There’s something so simple and yet so complex about yoga. I’m in awe of those who hold  tree poses with apparent ease, perfectly aligned, with one foot resting against the other inner knee, knee turned outward, hands in the prayer position and then they raise arms high, bring them down again, and change legs.

The head stand: arms in triangle on the floor, forehead on ground, then in one fluid moment, legs up and body in one straight line, perfectly inverted.

My late mother was a yoga teacher. She took up yoga when diagnosed at around age 45 that she was likely to be wheelchair-bound because of a particular medical condition. Not acceptable to my mother. For many years she studied under the best teachers and then she began her own yoga teaching practice. So many years ago it was considered rather esoteric and odd. The results of her yoga teaching were remarkable; so much so that medical doctors began referring patients to her. I have several letters in a file I have on my mother from GP’s and specialists who referred their patients to her and reported back that ‘Mrs so and so seems much improved’. And dozens more from grateful pupils who found this time out in her studio to fill ‘..a much needed place in modern life’ (1969). Another: ‘…I couldn’t walk far…lack of breath…especially your breathing exercises…you said to me it was a challenge to overcome…I haven’t had a single asthmatic wheeze or tightening of breath…’. ‘I…my limbs feel as if they’re becoming firmer’.

She was a practitioner of Hatha Yoga. ‘Ha’ means Sun, ‘Tha’ means Moon I gather. Her yoga teaching involved holding the posture with breathing exercises. Do you know that most of us don’t breath correctly? When you breath IN, it is like filling a balloon with air so the tummy rises. When you let the ballon deflate, it is the same when you breath OUT; the tummy deflates.

She also taught pro bono at homes for the elderly. Many of these patients in their 80’s and 90’s were able to leave their wheelchairs and walk unaided; I have press releases that show them doing the shoulder stand! (Though head stands and shoulder stands were postures that my mother alllowed only after a few years of regular yoga). And dozens of testimonies from grateful patients who said goodbye to their e.g. asthma inhalers.

Letters from mothers who very successfully delivered their babies , one of whose doctors gave her ‘…101% for my performance and it was all due to you’.

The relaxation at the end of class would be my mother’s voice instructing her pupils to feel the breathing, from the tips of our toes to the crowns of our heads, stretch, stretch in between, sinking into our mats, further, deeper, letting go, relaxing, relaxing until we were almost comatose. This would be followed by a recording of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Movement One – blissed in and out –

I am listening to it as I write. If I could embed it and share it I would, but neither of my sons is available right now to help me with this telephonically.

It’s never too late to take up yoga.

37 Comments on Y: YOGA

  1. I recently started doing the Tibetan five rites ritual, it really does seem to work, I feel wonderful and much more supple.
    Good post, hope you inspire people I think it’s the answer to helping with a lot of age related problems.
    maggie at expat brazil

    • Thanks Maggie for stopping by! The Tibetan 5 rites rituals … it sounds wonderful! I will look it out thank you for saying about this.

      I agree yoga or any such discipline can be such a huge help – to anyone young or old.

  2. Poignant post about your mom & yoga. Thanks for sharing about breathing! I used to do Pilates and prenatal Pilates. Now I do picking-up-after-a-boy although I do wish I had the time to take up Hatha yoga or Pilates.

  3. It’s been a long time since I took a yoga class–way too long, really. I loved that combination of peacefulness and energy that it gave me, and the sense of mindfulness of the world around me. Maybe it’s time to start looking for another class. I love the idea of practicing yoga to Moonlight Sonata which I learned to play on the piano as a teenage and have loved ever since.

    Good for your mother for deciding to take charge of her own fate rather than leave it in the hands of the medical “experts.” That took a lot of courage for someone born into the generation of doctor-always-knows-best.

    Susan, one of the highlights of the A to Z Challenge for me has been stumbling across you and your blog. I’m looking forward to visiting again when the Challenge has wound down and the posting/commenting frenzy has abated.

    • Kern, thank you for your truly lovely comment. I too feel highlightedly-happy that I stumbled across you … and thank you for saying so vis a vis me.

      How lovely that you have that memory of yoga! I also feel more alert and aware, energised and much more mindful of my surroundings after a yoga session.

      When the frenzy is over and there is more time I hope we stay in touch amidst all the busyness of life.

  4. Your mother sounds like a remarkable person and a great teacher. I love yoga, although I’m not very good. It has so many benefits from strength and flexibility to breathing. I’ve found that its actually a pretty good cardio workout. I just can’t ever get into the crane pose.

    • I wish she were alive to hear your words Dan – I am sending them up into the ether. Thank you for saying so for this she was.

      I am also not very good but that’s ok by me .. I do what I can. I used to be ‘quite’ good. It’s a long process …

      Thank you for commenting …

  5. Yoga can be a total mind and body experience. Despite knowing its benefits I tend to be lazy to do the asanas. I have recently restarted the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) and hope to continue to regularly.

    • Archana, thanks so much for stopping by! Those salute to the suns are extraordinary but when our teacher makes us do 8 in a row, in the beginning, I am (almost) finished. You are right, it is a total body and mind experience – thanks for saying so – I hope others read your comment, thank you.

  6. Our parents must almost definitely have known each other, my mother also did yoga – not studied it the way your mother did, but probably came to her for classes 🙂

    • Thanks Elizabeth …Now wouldn’t that be amazing! My mother’s name was Jean Franks. She had her studio here in Johannesburg, also in Somerset West … do let me know if her name rings a bell?

    • Thanks Joyce for commenting and yes, that is exactly why you may need it! You may even enjoy it … I suspect you may after a few sessions but go slowly, seriously slowly!

