Wednesday, 15 December 2010


As most of you know, for the past ten years Trudie Styler has been the patron and support of the MUKTI Project. She has always responded generously when we’ve sent out a plea for funding or support and has done so without seeing the two orphanages that MUKTI sponsors ~ Karm Marg (home for street-children) and Naz (home for HIV Positive and AIDS children), taking the word of the yogins who run MUKTI that the orphanages are working well. But this November Trudie was going to be in India attending the wedding of a Maharaja and decided to make a trip across to Delhi to visit the homes.

The project committee quickly decided it would be great if one of us could make the annual visit to the homes to coincide with Trudie’s visit, and I was the one that got to go. Lucky me! (Actually I think I was chosen because I’m the one with the best camera!) I am always inspired by seeing the children ~ they never fail to remind me how we can all turn our lives around if we are just given the opportunity and means to do so.

So I flew out on Friday the 19th November and by Monday the 22nd a group of us, including Veena Lal (who is director of Karm Marg), Anjali Gopalan (Director of the Naz home), Brinda Singh (who sits on the board of both homes) and some of Trudie’s friends (Snowdon, Emma and Theresa) were all in two cars making slow progress through the traffic of Delhi (which always includes trucks, cars, people, bicycles, scooters, bullocks and even the odd camel), towards Karm Marg situated on the outskirts of Delhi in Faridhabad. In the back of the car we had huge bags of fruit and goodies that Trudie had stopped at a Delhi market to buy and other bags of goodies sent by Hema from England.

The children of Karm Marg are warm and welcoming, ready for hugs and kisses from visitors and I did wonder how Trudie, probably more used to keeping paparazzi at a distance, was going to cope with this. I had seen other visitors from the West becoming a bit overwhelmed and retreating into their own space. But Trudie let down all barriers and instantly engaged with them all ~ meeting each child from the youngest to the oldest where they were, hugging and kissing right back. She was interested in what they were doing, what their dreams and ambitions are for their lives, and spent the entire day listening and talking to all of them. She engaged with Puja and Ashu who have both decided to try film-making as their careers now that they have successfully completed their higher education, and played with young Abdul as if she had known him for years.

I have always said I absolutely understand why Trudie sometimes gets bad press: she married the most gorgeous man on the planet and, heaven knows, even I’m annoyed with her about that (and I’m a celibate monastic!). But if those reporters who are often prepared to present her to the world in unflattering ways could just have been present to witness her open and authentic encounter with our children, I’m sure they would have something different to say (unless, of course, they’re made of stone, which is another possibility!).

One of the ways the children of Karm Marg engage with other children still on the street and being exploited in so many ways, is through street theatre. So in the afternoon they put on one of their concerts for Trudie. She sat and enjoyed it all.

I knew by then she was under pressure from Delhi’s gliteratti to attend functions with the elite of Delhi society that evening, but she brushed them all aside and said she wanted to go to Naz. As it was getting dark I took on the task of extracting her from the children ~ that she was by now dancing with ~ and getting us all into a car so that we could be off the worst roads by dark. (Not easy, but as you all know, I slip into downright bossy quite easily, “No, not just five more minutes. No, not another dance.”)

We then went onto Naz. By this time, I have to confess, I was tired and I’m sure Trudie was too. But you would never have known it from her response ~ again that instant and intimate engagement, laughter and sharing. The children danced for her, did Yoga for her and of course, it all ended with them all dancing together led by the magnificent Snowdon.

Finally, long after dark and after the children’s usual bedtimes, we left Naz and parted, as Trudie would be leaving for the airport at about 3 a.m.

On a personal note I have to say that while I love both Karm Marg and Naz and am so proud of the work the Yoginis and Yogins of the TYA do to raise funds for these wonderful, spirited children, I don’t always enjoy the task of fundraising ~ especially when having to ask again the very generous people we’ve already asked because we need that bit extra. But this was a day that made all the other days worthwhile: a day filled with nothing but laughter and delight.

Then last week, just as I was getting sorted out after my return, Trudie emailed to say that she had had lunch with “the kindest man on the planet” and told him all about Karm Marg and Naz. A few days later Tony transferred £45,000 into our MUKTI account (Now that’s the kind of “kind” I love! But don’t relax Yogins, while that helps us take care of 2011 there’s still 2012, 2013, 2014… no slacking off on the fundraising just yet and please keep selling those bedcover lottery tickets!

