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« Elsewhere | Main | Margi Young 2 »

May 10, 2006

Margi Young 1

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

It's been three years now that I've been attending yoga classes regularly. Although I'm still an achey 50-something, I'm a considerably happier, more easy-going, and less-achey 50-something than I was before taking up yoga. FWIW, I'd say that studying yoga has been one of the half-dozen most valuable things I've ever done for myself -- a lot less valuable than lassooing and marrying The Wife for sure, but far more worthwhile and rewarding than, say, going to college, let alone talking to a shrink.

One of the biggest yoga-related surprises I've had is the way that yoga has affected my experience of the arts. I look to them for less than I once did; I seem to feel that they're under no obligation to deliver anything in particular. (How odd: I guess I once did think of them as owing me something ...) Why should it be that I'm easier on the arts than I once was? As far as I can tell, the answer is simple: I get something very directly from doing yoga that I once looked to the arts for. I'm not entirely sure what that is, though. Physical pleasure? Sensual ravishment? Aesthetic bliss? Spiritual refreshment? All the above and more?

Of the many good and inspiring yoga teachers I've studied with, my favorite has been Margi Young, who teaches at Om Yoga in Manhattan. (Margi's name is pronounced with a hard "g", as in "margarita.") Margi is an elegant, creative, and generous teacher, full of spirit and appreciation. She's amazingly "present," in the sense not just of never-tuning-out but also of always-being-kind-and-alert-and-reponsive. She has a deep knowledge not just of how bodies work but of how they interact with emotional systems. Luckily for the likes of me, she seems to get a genuine kick out of teaching beginners.

I'm a fan as well of Margi's impish and mischievous streak. But perhaps her most remarkable gift as a teacher is a "Sixth Sense"-like intuitive feeling for what people in the class are struggling with and experiencing. I once took a friend to a Margi class. Afterwards, he shook his head in amazement. "It was like she was inside my body and my head, knowing exactly what I was feeling and thinking! It was weird! It was great!", he marveled.

Over the years of attending her classes, I learned that, before she became a yoga teacher, Margi was a dancer and a choreographer who worked on both the East and the West coasts. It occurred to me one day ... Since I'm interested in both yoga and art ... Since Margi has extensive experience with both ... Since she's verbally-gifted too ... Well, suffice it to say that my blogger's resourcefulness kicked in.

So I asked Margi to sit down for a 2Blowhards interview. To my delight she agreed. Over the course of a few meals, I asked Margi about her experiences as a dancer, as a choreographer, as a yoga student, and as a yoga teacher. We gabbed some as well about the magic of yoga. And -- since one of the unofficial missions of this blog is to be forthright about what the real life of the arts is like -- I was especially pleased that Margi was willing to tell some stories about how she has lived her life.

In Part One (of four), we talk about how Margi grew up, about her life as a dancer and choreographer, and about her discovery of yoga.


2Blowhards: Where did you grow up?
Margi Young: San Francisco.

2B: An arty family?
MY: They're very traditional, but they're open to me. They're very proper, very together. But they always somehow gave me permission to do what I wanted to do and be free.

2B: As a kid, were you into physical activity?
MY: Always. I was always crawling on the counter and doing gymnastics classes. When I was home recently I went through some photo albums, and there I was, doing headstands and back bends.

2B: As a kid did you ever do competitive sports?
MY: Never. I always loved to do the more creative things.

2B: Would you use the word competitive for dance?
MY: It can be competitive. But in the 7th grade, it was the option for people who wanted to get away from competitive activity.

2B: Were you strong? Coordinated? Flexible?
MY: I'm not a really strong or flexible person, except that as kids we're all much more flexible. But I always wanted to do dance. I remember in sixth grade we had folk dancing for a week, and that was always the best week for me. I don't know what it did for me, except that it made me happy and I was drawn to it.

