Confessions of a yoga proselytiser. By Sharon Kleinman
I proselytise* about yoga. And here’s why: it improves strength, flexibility, and concentration, all fundamental to living.
I began practicing in 2001, though friends had been urging me to try it for years before that. One morning, while closing my garage, the door froze three-quarters of the way down. I pushed the handle, attempting to shut it the remaining 25%. Then I pulled the handle up, straining to raise it. But the door had jumped off track and refused to budge. A muscle in my lower back screamed at me to stop this futile battle. Retreating from the immobilised door, I was practically immobilised myself by muscle spasms in my back. That week I lathered on analgesic creams with all sorts of pungent smells, got massages, and tried yoga. Yoga seemed to help most. Since then I have gone to classes several times a week.
As my yoga practice took root, I started encouraging the students in my courses at the university where I was then teaching to take a one-credit yoga physical education class. On the first day of class each semester, after I introduced myself, I would share my extracurricular interests: cycling, skiing, golf, gardening, cooking, and yoga. A handful of students would nod, they practice yoga too. Then, with all the professorial authority I could muster, I proclaimed that ‘yoga can help you do everything better’. As if that were not enough, I added that ‘the physical education yoga class at the university is pass/fail, and it will be the best one-credit you will ever earn. Yoga is a tool for life’. After this spectacular praise, it is a wonder that everyone did not dash out of my classroom to enroll right then. Some just resist healthful ways.
I also mentioned that I often went to yoga classes at studios not far from the university (Heidi Sormaz’s Fresh Yoga in New Haven, Connecticut, with locations in Erector Square and 9th Square). I thought some of my students would eventually make their way to these studios, which are popular with
students, faculty, and staff of several neighbouring universities.
Success at last
A decade went by and that never happened. Until one day it did. I was leaving a Fresh Yoga class when a former student of mine walked in the studio. I did not notice her until she was directly in front of me. “Hello Professor!” “Hello. I didn’t recognise you out of school,” I replied. “Well, I lost a lot of weight since I was in your class two years ago,” she said, quickly offering an explanation. “Oh, yes,” I nodded. “Anyway, I remembered what you always said about yoga, and I tried it a month ago and love it.” “That’s wonderful,” I said, beaming, “I’m sure I’ll see you here again.”
I went to the lobby of the studio and rushed excitedly over to the yoga teacher for the next class, Kirsten Collins. “I have been proselytising about yoga to the college students in my courses for years, and none of them, to my knowledge, started yoga based on my encouragement until now,” I blurted. “You see that one-legged yogi over there – she was my student at the university.” We both smiled in amazement. “She’s great,” Kirsten declared, and of course, I agreed.
Out of the hundreds of college students I cajoled to try yoga I never imagined the one who would follow up would be the woman who had lost a leg and walked with crutches. Incidentally, her favourite style of yoga is power yoga. She said she found the other styles ‘too easy’.
Sometimes people absorb a lesson learned but might not put it into practice for years. So be it. It means I will continue to spread the word about yoga, especially to those who might appear the least likely to try it.
‘to convert (someone) from one religious
faith to another’