When I was twelve years old I stumbled upon my mother’s Raquel Welch: Total Health Makeover book. It was filled with page after page of one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in these amazing and graceful—and seemingly impossible—poses. It touched on nutrition, digestion, the things we consume that cause harm to our bodies, and the things we should do to keep them healthy as our vessels in this world.
I was hooked. I was fascinated. And I was in my bedroom attempting yoga on the little carpet by my bed.
No one did yoga then, in 1989, when Jane Fonda was still the rage. Yoga mats? What were those? None in that book…
We moved. I got sidetracked-stressed-busy-engulfed in adolescence and life in a new small town with only one stop-light after growing up in the Greater Montreal Area. Culture shock. Priority shift.
And yoga was… forgotten.
Fast forward a decade and a half to 2005. I am expecting my fifth child, and have recently (and shockingly) discovered that midwifery is not legislated in the province I am relocating to. After experience an amazing natural birth with midwives, there was no way I was voluntarily going back to birthing in a hospital. I had made friends online who had given birth unassisted, in the privacy of their homes, with only spouses and loved ones around. I had learned a lot, reading everything I could find regarding natural childbirth, homebirth, relaxation techniques, and the benefits of yoga during pregnancy.
Over the summer I hiked in the woods behind our new home, I took time out to visualize and relax, and I practiced yoga. I had Janet Balaskas’ Preparing for Birth With Yoga by my side, among several other books that would be crucial to a healthy delivery and postnatal recovery that fall.
After a beautiful unassisted homebirth I relied on Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby to gently get my body back to it’s old self again. It amazed how wonderful even just five minutes of the exercises felt.
Yoga became something I turned to when I needed more strength, more focus, more centeredness. Sometimes I would go for long spells without practicing any asanas (poses), but I would always come back and be glad that I did. During all this time, I never wound up setting foot in an actual yoga class. I began to wonder if perhaps I was “doing it wrong”, and even became a little nervous about going to a class in case I found out I was totally off on just about everything.
A couple of months ago, our family acquired a membership to a local gym/rec centre where yoga classes are offered. One evening, I decided I would bite the bullet and check out what the big hoopla was about yoga class. It seemed that everyone and their sister was becoming a certified instructor. I was intimidated. There is no Lululemon in my wardrobe, and I have only had a yoga mat for a couple of years now, since my husband bought me one at Canadian Tire for Mother’s Day (best.gift.ever.).
Into the class I walked, in my old grey too-big-for-me yoga pants and tank top. There was one other lady in there, older than myself, and the instructor was a bubbly blond girl in her early 20’s, who later spent quite a bit of time chatting about her potential return to the big city to pursue a position in her primary career (something that sounded businessy officy and hip but for the life of me I can’t recall what it was). She was lovely, and the class was great. I waited for the corrections, for her to come over and tell me I was going to injure myself if I kept whatever up, for any type of constructive input… I guess it wasn’t needed. She was watching me, and I was keeping up and really quite relaxed because the only time I can do yoga without being climbed on/spoken to/crawled under/licked by the dog is if I get up very early or… go to a place like an actual yoga class. I did learn a couple of things that I had never tried before, and they were pretty cool. I also could have learned them online or via a book or DVD. All in all it was nice to find out that I actually knew what I was doing, despite my lack of formal yoga instruction. A self-taught yogi I am… And I really enjoyed the peace and quiet and intimacy of the itty bitty class that evening. I guess her other ones are pretty full but 7:30pm on a Wednesday is a challenging time for a lot of people. I don’t think I would have enjoyed a crowded class as much, so that worked out well.
The point is, I couldn’t help but associate the experience with unschooling, life learning, education outside of the confines of the system. Our society places such a level of importance on formal training from a certified/qualified instructor that I believe most people do not feel confident enough to pursue learning on their own. We have this idea that unless we are taking a class or a course, will won’t learn as much, or learn it well, which in essence is a great big crock of… poop.
I have learned yoga because of interest and passion. I have learned it well, but could always learn more. Attending a class has only reinforced my faith in natural, delight-driven learning and our capabilities to learn anything we want to if we really want to learn it. There is a place for the classroom, for formal training. But it should never be considered the be-all and end-all of learning.