Every year Trudie has made special funds available during the Christmas/New Year season so that the children could party and get presents like all other children. And every year they have sent her a ‘thank you’ card addressed to ‘Auntie Trudie’. Watching them finally meet Auntie Trudie was a joy and an inspiration ~ and a reminder to keep my own heart open and let gratitude flow.

Thank you my dear, beloved friends, Yoginis and Yogins of England and Spain, who just keep this miracle happening, and thanks too to our patron, Trudie.

May you all have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful, creative 2011.

With joy and peace, Swami Ambikananda

Friday, 27 August 2010

Summer school message from Swami

Dear Yoginis and Yogins,

Our first Summer School has been great. All the teachers, Uddhava, Ben,Hema and Kim have really given wonderful classes that everyone has enjoyed.

We've so far made £700 towards our advertising and Mukti has raised nearly £300 thanks to Hema for the drinks and Kadambari for the bags.

Slight change of plan for this coming Monday - our last Summer School evening for this year: I will be taking the class instead of Arjuna.

Arjuna is deep up to his elbows in getting pumps working and water flowing on the new retreat centre in Wales that he and Lynnie will be running.

We need that water if we're all going to be going down there to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Pantglas valley, so I encouraged him to stay and finish the job!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

New yogi recruits needed

Dear Yoginis and Yogins,

Please let us know if you have anyone interested in the next TYA Foundation Course in Reading.

The course will start on 17th October and all the dates are now available. The Yoga Foundation Course will now be offered partly in attendance (5full days) and as distance learning. We have done this as a way of reducing the time that people have to commit to being away from home(particularly women, who form 99% of the course participants) and therefore we are able to reduce the price and accomodate this changed financial climate, make it more accessible to a greater number of people.

The total cost of the course is now just £450. The very high quality of the course has not been diminished in any way and this new way of participating gives students an opportunity to engage with the material in a very personal way.

Remember, this is a course for those wishing to deepen their own practice and expand their knowledge of Yoga. It is also the first level of the TYA’s Teacher Training Course.

We will be sending you some new leaflets for the course at the beginning of September.

In peace, Uddhava

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Swami is well

Swami's daughter writes with a message:

I am delighted to inform everybody that Swami Ambikananda, my beautiful Mom, had her operation yesterday afternoon and it was a success. I spoke to her directly after the surgery and it was the strangest conversation I have ever had because she couldn't say anything back!

This morning, at about 8am, Mom phoned and she was able to talk to me Swamiji didn't say much because she has to rest but it was her voice, if a little croaky. I am very relieved to inform you all that the surgeon "got it" and now Swamiji can progress to full health again, with a period of time-out.

With Love,


Thursday, 29 July 2010

Get on to REPs - Step by step

Swami Ambikananda has written this:

Dear Yoginis and Yogins,

Here with the information about getting onto REPs. Once again, if you feel you may need it in the next few years, it’s best to get it now.



REPs require you to have £5million pounds insurance cover. As you know,the insurance we use (Three Counties) starts us at £3 million cover –which I have felt is more than adequate for many years. However, the very first thing you will need to do is increase your insurance cover to £5million. You can do this through Three Counties by simply phoning them.

OR you can buy a new insurance policy through the REPs brokers (JardineLloyd Thompson UK Ltd, to be found on their as part of your registration process.

OR you can investigate the brokers of IYN (Bordengate Insurance – see IYNwebsite

In this regard Uddhava and I found that while the REPs insurance throughJardine Lloyd Thompson is cheaper, it is not as comprehensive as the ThreeCounties insurance we already have, so we have opted to increase our insurance cover with Three Counties. Once we phoned and did that we got the certificate for the new cover the next day.

Once you have sorted out the insurance the rest becomes quite easy.


The TYA is a member as an organisation so you are now able to join as individual members. In order to do this you will need to:
• Go to their website and print out form YR 101 and complete it.
• Make a short Yoga-specific CV.
• Make a copy of your TYA Yoga Teachers certificate.

Send all this to the IYN. The cost of joining them is £25 and you will need to send this fee in with your application.

