, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which was written over 2,000 years ago, the aim of yoga is:

“Chitta Vritti Nirodhah”

Which means to still the turbulence or fluctuations of the mind/ consciousness.

B.K.S. Iyengar, our teacher, roots this process in the practice of asana so that total absorption in the posture creates a quietening of the Vrittis, or disturbances, within. So each day of Summer School included asana as well as pranayama breathing and a study session where we looked at the texts and discussed their relevance to our lives.

The first day focussed on Vrittis and how to still them through practice. But to understand their nature it was useful to look at the types of vrittis that arise for all of us. There are:

Five types of Vritti:

  • Correct knowledge (pramana)
  • Incorrect knowledge/ misconception (viparyaya)
  • Imagination or fantasy or indecision (vikalpa)
  • Sleep (nidra)
  • Memory (smrti)

Can Vrittis be helpful?

We had a good discussion about how each of these could be helpful or unhelpful (Klishta or aklishta) 


For example, sometimes incorrect knowledge could be helpful if we realise we are incorrect and use this to improve our situation, or improve ourselves as a person.  And imagination can be helpful in coming up with ideas, but unhelpful when it leads to procrastination. 

Gitte Bechsgaard, the writer/teacher with whom Frances is studying, says that when the Vrittis are stilled, it leads one to live “in the quiet abiding of the Self” (Gift of Consciousness p. 173).

Or in the words of philosopher Eckhart Tolle:

“To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the Universe.”

Frances Homewood


Your Home Practice


If you’re lucky enough to have some time off over the Summer this can be a great time to develop your home practice. Frances Homewood, Director of Sheffield Yoga Centre, has written some helpful notes on how to do this.

Why Practice?
“Practice is the effort to be fixed in concentrating the mind” Yoga Sutras Ch 1 V 13
“Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a long period of time” Ch 1 v 14

What gets in the Way?
In the Yoga Sutras the obstacles are called Antarayas or interruptions and are listed as; “disease, idleness, doubt, carelessness, sloth, lack of detachment, misapprehension, instability and failure to attain a base for concentration. These are distractions for the mind” Ch1 V 30

Guidelines on practice
• Clear a space in which you feel comfortable e g corner of bedroom, spare room and use this regularly. Wall space is ideal but not essential.
• Leave at least half an hour after a snack and 3 hours after a main meal before you practice
• Choose the optimum time slot for you. In the early morning you are mentally alert but may feel stiffer. In late afternoon/ evening the body is warmed up but the brain is tired.
• You will work best with an empty bladder and bowels
• Be consistent but don’t give up if you miss a session. Just start again the next day
• If unwell do restorative poses
• If menstruating, avoid inversions, strong back bends and long holds in standing poses. Favour resting and forward bending poses.
• If you are just beginning to do home practice, do poses you really like and repeat your simple routine until practice is established.
• If more experienced, either follow routines from a book and/ or vary the practice according to the suggestions below.
• A practice diary is really helpful to motivate you. Jot down what you have done each time/ each week and briefly note how you feel or any questions to ask your teacher

Beginners practice
Each session should include:

1 warming up pose ( as done in class)
1 standing pose
1 pose for a stiff part of you that you want to open up e g shoulders
1 inverted pose where the legs are up e g shoulder stand/ legs
resting up the wall
Svasana – corpse pose

Experienced practice i.e where a practice is established and you want to improve it
Each session should include:

1- 3 warming up poses (as done in class)
Then a different focus each time to cover all the main groups of asanas i e standings, forward bends, back bends, seated twists, supine poses, recuperative and inversions- varied according to your focus . Try to include all the groups over a week/ fortnight. Once a week it is good to do a recuperative session and some simple pranayama if you have learn it in class.

Always finish with Svasana, even for a few minutes.

Books Recommended for Practice Routines
Yoga the Iyengar Way - Mira and Shyam Mehta
Yoga Explained - Mira Mehta
Yoga A Gem for Women - Geeta Iyengar

Books Recommended for explanations of the Asanas
Yoga a Path to Holistic Health - BKS Iyengar
Preliminary Course - Geeta Iyengar

- Frances Homewood

If you’re a student of Sheffield Yoga Centre, email us for a free pdf version of this guide

Man with headacheUp to three quarters of adults have had headache in the last year, with more than 10 million people in the UK experiencing headaches regularly – making them one of the most common health complaints.

In this interview Centre Director and Iyengar yoga therapy teacher Frances Homewood explains how yoga can help.

What made you decide to organise a workshop on headaches?
I’ve been noticing that more and more students come to class complaining of recurring headaches. I feel sure this is partly to do with our lifestyles for example having to use computers and being sedentary, which creates a lot of tension in the neck/head area.

I was in France last year on a yoga holiday with Annie Ciekanski, a senior teacher who’s assisted the Iyengar family (in general and in therapy classes) for many years. She taught a very useful sequence for headaches and neck and shoulder stiffness so I decided to invite her to teach in Sheffield.

Are there particular yoga poses that are good for headache?
There are a number of good poses to release the neck and create space, which can relieve headaches. It’s best for these to be shown by an experienced teacher.

In Iyengar yoga we often use props such as bolsters, blankets and bandages etc. How can these help with headaches?
A bandage wrapped around the forehead and the eyes is really helpful and resting forward over bolsters eases tension in the head.

What about stiff shoulders?
Again, it’s often lifestyle, for example through computer use, driving and poor posture, that creates this stiffness. Unless we consciously address it, it can turn into pain or injury and Iyengar yoga gives such perfect tools to keep the shoulders moving. I have seen that when students learn these poses and practice them regularly there is a distinct improvement.

