by Maria Rodale: Maria Rodale shares her 13-year relationship with yoga…
I don’t talk about yoga that much…maybe because it’s a little too important to me. I don’t actually think I’d be able to do everything I do without it. And I’d certainly be a lot more miserable — physically, mentally and spiritually. And that’s the thing about yoga — even if you don’t intend it to, it deeply impacts all three parts of your self. It’s like exercise for the threads that connect us to ourselves and to everything else.
I’m not one of those naturally flexible yoga bunnies who traipse down the street in yoga wear with a sticky mat strapped to my back. No, I do yoga at home. And I’ve been fortunate to have two amazing teachers in my life. I do it at home because I don’t want my yoga to be about comparing myself to anyone else — I need it to be about me, and I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to afford private teachers.
Because of my disciplined nature and a desire to get as close to an original source as possible in all things, it was natural for me to gravitate to Iyengar yoga. Iyengarbrought yoga to America in the 1950s and we’ve never been the same since. But I don’t chant (yet). I’m not a vegetarian (yet), and I’m not a Hindu, either. Although I do have quite a few Hindu goddesses hanging around the house — but that’s a different story. And I certainly don’t think that yoga is the answer to everything. In fact, since I’ve started running, my yoga has actually gotten better!
For about 13 years now, I’ve done yoga at home once a week, on and off (more on than off). I haven’t lost any weight because of it, but I’ve gained an inner strength that I rely on every day. And the only way I can describe it is that it opens the channels of your senses in your body to the extent that your perception of everything changes… It’s like putting on a pair of clean, new glasses, and suddenly everything is so much clearer. But it’s the nose, the skin, the ears, the heart, and the soul that also open. Like a lotus!
My first teacher gave me a very strong foundation. But as students often do, I outgrew her. She also taught me what not to do. For instance, I am convinced that I don’t need to become a Hindu in order to be a good yogini. And the definition of guru to me just means teacher — not some mystical holy being. We are all mystical and holy; it’s just that some people are more awake than others.
I was very fortunate many years ago, when we published “Light on Life,” Iyengar’s latest book, to get to meet him. He came to our New York offices, and everyone said, “Don’t touch him!” But he came right up to me and grabbed my hands. Then he took off his clothes (he was wearing his little blue yoga panties) and did a headstand. He was 87 at the time. Now, I’m not the kind of person to do weird stuff in front of others (I’m basically shy), but when I was invited to do a headstand for Iyengar and have him spot me, well…I couldn’t resist! (It’s actually one of my favorite poses.) The picture I have of me in my Armani pants doing a headstand with Iyengar is one of my most valuable possessions (although I also know that possessions are meaningless, really — and, by the way, I no longer wear Armani). Rumor has it he also drinks coffee, so I can really respect that man!
My current yoga teacher, Holly Walck from ai Yoga, is a little bit of a rebel, but she’s amazing. In fact, I will never trust a yoga teacher who doesn’t have a sense of humor. Holly does! There are many weeks when she shows up at my door and I am literally barely holding it together. And two hours later I am reborn. Because part of what is great about yoga — and what I love about it — is that it also acknowledges the importance of rest and reflection. The fact that each class ends with Shivasana is essential. Yoga reconnects me to my body, and in that reconnection, it balances my mind and restores my soul.
It’s not the “be all and end all” for me. Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave it all behind and go to India. Yoga is the beginning, not the end. As Iyengar said to me in a letter…”savor the nectar of yoga.” It is sweet and good and beautiful and filled with love.