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Sadhana Studies Q & A with Heather Haxo Phillips

Studio owner Heather Haxo Phillips
Studio owner Heather Haxo Phillips

Why were you inspired to start this program?

Two reasons: Our students, and B.K.S. Iyengar.

When our Guruji died in August 2014, he said “Let my end be your beginning.” Many of us in the international Iyengar community really took this to heart and focused our thinking on how we should manifest his wish in our local communities.

The flame of Iyengar yoga is burning bright and steady in so many of us. I just knew in my heart that the time was atha —right now—for us to begin a serious study of the Iyengar yoga practice. I woke up one morning and started sketching out the program. It flowed easily and naturally because the inspiration from Guruji and Adeline students was so strong.

The first class of Sadhana Studies students just graduated. What have you learned about this program? Will anything change for the next group?

This year’s program was exciting in many ways, most especially because I got to see just how dedicated and talented our community members are. Our group bonded very quickly and very strongly. So we were able to cover a lot of territory in ten short months.  Almost immediately, the practices created tremendous shifts in people’s bodies and lives. It was inspiring to be a part of it.

Next year’s program will be different in a few key ways. I have focused the curriculum even further, so that we will study yoga philosophy and a category of poses every month. We will keep all the beloved courses: the anatomy, Ayurveda, and yoga lifestyle coursework, plus the dynamic courses covering women’s health, yoga for every stage of life, and pain management. This year we will also add an immunity course with Jessie Holland.

First class of Sadhana Studies students. Congratulations, everyone!

How has the Sadhana Studies program impacted the studio and its community?

It has created a cadre of students who feel strongly connected to Iyengar yoga. Many participants were relatively new to the practice, and others had been practicing for decades. This diversity made the program fun—everyone could participate and contribute. Through the readings, home practice, and exposure to our faculty, each person was able to develop a personal relationship to Iyengar yoga. Infused with connection, the students in the program have created a “mortar” that helps hold positive energetic space at the studio, whether in beginner or advanced general classes or our workshops.

Another way the program has impacted our community is we have gotten access to unique skills sets. Sadhana Studies offers an opportunity for each student to develop a unique final project that combines their personal skills and interests in yoga. This year’s projects were incredible! They included a study on sleep and yoga, a three-dimensional virtual reality method for studying poses, Sanskrit flash cards, and jaw-drawing kirtan performance to name just a few. In time, everyone at our studio will get to benefit from these projects.

Who is the program designed for?

It is for anyone who is so excited about Iyengar yoga that they wake up in the morning thinking about it. And it is for anyone who is so excited about what they are learning that they cannot stop talking about with others. This kind of enthusiasm is a sign that you are devoted and want to know more.

You don’t need to be a long-time practitioner to sign up for the program.

The program will help you build a daily practice and connect to the Iyengar lineage, and it will take you deeper into all eight limbs of the yoga practice. There is an additional component for people who want to teach, but I hope that the core of our group is people who are simply passionate about the practice and want to further their study. It doesn’t matter what your profession is, your physical condition, or how many years of yoga experience you have.

Iyengar Yoga Teachers Heather Haxo Phillips and Cynthia Bates
Instructors Heather Haxo Phillips and Cynthia Bates

Who will be teaching in this program?

This is an especially auspicious program because we have a community of teachers. We are lucky in the Bay Area to have teachers with decades of experience—and I am thrilled that I was able to convince them to gather under our roof! Michael Lucey and Cynthia Bates will join me in focusing on the art, science, and practice of Iyengar yoga. The three of us have worked very closely for years.

Anneke Faas is well-loved at Adeline and will focus on the art of working with beginners. She is well-known for channeling her inner Mary Dunn and bringing the learnings of the New York Iyengar Institute to the West Coast. The four of us combine totally different personalities and approaches, and I always learn so much from the others. I am excited to teach with them at our home studio.

We have two other certified Iyengar Yoga teachers specializing in important disciplines to round out the Sadhana Studies program. Jessie Holland will teach Ayurveda. Many people at our studio have already studied asana with Jessie, but maybe they have not had the opportunity to delve into Ayurveda—a great passion and profession for Jessie. Audrey Tan will be driving all the way from Fresno to offer our classes on anatomy and physiology. In addition to being a CIYT and the owner of Fig Garden Yoga in Fresno, Audrey is a Certified Physical Therapist. I have known Audrey for years and find her enthusiasm and passion infectious. Don’t forget to ask her about Skittles, her racing car!

Our faculty is rounded out by Victoria Austin, an Intermediate-certified Iyengar teacher who is also a Zen priest. Victoria functions as adviser to our faculty and teaches the Ethics course. Basically she is “den mother” for us all.

How can I find out more? is the first place to start. Interested students can then send me an email to with any questions or a request for an application. Applications are due by December 15th.