2B: When did you wake up to the fact that dance was something that could be studied?
MY: That was a great day. I was a senior in high school, thinking about going to college, but not academically-oriented. So I was researching schools, all the possible majors, and I learned that you could major in dance. I'd had no idea. It was like learning you could major in ping pong or something. Pinch me! Are you serious? That was very exciting. I ended up going to Ohio State University, which has a fabulous dance department, majoring in dance for two years. I completely loved it. I wasn't a very good dancer when I started. I thought I was but I really wasn't. I had confidence, but I didn't really know what I was doing.

2B: What was Ohio State like after growing up on the west coast?
MY: It was a little weird, coming from San Francisco. Ohio State was such a huge school -- full of frat boys, and not-totally-motivated people. They're more interested in partying and football, which of course I wasn't interested in at all. I was living in this prison-like dorm. But I found my way. I found some great friends I'm still friends with, and I loved the dancing part. And I felt totally brilliant there. I'd gone to an academic high school with the brightest kids in San Francisco, and then in Ohio I found myself thinking, "Omigosh, I'm the smartest person in the class!" It was shocking. The academic part was super-easy for me and dance was fun.

2B: What kind of dance did you study there?
MY:Modern dance primarily.

2B: Did you choose against ballet?
MY: Most dance in college settings is modern, because it's a little more intellectual. With ballet, you go to an institution and you do ballet all day long, and thatís it.

2B: Where did you go for your last years of college?
MY: To Mills College in Oakland. 800 women. From 80,000 frat kids to 800 women.

2B: Did you want to get back to the Bay Area?
MY: After two years at Ohio State, I spent another year in Europe. I didn't know where else to go, so I went home. My parents probably wanted me to be around too. And Mills is a good school with a really good dance department.

2B: Did your family ever say, "You're a dance major, what are you going to do with your life?"
MY: They didn't do that to me! I don't know how I ended up being that lucky. They had faith in me.

2B: At the end of your college years, what were you thinking?
MY: To get through every day. Actually, I was interested in dancing when I finished school, but I was also really interested in teaching. I always wanted to teach dance. In college, I'd hope the teacher wouldn't show up so I could take over. I'd make up little combinations I could teach. So after college I started teaching little kids in the East Bay. Teaching them tap dancing. I sort of hated it, but I wanted to teach somebody something, so I did it.

2B: You tap dance too?
MY: Enough to teach a four year old.

2B: Back to after college ...
MY: I did a little teaching. I was dancing in some dance companies in San Francisco, doing some performing. I was relatively happy.


2B: What's the dance scene like in San Francisco? Pretty serious?
MY: Well, this was 16 years ago. There was some really avant-garde stuff going on that I would have liked to be a part of. But it was so cool that I was scared to get near it. I was doing work with people I'd met through Mills College. It was a little bit safer. But one woman was doing interesting work.

2B: In what way?
MY: Expressionistic.

2B: Expressionist stuff always looks like great fun to do.
MY: For me, as I evolved, it was especially interesting. You know how the typical thing somebody says after a modern dance concert is, "What was that about?" And I thought, I'm not really interested in having people come away from something wondering what happened. I was more interested in something less abstract -- art that made people have a conversation about something other than "What happened?"

2B: What kind of a dancer were you?
MY: I always loved performing, but I was not much of a rehearser. In the studio, I could take it or leave it. The choreographer would say, "OK, let's do it three more times, and I'd be" (makes face). But it got me on stage.

2B: Were you a born performer as a kid, always demanding the spotlight?
MY: I liked to perform for my mom and my dad, but I was very shy. I mainly remember burying my face in my mom's leg. But I started becoming more performy in maybe sixth grade.

2B: Did you have one of those experiences of going on stage or hanging out with theater kids and thinking, "Aha, this is for me!"
MY: I didn't have the one Aha! moment. I always felt happy around dancers though. Coming from a more traditional family, where we sat down and had good manners at the dinner table, dancers are sloppy/schleppy. That was always comforting for me. I'd sit on the floor with them and be casual.

2B: Dancers will drape themselves over anything.
MY: They will! So I always liked being around dancers.

