Just a Thought – So Long, Saturday Sangha (Namaste!)

Begin by taking a deep breath.

After teaching yoga at the Culver-Palms YMCA for almost 18 years, the time has arrived to give that class up. As I tell my students, “If you want your life to change, you need to change your life.”  Sometimes I hear myself giving advice and then realize – Hmmm, I think that applies to me, too.

When I first moved to Culver City, I was taking care of one small child and one elderly parent. My then-spouse was working the 9 to 5, and while I had been working at least part time since I was 15, motherhood and elder care had taken me out of the ranks of the employable. I was still writing, but not publishing much. Sick parents and healthy children can keep a person very, very busy.

Settling in to Culver City, it was good to discover the YMCA was an easy walk from my front door.  The yoga class they offered – there was only one class at the time – was in kundalini, the branch of yoga I’d studied in Venice and Santa Monica. But it was too challenging for a lot of the students. I heard people after class saying things like “I was in pain for days,” and “I just feel like I can’t keep up.”

I had, at that point, studied yoga for years. Yoga is not supposed to hurt you or humiliate you. Yoga is supposed to feel good.

So I went to the administration and said “This place is not the Golden Temple. You need an easy, beginner style yoga class. Just simple hatha yoga.” They said sure – can you teach that?  I said yes. It was one hour a week – a tiny slice – but it was work.

I was a volunteer for a year, and the class got so popular, they wanted to open another section, I said sure, but then I need to get paid. So I became an employee. Now it was a job.

On-site child care, for employees and members, made this possible. My mother passed away shortly after the birth of my second daughter, and yoga got even more popular. I took on lots of classes – more yoga,  “Mommy and Me” and “Fit Kids.” At one point I was teaching at the Y six days a week. But my entire paycheck almost covered a trip to the grocery store. No matter how good I was, I could not earn a living as an instructor at the Y.

When my youngest started kindergarten, I started back to full-time work. People asked “Are you still going to teach yoga?” I said of course. I needed to breathe deeply, more than I ever had before.

My hyper-demanding job meant that my weekday classes dropped off my calendar. There are only so many hours in the day. But the Saturday class – which morphed into two classes when another teacher retired and gave me her time slot – has been the mainstay for most of the last decade.

I have enjoyed every hour. And it’s time for me to change things.

The YMCA now has at least one yoga class every day, and often more than one; Hatha, Kundalini, Vinyasa, and others.  I’m glad I helped to create that. There are more yoga studios in Culver City than there are Starbucks. You can find yoga at Culver City’s Parks and Rec, or online. You can, as I have often said in class, have all the yoga you want.

“Sangha” is a Sanskrit term for the people you practice yoga with – it is literally translated as ‘those who share breath.’ But we are sharing breath with everyone on the planet. We are all in sangha together.

I’ll be doing yoga every day until I die, just not on Saturday mornings at the Y. I’m grateful to all my students for all I have learned from them. You have taught me more than I can say; I may have to write a book.

In yoga, we say Namaste – the divinity in me salutes the divinity in you.

And let yourself breathe.

Judith Martin-Straw

Photo credit – Emily Masnoon

The Actors' Gang

1 Comment

  1. So sorry to hear this. Your class is the only one where I have been able to just drift off into a meditative state. I hope that all goes well.

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