  7. Your mother sound like an amazing woman *must be genetic* I’ve been meaning to try Yoga – Hubby signed me up for a trial of hot yoga *guess that’s better than frigid yoga* You’ve talked me into actually going:)

    • Sam, thanks for stopping by! Hot yoga? Never heard of it unless it’s Bikram Yoga? If that’s too hot for you try another! Yay, good on going!

  8. Pleasure re visiting yours Sherri. Do take care with back exercises though. Dog stretch and cat stretch are fairly simple and back strengthening.

  9. Thanks for visiting my blog today! I enjoyed your post, and it reminds me that I need to get back to using my Back Care Basics book which is based on yoga poses which deal with back problems.

  10. Lesley, so great that you came by thank you! I had a feeling you may ‘do’ yoga! I will try touching my nose when doing the tree – see if I can move away from the wall!

    I’ll look out Yoga Bitch. last time we were down at the sea, I was doing some yoga on the beach on my own. Husband was swimming. I didn’t have my swimming costume. Few people about. Was doing some salute to the sun postures … A wave that came from nowhere knocked me down!

  11. Your mother was a very special person. I can see her in you. Yoga is not at all a pass-time but rather more like a lifestyle. It is not easy doing those moves, I agree! The tree can be done by me if I only have one arm in the air and the other touching my nose for balance 🙂
    Have you read Yoga Bitch? It is a rather light beach read. Thinking you would enjoy it Susan.

  12. Your mother sounds inspirational. I’d dearly love to practice yoga. I bet it would help me too. Thank you for sharing her philosophy of thought put into practice.

    • I hope you find a good teacher Francene if you decide to give it a try. You may have to try a few different ones until you find one with whom you feel secure/comfortable and who respects where your own body is. I.e. that you are not pushed into positions that you are not ready for. SLowly slowly, get your breathing right…is the name of the game.

      Thank you for your comment.

  13. I took yoga classes some ten years ago, and really enjoyed learning to stretch so well. It’s hard to appreciate that very simple exercise — stretching, until done under the guidance of a yoga instructor. And we always ended the class with five minutes of meditation. Never felt more at peace.

    You’re right, Susan, it is never too late for yoga, and to illustrate that point, I’d like to share this with you: the story of a 90-year-old yoga instructor.


    • Thank you Sylvia and also for including that amazing link on Gladys Morris. I hope this 90 yr old gets into the Guiness book of Records. I also hope that others who visit my blog click onto it! It is pretty inspirational.

      Stretching and breathing! So simple. If you go back to it, find a good qualified teacher, one with a good number of years teaching behind him or her.

      Thank you again,

      All best,

  14. I practice yoga at least twice a week and should do it more often. I love the breathing part and find it difficult if I have a teacher that doesn’t emphasize it enough. I like the peace of it, how it brings me back home to me in my body. Thank you for sharing your mother’s story with us. Very beautiful.

    • Thanks Lisa for commenting. How wonderful that you get to do it twice weekly! So pleased to hear you emphasize the importance of breathing! There is a lovely comment below from Sylvia who has provided a link of a 90 yr old woman who teaches. Worthwhile reading.

      ‘Home to my body’ – that is lovely!

  15. I do like Yoga, but I did not keep up with it. Do to my skeletal issues I can’t do all of the poses… I wish I had your mother around to guide me.

    Like you and Patricia, I too like Beethoven’s MOONLIGHT SONATA. It is very relaxing. I have been taught to breath correctly, but I forget to use it … right now I’m concentrating on breathing correctly.

    I am so going to miss your daily postings (you may not), as I do enjoy the wisdom you share. As I continually, reply… you make me think. My brain is rusty. Hmmm, is there Yoga for my brain? 😉

    • Thank you Gwynn so much for stopping by and commenting! I will miss your amusing comments that always make me smile!

      Maybe a little yoga for your brain has been happening! Nice thought.

      But great that you can now concentrate on your breathing. Just become conscious of it. When walking, talking, writing, sitting still .. With the ‘moonlight sonata’ playing …mmm maybe I’ll give that a go.

      Yes I also wish my mother was around to teach me and others …

  16. I met a 90 year old man, long ago, who practiced yoga. He was as agile as a man half his age and looked it as well. I must admit I keep saying I will give it a whirl, but the postures scared me off. So, amazing is a family trait, I see. 🙂


    • Thanks Elizabeth for your comment! Don’t let the postures scare you off. Doing the tree pose takes years to perfect as well as the head and shoulder stand! Slowly slowly .. dog stretch, cat stretch .. simple, and extra special if you do the breathing right! As you know re: that man of 90 …

      Namaste to you!

  17. Thank you Patricia and how wonderfully amazing that this is your favourite piece of music! It is so lovely isn’t it. And thank YOU for accompanying me on the A-Z! It’s been quite a something …

    Tai Chi is also so lovely and very meditative. I would like to go back to it, I so enjoyed it, especially with the master teacher that I had, who left. My yoga teacher is very competent, and she is such a very nice person always urging us to pay attention to our bodies as we go through the postures.

    Shalom Patricia until the next time.


  18. Good morning,

    Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is my most favorite piece of music, and it helps me establish my breathing. I agree wholeheartedly that many people do not breathe properly. I learned how to breathe when I was in the school chorus. I had a teacher who showed us that breathing in meant your tummy going outward and letting go of the air was your tummy coming back in. Since then, I make it a habit of checking my breathing.

    Meditation is so important to life and your mother discovered the best way for herself and was willing to share it with others. How wonderful. Even though I have never tried Yoga, I have taken a class in Tai Chi and found the positions to be very relaxing as I meditate on the Word of God.
    Thank you so much for giving me some highlights about Yoga. It is something to consider.

    Enjoyed your posting as always, My Dear. One more day after today. I am happy that I could walk this road with you and thank you for accompanying me also.


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