2B: I know you spent a high school year in Europe. Was that what being in Europe was about for you, being a bit more bohemian?
MY: I would say so. Especially the first time I went, when I was fifteen years old.

2B: Where were you?
MY: Barcelona.

2B: With what outfit?
MY: An organization called School Year Abroad.

2B: I spent my senior year of high school in France with School Year Abroad.
MY: You did? That's incredible!

2B: I should have spent the year in Barcelona instead of France.
MY: Barcelona was great.

2B: France was gray and gloomy, and the people didn't like Americans. Meanwhile the kids in Barcelona had a wonderful time.
MY: That was the place to go. I didn't even know when I signed up that Barcelona was part of Europe. I was just, "Take me, I'm ready!"

2B: How'd you wind up in New York after college? San Francisco is a pretty cosmopolitan town.
MY: Yeah, but San Francisco is also a tiny town compared to New York. I don't know what my first knowledge of New York was, but I had some friends who went to college here and I was really jealous. I came here once when I was nine or ten with my Mom and we did some shoe shopping. I always watched David Letterman as a kid, and that opening montage made it look like the greatest city in the world. I believe they call it that in the montage as well. They said it, I believed it, that settles it! So I always had it in my mind that one day when the opportunity presented itself, I'd move to New York.

2B: When did it finally happen?
MY: After I was living in Oakland for a while, I visited my brother, who was studying at New Mexico State University. I thought I'd visit the dance department just to see what was going on. It turned out that the teacher was a dancer I had gone to school with at Ohio State. We hadn't known each other well but we'd been classmates. And she was leaving. It was like, "Do you want my job, teaching dance in a university?" And that was something I really wanted to do. So I wound up moving to New Mexico and teaching there for a year.

2B: Which town?
MY: Las Cruces.

2B: I don't know it.
MY: That's good. The nice thing about Las Cruces is that over the Burger King and the McDonald's you can see the mountains. They were out there somewhere. Anyway, I lived there for a year. I had an adobe house for $300 a month, with lots of cockroaches. I was teaching dance, and that was fine, but I was kind of lonely. I didn't want to stay there for more than a year. After a year, I thought, I can move to New York. It's the perfect time. And I decided to go to New York University and get my master's.

2B: They have a Master's in Dance program.
MY: It seemed like such an easy transition. School is always so brilliant for transitions and getting to know people. I applied and I got in. I arrived in New York with my big bag and cried for two hours, and the taxi driver couldn't find my dorm. Once I finally found it and settled in for a few minutes, I ventured to a sushi restaurant in the East Village, and felt happy from that moment to call New York my home.

2B: When did you start doing your own choreography?
MY: At NYU. I had a teacher who was powerful in the dance world. She just loved me. She started to boost my confidence in choreography. It was so nice. I thought, "Oh! Maybe I'm not so bad!" Plus I'd dance for other people and I'd think, "Hmm, I can make decisions as good as yours. And I really don't feel like doing what you're saying, I want to do what I'm thinking." I just got itchy. I wanted to do my own thing. I got a little too opinionated to be a dancer. Because you have to be a real puppet, with no svadyaya. Do you know what that is?

2B: Er, I've read about it, but ...
MY: It's "self-study." There was no self-study. It was just, "Do this, do this." And I got to where I wanted to be the creative one. So when I got out of school I started my own company.

2B: Wow.
MY: It took some initiative. I made up a name, and I had some t-shirts made, and I tried to get people to show up at the same time.

2B: That can be hard.
MY: It is hard.

2B: One of the great things about writing is that you only have to get yourself to show up.
MY: Which is hard in its own way. It's a different kind of hard. When you have people waiting for you at a studio, you have to show up, and you have to think of something for them to do.

2B: Did you love choreography?
MY: It was the same as dancing. I loved it when I got done with it and it was on stage, and I got to sit in the audience and sigh and think, "It's my work up there!" And I really liked my work a lot. But making it ... Almost every rehearsal was like pulling teeth.

2B: What kind of dances did you make?
MY: I was more interested in creating images and in telling stories than in creating physical movement. Which is a problem, because as a choreographer you're basically creating movement. I always felt I had to be so original and so creative.

