“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” — B.K.S. Iyengar
“When I practice, I am a philosopher. When I teach, I am a scientist. When I demonstrate, I am an artist.” — B.K.S. Iyengar
As my never-alas-met, always-kept-in-mind, and ever-inspiring late master-Yoga-teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, said: “Your body exists in the past and your mind exists in the future. In Yoga, they come together in the present.”
Like every good koan, Mr. Iyengar’s seemingly simple statement requires more than a little time to unpack. In my own case, that unpacking has now gone on for the 32 years I have spent mostly on but sometimes (due to illness, injury, or the wild, fey vicissitudes of life) off my Yoga mat.
My most recent hiatus from my chosen discipline, my favorite art-form, has lasted a full calendar year, and I have just returned to my practice (but not, yet, teaching) at Teaneck, New Jersey’s Stone Center for Yoga & Health, the very first studio I found when I moved north from South Carolina in 2001.
In fact, Charlotte Chandler Stone, the studio’s founder, had moved about a block from her original location near Teaneck’s Queen Anne Road, and I had simply thought she’d closed, like so many other businesses in Bergen County, during our Great Economic Depression. Not so: She’d enlarged her space, and had thrived… three blocks from my home.
For me, the studio where I choose to practice (and its teachers, students, and physical and spiritual space) comprises “my Yoga home,” its composite elements as important as family members and friends, treasured paintings and recordings, books, long-used pots and pans, clothes, and the skin on my back.
For me, a studio has always been a chapel, a temple, a dojo, a pilgrimage site, a constellation of altars.
If it is not all those things, and most Yoga studios in America are not, it isn’t a place I want to spend time, remove my street-armor, and lay open my body, mind, and spirit to the contemplation-in-motion that is Yoga.
Anywhere I hang my hat is patently not home; and anywhere I may lay down a mat is not, either.
If a studio isn’t a sacred community, the practice within it will not accomplish Mr. Iyengar’s goal: to bring body, mind, and soul together in the present.
One must choose well and mindfully when one chooses a studio, and here, at the very, very end of my time in Teaneck, as I prepare for a move to another part of the country altogether, I have chosen to return to Stone Yoga, and to Charlotte, Ellen, Nancy, and Sue, the four teachers who have all, very, very gently and lovingly, brought me back to my mat, exactly as I find myself today.
Begin where you are.
Where I was, after a year of serious family illness, multiple surgeries, and various and sundry economic blows, was depressed, de-conditioned, and completely derailed, as far as my Yoga practice went (and as far as living in the present tense, as well).
At the very end of 2013, as I stopped teaching Yoga at various gyms and studios in northern New Jersey, and prepared for the coming physical and financial siege, I had neither the free time nor the disposable income to take class in Bergen County.
I took several Gentle Yoga classes in Englewood, and looked into studios farther afield, but lacked all motivation to commit to my mat, either at home or in any of the places I investigated.
Like Goldilocks and Cinderella, I was looking for a perfect “fit”… or none at all.
As well as a Yoga-home, I needed other like-minded Yoginis and Yogis as much as I needed Yoga. I required well-seasoned teachers who had never bought into the smorgasbord of “Show-Biz Yogas,” fad sub-genres of the grand old Sub-Continental vernacular which have taken on the coloring of America’s culture, and which feature competition, commercialism, and crass gimmickry.
I needed the opposite of Hot Yoga and Ashtanga-one-sequence-for-all. Cinderella here needed a bespoke glass slipper, and a group of fellow travelers wearing comfortable, well-worn duds.
I needed less, not more. I needed eyes-closed Yoga. I needed someone to keep this old racehorse from bolting out of the gate at full gallop. I needed… the real deal.
Finally, informed by my friend and fellow-Huffington-Post-blogger, Kathryn Livingston (Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength, and Inner Peace), that Stone Yoga was still very much a thing, I called Charlotte, and told her about my fallow year, disheveled psyche, and rusty joints. She welcomed me back to the discipline, but insisted I start slow and easy, taking class with only her, herself, Ellen, Nancy, and Sue. I was happy to put myself in her hands, and theirs. Continue reading >>