Yoga classes in Austin
Yoga Stories and Essays
by Charles MacInerney
hatha yoga in Austin Texas

Growing Younger Towards Death
Expanding 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.

She 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'
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