I took my first yoga class in 1989. It seems like another life. The class was part of the continue education program at the local state run university. Some work buddies recommended the class. The months leading up to this had been challenging, and I was looking for something different. My only enjoyment was spending hours on my bicycle. I was really only fit for a cave, so looking back, yoga made good sense. Prior to yoga I had been into martial arts, some weight lifting, cardio classes, and recreational substance abuse. After a near death experience, the latter had landed me in rehab. This was the late 80s, it was trendy to get clean-and-sober.
For those first classes the requirement was to bring an exercise mat or pad, and wear loose fitting clothes. The instructor was a dynamic and attractive woman. She was also an image consulted and very positive. Both of those were as foreign to me as the exercises she had us perform. The classes went on for about 8 weeks, and ended with her giving us very warm and embracing hug. Since I had been 12 stepping, I was into hugging.
The next step was to sign up for ongoing classes. She held them in a church in a nice part of town. It was mostly just me and “the girls”. Some of the classes were morning, some were evening. I eventually went to two or three a week. At some point she went off to California to attend a yoga convention. Some big deal teacher she was going to see.
This was an Iyengar Yoga Convention held in San Diego. She came back from the convention on fire with enthusiasm. She bought a roll of sticky mats, had someone make blocks, we all bought our own blankets, and carried all our props to class. She was evolving her teaching, and taking us along with her.
She hosted a workshop, and invited a teacher she had met, Gabriel Halpern. Wow, this guy blew me away. I was so into what he taught that I signed up for his Mexico Retreat. Gabriel co-taught with William Prottengeier. I was so inspired by William that I moved to San Francisco and enrolled in the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. It was the summer of 1991 and the IYISF had an Advanced Studies / Teacher Training program that was known for its two-year teacher training program. Back then it was one of the only teacher training programs around.
The AS/TT summer classes had been canceled due to poor enrollment. Great. I’ve come all this way and no classes. Being in SF was like being on a long holiday. I took lots of public classes and workshops. Manouso Manos, Janet MacLeod, Arthur Kilmurray, Mary Dunn to name a few. Marvelous. With more than a little drama, the TT program resumed in the fall. The main teachers were Janet, Kathy Alef, and Patricia Sullivan.
Not long after all this happened Ramanand Patel started offering classes at IYISF.