Studio Spotlights: Babette T. Gorman

“…modifications and rests galore.”

My yoga life:

In the fall of 1971 I was a 20-year-old college dropout living in New Hampshire. I bought Richard Hittleman’s introductory yoga book, followed his instructions in a room by myself, and thought I was very spiritual. I memorized the poses in the Salutation to the Sun. Two years later, I went back to school, at the University of California at Berkeley, and took a phys ed class in hatha. There must have been 100 of us on the floor of a huge gym. The instructor used a microphone.
She had us rest between poses, and used English terms, e.g. corpse pose, cat stretch, triangle pose, etc. We rubbed our hands briskly together and then cupped them over our closed eyes to warm them after studying. I loved it but didn’t keep it up, other than making an effort to stretch after exercise.

In 1989, living in Los Angeles, I was pregnant with my first and only child Amy, and took twice-weekly prenatal yoga classes with a teacher who was, a few years later, featured in Vanity Fair magazine as yoga teacher to the stars. Her name was Gurmukh (pronounced grr-MOOK), and she was a disciple of Yogi Bhajan of the Sikhs. Sigh. It was so lovely. At 38, I wasn’t the oldest pregnant woman in the class, and we all talked openly about our lives and plans. Some of us brought our babies to post-natal yoga class for a while as well. In both of these classes we did yoga, but they were social as well.

While pregnant, I became close friends with Awtar (pronounced AV-tar), who was, like Gurmukh, an American Sikh. I used to joke that we started doing yoga around the same time but she took it much more seriously than I did, joining the Yogi in the mid-70s, taking the name he chose for her, dressing all in white, and wearing a turban. Amy attended the Sikh pre-school for a year with Awtar’s daughter Gurusurya (grr-SER-ya), where they had lots of fun and ate apple rice cakes with almond butter for snacks.

When Awtar moved to San Francisco with her family, Amy and I visited them often, and I sat in on Awtar’s kundalini yoga classes at her ashram in the Haight-Ashbury district. They were difficult, especially what she jokingly called “killer arm poses,” very different from my relaxing college class and Gurmukh’s chatty, nurturing style. Awtar and I talked frequently on the phone in those days and sometimes I complained, “It’s all I can do to practice the corpse pose today.” She said, “It’s a start!”

Flash forward to 2001, when I moved back home to Columbus. Someone told me about Yoga on High, and I began taking Linda Oshins’ Wednesday morning Hatha I classes. Her soft, gentle manner warmed me, and the YoHi policy of encouraging modifications was comforting, now that I had turned 50. I soon found out that Marcia Miller was one of the owner/founders--we had graduated from the same high school! After breaking my right ankle in 2002 I took some time off, but have been a steady attendee for years now, loving the classes taught by Linda, Angela LaMonte, and Angie Hay, and treasuring the friendships I’ve formed at the Center. Now I, along with a few others of a certain age, refer to myself as a Hatha One Lifer. No more killer arm poses for me--modifications and rests galore. I do occasionally struggle to remember the Sanskrit names of the poses, because I learned the English ones so long ago (keeping the Sikh names straight was a challenge, too!) but I know that savasana is my believed corpse pose.
I visited Awtar in San Francisco last year and complained, “I can do a plank for only about ten seconds.” She said, “It’s a start!”

At 62 I have maintained the same, albeit diminutive, height as in my twenties, though some of my contemporaries have begun to shrink. I attribute it to yoga (and polarity therapy and massage). My Tuesday evenings are reserved for yoga class. It’s like a dance class. We strive to be graceful and, if we’re not, we just laugh. Usually out loud.

With no photo available of myself in corpse pose, I give you one of me swimming--alive and kicking.

One Response to Studio Spotlights: Babette T. Gorman
  1. linda oshins

    Made me laugh! Great yoga journey!