Whenever I mention that there will be optional Old Turkish Lady yoga at one of my events, people invariably want to know what the hell.
The funniest, most delightful variation on that question came from a lovely reader who identified herself as someone who was an old Turkish lady and was dying to know what I was talking about.
And then yesterday, Claire wondered:
I envision two possibilities: creaky stiff old ladies being super mellow and gentle with their yoga OR totally badass little old Turkish ladies one might underestimate at first glance, but who are mighty and flexible: yoga ninjas.
So it’s definitely the first one.
But maybe some explaineyness. Because there are surprising, useful things to be learned from being an Old Turkish Lady.
Flashback to Berlin. Again.
The week after I finally got my international yoga teaching certification, I left Tel Aviv and moved to Berlin.
This was my much fantasized-over ticket out of a loooong ten year stretch of poverty and suckiness, and I was very clear on two things:
1. yoga was the cure to everything.
2. I was never going to work at a bar again for as long as I lived.
Like with most things, I was both right and wrong about both of those.
Anyway, I arrived in Berlin and immediately met up with the ear infection of doom that nearly took me out.
Yoga failed me. But then it saved me again.
Six months later.
I was weak and tired. But at least my hearing was back.
My regular yoga practice now consisted of rolling around on the floor and groaning.
My best friend from Israel dragged me to the Turkish Women’s Center to do yoga with the old Turkish ladies.
We used rugs instead of mats, which was awesome.
We did transcendentally simple poses. Holding. Breathing. Releasing. Resting.
It was yoga whose purpose was pure curiosity and experimentation: huh, what happens when I move my knee this way as opposed to that way?
Until I became an old Turkish lady myself.
The class after us was kickboxing and it was packed with our German lesbian artist friends and neighbors, drag kings and semi-ironic-cabaret kids.
We knew most of them and occasionally we’d get one to join us for Old Turkish Lady yoga first, but they never liked it.
So it was just me and my best friend and the Turkish ladies. Rolling on the floor. Hugging knees to chest. Stretching. Sighing. Laughing.
Slow, loving, intentional interaction with body, thoughts, feelings, muscles, breath, cells.
Women who had clearly never spent a lot of time in their bodies doing things that you don’t generally do in public. Or at all.
And so completely loving every second of it. I loved it too.
And another few months went by.
My body was healed. But I didn’t want to go back to an athletic, fast-paced practice.
I’d gotten used to the massive amounts of deep, internal work that could be done while hanging out in a soft, open pose.
You didn’t need your mental and emotional powers to keep you from falling on your face, so you could use them for other things.
Unlikely, wonderful things.
So when I was teaching Dance of Shiva, I’d throw in some Old Turkish Lady yoga after class. Everyone loved it.
And several years passed.
I moved to San Francisco. Started my business.
And then to Portland.
When the fabulous and super-famous Jennifer Louden asked if I’d teach destuckification tricks at her most amazing Writer’s Retreat in the world last year, I said wheeeeeeeee!
And when she asked if I could teach a week of daily yoga classes there too, I enthusiastically agreed, as long as I could teach Old Turkish Lady yoga.
It was crazy fun.
I’m doing it again this year. If you’re a woman and you even occasionally think about writing, you should come.
And then this week.
And I remembered something I hadn’t thought of in nearly twenty-five years.
When I was little, my what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up dream was to be an interior designer.
I was fascinated by colors and fabrics and placement of things. I read piles of books at the library. And took notes.
The dream fizzled. I have zero recollection of how. In fact, until the biscuit conversation with Kelly, all of this had been completely forgotten.
It’s weird, I mused, that something as hugely important to me as interior design had been forgotten like that. Like I’d just tripped over something again.
“But that’s what you do for a living,” Kelly said.
“What are you talking about?”
“Interior. Design. You do interior design.”
I do interior design.
Very, very interior.
The same deep work that happens when we flail around and generate shivanautical epiphanies. And the stuff we do during Old Turkish Lady yoga.
Very, very interior.
I am an old Turkish lady. And also an interior designer.
It’s good. Because actually we’re all old Turkish ladies.
And we can be interior designers too.
Comment zen for today …
“Yoga” is one of those trigger words. Like “feminism”.
It means a wide variety of different things to different people. So it’s something we can trip over.
Personally? When I say yoga, I’m referring to two things:
1) The art and science of learning about yourself and your stuff so you can meet yourself where you are.
2) A physical practice — that anyone can do* — that involves using movement and stillness to get better at paying attention to your sensations, your body and your surroundings.
* If you can breathe and move your fingers, you can do yoga. Look, you’re doing it right now!
We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We try to let people have their own experiences.