Tracy Lease: Sharing the joy— with Janet MacLeod
When I arrived in California after 25 years in Alaska, I was excited. California was one of the first places in America for yoga to take root. Two of my beloved teachers started their studies at the San Francisco Iyengar Institute, the first in America. Grass Valley is only two and a half hours away from these roots! Finally, I live in a place where I can learn from master teachers without plane flights!
Last summer Regina Brunig invited me to a workshop at Yoga Solutions in Sacramento with her longtime teacher Janet MacLeod from the San Francisco Iyengar Institute. A lively, positive person with a sense of humor, Janet gave detailed instructions and watched students with a caring eye. I am in awe of teachers who help me practice in innovative ways and feel anew poses I have done many times.
She let us know that in her class, people can feel free to come out of a posture at any time. The atmosphere she created was relaxed, focused and fun. When the weekend ended, I hoped to keep learning from her.
Janet took her first Iyengar yoga class in London in 1978. At the time, she was interested in yoga for the mind and the detailed instruction in Iyengar Yoga brought her into a state of mental absorption.
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Now Janet says, “I want to share the joy of yoga with those who I am lucky enough to teach. The technicalities are good, especially when there are injuries, etc. but the light that comes from being exposed to yoga is the main point. Self-knowledge, to whatever degree we are able to access it, is key to being able to develop healthy relationships.”
She goes on to say, “I turned 70 last year and thus far have been healthy. I think the positive state of mind I enjoy through the practice is helpful for my physical health as well. I look at yoga as the original somatic therapy and of course it is much more than this.”
Janet has many reasons for her dedication to this particular style. BKS Iyengar was a pioneer in working therapeutically with yoga postures and breath. Janet says, “Watching medical classes at the Mother Institute in India, I saw people with all kinds of problems being healed with special sequences. He worked with muscular-skeletal, organ and mental conditions. One of the things that impressed me about the Iyengars was their total commitment to yoga and their belief beyond a shadow of a doubt that yoga could cure any condition.”
Janet studied with Mr. Iyengar in India first in 1983 and again in 1986. She explains, “Although there was a strong thread, the teaching felt new. Each time I went there I felt that freshness in their teachings. As their own practices became more sophisticated it came out in what they offered us as students.”
Janet remembers, “One of the thrills of being in the Institute was watching Mr. Iyengar doing his own practice. I was supposed to be practicing, but was fascinated by how deep he went.”
Janet began teaching in her office in 1981 when she was still in the teacher training program. She says, “There were personality issues in my workplace and so the human resources department asked me to teach yoga three days a week. I was featured in Yoga Journal as the first instructor to teach yoga on the job.”
Now Janet says, “Whenever I teach I cater to the students in front of me. I have general plans before entering the classroom, but I am always ready to make the changes necessary so that those present get the best out of the experience.”
She continues, “I think yoga students benefit according to their level of commitment. It generally takes time to get a home practice going and that is what really makes the difference. You are taught in class, but may not learn what you are taught. Learning happens at home when you gear your practice to what you need on a particular day.”
Janet believes yoga can contribute to healthy communities. She says, “When each of the individuals in the community are healthy physically and mentally, the community in general is healthier, more harmonious.”
With awe Janet remembers, “Mr. Iyengar said he was scratching the surface after 70 years.” I am glad teachers, including Janet MacLeod, are carrying this lineage forward.
Janet MacLeod will be teaching a weekend workshop at Full Life Yoga Studio in Nevada City March 21 and 22.
Tracy Lease, owner & director of Full Life Yoga Studio has a passion for teaching Yoga, Pilates and Mindfulness. An Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and PMA Certified Pilates Teacher, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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