A native of L.A. (I’m a Valley Girl,) I started my practice as a freshwoman at Barnard College in New York with Peentz Dubble, now an Intermediate Junior Iyengar teacher.
At the time, there wasn’t really a U.S. certification program, but in 1986 Peentz co-founded, with Judith Freedman, the Iyengar Yoga Center of New York. I had no idea what I was doing — I didn’t know the difference between Iyengar and any other system; I didn’t seek this teacher out as a guru.
A modern dance teacher noticed that I had flat feet, and recommended I address them, so I showed up at Peentz’s class, and spent the next two years working on the arches of my feet. And I’ve been at it ever since—for about 28 years.
Fast forward: I opened a yoga studio three and a half years ago. It’s radical and the best job I’ve ever had.
But, let me tell you, it’s wreaked havoc on my personal practice. Here are my confessions:
1. I don’t have a daily yoga practice. At the studio, we preach the benefits of regular, consistent practice with all of our students. But me? Nope, I don’t have one I’m lucky if I get one or two classes in a week. I don’t have a teacher, either because I have 24 of them. And I love them all. But they are not my teacher.
2. When I do practice, I’ve got a nasty case of Citta Vrtti. Mind stuff. I call it “mind shit.” A “Dharana-don’t” but I can’t help it. I think about things like when is the the newsletter going out? Why doesn’t that teacher tell the man in the corner to stop snoring in Savasana? Is the toilet backed up again and did someone call a plumber?
3. I can’t do handstand anymore (or, for that matter, Pincha Mayurasana). Just before the studio opened, I fell out of handstand and hit my the back of my head on hardwood laid directly on concrete. With a resulting rotator cuff and S.I. injury, I haven’t had handstand since. Who the fuck cares if I don’t have handstand? I do.
4. I love studying yoga—everything about it, the philosophy, the mythology, anatomy and yes even the business of it—more than the physical practice these days.
5. I love teaching yoga—everything about it, the students, their stories, their breakthroughs, their ah-ha moments—more than my own practice.
6. I love training to be a (better) teacher. I seek out every yoga junket (workshops, conferences, festivals, trainings, pujas) in town and I live in a big yoga town. In the remainder of this year, I’ll hit the Ojai Yoga Crib, Maty Ezraty and Annie Carpenter.
7. I love teacher training. We completed our first one as a studio this summer and will go at it again next winter.
8. I sit at a desk (staring into my laptop, as I’m doing now) most of the day, drinking tons of water and tea, and I have to pee all the time. Which really gets in the way of practicing, studying, teaching and running the business, by the way. I also have tight psoas muscles.
9. I’m not vegan; I’m not even a vegetarian.
10. I swear. A lot. When I blog(and even when I teach).
I don’t find the practice to be aspirational or transformational these days; I find it to be rather tedious, in fact. Indeed, it’s a downright drag.
Yet, despite these confessions and through my experience of owning and operating a yoga studio, preaching, peeing and swearing, I’ve learned more about yoga (about being a student, about being a teacher, about creating a safe, sacred space for growth, and about building community) than I ever could’ve learned in three and a half years on my mat.
So, I guess I have to admit that I do have a regular, consistent yoga practice, after all.
I may not be on my mat every morning, but I am practicing. And I know that I will return to regular, consistent (physical) practice some day… I always do. After 28 years.
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Assist. Ed: Jade Belzberg/Ed: Bryonie Wise