2B: Were you a little Meredith Monk-y?
MY: A little. Or maybe a little Pina Bausch-y. The last dance I made was about a husband and wife with a terrible relationship --

2B: And they crashed against walls!
MY: And she cooks him dinner and it's a big huge turkey leg. So every performance I had to roast a big turkey leg. And then he's eating dinner, pondering which leg is more appealing to him, the turkey's or his wife's. He picks the human, she has twins, and then he molests the twins, and the twins and mom end up killing him. I saw it as a dark comedy.

2B: It sounds like a lot of fun.
MY: We hear about so many horrible things. I was interested in how to wrap my head around some of them.

2B: What performance spaces did you show your work in?
MY: I showed my work in a place called Context, on A at 3rd, I think. And there was a place in Williamsburg called Wax, which is also no longer there.

2B: They come and they go.
MY: And Joyce Soho. I always wanted to show at Dance Theater Workshop, but they wouldn't have me.

2B: As a writer, one way you figure out what kind of writer you are is by figuring out where you're happiest and function best in the world of writers. Is the dance world similar? Do you show up in New York and knock on certain doors --
MY: Yes, and you get very depressed, because the doors slam right in your face. I found it incredibly challenging. Also going from getting my Masters at NYU where they gave me a beautiful stage and all the bright fresh young dancers I wanted to the real world was tough. School was completely unrealistic. We got out into the real world thinking it would be much easier than it was. You're always applying for gigs. There's too much rejection. That's why I finally stopped. I felt like, "You know what? I want some job where I'm going to feel loved." I wanted love!

2B: A lot of academic training for the arts seems to be completely unrealistic. Why is that? Is it because academics know nothing about the real world? Or is it because they're trying to give people great experiences before they go into the real world?
MY: Maybe nobody would come to school if they knew how hard the real world of the arts is. If I was guiding a person, I would say, "Do not go to school and study dance."

2B: Why?
MY: Too unrealistic. If you want to be a dancer, then be a dancer. That said, I had a wonderful time when I went to NYU. It was like being in camp. I felt like a kid. I met my boyfriend within a month, and we made dances. So it's fun if you have time and money to burn.

2B: When did you take your first yoga class?
MY: I took my first yoga class in San Francisco. I went with my mom, and we were the only people who showed up. We laughed the whole time. My mom still feels embarrassed that we laughed. I remember laughing, and leaving, and feeling completely euphoric. I drove to Palo Alto to see a friend and I said, "I just had the most incredible experience."

2B: You experienced the Yoga Effect.
MY: I can't remember what we did exactly. But I felt great. I couldn't believe it.

2B: Were you good at yoga right from the outset?
MY: What do you mean, "Good at yoga"?

2B: Whoops, I walked right into that.
MY: Busted!

2B: Did you go right back for more?
MY: Not much later. My best friend started doing a lot of yoga and became a yoga teacher. She'd had a traumatic experience which led her to yoga, and yoga was such an influence in her healing -- more than therapy or anything else. So I saw the power of it for her, and I got very interested, and I started taking classes with her.

2B: Did you keep it up when you came to New York?
MY: I did. I went to Jivamukti, which was on 2nd Ave. at the time. I thought it was the craziest, wildest experience.

2B: At that point, how did you view yoga? As something you did to keep fit?
MY: It wasn't to keep fit. It wasn't so much for the strengthening and stretching. Stretching has always felt good to me. But more than that I was just fascinated by it. I don't know by what exactly, but I'm still fascinated by it, as an experience.

2B: These yoga days, do you miss performing as a dancer?
MY: Once in a while. When I see a really great dance, I miss it a little tiny bit.

2B: Performing is hard on people. The high of being onstage is apparently great, or so I'm told. But you also have to have a soul of cast iron to live the life. How did you find the ups and downs?
MY: 'Way too emotional. Every class I would either feel like a winner or a loser afterward. And every performance I would either feel like the greatest or the worst dancer in the world. Too much drama!

