Lois Steinerg, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most experienced yoga instructors awarded the Advanced 2 certification by B.K.S. Iyengar himself. Her 35 years of extensive studentship with the Iyengars includes annual participation in the general and medical classes at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune.
Lois’ teaching is infused with enthusiasm to share the knowledge and acumen that have come through her sustained practice and study of the tremendous work of BKS Iyengar and his family. She strives to emphasize and exemplify whole-body transformation through the joy of regular immersion in practice. As a teacher, she is direct, dynamic, clear, focused, engaging, gently humorous, and an invaluable resource for understanding the healing potential of yoga. As a teacher of teachers, a hands-on mentoring approach is the focus of her IYCU teacher education program.
Lois is the author of numerous books and articles and is widely respected for and consulted regarding her considerable knowledge of therapeutics. She is sought after worldwide to instruct workshops, and serves as a member of and assessor for the Certification Committee of the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the US.
How I Came to Yoga
During the 1960s, a strict disciplinarian conducted our grade school’s physical education activities three times daily. In retrospect, I consider this education fortunate, a seminal experience of attaching importance to the development of the body together with the mind. This was the starting point of my attraction to yoga and its practices
At the age of 14 (1970), I happened upon Lilias Folan’s public television program Lilias, Yoga, and You. Instantly taken by the postures and breathing exercises, I incorporated them into my physical regime to increase flexibility. In the mid-70s, while an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, a friend gave me B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga. Together we marveled at the man whose postures were depicted—he didn’t seem to have a spine! I accompanied that friend to a yoga class. The teacher led us along, but gave no specific instruction. Returning to such a class held no appeal for me, it offered little to augment my already ongoing practice.
I continued to practice yoga while also running five miles daily. My practice at that time had no inward attention, and was focused on the external sensation of stretching. Jogging on an indoor track, I observed a woman in the middle of the arena doing a beautiful and very composed head balance, and thought I might learn something from her. I discovered that she had studied with a teacher who had received instruction in India from B.K.S. Iyengar. It was a shock to learn the man in the book was alive! This woman, Robin Kyle Nichols, was my first teacher of Iyengar Yoga. Together we traveled to California to study with her teacher, Steve Smith, where I experienced a physical, mental, and spiritual transformation. At home in Illinois, I practiced Iyengar Yoga at 7 am each day, with Robin and another novice, Caroline Mueller. We would set-up in a triangular formation on Robin’s orange shag carpet (sticky mats were not invented yet), so we could see and correct each other, with Light on Yoga centered between us on the floor, as our guide.
Our small practice group discovered only after the fact, that B.K.S. Iyengar had taught and lectured in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1976. In 1977, we traveled frequently to Ann Arbor to study with the 1st generation of his teachers in the US: Mary Palmer, Priscilla Neel, and Suzie Vidrih. Slowly, yoga completely replaced the running routine, as my practice brought understanding of the injury running could bring to the body. I also embarked on studying the philosophy of yoga via the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Not initially interested in teaching yoga, I resisted when Robin insisted I present a pose to our group each day. Preparing to teach a pose made me realize how little I knew, and the teaching reflected just that. I taught a class and the students complained to Robin how terrible I was, to which she replied, “Just wait.” With time I grew to love teaching and appreciate it as another way to learn, by sharing and transmitting my own knowledge. I started teaching in the community as well as on the job as a mental health specialist for state-institutionalized emotionally handicapped children (1978-1982).
In December 1982, I made my first yearlong trip to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India. On the very first day of class, trying to hide from BKS Iyengar’s intensity, I placed myself in the back of the room, then felt a bolt of lightning on my arm. Guruji, as he is affectionately called, moved me to the front row, dead center. As he instructed to jump the legs apart in preparation for standing postures, I was lost in thought of the man on the platform, no longer just a picture in a book. He boomed, “You! You are a beginner! You are looking up at the ceiling, instead of down into your soul!” It took me ten years to look up again. That year, I was also very fortunate to assist in RIMYI’s medical classes. While learning how to work with the students in these classes, Guruji corrected my teaching. “Use less words!” he exclaimed. I received a great whack on the back of my neck when he observed me allowing the students to move on when they hadn’t yet learned a point I was instructing. That day I learned to follow through with my teaching, and instruct and inspire students to do the same. I have since made annual and extended journeys to study with the Iyengars in Pune.
Upon returning to Champaign-Urbana from that year of study in India, I began graduate school in Nutritional Sciences, continued teaching yoga in the community, and received an assistantship to teach yoga to undergraduate and graduate students. During a nine year period, I instructed over 3000 students, who were all required to evaluate me. This feedback was instructive and constructive, and I received excellent ratings from the students nine years in a row. I completed my doctoral degree in 1992, and worked in academics for one year until retiring from it, to focus more fully on yoga. In 1999, Guruji awarded me an Advanced Junior 1 teaching certificate and granted permission to use his name for my center, the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Champaign-Urbana (Illinois). Geeta S. Iyengar, Guruji’s daughter and accomplished yoga master, visited Champaign-Urbana in 2001. She blessed our center, taught, and lectured there to students. In 2009, Guruji upgraded my certification level to Advanced Junior 2. After 33 years he stated, “You are a very good practitioner!” Still, his next comments directed me towards room for my improvement. He is a Bhakti Yogacharya, a pure devoted preceptor who never stops giving and never gives up.