I took my first yoga “class” as the sole student of a chair-seated guru in a tiny room in Greenwich Village. That was in 1968, when serious classes in this country were virtually nonexistent, when Jess Stern’s Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation and Richard Hittelman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Program had yet to inspire spiritual seekers to gather for Sun Salutes. Who knew then that yoga studios would soon become a neighborhood staple, with a potpourri of venues and styles, that teaching yoga would become a prominent career path? No more tiny rooms; no more teachers in chairs.
In 1985 I graduated from the San Francisco Iyengar Yoga Institute Teacher Training Program, the first of its kind in the U.S., and began teaching pregnant and post-natal women, seniors, children, and open classes in a variety of venues. Long a student of modern dance at Colorado College and Cal Arts, I also ran competitively, and in 1978 was among the early women to break three hours in the marathon. Dance and running have profoundly informed my yoga practice, helping me understand that even when movement patterns appear very different, the underlying principles remain the same.
My story is not unusual: a sickly childhood inspired a lifelong interest in health, especially in my case the importance of a centered posture. From the age of seven I spent three years at a Catholic convent boarding school in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), where the word “body” was a four-letter word, where physical exercise was pretty much limited to the gymnastics required to manage enforced dressing under the sheets, and to marching silently in pairs down the dingy halls. Stepping out of line (literally) meant a whipping with a self-fetched ruler. Among my greatest comforts, besides rare secret midnight whispering sessions on a dorm-mates bed, were three tiny fish I secretly kept in a can in the back of my clothes shelf and a baby bat who lived in one of my shoes.
This book is inspired less by a desire to promote physical fitness per se than by a larger desire to help turn the national malady of “nature deficit disorder” toward an urgently-needed life-supporting identification with the natural world, reinforced by experiencing how nature’s universal principles express through yoga postures. I share my discoveries through the text and through photos of my practice, which is organized entirely by the described principles. A minimalist by nature, I currently live in a 176-square-foot “tiny house” near the northern California coast