They will send you a welcome email with your IYN membership number – keep it safe.


Once you have your IYN number you are able to apply to REPs. This is done as follows:
a) Go to the REPS website, click on Join REPs and print out the form appropriately called REGISTRATION FORM (for which you need your IYN membership number). You will need to complete and return this form to them with the following:
• Your Yoga-specific CV (that you have already created for IYN)
• A photocopy of your £5 million insurance cover
• A photocopy of your TYA certificate
• A photocopy of your membership email from the IYN
• A letter (from a ‘responsible person’ i.e. your doctor OR Uddhava can give you such a letter for a nominal fee of £5) certifying that all these photocopies are authentic.

All these are sent to REPS with the £25 joining fee. (Thus the entire process will have cost you £50 + the added amount for the increased insurance). You will enter the REPs register at Level 3. This is not the end of this long journey for us as an organisation – we will continue to explore other avenues. However, it does mean that REPs membership is immediately available to all our individual teachers who want it.

In peace, Swami Ambikananda

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The great REPS debate

This is an unedited message from Swami Ambikananda to all TYA teachers:

Dear Yoginis and Yogins,

My salutations to you all.


As you know we have spent a great deal of time figuring out how to join an awarding body that makes it possible for our teachers to get onto REPS (the Register of Exercise Professionals).

We pursued first of all Skillsactive and then CYQ. It could be described as akin to diving into an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with papers and being asked to getto the other side transformed! In the process we learned a lot about the ‘fitness/exercise’ industry: 1. It is by NO MEANS settled and determined. It was impossible to find anyone anywhere who could predict what the situation would be three months from now, let alone three years.

As we understand the current situation, REPS themselves are considering whether Yoga should actually be on at all (they don’t, for instance, have Karate or Kung Fu because they say the disciplines are too vast for them to determine effective practice). Added to this uncertainty, we have a new government cutting quangos of this type.

2. Given this, we were still being asked to hand over what would amount to thousands of pounds (costs which would have to be borne by increased membership fees!) for what looks like an uncertain future for Yoga in regard to this register.

3. The awarding bodies have no or very little knowledge of Yoga and yet wish to set and monitor standards of both philosophy and practice. The CYQ Curriculum was, to say the least, flawed. When I questioned it they responded saying we did not have to use their model answers. Between us, we wouldn’t even ask those questions!

4. Manisha and Uddhava spent a day in London working with CYQ and representatives of other Yoga schools on revising their curriculum – but the outcome of this process is uncertain.

5. The failure to produce a decent working model of Yoga - that would allow each school to determine its own philosophical position - is ‘balanced’ by an overwhelming amount of paperwork that each teacher would have to comply with for each and every class you give. It seems more like an attempt at imposing an overwhelming bureaucracy than trying to establish standards of excellence.

So we looked around for another way that would allow our teachers to get onto REPS without forsaking our independence AND WE FOUND IT. We have now as an association, applied for and been accepted as members ofIYN - Independent Yoga Network.

By doing this it means that YOU as TYA teachers become eligible to join IYN as individual teachers, and when youhave done so you can then apply to REPS to get onto their register. You are not automatically put onto REPS because the TYA has joined IYN, but our joining means you become eligible to get onto REPS.

EXACT DETAILS OF HOW TO DO THIS AND THE COST TO YOU WILL FOLLOW SHORTLY. However, please rest assured that this is by very far, the cheapest and quickest way of getting onto REPS for our teachers. In the meantime I ask that you consider seriously whether you need – in the foreseeable future – to go onto REPS. Even if Yoga falls off the register, if you are on it, you are on it. So if you work in any kind of fitness centre, health centre, gym, local authority, school, etc., my strongest advice is that you consider getting onto REPS as soon as we advise you of the process.

Please take a bit of time to think about it and details will follow. Of course, there will be the usual open discussion on the Ashram website about it.

In peace, Swami Ambikananda

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Yoga Summer School

The TYA is running a Yoga Summer School in July and August and we want as many people as possible to come along.

It begins on Monday 26th July with a class taught by Swami Ambikananda and continues with other teachers for six Mondays until 30th August. All teachers are giving their time for free.

The classes are £6 each and run from 8pm till 9.30pm in Calcot Hall in West Reading (directions below).

