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



Volunteers Needed

Intermediate Junior Level 1 Assessment 25th & 26th March, 12pm-4pm

We are looking for students of Iyengar yoga classes to volunteer as ‘students’ for a weekend of teacher’s assessments here at the Centre.

Would being a volunteer student be right for you? Yes, if:

- You have regularly attended classes for the last four years,

- Are able to practice Sirsasana (by the wall or in the centre),

- Have no serious injuries.

This is a free opportunity, there is no charge. All we ask is that you are able to be at the Centre 12-4pm. This is ideal for teachers, trainee teachers or prospective trainee teachers and keen students. If you would be able to volunteer for Saturday 25th March, Sunday 26th March or both days, please get in touch with us by calling: 0114 234 6475 or emailing info@sheffieldyogacentre.co.uk


Postcards from Pune

Frances on the stage at the Institute in Pune

Frances on the stage at the Institute in Pune

Half way through my month of yoga seems a good time to send greetings. Especially in this week when BKS Iyengar has been acknowledged worldwide through the media of Google. We, the students here at the Iyengar Institute, could hardly believe it on Monday morning when laptops were switched on to find Iyengar yoga poses played on the Google home page. We were preparing here for an evening celebration of what would have been Guruji’s (Guru—teacher and ji—most respected) 97th birthday. The Iyengar family had invited the extended family of teachers and students from across the world who are gathered here, to join them. It was a moving and inspiring evening.

Geeta and Prashant  Iyengar signing books at the birthday evening

Geeta and Prashant Iyengar signing books at the birthday evening

Little could I imagine when, as a newly qualified teacher, I first came to classes here over 20 years ago that Iyengar yoga would have such reach. Last week at the special Intensive conducted by Geeta Iyengar 1200 of us from 42 countries were present. The biggest contingent were Chinese. So this man from such humble origins has literally brought the yoga we love to millions of people. What a force for good.

The stadium with hanging pictures

The stadium with hanging pictures

At the end of the Intensive in the large stadium, the stunning photos that hung from the ceiling were auctioned off to raise money for Bellur, the small village where Guruji was born. I couldn’t resist bidding. I admit to not really thinking through how I was going to get this giant poster home but thankfully, with the help of a plumber’s drain pipe for protection and a generous chaperone it is on its way to London now. Look out for Ardha Chandrasana at the Yoga Centre in the New Year.

Packing the poster!

Packing the poster!

Frances with the poster.

Frances with the poster.

Now I am back in the more gentle routine of classes and practice at the Institute. It is very hot here so the walk there through a leafy park is most welcome. As is the chance to not only do classes but observe others in the range that is offered here.

Firooza and Frances at the Pranayama Intensive

Firooza and Frances at the Pranayama Intensive

Christmas seems a long way away. I will be spending it with our much loved teacher Firooza Ali at her home in Mumbai. But I woke this morning to the sound of carols being rehearsed by the children at the school nearby. India at its best is indeed a land of fusions and inclusions.

So let me send festive greetings, warmth (literally) and peace from this side of the world in whatever form it arrives.


Frances with Geeta Iyengar 2011

Frances with Geeta Iyengar 2011

On this chilly morning, it is hard to believe that this time next week I will be in class at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India. Four years on from my last visit the main change will of course be that our Guruji  BKS Iyengar is no longer alive. However I have no doubt that his daughter Geeta (pictured above) will have stepped into his place with great authority.

I feel very lucky to be taking classes with her and attending the 8 day Intensive on Pranayama that she will teach mid December. I will also be assisting her and the other Indian teachers in the medical classes. Nowhere else does one get the chance to observe and learn how to help with so many medical conditions. I will do my best to bring back and share what I have learnt throughout the month, both at my classes and in the New Year Workshop on Sunday 10th January.