2B: How about presenting your own choreography? I'd imagine it would be scary and exciting.
MY: All those things. Actually one of the hardest things is talking to people after the show, and trying to decipher honesty from flattery.

2B: In your experience, what kinds of personalities can persist for decades as performers?
MY: I think you have to be a super-tough and strong human being. And talented. Hmm, I kind of take that back. If you're very, very driven then you don't have to be that talented.

2B: Sounds like a tough life.
MY: Completely miserable!

2B: You even wrote some articles about dance.
MY: I did a lot of little random jobs. The best job I ever had? I was wearing my groovy outfit and somebody stopped me on the street and said, "Can we pay you $100 to come and look through your closet?"

2B: They liked your style.
MY: They paid me, and they sent me a throwaway camera and told me to go around New York and take pictures of anything I thought was cool.

2B: Are you interested in fashion?
MY: I'm mainly interested in being comfortable.

2B: When did you start thinking about yoga as something you might get more involved with?
MY: I was taking a fair amount of yoga and I was dancing, and I started to realize more and more that I was much happier on my yoga mat than dancing. Michael Cecconi (my boyfriend), Netta Yerushalmy, and I did a concert together at Wax. It was completely sold out. I was so proud of the work. It was great. But Michael and I woke up the next morning and we said, "Let's stop. Enough. Let's never do that again."

2B: Too much agony?
MY: Too much agony, too much high-tension, too much begging for money. Too much work. The pay-off was good, but the balance was off for the amount of work we did. So we both quit dancing that day, Sept. 23, 2000.

2B: How did you start teaching yoga?
MY: At the time, I was teaching dance at Peridance, and there were three people in class, two people in class, eight people in class ... I was begging my friends to come to my dance classes. And I saw everyone walking around the city with yoga mats under their arms, and I thought, "Well, maybe I should teach yoga." Meanwhile, my best friend in San Francisco had become a yoga teacher. It completely made sense for me to follow in her footsteps. I had been to Om only two or three times. But something about Om's teacher training called to me, so I applied. I was very taken with Om, an amazing place created by Cyndi Lee that's run on Buddhist and yoga principles. Cyndi merges vinyasa (flowing) yoga, with extra detail to alignment, and Buddhist principals such as compassion and mindfulness. I was very happy from day one of teacher training, and I got a job the day teacher training ended. It was a very natural evolution.

2B: Have you stayed in touch with dancer friends?
MY: My friends are mostly not physical people. They're friends I met in grade school and high school. But I'm still in touch with a few dancer friends. I'm going to Israel at the end of May for Netta's wedding. And then the yoga people, not so close. I love the people I work with, but I guess I like to segregate my life a little bit.

2B: Have you been the ashram route?
MY: I've been to an ashram but I never went the route. I didn't connect with that.

2B: Which one did you go to?
MY: One in Emeryville, California. Gurumayi.

2B: Was she great?
MY: I went when I was maybe 21 years old. I thought everything she said was right on, but nothing she said blew me away. I had no urge to bow down and prostrate myself. I would love to have that experience -- bowing down just because you're so moved. But I didn't have it there. I don't know if I forsee it happening. I may not be that impressionable.

2B: Do you get the urge to go back to California?
MY: Not really. It would be nice. My family is there and my brother is there with his family. But I'm happier in New York for sure. When I go back I love it, but I feel more relaxed here. It's where I have my own life, and it suits me well. And Iíve made my life into a small village. I rarely go above 14th street.

2B:How many classes a week do you teach?
MY: About ten classes a week, and a couple of privates. I also teach at the corporate offices of Armani Exchange.

2B: Is that a kind of thing that many yoga teachers do? Teach at corporations?
MY: There's a lot of that. There's a lot of money available for it. It's great.

2B: The city seems to be crawling with yoga teachers these days.
MY: Yeah, it's challenging. I'm very thankful I got into it five years ago.

2B: Teacher training classes are --
MY: They're mobbed. I'm teaching a training right now at Om with 32 people in it.

