I began doing yoga back in 2003. I had dabbled with it a bit with videos and such before then, and it felt like the least offensive way to fitness. It intrigued me.
I still remember my first class. A friend from work had invited me to a Thanksgiving Day flow. When I got their, the class was mat to mat with very little of the flooring showing and I nestled into a corner beside a sleak, older-looking blond woman who looked like she did ballet in between running marathons plus picked up the occasional modeling job on the side from being a high power executive. I didn’t have a clue that I was about to engage in a hot vinyasa class. The pace was quick, the room was steamy and the woman beside me glided through every pose with a strange calmness as I struggled and heaved my way through. Out of breath and slightly overwhelmed, I knew enough to go into child’s pose to recover. When I did, I just wanted to stay there. Eventually the teacher made his way to me and without words or coaxing, knelt and placed his warm hand on my back. No coaching, no aggressive instruction or expectations — just acceptance. He stayed with me for a good long while. Something inside told me I was home.
That teacher was Jonny Kest. Five years later I took teacher training from him.
You see I was that kid in gym classes who was always picked last. I was terrified of the Presidential Physical Fitness Tests and it wasn’t because the Terminator, the scariest man in the world to and elementary schooler, was the spokesperson. It was because by the shape of my body and my lack of coordination that I was less than at the simple things kids did like running and jumping and hanging from monkey bars. I was at the bottom. I was short and heavy and slow and everyone knew it. I still can see the look of consternation on my gym teacher, Mr. Dilley’s, face I was doing this sluggish, tired yet flailing jog through the long distance portion of the President’s Physical Fitness exam. Long after the rest of the class was done and waiting to go back inside, I was still slogging through. He had no way of counting tenths of seconds so my flexed arm hang portion of the exam was always blank.
Things were a little better in middle school, not much though. I was in a private school with 26 kids in my class which eased the humiliation slightly. I found volleyball — pure teenage aggression literally at one’s fingertips with very little running, only minor jumping and no flexed arm hang. And then in high school was where I lost volleyball, when a punishing coach made us run laps around the inside of the school. I was humiliatingly last again in a world where there were no teenage sports bras, so I quit. I went on to make myself useful in the theatre department.