My good friend retired from teaching yoga for 20 years and there was a fabulous goodbye lunch for her last week to celebrate. I of course was not celebrating, as I wish she was still teaching, but I get it and I support her and it’s only my selfish side that wishes she hadn’t made this decision.
I came to yoga late in life and with two herniated discs in my low back and a bit of a wonky neck, I felt tremendous luck that Roni, my teacher, was so gifted in the department of being able to teach an old dog like me some new tricks. Her mammoth skill and boundless capacity for conducting classes where every pose flowed into every other made my body feel both challenged and satisfied. Her well considered meditations were apt and well timed. The long lines of her beautiful sinewy body made every pose look like a sculpture you’d want to take in the beauty of for the better part of a day.
But here’s what she did that was most important of all. She always had an accommodation for whatever ailed any of us.
If someone said, “I can’t do that pose because my knee is having issues,” Roni would come up with another way to produce the pose, so the person could accomplish it without pain. I’m telling you that no matter what you said to her, she had a solution consisting of your blocks and blankets and bolsters and chairs and straps placed in a very particular way to allow you to do the undoable . I often teased her that she’d say, “Ok, put 17 blocks, 19 blankets, a wheelbarrow, 6 loaves of wheat bread, a down coat and 4 mattresses under your head and you’ll be fine as wine.” She was not quite that extreme, but Roni always had a way around a downed tree in your path. She could give you a detour for even the most extreme impediment.
I loved this because there are things I can never do because of my back. But in hindsight, I see that maybe I loved this because isn’t this just like everyday living–you are always running into issues that need to be accommodated. It’s all of fucking life!
So, grateful to Roni for showing me that there’s always a way. That if one thing doesn’t work, you find another, that if there is an unstoppable force blocking you, you can find an alternative. This is as good as her aspirational poses, and her ability to create community. And while I may never quite get myself into the perfect Pungu Mayurasana, what she has taught me over the years is invaluable for my yoga practice and my life.