2B: Is there room in the city for that many more yoga teachers?
MY: No.

2B: I guess people love it so much they want to make a life out of it. Are you able to be frank about it?
MY: I'm frank about it if they ask me. We talk about the business of yoga, how to get out there in the world.

2B: What's your weekly routine like?
MY: There's a lot of working two hours in the morning and going home in the middle of the day and then working again. It's interesting but it can be exhausting. Tomorrow I work till 9:00 pm -- but I have hours off in the middle of the day. It's a life. But I'm thinking about a break.

2B: Is there such a thing as yoga burnout?
MY: I'm getting a bit of it right now. I totally love teaching, but I've been doing it for a couple of months without a break. So I'll take a break and then I'll come back enthusiastic again.

2B: How do you spend the day when you're finished teaching your classes?
MY: Cook, read, check my email, relax, talk on the phone.

2B: What else do you do to keep yourself fresh?
MY: I travel quite a lot. I read spiritual texts. I take yoga classes from brilliant, unbelievable teachers who keep it alive for me. And I try to go out and enjoy my life.


Om Yoga's website is here. Margi's own website is here. I highly recommend taking private yoga coaching from Margi. Even a few get-togethers with her can make a big difference.

Come back tomorrow for Part Two -- I'll be asking Margi about yoga and exercise. And please feel free to ask questions in the Comments sections on these postings. Margi has promised to drop by and respond.

Many thanks to Margi Young.



posted by Michael at May 10, 2006


Great piece about yoga and about integrating what you love to do into the practicalities of life! I love the way that Margi talks about dance, yoga and teaching.

Posted by: heather on May 10, 2006 2:42 PM

I'm needing some kind of effective, low-impact exercise and think yogo might do the trick. However, the idea of taking a class is intimidating so I wonder if a fairly motivated guy can just go the books-video route to yogaville. Amazon has a whole passel of yoga books and the local library has a goodly chunk of yoga videos. Any recommendations?

Posted by: al on May 10, 2006 4:31 PM

I love this interview. I'm not built for yoga (or much other kind of exercise except walking) but I love reading about all of these wonderful disciplines. When I was little I was a ballet maniac and even went to the echoing downtown Portland, OR., library to read books about ballet in French -- well, I stared at them and hoped they would resolve into intelligibility. They didn't, but I didn't much mind. It was the IDEA of it. Then modern dance and Isadora Duncan -- wow, the sensual life!

But more than that, this story is so reassuring about "finding your way" and the next thing presenting itself when it's time and feeling free -- when it's too hard -- to say, "sorry, time for a change." Simple. Simple.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on May 10, 2006 8:37 PM

I made it all the way to here: "And I felt totally brilliant there. I'd gone to an academic high school with the brightest kids in San Francisco, and then in Ohio I found myself thinking, 'Omigosh, I'm the smartest person in the class!' " Is that just in the water in SF, or do they teach it in kindergarten, or what? Criminey.

Posted by: kg on May 10, 2006 8:49 PM

First things first. "I'm not built for yoga." Anyone who can take a breath of air can practice yoga. I had one man who was 600 pounds and blind, and one great yoga practioner. WIth the proper teacher, the practice is for anyone and everyone.

Second thing second: I am not really so up on yoga videos/ DVD's but you could check out Cyndi Lee or Rodney Yee or Erich Schiffman.

You can practice with videos and books, but I highly recommend also being under the guidance of a teacher. Maybe once/month you could meet with an instructor who could design a practice for you to do on your own. Every month it could be adapted or added to. Or your teacher could watch you do your practice with a video and give you some pointers.

My reason for this is that many people get injured doing yoga poses incorrectly and it can be hard to know on your own things to look out for.

Posted by: margi on May 10, 2006 10:03 PM

2B: Were you good at yoga right from the outset?
MY: What do you mean, "Good at yoga"?

2B: Whoops, I walked right into that.
MY: Busted!