Here are the teachers and dates:

26th July - Swami Ambikananda

2nd August - Ben Parkes

9th August - Uddhava Samman

16th August - Hema Patel

23rd August - Kim Allyson

30th August - Arjuna Marchant

Directions to Calcot Hall:

Calcot Hall is located close to Junction 12 of the M4. From Junction 12, follow the signs for Reading A4, go past Savacentre and then at the next roundabout turn left into Royal Avenue.

Drive up Royal Avenue and take the fifth turning on the left into Highview (there is a sign for the Calcot Centre). Go to the end of the short road and you will see the car park for Calcot Hall.

Alternatively if you are driving from Reading town centre, drive out along the Bath Road and then turn right into Royal Avenue.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Profit hungry sports centres

TYA teacher Michelle is experiencing some financial bother with a sports centre. Can anyone give her some good advice?

Michelle said: "I currently teach at a sports centre three nights a week and they have recently put the prices up for students attending classes.

"As I haven't increased my fee for over two years I asked for a rise based on the number of students attending a class. i.e. my normal rate of £25 for up to 7 students and I would charge a new rate of £35 for 8 or more students. I felt this would be fair for them and myself. They have come back and said no which has left me somewhat disappointed.

"I have steadily built up the number of students in all my classes through my own advertising and recommendations and they regularly take £75 per class, giving them £50 profit so I didn't think I was being unreasonable.

"I just wondered if anyone had any suggestions or could give some idea of what other sport centres pay for a Yoga Class?"

To respond to Michelle please add a comment below or email me ( and I will post it up here for all to see.

Responses we have received so far:

Julie Currier said: "I read about Michelle’s comment regarding pay.

"I am paid £35 an hour and thought this is pretty standard, therefore, am surprised to read Michelle is paid less. I do know that no matter if I have 4 or 10 I am still paid the same and I am sure this applies to other Yoga teachers – I may be wrong. The centre is not ‘playing fair’ especially as she has built up the class numbers.

"Getting centres to move on pay may be tricky; if she was to hire a hall would her students go with her? Perhaps she could ask the centre the exact number that she would need to attend before her pay rose. Good luck."

TYA teacher Hermione added: "Maybe our teacher is being a little bit greedy. If she has not put her rate up for two years then to put it up by apparently almost 9% is more than the rate of inflation ,even over 2 years.

"I think she needs to see what percentage the fitness centre has increased their rates by and negotiate to do similar. Perhaps if their's has increased by 8-9% she could negotiate something in between, so that it is a win -win situation for everyone.
"I think she has confused the situation by saying her rate will be £35 if she has 8 students or more. Just stick with whatever formula she originally used to set her price and then add a percentage rate to that.

"Given that inflation has only been about 2% for the past 2 years, I think the most they will accept is something like £28 per hour or at a push £30. Remember they have the clout.

"There are plenty more yoga teachers so decide if you really want to work there and where else you could work and whether it is a matter of principal, money, or service that is the deciding factor. But above all she must feel happy working there. With some tactful negotiation and a bit of give and take I am sure a reasonable solution can be found."

Swami Ambikananda has responded to this question:


I have long been concerned that Yogis and Yoginis, all belonging to different schools and speaking from different areas of understanding, might never come to speak with the one voice needed for collective bargaining.

Yoga is no different from any other skill: we spend many years learning and acquiring our skills, we carry on our learning process even while we are teaching, we bring all of that to the market-place and ignore history.

And history tells us that the market-place will pay us as little as it can get away with!

Wanting a share in the increase of money that is being demanded from students is not greed. Rather it is the realisation that the basic pay on offer is so poor that it would take a much greater percentage increase to make it anything like a decent living wage. And for those of us for whom Yoga is our life, it would be great to actually be able to earn a living from it!

Do not let anyone fool you into believing that bringing love and compassion to work means you should give it for free. We are only better able to spread those wonderful qualities, that we take the time as practising Yogis to build, when we know our work is valued. And the way we measure value in the market-place is through money.

I am always saddened when those of us of an age when we are leaving behind our careers, fail to see the needs of younger members of our profession who need our strong voices to encourage them towards a fair deal! Our support would be the Yoga Way.