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Yoga. Engery directed inwards

Interview with Berber Schönholzer, Senior Iyengar Yoga-Lehrerin in the Nederlands.

Berber Schönholzer, founder and owner of Iyengar Yoga Zeeburg (IYZ) Amsterdam, has been practicing, studying and teaching Iyengar Yoga for over 30 years. She traveled to India every two years to continue her studies at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India. She is holding the Intermediate Senior III Certificate since 2015 and is a mentor for anyone who wants to become a teacher. On a windy day in May I visited her at home in Waterland near Amsterdam and talked with her about her yoga path and the encounters with BKS Iyengar.

Photo: Dhanurasana, Berber Schönholzer.

Claudia Lamas Cornejo: Back to the beginning, dear Berber, how did you get into yoga?

Berber Schönholz: I studied at the "Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten (AHK)" department Dansexpressie (expressive dance) and there I got a yoga lesson, Iyengar method. It worked straight away. After a lot of dance training and improvisation and demonstrations, yoga was energy directed inwards. I mean by that: experiencing deeper impressions, instead of expressing something outfwards. I really enjoyed that and it was good for me.

CLC: Do you remember your first encounter with BKS Iyengar? If so, where was it and how did it happen?

BS: In 1984 Guruji gave a lecture and demonstration in the hall of hotel Sonesta, Amsterdam. I missed that occasion. My first time to see Mr. Iyengar was in 1987 when he gave a workshop, in the Cosmos, a spiritual centre in Amsterdam, to open the first Dutch TTC. While waiting for his entrance, our teacher had asked us to be in the asana Supta Virasana. We waited for a long time in this asana. My legs started to feel numb, at a certain point I did not even feel my legs any longer. Mr. Iyengar entered the hall and said: “all of you get up”. Since I had lost the feeling in my legs at that moment, it was not so easy to stand up. The organisation gave Mr. Iyengar a beautiful flower mandala around his neck. He thanked for it and immediately started the teaching. I was in my late twenties when I started the teacher training. I was a happy young mother and Yoga became a gem for my life. Guruji lived from 14 December 1918 - 20 August 2014. Imagine Guruji was 69 and I was 29 when I saw him for the first time in autumn 1987. He was 95 and I was 55 when he passed away. For 26 years he was an important influence in my life and that specific time of my life.

Photos: BKS Iyengar and his students in the late 1980s/ early 90s.

What a long life he had and what a life-force! I experienced BKS Iyengar as a very inventive, hardworking and charismatic man!

CLC: What is the most formative thing that BKS Iyengar has said to you or shown you or taught you?

BS: Mr. Iyengar once said that yoga is "the path to ultimate freedom". I was immediately fascinated by that. What could that all entail? And he said and lived "live happily and die majestically". He inspired me to live it "all", to live the "fullest". Whatever that would be. In any case, he inspired me to deepen and challenge my practice. Not to miss any challenge to transform yoga, this objective art, to the experience of a subjective art. It is an experience of deep devotion and insight.

BKS Iyengar aged 92 in his school in Pune, India. Photo: S. Karmarkar RIMYI.

CLC: So, yoga changed your life, in what way exactly?

BS: It has given me experiences of how the body and mind can come together, work better together and thus sometimes become "one". It has given me stability, energy and joy. It has made me tolerant of life in every way and more compassionate towards my fellow human beings.

CLC: For many years and decades you have been educating the next generation of Iyengar Yoga teachers in the Netherlands, what is important to you in this work?

BS: Important is the realisation that we are all practitioners, that we all identify easily with objective knowledge and mental concepts. That we all have to honestly keep on searching deeper, whatever level and age we have. That inner peace can be felt. That these moments of peace are glimpses of seeing something like our eternal soul.

Photo: As a Mentor, Berber is educating future Iyengar Yoga teachers.

CLC: What is your wish or hope for the further development and transformation of Iyengar Yoga?

BS: I hope, that we don`t stop to study and to understand the art, science and philosofy of yoga and that we spread what we have understood.

Berber Schönholzer

Claudia Lamas: Thank you for your insights and time!

Berber Schönholzer: Thank you!


Claudia Lamas Cornejo is a self-employed PR manager, Iyengar Yoga practitioner and teacher.

Her project "Iyengar Yoga Blog" aims to shed light on topics related to the study and practice of yoga, to give practice tips and to let different voices of the Iyengar Yoga community have their say:


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