Since my mid thirties, yoga has been a key part of my life. Along with walking, it is my exercise of choice (I have never been to a gym!) and it also helps keep my anxious self somewhat in check. One afternoon last year, I remember being so upset about something that I called my therapist for an emergency session, but he wasn’t available at such short notice. So I took a yoga class instead. It calmed me right down and helped me find my center again – and at a fraction of the price of therapy. For me, yoga is a moving meditation practice that I can feel restoring the connections between my underactive body, my hyperactive mind and my fluctuating spirit. Although I only typically take classes once a week, if I miss a week I find myself derailing. I know that it is something I dearly need in my life.
That was not always the case. My parents lived in India in the 1960s, when my father was teaching English in high schools in Bombay (Mumbai), where I was born. He and my mother both became very interested in the physical and philosophical aspects of yoga and when we moved to suburban Scotland, my mother taught yoga and my father conducted seminars and wrote books about yoga and Indian philosophy. He even became the chairman of the Scottish Yoga Association for a few years. You might think that I would have started yoga at a young age, but instead I fiercely rejected it. We were the only non-white children in a small Scottish town, and the last thing I wanted to do as a child was some funny Indian exercise routine that would make me stand out even more from the other kids. I remember my sister, brother and I sitting in on one of Dad’s seminars and bursting into giggles when he started chanting “Om” with his students. It all seemed very strange and silly.
My parents practicing yoga together c. 1968
Now, I really admire my parents for being such avid, knowledgeable pioneers of such a healthy practice, and of course I wish I had realized its value at a much younger age. But at least I was able to find my own way to yoga and incorporate it into my life. I wasn’t able to fully share my appreciation of it with my mother before she died, but I have talked about it with my father, and I know he is glad I finally embraced it. He still practices the philosophical side of it and his best fatherly advice to me has often been drawn from his study of yoga.
Today I gave away my “spare” yoga mat to the yoga studio where I have been practicing for the last few years. I had bought the mat at a yard sale, thinking that it might come in handy if I ever needed to take a friend (or son?) along to yoga with me. But that won’t happen and if it does, our local yoga studio has spares. So I took it in with me this morning and offered it to the man signing students in, suggesting perhaps that he offer it in turn to a student who didn’t have their own mat. He seemed unsure and said he’d have to ask the manager – a reaction I found a bit disappointing, until I saw the basket of $30 yoga mats behind me. Of course, they’d rather sell their own mats to students, but maybe they’ll decide that they might win over a hesitant student, like I once was, by welcoming them to the studio with the gift of a free mat.