My yoga journey was quite circuitous: I had spent my early adult years raising children. When they were old enough to allow me to go out, I began a career in television; first in commercials and then with my own cooking show. This worked out very nicely for a long time…….until I started to age.
In those years, I was physically active. I was a squash player, skier, runner, hiker and worked out in gyms as well as chasing after my 5 kids. One day, while at a friends cottage, she asked if I would like to do yoga on the dock. Sure. How difficult could that be? I mean, really, I was a rock. Her first pose was child’s pose. Or adho mukha virasana. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get my arms over my head to the floor!
Clearly another challenge to take on. However, I was shy about going to a studio with such inabilities so I bought videos and would try to copy what the teacher was doing. Oh, it was terrible. Finally I went to a yoga studio and still I couldn’t figure out how to get better. They had a weekly self practice class wherein the teacher would walk about and you could ask him how to improve on the pose. I asked…..and he walked around me, stroked his chin, and said profoundly “just keep trying”. Really!! How did all those other people get so good?? Finally, the same friend that started me on this path asked why I didn’t just go to a teacher in Toronto who was supposed to be the best teacher in Canada. Marlene Mawhinney. I was shy again. What if I wasn’t good enough for the class?
So, while on a trip to Amsterdam, I went to an Iyengar studio and signed up for a class. It was a revelation. First, they had the neatest props…chairs, blocks and we used them to bend ourselves backwards and inside out. Secondly, they told us what to do. What to put where and what to pull and what to push. I went every day for a week. Upon returning to Canada, I really felt I was ready for this important teacher.
I went into class, laid out my mat and sat and waited for class to begin. And this is how it went - “do i know you?” “no.” "have you ever done Iyengar yoga before?” I proudly said “yes, in Amsterdam”.
and she said…”GET OUT. go to the beginner class across the hall”. And so the journey began.
I went to that beginner class for a month and the teacher allowed me to go to the big kids class. Back i went with my mat. Marlene ignored me for a year. But she taught. Man, could she teach. My practice changed; it improved considerably. But what was most profound for me was the internal change. I was calmer, happier, more confident. I felt strong inside and out. I remember rolling over after savasana and asking the girl on the mat beside me if she felt yoga had changed her. She said it had. What a gift this was! And imagine if I could give it to my daughter, and daughters in law.
It was around this time, my casting agent started suggesting I consider a face lift. Ohhh, I wasn’t up for that. I had just entered my 50’s, a wonderful, important time in a woman’s life. We’re wise and still young enough to make a difference. So I applied for teacher training in yoga.
In the Iyengar system back then, you signed on with a senior teacher and spent 3 years of intense learning. It encompassed anatomy, asanas, sutras, pranayama and how to teach. Those three years, you ate, drank and slept yoga. The study is so broad, it’s like taking a sip from a fire hose. It was hard on marriages as one had to jump in with both feet and stay the course. But the person that came out at the other end was solid. I loved the study and am a natural teacher. I was offered another tv show at this time and I turned it down. I had found where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go.
I would say that being in the television industry, I could put on my confidence like a cloak. And take it off when I walked back in the door. Yoga filled me with confidence. It wasn’t a cover, it was inside of me. That’s a very good feeling.
I’m in my 74th year now. I absolutely love teaching and seeing students develop. As what you see on the mat changes, so does the individual. You cannot separate mind, body or spirit.
There was a period during my teaching career that I became unwell. I was diagnosed with Hep C and Cryoglobulinemia which I had had for over 40 years, undiagnosed. It had taken it’s toll on my body. During treatment and the recovery period afterward, my teacher Marlene and my colleagues attended to me. They put me into the light and into restorative poses as there was a time when my recovery was not looking good.
I slowly worked my way back to full strength and I couldn’t have done it without yoga. It is this knowledge that makes me want to help others, to make them recognize the strength they have within and to encourage when they feel they can’t. I hope, in my teaching of yoga, I am able to give others what has been given to me.
And in case you’re wondering, not one of my family is interested in yoga. That’s okay too.