Frances adjusting a student

Frances adjusting a student

One of our students, Balvinder Kaur, said: “Since starting Iyengar yoga a few months ago I have felt a difference in my neck, shoulders and arms in which I was experiencing problems and pain. I have felt a gradual improvement over the months.” 

Annie Ciekanski is no longer able to run the workshop, however there will be a yoga workshop for headaches and neck/shoulder pain with Frances Homewood on Saturday 1 July from 1-3.30pm at Sheffield Yoga Centre.  All attendees will receive a free downloadable copy of the workshop sequence.




Sheffield Yoga Centre teacher Caroline Anschutz recently had a hip replacement operation and amazed physiotherapists with the speed of her recovery.  Caroline told us how her Iyengar yoga practice helped the healing process

Last year I finally realised that I had to do something about the pains I had had in my left hip for years. They now stopped me from doing two of the most important things for me; walking and yoga. I had put up with restrictions for a long time but when you can’t even cross your legs without pains you know it’s time to see a specialist.

Caroline in hospital bed

Straight after the operation

So last October I was recommended to have a total hip replacement as severe osteoarthritis in my left hip with a cyst had been diagnosed and I was very happy that the operation was done at the beginning of January of this year. The NHS showed itself once again from its best side as I didn’t have to wait long and the operation was done at Claremont hospital.

Fortunately, I had kept active for a long time, even attempting part of the West Highland Way in early September, keeping up my (now rather limited) yoga practice and teaching my classes until the middle of December; but only with the help of lots of pain killers! I found it increasingly difficult, though, to do even the most basic poses (e.g. Parsvakanasana and Baddha Konasana) and walking for longer than 15 minutes was agony, even with medication.

So when the day of the operation came I was both happy and scared at the same time: what if the operation didn’t work? Would I be able to teach yoga and walk for longer distances again? Everybody I spoke to before the operation said that I would be fine and would make a full recovery because of the yoga – but what if…?

I needn’t have worried! Of course, I felt awful soon after the operation but even then I was able to move in bed doing a simple version of Chatushpadasana (Bridge Pose). On the next day I had to get up and stand up straight – here Tadasana was a great help – the physiotherapist was amazed at my balance (and those who know me know that balancing has never been my strong point). And Savasana you can do in a hospital bed, too! And after 2 and a half days was able to go home.

coming down the stairs at home

Coming down the stairs at home

And so it went on. From the first few steps with crutches and doing the recommended exercises from physiotherapy. These really were adapted yoga poses, I found. So even within a week I practised Tadasana (with support from a wall), half Uttanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana to a chair, always remembering to lift my front thighs, keep my hips narrow and not to bend my hip for more than 90°. As my leg muscles healed and became stronger I could do more. Chatushpadasana was on the physio programme anyway and once I could get up from the floor I introduced Supta Padangustasana 1 and eventually 2. The standing poses have been a great help – Trikonasana, Virabdhrasana 1 and 2, Uttanasana, Parsvottansana, Prasarita Padottanasana (not going down) and Ardha Chandrasana are still on my daily programme.

Walking also became easier. After a fortnight I could walk distances which had been impossible before. Of course I had to use crutches and it took another couple of weeks before I could start to put my full weight onto my operated leg, but the progress was incredible. The physios referred to me as the “yoga lady” and discharged me quite quickly from their programme.

First 500m “walk” at Redmires after 1 week

First 500m “walk” at Redmires after 1 week

After 6 weeks I was lucky enough to join the Therapy Class at Sheffield Yoga Centre. Under the expert guidance of Frances I have been working further on strengthening my muscles and increasing my range of movements. I can’t believe that I can now do Swastikasana, Baddha Konasana and other asanas so easily and pain free, poses which I had struggled with last year.

Now my husband and I go for regular short walks (about 1 – 1 ½ hours) and also some longer ones, the highlight was recently when we walked along the edge of Kinder for about 5 hours. I couldn’t have done that last December.

On Derwent Edge after 2 months

On Derwent Edge after 2 months

I am convinced Yoga is the reason for my quick recovery. Through regular practice my body has become more flexible and my muscles stronger over the years. As I had to keep this up to be able to teach this discipline has also helped me with doing the physio exercises regularly after the operation and soon doing more yoga asanas.

And, of course, the relaxation techniques and pranayama we learn in yoga are invaluable in times of recovery.

It is very humbling to experience on your own body and mind what you have been teaching for years – that yoga asanas and pranayama really help you to regain physical and mental health. How often have I said in class: Lift your front thigh muscles, keep your hips narrow? To realise that these instructions are part of the healing process is truly enlightening.

I know that I have to be patient and not do too much for a time but what does that matter? It is such a joy to be able to move freely and without the pain!

After 3 months I have started teaching again and I hope that I can pass on what I have learned in this time to my students. Best of all, that it has been such a positive experience.

Caroline Anschütz, May 2017

Caroline has been practising yoga for over 20 years and has found that it helped her to cope with stress at work.  Now being retired, she completed her teacher training in October 2011.  She regularly attends workshops and conventions to improve her own practice.

Caroline teaches the following classes at Sheffield Yoga Centre: New Starter, Beginners Level 1 / 2, Slower Paced Beginners Level 2 and assists Frances with her Therapeutic class.  Click here to see class times


Caroline in Ardha Chandrasana

Ardha Chandrasana on my ‘bad’ leg