Monday, March 23, 2009


About nine months ago I discovered a Sunday afternoon Yoga class at my neighborhood YMCA that completely rocked my world. It was like falling down a rabbit hole. Each week was more like an adventure than a class. I never knew where our instructor would take us but always looked forward to the ride.

In reality, the class was just a semi-coordinated gaggle of strangers crammed mat-to-mat in a tiny, overcrowded room at the Y. But somehow our teacher helped us transcend all that. In the 75 minutes we were together, I lost all sense of time and place and when class ended, I always I felt a million miles from where I was when I walked in.

She often reminded us that we should take what she said as nothing more than a suggestion. "This is your class; your practice. If what I'm saying doesn't work for you, just do your own thing." She definitely led by example. Her class was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

It was approachable and fun yet always a challenge. I worked hard and stretched myself (literally) but smiled through most of the poses and often found myself laughing out loud. She would talk us through a pose pointing out all the intricacies that made it work: "Bend your front knee deeply while evenly supporting your weight with both legs. Tuck your hips and draw your belly in. Push into the outside edge of your back foot while keeping your toes turned in slightly. Keep your arms in one line like you are between two panes of glass and reach like you are being pulled in opposite directions. Look forward, past your hand. Now slowly curl the edges of your lips up into a soft smile. Ah, perfect. Smileasana." Then she'd laugh and we'd all laugh with her.

The music she chose ranged from typical to anything but. Once we did the entire class to John Coltrane. Another time it was a Native American and Tibetan Monk hybrid that she warned us, "might get a little freaky at times but just go with it." On Valentine's weekend we walked in to Al Green blasting through the speakers. "I wanted to put us in the mood for a little self love today," she explained with a laugh.

Sometimes she gave us lavender oil to rub into our third eyes (or, foreheads) to help us relax and make the room feel like a spa. It worked. Especially when she made her way around the room massaging our backs and shoulders while we held a pose.

While she was clearly serious about Yoga, she didn't take herself seriously at all. She would often say silly things that made her, and the rest of us, chuckle. Like instead of calling Ujjiayi breathing ocean sounding breath like most teachers, she also called it breathing like Darth Vader. We would be sitting cross legged with our eyes closed, focusing on our breath as she laughed, "Yes! We sound just like a room full of Darth Vaders doing Yoga!"

On more than a few occasions she serenaded us during our final relaxation pose. As we settled onto our mats, she would bust out her guitar and sing. Her voice, like her teaching, was a pure expression of joy and passion. As she belted out a song she learned on the beach in Brazil or chanted a traditional Sanskrit prayer, I smiled thinking she would probably have sung with just as much gusto even if she was completely tone deaf. It wasn't about her being good at something or trying to impress anyone; it was simply about her sharing something she loved with others.

I think that's why her class was so great. Unlike so many things today, it felt completely authentic. It wasn't what's hot right now or the place to see and be seen. She wasn't teaching for fame or fortune or bragging rights or to have an attentive audience to wow with her amazing Yoga skills. She was teaching because she loved sharing something she was passionate about with others. No pretense, no ulterior motives. No wonder we packed the place out week after week!

But, like they say, all good things must come to an end (for the record, I don't actually say things like that - I prefer good things to stick around awhile). Yesterday was the last class she will be teaching before she moves to Costa Rica. She has taken a job at an Eco-lodge in the rainforest where she will be doing massage and teaching Yoga to wealthy travelers looking to escape their busy workaday lives. Of course she is! No one in class seemed the least bit surprised.

Toward the end of class, right before we moved onto our backs for Shavasana, she decided she couldn't let us go without one last Happy Baby pose. From where we were on our backs, we grabbed our big toes with our index fingers and let our legs flop open, feet high in the air. "Now let's make some noise," she said with a laugh. "It's our last class so really indulge me." We took a deep breath in and exhaled loudly, sighing and yelling and laughing and giving her the send off she deserved - a cramped, sweaty room full of happy, and very grateful, babies.


Sandra Winfrey said...

Is this Kri you speak of? So sad she is moving. :(

No Mommy Brain said...

yes! how great is her class? ah...she will be very missed.

CelinaQ said...

Wow, your yoga teacher sounds truly amazing.

Namaste, Maggie!
:) CQ

Katie said...

She sounds wonderful, and I can picture what she looks like and her soothing voice in my head. Happy trails yoga master.

LClaire said...

I'm going to miss her so much!!!!