Yoga Stories and Essays
by Charles MacInerney
Younger Towards Death
Paradigms - Spring 2003
Last month one of my favorite yoga teachers, Ruth
Lain, passed away. Ruth was 65 years old and suffered from back
pain when she discovered yoga.
was unable to find a yoga teacher in Corpus Christi, so Ruth learned
from books and videos.
A friend noticed the transformation in Ruth's physical health and
energy and asked if she would teach her. Ruth began to share her
yoga practice with her neighbor. One day Ruth realized that she
was teaching 14 classes a week, and was 'The Yoga Teacher' in Corpus
Christi, but had never actually taken a yoga class.Ruth began traveling
to Houston and Austin to study with more experienced yoga teachers.
At the age of 82, Ruth attended a retreat with me. "Guess who I
am going to study with next month", Ruth said. She did not wait
for me to guess. "Manouso!" she said triumphantly. I could see that
she was really exited about this, so I tried to mask my concern.
Manouso had a reputation for being one of the most demanding and
challenging yoga teachers in the country. He had an uncanny ability
to see what students were truly capable of achieving, then he would
push them, sometimes physically, past their fear to experience more
of their true potential. Students were challenged to recognize false
limitations and seek the edge of their ability in order to redefine
their limits. The problem with this kind of class is people can
sometimes get injured. Ruth was in amazing shape for an octogenarian,
but she was still no spring chicken and I was concerned for her.
I felt I needed to say something, but did not want to rain on Ruth's
parade, so I tested the water with an exploratory question. "Ruth,
have you ever studied with Manouso?" I asked. "Oh yes, this will
be my third workshop with him," she replied. Ruth saw the look of
surprise on my face and said "Awh, don't worry about me honey. The
first time he tried to push me into a pose I slapped him up the
side of the head and told him I was old enough to be his grand mother."
I realized then that Ruth could look after herself. Because
Ruth knew how to set boundaries, and assumed responsibility for
her own safety, she could (and did) walk into the most challenging
yoga workshops without getting injured.
The last time I saw Ruth, we sat next to each other
in the back row of a workshop by John Friend. John spotted us and
shared with the class of 70 yoga teachers that Ruth was 86 years young.
John asked her to demonstrate the Wheel and Ruth, with a smile, pressed
up into a full back bend to the amazement of those who did not already
know her. Perhaps a small part of Ruth's ability to age so gracefully
lay in her desire to learn from great teachers, without ever surrendering
responsibility for looking after herself. May we all find our own
path and like Ruth, learn to grow younger towards death. Namaste'