By the time I boarded our El Al flight from JFK to Tel Aviv almost three years ago this August, I had formulated several wishes and dreams:
- open up and run my own yoga studio
- form or join a writing group
- find a place/organization to teach writing classes
- return to school for a Master’s in Writing when the time was right
- explore as much of the world as possible during school vacations
- get to know the streets of Tel Aviv, about 20 minutes south
- teach yoga as the language of peace to Israeli Arabs and Jews
Some of these I conquered early on while others, I seized along the way. A few are still on my to-do list, stored in my long-term memory bank, collecting interest. Traveling and familiarizing myself with—and finding the beauty in—Tel Aviv are ongoing, works-in-progress.
But there was one thing that I wanted to do and hadn’t even realize it until the words came out of my mouth. Within my first week here, when our house was in shambles and I couldn’t envision ever opening the door to my yoga studio, I attended an Ashtanga yoga class in a neighborhood close to mine.
I trudged up the steep steps to the door. Only 9 in the morning and the studio was sweltering. “Shalom. Shmi Jennifer, ani gam mora le yoga,” I said, introducing myself and telling the young woman I was also a teacher. She smiled cautiously. Since I was the first to arrive, we exchanged pleasantries. I learned that Shani was born and raised in Raanana, a full-time teacher, single and in her late 20s.
Throughout the next 90 minutes, I perspired so much that every toxin in my body must have been released. Shani supported me as I dropped back into full wheel, and I left exhilarated.
Throughout September and into October, I went once and sometimes twice a week to her studio. The sun-lit space was welcoming, as was her smile. Each time, we exchanged one more piece of information about ourselves. When I asked her where she practices and with whom, she immediately invited me to Mikhmoret to her teacher Shimon’s class.
On our drive north along the coast, I shared with her how if weren’t for Philippe I would never have moved here and she told me about her new boyfriend. We talked about our parents and our brothers as well as our passion for yoga.
“Ani hashavti lehathil kvutsat morim,” I said clumsily in Hebrew about my idea of forming a yoga teachers’ gathering. “Hamorah sheli be New York osta etza ve ze haya ha devar ha hechi kef sheli kol shavuah.” With my limited vocabulary, I described how the highlight of my week was my teacher Susan’s practice back in New York. In the short time I had been in Israel, I had already befriended a handful of teachers to invite.
“Eze rayon al ha kefach!” Shani loved the idea. On that day, during that drive, we decided together to create a teachers’ practice, on Tuesday mornings, each inviting our friends. My studio had recently opened, so I knew it worked well with my own teaching schedule.
Almost every Tuesday for the past two and a half years, some formation has congregated, sometimes as many as eight of us and others, a smaller subset. In the beginning, we alternated studios, mine and then Shani’s; now we meet at her place so her eight-month-old Ella can crawl around us freely. In the beginning, we took turns teaching, one person leading an entire practice; now we do a round robin, each guiding a 20-minute or so sequence, in Hebrew or in English, depending on who is present. We break in August and navigate our way around the holidays; during my broken wrist episode, which coincided with Shani’s return to school, we took a longer hiatus.
This week, we started with shoulder openers and ended assisting one another into tripod headstand and legs in lotus. Like in New York, my teachers’ gathering has become one of the highlights of my week, where I learn from my colleagues, grow as a teacher, deepen my practice, increase my vocabulary in Hebrew, usually break into at least one fit of laughter and best of all, leave feeling whole.
I dedicate this post to my teacher Susan at Sage, who taught me the beauty of a teachers’ practice, as well as to my new yoga kula--from Israel, France, America and Mexico: Shani, Ruti, Orita, Tamara, Dorothy and Sharon. Toda!