International Yoga Day

Monday was International Yoga Day.  I didn’t know.  I’m just now seeing beautiful posts on Instagram.  I started practicing yoga in the 70’s when a hippie teacher from Oberlin insisted we do it in grade school.  I liked it.

I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to practice yoga in Boulder, CO until I moved away.  There are some serious yogis in Boulder.  Teachers from all over the world come to Boulder to teach.  I have been privileged to practice with many of them.  Rishikesh, India is touted as the yoga capital of the world.  There too, I have been privileged to practice on the banks of the Ganges and take classes from renowned teachers.

Today I feel grateful to some of my teachers from Boulder – Patricia Gipple – who once said she felt truly at home when she stepped on to her yoga mat.  When she said it, I didn’t

 really know what she meant.  But I liked the sound of it.  Over years of practice and traversing life with my yoga mat, I too have a relationship with my mat.  Navigating yoga on Zoom, making sure the angle of the camera included my mat, it was a sweet rectangle of familiarity.  Sitting in the early hours before sunrise, on a dusty yoga shala floor in Rishikesh, my mat was my haven.  Unrolling it each week before class, or stepping on to it in my living room, I am at home.  

Patricia is also the first person who mentioned to me in passing that she saw me on the path of Bhakti Yogi, the yoga of love and devotion.  That resonated for me because I have never gravitated to “power” yoga and intense physicality, unless it facilitated a deep meditative state afterwards.

I love to share my respect and gratitude for my teacher and friend, Alison Litchfield.  She is a true yogini with extensive knowledge in sanskrit, asana, and alignment.  If  you have ever taken a class with her, you know that she is as knowledgable as she is humble.  If she had an ounce of ego, she would be a celebrity yoga teacher – gorgeous inside and out – but she quietly teaches and practices without a lot of fanfare.  I highly recommend her classes and her teacher trainings. 

Alison & me

Recently I called her after I accepted a job teaching prenatal yoga twice a week at a studio here in California. Alison got back to me right away and left me with a beautiful message.  She gave me invaluable advice, just like a teacher would.  She led with her characteristic humility.  “I still get nervous before I teach” she said.  She shared that it helps to do her own practice before she teaches – get grounded, breathe.  And show up.  Be nervous.  Be human.

Next month I will step in to teaching prenatal yoga twice a week at Indigo Yoga, a studio in Walnut Creek.  I am excited and nervous!  It means so much to me to be able to support pregnant women during this very special time in their lives.  I don’t want to make any mistakes!  I take it so seriously.  I hear my teachers’ words in my heart and I will remember to do my practice before class.  Breathe.  Roll out my familiar mat, find my seat and feel at hOMe.  Pray to be of service. Love and devotion.  Bhakti. 

Full Circle Hula (Mortified / Redeemed)

not me

We had just moved to an exclusive community on the north shore of Chicago.  My step-father, mom and I.  I hadn’t made any friends yet and I tagged along with my mom on many of her social outings as she got to know others in the community.  There was the church outing to the Art Institute – we took a giant air conditioned bus and ate lunch at a restaurant.  There was an archeological dig weekend at Koster, down in the southern most tip of IL.  And there was the Hula dance group I participated in…

Each week, 6 or 7 white, middle-aged women from my mom’s church would meet in a woman’s basement (Dorothy) and try our best to imitate the beautiful Hawaiian dancers we saw on the posters hanging on the walls. I would figure 8 my non-existent hips and imitate our leader who smiled coquettishly in the mirror – our pretend audience.   Offering up our plastic flower leis as invitation, swaying our grass skirts to imitate the trade winds.  

The class culminated in a performance for senior citizens at the local community center.  With acute adolescent self-consciousness I did my best to stay in the back (which was hard because there were only 8 of us!)

Much to my chagrin, a photo of the event was published in the weekly town newspaper – a bunch of women and me in our costumes. 

Fast Forward 43 Years 

Teaching my 5 year olds last week.  We are sitting in circle and talking about Hawaii.  Someone mentions hula dancing.  “You don’t know how to do that!” one kid says in a snarky voice.  “Oh yes I do!” I shoot back.  “Wanna see?” I say as one part of myself looks down from the ceiling in dismay.  And just like that…I am googling Song of Old Hawaii and playing it on my speaker.  The strings start and it all comes back to me.  My arms reach up to mimic the heavens, my fingers make the stars.  My hips start to sway.  I dance.  I sing.  The audience is rapt.  Riveted.