Yesterday’s full moon invited us to honour our teachers. I’d promised to help a client with one of his endeavours and this seemed the perfect opportunity to accomplish the two at once.
As a teacher I love the opportunity to meet the many different people who come to class. And while covering other classes is a fantastic way to do just that, I’ve had some of my worst most challenging teaching experiences when covering. This particular venue in Covent Garden was the scene of one such
disasters challenges. I arrived early, setting up so that the class would be turned away from the mirrors and waited as they all filed in and set up facing the mirror. I tried to get them to turn around but there was near anarchy before I caved and walked back to the front of the class. The ensuing class is best described as teaching yoga in a scene from Zoolander.
The final Namaste felt like the bell ringing at the end of nine rounds and I vowed to never go back there again. But, you may have already guessed, I didn’t stick to that vow. Though it was some time later, when a request came through to cover I figured it had been long enough and time to face the fear. What’s the worst that could happen, right?
Of course, it was a totally different experience. The class was open and willing to follow a new teacher. They even moved away from the mirror for part of the class and their openness made it easier for me to relax into my own style of teaching and even joke with them a bit. I remember the class vividly because of the contrast with the previous one and I particularly remembered one gentleman in the class, John, who was rather older than the others and after class quizzed me on my thoughts on pranayama/yogic breathing.
It was some months later that John sent one of the most touching emails I’ve ever received. He’d tracked down my contact information from reception to let me know that during that class I had gently eased him deeper into a child’s pose and for a moment he had a brief respite from what he described as chronic pain he’d been suffering with for years. He wondered if I had a background in massage and if he could book a session with me.
I explained to him that I did have a qualification but it was not my area of expertise, but I thought there could be other options for him to pursue to see about longer lasting relief. A few emails went back and forth and he shared with me some of his yoga story, including his research on Sir Paul Dukes (think of him as the James Bond of yoga) and one of his yoga teachers, Stella, who at 90, teaches regular classes in Covent Garden. Clearly, it was enough to warrant a meeting and we agreed to meet in Covent Garden where he was to introduce me to Stella.
As much as I was intrigued I also had alarm bells going off in my head at this point. I had recently lost my grandfather after a short but very aggressive series of health issues. We were very close, even more so after my Nan died a few years back, and I was worried about muddying the waters with John, who reminded me of my grandfather in many ways. Curiosity won out and I went to Covent Garden to meet Stella and John.
The UK’s Answer to Tao Porchon-Lynch
Stella is a ball of energy and, as you might expect, looks well younger than her 90 years. She’s incredibly flexible. It seems a disservice to say ‘for her age’ because I’ve seen 30 year-olds who are less supple. She’s also incredibly sharp and frank about her teaching and yogic beliefs.
Stella had one yoga teacher, Sir Paul Dukes, and has been teaching the same core postures for her entire teaching career. Now, to accommodate her older clients, she’s adapted them to a chair yoga class. We spoke about the way yoga has evolved and she was frank on her opinion of the yoga-flavour-of-the-day style of teaching. (You can imagine her response when I told her I taught on Stand-Up Paddleboards..) And though she somewhat scoffed at yoga keeping her young, instead attributing it to good genes, it’s clear that her dedication to the practice has certainly kept her healthy in mind and body.
John then shared with me that he was so impressed with Stella’s teaching that he took it on himself to hire a videographer to film the class one day. He wanted to share the benefits he’d received with other over 65s out there. They were at the final stages of editing the DVD and then he was going to build a website to distribute the DVD.
I learned so much that afternoon, from both Stella and John. They both share the common interest of yoga and Sir Paul Dukes and they both shatter the stereotypes of ‘getting older’. John has more projects on the go than I do, with books to write and chess tournaments to compete in.. he’s busier in his retirement than many people half his age. Both prove that age is certainly just a number and means as much, or as little, as you let it.
Many months passed and I had not followed through on trying to help John get the word out about the DVD. Then earlier this week I had another email through from him. He’s had some further health complications and looking to sell 100 of the DVDs to help offset some of the cost of treatment. And so I am finally following through on my promise and seeking out ways to let others know about the video. There is a website, where you can learn more about John, Sir Paul Dukes and view a snippet of the class. And if you or someone you know might be interested the DVDs are just £10 (plus shipping). You can email John to get a copy but if you do so between 29 July and 6 August you might have to wait for a response, he’s off to Belgrade to compete in an international chess tournament. 🙂