Seventeenth Deep Breath
Yogis of the world unite and take your yoga off the mat and into the wider world!!
Yoga and the Family
When I began to discover yoga and eventually became a teacher, of course I invited my brothers to class. One preferred to swim, one preferred T’ai Ch’i and the one who is no longer living arose from his savasana saying: “I feel great. I want a beer and a cigarette.” The brothers did not continue.
My father was no longer alive when I became a teacher, and my mother was a tough case of her own. There is an old adage that doctors and lawyers who treat their families as patients and clients have fools for clients and patients. Perhaps this was the error I made with my brothers. My mother noticed how yoga was helping me with stress, so I recommended that she attend class with a teacher I knew in Dallas, where she lived. The remarkable fact about that single class was that both my mother and the teacher used the same word about each other: “S/he is a real pill.” Now that’s not a common word, not one that you hear every day. Yet they each thought that the other was a “pill.” So my parents and my siblings did not take to yoga as I did.
My children are another story. I have a son and a daughter. Both took gymnastics classes in elementary and junior high school and did extracurricular gymnastics in summer school and at a local gym for kids in Austin. I did not have the option to study gymnastics as a girl, though I would have loved it. So, hopefully I was not too pushy when it came time to introduce them to the subject. They seemed to enjoy it. Even today they sometimes cut up and knock off a cartwheel or handstand. My daughter actually also accompanied me to The Iyengar Institute in Pune one year and attended classes with me there. She also did some yoga-for-kids teaching of her own at a yoga studio in New York. Being an early childhood educator, she was good at it, too. I attended one of her classes and witnessed what a fine job she was doing. My son has turned more toward the meditative aspect of yoga and Buddhism/mindfulness practice and has offered guided sitting sessions in the apartment where he lives.
Though the fact that my life partner has attended my yoga classes for decades flies in the face of “no family in the doctors’ and lawyers’ and yoga teachers’ practices” it has worked for us. He’s a good critic and a willing helper. Just writing this has me thinking, though, that it would be a good idea for him to take some classes with another certified teacher at the New York Institute. It will be interesting to see what another teacher would suggest to him. A herniated disc and an old knee injury give him challenges—perhaps another teacher would have useful ideas. For a long time, I’ve been an advocate of the principle I saw on a poster in a chemistry lab years ago: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
Over the years the conclusion has been inevitable that yoga is not for everyone. Some are drawn to it and some are not. When I read that the NY public schools are introducing a mindful breathing component in elementary schools, I celebrated. This can only be a big help to classroom teachers. The practice will be daily, 2-5 minutes, for Kindergarten through high school. An old court case from Encinitas, California, held that teaching yoga to kids in public schools is not an infringement of the right to be free from religious practices in school, because yoga is not a religion.
B.K.S. Iyengar was often asked about the religious aspect of yoga. His steadfast answer was “yoga will make whatever religion you already have stronger, and if you have no religion, it will make you stronger. Yoga is not a religion.” I believe that it was an appropriate and even a wonderful answer.