November 2012, Broadway and Grand.
Jenny said, “Look at your hands.”
Tell me about your recent travels.
“I lived in Chicago from age three until we moved to Los Angeles when I was ten. I don’t remember much about my life growing up there. I remember one year it was so cold that the battery in our yellow Volkswagen froze. Everything in the city shut and my little brother Charley and I didn’t have to go to school for a week.
Two months ago I returned to Chicago to teach a yoga teacher training. It was my first time back since my family moved to California in 1981. Driving around with Natalia, the student who was hosting me, I searched for landmarks from my childhood. Not recognizing anything I rationalized that either the city had completely changed in thirty years or I successfully blocked out everything from the first ten years of my life. The first ten years of my life were not very happy. My parents were political activists and members of the Communist Labor Party. My brother and I were dragged to political rallies every weekend and we hated it. Both my mother and my father were very busy trying to change the world and we were often left with babysitters or older kids.
When my mother announced we were moving to California I was beyond ecstatic. A year earlier my parents separated and my father moved to Los Angeles and now we were going to all live together again. I felt sorry for anyone who wasn’t moving to sunny California and all I heard for months was that California was going to fall into the sea. I was unconcerned.
This past fall I had to go to Chicago three times over the course of four months. The last trip was bittersweet. My father, mother and brother have all passed away in the last few years. I wanted them to be with me while I walked through my old neighborhood looking for anything familiar. Regretting that I hadn’t paid more attention when my mother and father took my brother and me out driving to point out the hospital my brother was born in or the house that my great aunt Miriam lived in in 1954 or where cousin Andrew used to live before the neighborhood was gentrified.
I guess I’d hoped that my time in Chicago would somehow help me understand my childhood and some of the choices my parents made. I can’t change the past but I can learn to let go of resentments. Even though my family is gone when I move past the anger and the sadness my heart opens and then I realize that they aren’t gone at all. They are with me all the time and they have shaped me to be the woman I am today.”
Jenny is a strong woman in every sense of the word. I was working at a yoga studio when I became acquainted with Jenny. She walked lightly around the studio, but with purpose, so you absolutely knew when she was in the room. Jenny is one of the most educated and influential yoga instructors in the US. The respect I have for her is immense.
When I was still very new to New York City she said in a yoga class, “When your mind goes elsewhere, look at your hands. Start with your hands and the rest will fall into place.” Jenny has taught me so much beyond yoga and I have watched her inform and guide others toward a dedicated and mindful practice both in the studio and in life.
Jenny is an instructor at Yoga Works on Grand and Broadway and she is in the midst of authoring a book about her experiences in life and yoga. Check out her beautiful website here and explore her ideas of “foundation, philosophy, and practice.”