I started doing yoga in 1998 at the YMCA near the Exploratorium, where I used to work. The Exploratorium is heaven on earth for a busy brain like me, but I found myself so caught up in all of the cool projects going on at the museum that I forgot to breathe.
My first yoga teacher was a woman named Patricia. She was probably in her mid-50s. She was a kind of dippy, fading blonde woman with big droopy blue eyes and a soft voice. She’d have us move our bodies into all kinds of interesting shapes and then while we were standing there holding it, she’d say something like, “Feel your skin,” or, “We’re all stardust, you know,” or, “Relax your tongue.”
Her yoga poses were far from perfect and in the plebian setting of the Y, trying to balance on one foot or touch my toes felt safe.
It took me about 3 weeks to be able to touch my toes and a little bit longer to be able to hold tree pose for as long as I wanted without falling over.
In the past 15 years, yoga as an industry has really taken off. It is no longer thought of as a kooky, new age-y practice outside of California and everyone I know thinks they ’should do some yoga.’
I decided to become a yoga teacher last year because I have found that it is an easy way to check in with the best, most true parts of who I am. I don’t know how or why this is so. Somehow, by paying attention to my inhalations and exhalations for about an hour while I move my body into this shape and that, I am a better person for the rest of the day. I wish more people had access to this simple, accessible magic.
Most of my yoga teachers have had lithe bodies and incredible flexibility and strength. I have a strong, healthy body, but I have never been lithe, or particularly flexible. I have cried over my weight and bulk when trying to twist my legs around each other during garudasana (eagle pose), to rest my 185 lbs on my head during tripod headstands, or to do poses that require a lot of floating. But then I look at old pictures of yogis in India, from before yoga was fashionable. Many old yogis were pot bellied Indian guys with short stringy arms and legs. And I think of Iyengar, the founder of the Iyengar method of yoga. He was born sickly and survived malaria, tuberculosis and typhoid together with malnutrition during his childhood. This is the man who brings us one of the main forms of yoga.
Yoga is for everybody, and I want to teach yoga to people who ‘don’t do yoga’, who ‘don’t have the right body for yoga’. To those who are afraid of yoga and afraid of going a yoga class, I want to be their Patricia, their gateway teacher.
Nothing lights me up more in life than helping people get access to their greatest, truest selves and learn to live from that place. Yoga is a great, dogma free tool to get into that space.
And so, I’ll be a freshly minted Yoga Alliance trained teacher with 200 hours of teacher training under my belt at the end of January. I’ve been practicing on my neighbors and will be ramping up the schedule in the coming year.