Friday, February 19, 2010

early memories (an extract)

(mum and dad c. 1978 - apologies for lack of framing in photo, I was only 4)

My mother used to go to a yoga class once a week. I would have been about 4 or 5 and I remember watching her get ready thinking how elegant she looked in her leotard and footless tights, her long hair hanging down her back. It must have been Thursdays because I used to stay home with my Nan and watch Top of the Pops in my personal favourite evening attire of red dressing gown and Adidas trainers. This yoga, I thought to myself as I danced along to the music on the television imagining what my mother was doing at that moment, must be a beautiful thing. When I grow up I want to do that.

(me with my Nan outside Kings College Chapel, Cambridge c.1978 - check out my tree pose!)

I didn’t have to grow up by much. I went to my first yoga class alongside my mum when I was about 7 or 8 years old and I don’t really remember a time when yoga wasn’t a part of my life.

I wasn’t what you would call a sporty child at school. In fact I was rubbish. Everything always hurt, everything always seemed so difficult. I remember one summer practicing backward somersaults in the back garden all weekend just so I wouldn’t be the laughing stock in gym class the next week, as usual. I never really questioned my bad co-ordination, I just thought we can’t all be good at everything and left it at that. After all I had something that my classmates didn’t. I had yoga.

When I was 15 and working for my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award, I chose yoga as my “sport” module. When I was 18 and I was doing a lot of performance art alongside my A Levels, I found yoga helped me stretch, breathe, relax. When I was travelling, yoga was a talking point with other backpackers. When I was at university, the Tuesday night yoga class became the hub of my social life, although looking back I suspect I had quite a sedate university education in comparison to a lot of my peers. Yoga was just there. It never felt like a sport, or a gym class. It just felt like my body moving in the way it needed to move, powered by my breath, as my mind stilled and my stresses, my tensions, my worries fell away.

Despite all this it was years before I considered teaching yoga for a living. I still remembered the little girl who couldn’t do a backward somersault to save her life. Who wanted to be taught yoga by her? But then the strangest thing happened. My dad qualified as a yoga teacher.

(dad and me on his 70th birthday - November 2008)

Now I love my dad very much, but if you saw him, you just couldn’t picture it. He’s a slightly overweight accountant who does love a glass of wine now and again (well now really). I guess somewhere along the line mum must have dragged him along to a class too and, like me, he just had to keep going back. Before he knew it he was signed up on a teacher training course.

I talk about how yoga is for EVERYONE a lot, but this was my turning point. This is the point when I realised that yoga isn’t about how strong you are or what you look like. It isn’t about how “perfect” your postures are, or whether you are wearing the right clothes. It isn’t even about austere living and strict rules. I realised that most aspiring yogis and yoginis are just ordinary folk like me with bad back, dodgy hips and podgy tummies, with ordinary jobs that on some days they can't stand, and ordinary families who, on some days, can’t stand them. And I realised that maybe I could share my experiences of yoga with other people too, just like my dad.

Yogi(ni) readers, what are your earliest memories of yoga? Where did they take you?

Non Yogi(ni) readers, what is your passion, and what are your earliest memories of it?


Anonymous said...

That is a really lovely post and I've really enjoyed seeing the photographs and hearing your memories. And yes, Yoga is for everyone :o)

PS That first photo is very well framed for a 4 year old! Some of mine (at 8 or 9) are all over the place...

frog said...

A wonderful post! You've got a way with words, such honest turns of phrases.

If this is an extract from you novel, all I can say is I can't to buy the book!

Keep that pen to paper! xx

Jamie said...

What a beautiful and truthful post. This part really spoke to me:

I realised that most aspiring yogis and yoginis are just ordinary folk like me with bad back, dodgy hips and podgy tummies, with ordinary jobs that one some days they can't stand, and ordinary families who, on some days, can’t stand them.

Sometimes I do feel like less of a yogini because of my own podgy tummy and love handles. Thanks for reminding me that I'm fine just the way I am : )

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love reading about people's histories. And I'm almost jealous of your family connection to yoga!

My dad started doing yoga for stress relief when I was a little girl, but I never thought much of it, and he quit after a while.

When I was 26, or so, I started working at a school where many of the teachers did yoga. I had dabbled with yoga DVDs for a while, but for some reason, being around all that yogic energy made me want to try more.

I started doing sun salutations for 10 minutes every day, and found that they kept me going when things were difficult. I loved it.

Since then, I have become more and more devoted to the practice. I'm hoping to get out to more classes this year.

Thanks for sharing!

babs said...

I love the pictures! I imagine that it was great growing up with yoga and I plan to raise my kids that way. My very first yoga experience was when I was in college and I felt weird doing it!

kathleen said...

Thanks for these wonderful memories - I love reading about other people's journey to and along the path of yoga.
My first memory of yoga was a book that my dad had called 'Yoga over 40'!! I used to browse through it and look at the pictures with interest - but 40 seemed to very far away.... (I was probably around 8).
My first yoga class was when I was at university. I enjoyed the movements but the people and instructors were all a bit too alternative for me. And I was more of a gym/aerobics/running/cycling/karate/mountaineering sort of person (I assumed yoga fell into the physical exercise category of my life). I attended a few more yoga classes when I started work in my early 20's and a friend took me to some classes which I enjoyed but still wasn't 'ready' to embrace the practice.
I was finally ready when I was about 31. I think thanks to an Iyengar teacher who was recommended to me in Cape Town, I learnt that yoga is so much more than a set of movements, physical poses. During my first class with him I felt a shift, an opening, a healing, an awakening - subtle but significant. And I haven't looked back. And I certainly cannot imagine a time in my life when yoga will not be a part of it. I often wish I had been ready for yoga, and had allowed it into my life so many years earlier. But I know that we receive what we need when we are ready for it.

Thank you for sharing your yoga memories.. I look forward to hearing more :-)

Marie said...

I didn't come to yoga until I was pregnant with my second child. I don't remember now why I considered yoga an essential part of my preparation, but I remember that first conversation with the teacher that would come to mean so much to me.

I did that for a few months, then stopped after the birth. I came back five years ago in April and have been practicing steadily ever since. It's hard to believe it's been that long- I feel that I have so much more to do and learn and be!

I love your memories, and especially the photo of you and your dad! I hope my own daughters will have a path like yours, with yoga always a part of their lives.

Queen Mother said...

You write so beautifully and fluid. I can just see what you are saying! Enjoyed your post.

“Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest”

Eco Yogini said...

SO COOL that your dad is a yoga teacher. I mean, seriously!

Oh Rachel, I should have read this post before commenting on YogaDiva's post... lol. You're right of course... I guess we all have our insecurities.

My mom said she used to do yoga when she was younger, but they're both non-yogis. they think my yoga practice is cute though (in that supportive, 'I don't really understand my daughter, but love her for it' way. :) ).

my first yoga class- in my apartment in Montreal, on a blanket, in my jammies, trying desperately to follow Seane Corn... lol. :)