Perhaps if 2B were better at yoga he wouldn't have gotten suckered into this gotcha moment. I understand that pretending the phrase "good at yoga" is meaningless is all part of being good at yoga, but doing so feels like pointedly ignoring a 600 pound gorilla in the room (make that a 600 pound blind gorilla doing downward-facing dog). Not that a 600 pound gorilla can't be good at yoga!

Posted by: robert on May 11, 2006 12:18 AM

I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to the next part.

I've done a bit of yoga going mainly the video/book route. Rodney Yee does have some good beginner tapes that are easy to follow. Books with good photos or pictures are helpful for seeing the proper alignment, stance, and so forth.

I did take a class once and felt great afterwards, but it's definitely a different vibe than working out at home. Aside from the expense, I've never been a gym person, and I think individual instruction would make me more self-conscious.

Posted by: claire on May 11, 2006 12:51 AM

KG -- But maybe that's how it was for Margi. I experienced the same thing in reverse: midwestern-ish upbringing, top student while there, then going to a high-powered school and being humbled by encountering hard-driving, accomplished big-city kids. Seems to be one of those things. Anyway, I hope you'll read on. Margi has lived an interesting life and has many helpful and insightful things to say.

Robert -- Margi and I both had a giggle at that moment! Anyway, what 600-pound gorilla do you mean? Having a built-in knack for yoga? If that's so, one of the things I've learned about yoga is that it can suit pretty much any body type or level of condition. Super athletic types and dancers can find challenges that suit them, while people in nursing homes can do EZ yoga stretching and yoga breathing while seated in chairs. I'll second what Margi says in her comment about finding good teachers, though. I think many people have a tendency to overestimate their abilities or to push themselves 'way too hard when they start out in yoga, and it's quite possible to hurt yourself, or even if not to wind up feeling discouraged. I'd encourage anyone starting out to vastly underestimate what they're capable of, and to be content developing and exploring in EZ and Basics (or Gentle Basics) classes for a long time, even forever. Why not? And if there are specific challenges, a good teacher can help a lot. I'm extreeeeeeeemely tight, for instance, to the point where I can barely get into many postures' starting points. But with Margi's coaching, I've been able to learn modified postures and props and have a good time (and not hurt myself) in class and at home. A good teacher is sympathetic to where your body (and mind) are at, and has a lot of tools and tricks and modifications to offer. If you run into anyone who wants you to push past your limitations or what you're comfortable with, run the other way!

Something that it took me a while to get about yoga is what Margi is emphasizing: you don't have to "advance" to get a lot out of it. There's no place in particular to get to. Nice though it is to get a little stronger and more limber than usual, you don't have to make it to a certain level before the yoga magic kicks in. I was complaining to Margi early on about how stiff and tight I am (and god knows I'm stiff and tight). Her sweet and typical Margi-response was: "That just means you're getting more out of class than anyone else." And it was true. Another thing: yoga isn't about feeling pumped or stoked (although that can happen). It's much more about making-an-effort but finding ease and relaxation from the inside while doing so. Margi will get us into postures and then have us focus on breathing easily, or say something like, "See if you can experience the posture but do less. Find something you can let go of." I tend to find that we Westerners tend to be very binary: either we're grunting as we pump iron, or we're sacked out in front of the boob tube. Yoga promotes a combo of effort and relaxation at the same time. Yummy!

Compulsive researcher and media-freak that I am, I've spent too much time going through books and videos. I have turned up a couple of excellent resources for hyper-beginners, though. (Even after three years, I'm still a beginner. And that's OK!)

This is a nice, clear, and helpful beginner's book.

This is a nice, clear, and helpful beginner's video.

This is a kind of yoga-for-dummies book, but better than that: an EZ, heavily-illustrated, colorful intro to the many sides of yoga -- philosophy, diet, breathing, and postures.

Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras" are one of the gospels of yoga philosophy, and (IMHO, of course) they're easily the equal of any volume of Western phil. They're also easy and fun to read. Isherwood and Prabhavananda's translation is a thing of beauty in its own right.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 11, 2006 11:33 AM

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