June 20, 2012

The Amazing Ida. ~ Bryonie Wise

Ida Herbert is 95-years-old.

She began practicing yoga at the age of 50—50!—and has been teaching yoga at her neighborhood YMCA for years. She even has groupies, who call themselves Ida’s Girls.

Oh, yoga, how you unite us!

A tiny woman with a twinkle in her and warm glow around her, Ida recently ventured into the city to teach yoga at a local studio. In a sunlit room graced with buddhas, classical music playing softly in the background, I felt transported to a different time and place.

With eyes closed, inviting the music in my body as Ida’s gentle yet mighty voice filled the room, I somehow expected, upon opening my eyes, to be surrounded by ballerinas.

Alas, still tiny Ida, wearing a leotard sprinkled with flowers and black panty hose, standing firm at the front of the room, holding space with grace and gentle power.

Thirty of us moved with Ida—beginning first with some old-school calisthenic stretches, to create some heat and prepare our bodies for yoga—and then on to a simple, beautiful sequence, guided by simple, beautiful cues.

We moved in new ways and we laughed and we embraced the joy of movement.

Every time we found our seat in a pose, Ida said, “This is yoga.”

When eventually we hit the floor, she guided us into some challenging core work, a chorus of grunts and grumbles echoed through the room.

Ida, holding boat pose without breaking a sweat, encouraged us to keep holding and breathing. “If I can do it, so can you,” as she continued to hold the posture, a small, magical smile on her face.

Finally, to closing. Sitting cross-legged, we reached our hands up to the sky and Ida said, “Whatever you need, be it love, peace or happiness, embrace it,” and as our hands cupped our dreams and hopes, we brought our  palms together in prayer, guiding them to our heart center, she continued, “Embrace it all, and bring them into your heart, for they are yours to take.”

Thankfully, after our practice, we gathered to ask Ida some questions, asking about how yoga has affected her life, as well as her favorite hobbies.

One of my favorite moments was learning of her hobbies: gardening…and knitting. Specifically, she “knits pussy cat blankets,” which she donates to the Humane Society.  She said, “If I drop a stitch, do you think they pussy cats mind? No! They don’t mind at all!”



Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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