Forty years ago I stood in the Gateway bookstore in the Ojai Arcade . . .

suz10Forty years ago I stood in the Gateway bookstore in the Ojai Arcade reading a bulletin board notice announcing a nine-month Yoga Teacher Education program in San Francisco. (By the time I graduated, the nine months had evolved into a four-year program.) I had fallen into teaching yoga at the Gables, the Woman’s Club, and the Art Center, and, until that moment, hadn’t realized I needed to go to yoga school. But, reading the program flyer, it dawned on me that it might be good to learn some anatomy and take some kind of training.

I needed $500, a small fortune at the time. As a single mom with a five-year-old son, I did not have that kind of cash lying around. So I placed a small ad in the Ojai Valley News right by my weekly health column (the editor, Fred Volz, allowed this appeal), stating that if someone would lend me $500 for teacher training I would come back to Ojai to teach. Miraculously, a reader of my weekly health column called the paper and delivered a check.

When I got to the Institute for Yoga Teacher Education, (via hitching a ride in the back of a friend’s camper) I asked the director if I could skip Asana I and II and go directly to Asana III because I had been teaching a year or two (out of Richard Hittleman and Lilias Folan books). More important, I could afford to stay only for one semester. She laughed at my naive assumptions and insisted I had to start at the beginning like everyone else.

I thought I was flexible, but my memory of that first Iyengar asana class is that, when it came time for seated forward bends, the teacher had me sit on a stack of books or some primitive hard wood block (professional yoga blocks had not yet been invented), put a strap around my feet, and instructed me to feel if my vertebrae were poking out. It was all overwhelming, classes were three hours long, and when they finally laid us to rest in Savasana, for reasons beyond my understanding silent tears flowed like a river down my cheeks.

By the end of the first semester I knew enough to realize I needed more training and for the next five years I found ways to make trips back and forth to the Bay Area until I had enough credits to graduate from the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. Those early, basic, step-by-step beginning-yoga classes gave me a strong foundation and planted the seed of yoga deep in my core.

Last night, as I hung upside down to decompress my spine and replenish my energy reserves, I felt so lucky all over again to have this great holistic health resource in my life.

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