I am leading my yoga class in my version of “the tree” and as I balance, I look out at two dozen students at various stages of balance and imbalance. Is this a dream? Me, a yoga teacher? It doesn’t seem possible.
Three years ago I would be hard pressed to remember the last time I attempted yoga. I always hated going to a new yoga class. Why? Because inevitably the same thing would happen. At the first forward bend, the yoga teacher would come running over quite distressed at what she saw me doing, while the rest of the class – in sexy, spectacular forward bends – looked at me with pity.
You see, I have spectacularly short hamstrings. I cannot do a forward bend without bending my knees, a lot, really a lot. I discovered this in my first gym classes where I started a history of humiliations. Although quite normal for a lot of men to have short hamstrings, women usually have longer hamstrings, shorter legs and often no problem kissing their knees. Whereas I can’t even sit up straight on the floor with legs flat out in front of me without needing to lay back like a backwards jack-knife.
Yet, everything else about yoga I really enjoyed, so over the years I wandered in and out of classes and built a wall around my ego every time the forward bend, straight legs, upright back came up and the yoga teacher would come running over. If I had a few dollars every time a teacher would look at me and say, “you know, you can improve on that if you work at it.” To all those yoga teachers, I would like to say, “You were wrong.”
What happened three years ago was, I developed a “frozen shoulder.” I had never heard of this mysterious, painful condition before. My therapies were both expensive and not working, until I spotted a “Yoga for Over 50” class at my local rec centre. I had just turned 50, so technically, eligible. It was there that I started my new love affair with a gentler yoga.
First, nearly everyone in this class was, on average, 20 years my senior, so it didn’t matter what I physically did in that class, I looked great! Second, technically, there wasn’t any teacher to come running over. There was only Nan, a senior student in her 86th year with a brash Scottish brogue, who took over for the teacher “temporarily.” Lilo had left in her 90s unable to feel up to teaching twice a week. The class has been going for over three decades! I started to wonder if I had stumbled onto a fountain of youth class.
Age differences aside, I developed a great fondness for everyone in the class. Not only that, but the gentler yoga cured my frozen shoulder within a month. Yet there was a problem, the rec centre was saying they needed a teacher who was certified. So they found us one, Sandra Leigh. We gently schooled her on how we did things and she listened, compromised and she was great; we lucked out.
The trouble was, she was always in need of a substitute from time to time and particularly over summer. I found myself drawn to the idea of leading the class. The fact that I had short hamstrings no longer bothered me. The fact that I was quite dyslexic however, made me think twice. Could you get a more unlikely yoga teacher?
An opportunity to do a Chair Yoga certification came up for me, and with Sandra’s blessing and mentorship I did it. Of course, my husband, friends and family were as shocked as I when I started teaching yoga classes.
“Really?” They’d say when I told them what I was up to now. I still enjoy the look on their faces. Yet, here I am, the dyslexic yoga teacher who doesn’t really care if knees are straight or bent, whether you wear sweats or LuLu Lemon, or whether we are all doing the left side at the same time. Now you hear my joyous voice in the studio saying, “Now the other side!”
Who knows? Stay open and maybe you too can be an unlikely… whatever you want!
Kathrin Lake is the author of Writing with Cold Feet, and leads Writing Retreats in Mexico every January and February through the Vancouver School of Writing. She also teaches Yoga for Writers at her retreats. See http://kathrinlake.com for more information or http://vswonline.org to sign up for Writing Retreats in Mexico and other writing and publishing classes in Canada, United States and Online Classes in writing and publishing available worldwide.