MY FIRST REAL LIVE YOGA TEACHER
I started practicing yoga on my own when I was a senior in college in 1975-76. I got the Richard Hittleman 28 Day Yoga Program book (I wrote about it here.) and started. At the same time I was also filling out applications for grad school and taking the GREs.
I wasn’t going to grad school because I really wanted to. I was going in order to buy myself a little more time for the “Call” to come in. It was one of the most stressful times in my life and the daily yoga practice helped. A LOT.
During grad school I took up jogging. And when I got pretty good at it, I started calling it “running.” I would come home from my daily runs, take a shower and then do my yoga. It was a winning combo. Instant stress relief.
Then I’d go back and read Tristram Shandy. I spent pretty much my entire 2 years in grad school reading Tristram Shandy. With a little break every now and then for The Life of Johnson.
Graduate school was pretty much a two-year root canal. Without anesthesia. But on the bright side, I did discover that I hated academia, and that was good for future reference.
So this daily yoga practice became the saving grace of my life. I also flirted with the Jane Fonda exercise videos. And the Kathy Smith step aerobics. I trained for the L’eggs Mini Marathon every year in Central Park, but at the end of the day, I would always return to my beach towel and my Hittleman.
Then one day, many years into this daily yoga practice, a real live yoga teacher pulled into my little one stop-light town. She drove a van stuffed to the gills with mats, blankets, and yoga straps. She held classes in a dreary church basement that smelled of candle wax and saurkraut and a bunch of people signed up, including me.
She had a 100-watt smile, a paste-on bindi, a little Buddha belly, and she reeked of patchouli. She was the first real live yoga teacher I had ever laid eyes on. And I loved her.
I bought my first yoga mat. I giggled uncontrollably when she would have us chant “Om” at the end of class, thinking to myself: You have got to be kidding me. Om? Om?? I was embodying every yoga cliche and stereotype I had ever seen.
And during class she actually walked around and adjusted us in the postures. This was something I never envisioned as I did my beach towel yoga, and it was startling to find myself deeply in a pose, with my eyes closed, and suddenly feel her hand on my back. Whoah! Jump back, Jack!
“This was crazy,” I thought But this was good.
But then the day came when Reetha (that was her name) made the announcement that it was becoming really hard for her to make the weekly trek to our little town. She told us we could come to her yoga studio in a different town, about an hour away, if we wanted to continue to practice with her. I did want to continue. And I did follow her to her town.
Then I heard of yet another yoga teacher in a yet another far-away town, and I started going to 2 classes–on the same night. I’d do Savasana with Reetha, then jump up, roll my mat, drive like a maniac through the night, and plop myself down in Doris’s class and start warm-ups.
And I did this for years. Happily.
And then there was Jenny.
(to be continued…)