I love the modesty and unchanging presence of the Satyananda Yoga Centre (SYC), set amid the ever-growing wealth of its surroundings. It's a special place.
Located near Clapham South tube station in south London, it faithfully shares a meditative approach and the teachings of the Bihar School of Yoga.
If you're a keen yoga student or teacher, you may well recognise this publication from the School:
I first visited the SYC in 2006, and have completed yoga nidra training with its wonderful teachers Amritananda and Swami Nirmal (held at the Jamyang, Kennington, south east London). I have heard good things about its meditation course for teachers too.
Now when I return - invariably greeted with a 'Hari Om' - it feels as comfortable as stepping across my own doorstep at home.
And the centre is indeed a home, that of its Director, Swami Pragyamurti Saraswati who has lived there for over 40 years.
Swami Pragyamurti, now in her late 70s, has led a colourful life. I was once fortunate to chat with her about her decades of work as a yoga teacher at Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth. Teaching in prisons is the most challenging and most rewarding work she has done she told me. While out and about in the neighbourhood she continues to meet some of her students, following release, who speak of their appreciation of yoga as a means of improving relationships with others and leading a better life. (One was so happy to see her he picked her up as one would a young child).
She is also experienced in working with those affected by HIV/Aids, for example during her time in South Africa. For an insight into the depth of her work, see this manual of practices and thoughts on yoga (also contains audio meditation and yoga nidra practices), available at the centre:
There are two practice spaces at the centre, one on the ground floor as you enter and one in the loft space, which also occasionally serves as accommodation for students who travel from further afield for courses.
Simple and unpretentious, the house/centre is filled with the energy and images of teachers from the Bihar School.
Authentic is a word often used in the yoga community, and here it is apt. Prices are deliberately kept low, for classes, courses and training or CPD days for yoga teachers. The teachings are inspiring, accessible and meticulous and have clearly been passed from one generation of teachers to the next with great devotion. Humour and warmth abound.
On day courses, lunch is shared (and kept in the larder) around a homely kitchen table:
And you can potter around Swami's garden in the sunshine:
This is a wonderful place to visit if you would like some 'old school' yoga - yoga taught from the heart through several generations with solid roots in a lineage, relevant to life today and in beautifully inconspicuous surroundings.
In the title of this blog, I have called the SYC a jewel in the urban jungle of London. In such a place, our inquiry into and search for the jewel may lead us to find it within ourselves.
Satyanada Yoga Centre, 70 Thurleigh Road, London SW12 8UD.
Swami Pragyamurti's yogamobile