As the pace of people’s working lives grows ever more hectic, Frances Homewood has seen a sizeable increase in the number of people seeking a relaxing haven at her yoga centre in Walkley.
More than 300 people now attend classes every week at the Sheffield Yoga Centre, which opened its doors 10 years ago in a restored chapel on Burgoyne Road.
Frances completed the renovation project with her husband, former Sheffield Council leader Mike Bower, in 2005, and a decade on the place is thriving, with visitors keen to learn the art of Iyengar yoga.
“It’s wonderful. It was a bit of a struggle in around 2008/9 when the recession hit, that was quite a difficult patch, but I’m pleased to say over the last 18 months in particular it’s just been booming,” she said.
Frances suggested the success was down to the centre’s good reputation - as well as mounting stress levels in society.
“I think the reasons are a combination of two things - everybody is feeling stress levels like never before, and people feel a need for something they can do for themselves. Yes, you do need a good teacher, but yoga is something you can do for yourself and it’s fairly inexpensive. People think you have to be flexible, but anybody can do yoga.
“And our reputation has grown. Most of our customers and students are coming by word of mouth. Our classes for complete beginners fill up almost instantly, and then our advanced classes get a steady stream of people who have been with us for years.”
Named after the teacher BKS Iyengar, who brought yoga to the UK in the 1950s, the practice is distinguished by its emphasis on good posture, which enhances breathing.
Frances also specialises in yoga therapy, which is offered to people with illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and neurological problems.
“They can access yoga in a supportive atmosphere,” she said. “It’s like a spectrum. People can take their health into their own hands - but obviously there are times when you need to hand yourself over to someone else.”
The 10th anniversary will be marked at the centre next Saturday, June 13, with a series of free sessions for NHS workers, followed by an informal talk on the medical evidence supporting yoga’s effectiveness.
Dr Helena Davies - a former Sheffield-based consultant paediatrician who uses yoga to relieve the symptoms of a brain condition - will lead the talk.
Meanwhile Frances, who started teaching yoga 30 years ago, says she still feels ‘privileged’ to be running her own dedicated space.
“For years I taught in community centres and church halls. There would be fizzy orange on the floor and on one occasion there was broken glass from a party the night before!”
Further free sessions are planned. Visit www.sheffieldyogacentre.eventbrite.co.uk for more details.