My first visit to San Francisco was in my early 20’s. It’s not hard to remember how I felt then, and how it’s different from how I feel now. I had no children, no spouse, but I did have a 260Z. The space in my head, I now know, was remarkable, and that’s not to say I was an airhead. It was because I hadn’t lived long enough to acquire much baggage in it, things like regret and grief that suck the oxygen out of one’s brain. Life was largely unknown, anything possible, and passing many of life’s milestones was yet to come. All I really cared about was getting a tan. You could say life was simple.
I was here again in 1990 testing for my Iyengar Yoga certificate. My then boyfriend and I drove from Seattle in a day because flying was not financially viable. We stayed at his aunts cat-pee house. I will never forget laying on the shag carpet and immediately regretting that decision as an oily residue deposited itself all over my backside.
I will also never forget being the last to go in the teaching portion of the Iyengar exam the next day. After the demonstration and philosophy tests in the morning came the nerve-racking teaching assessment. With three assessors watching, the applicants instructed a room of “students,” many of whom were ringers masquerading as beginners, easy to ferret out as they were much more difficult to teach and adjust than even the most ill-inclined newbie.
I started my teaching demonstration class two hours later than scheduled. The candidates who had gone before me took twice their allotted time and it was now 4:00pm on a day that started at 9:00am. I had 20 minutes to teach two poses, Revolved Trikonasana and headstand, an absurdly short time frame, even by today’s standards. The beginners had wilted from the previous classes but fortunately the ringers were only too happy to move things along and popped up into perfect headstands.
I finished my last instruction and checked the clock. I had only used 19 minutes, leaving one minute of valuable time.
“OMG, I’m sorry.” I flushed. “I finished early.”
The panel started laughing.
“Dear, you get extra points for that!”
The drive home was anxiety free as I knew my career as a yoga teacher was officially launched.
Twelve years later in 2002 I found myself on a plane headed once again to San Francisco. I had been chosen as the model for Judith Lasater’s “30 Essential Poses: For Beginning Yoga Students and Their Teachers.” I was the only model for a five day shoot that ran 6-8 hours a day, yielding 120 plates.
It was certainly one of the high points of my career which came on the heels of arguably my lowest point. I had suffered a significant sacroiliac injury which made even walking a great challenge. It finally resolved only days before the initial inquiry came from Linda Cogozzo, a behind the scenes marvel, “mover and shaker” of anything yoga, including Yoga Journal. Was I available for an extensive photo shoot in three weeks? Had Linda contacted me even one day earlier I would have had to decline.
Yoga modeling is arduous work, and I have had shoots for a single pose take as long as three hours. When I occasionally look at the photos from 30 Essential Poses, I find it amusing that chaturanga dandasana, sometimes called low plank and a pose I was dreading, was captured on the first frame, and one of the most difficult shots of all was holding myself in child’s pose.
It is now 2020 and 30 years after my certification. Gone are the days of guilt free frying in the sun, and I now have a build up of psychic detritus in my head. I can only imagine what it would be like in here if I didn’t have a yoga practice. Somehow it only seems appropriate that I am here in San Francisco at what feels like the kick-off to the end of my yoga career.
I have decided to retire from teaching yoga, effective sometime in the next month or so. I have a few irons in the fire, but I am here with Sandy and today we are applying for an Elective Residency Visa at the Italian Consulate which would allow us to live in Italy. We’re hoping to get it on the first pass but you never know.
I’m spending a lot of time contemplating what I’ve done with my life, nothing new, but in particular yoga and the last 30 years. At 60 there is more of an urgency, an oxymoron to contemplation, and even more questions than answers.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to the many people who made it to my classes over the years, and even more thanks to those who stuck with me. And to those mentors, teachers, colleagues, and partners, especially Kathryn Payne, who believed in me as we sauntered through this crazy, crazy path of teaching yoga.
And with that, on to the day.