My mum is awesome. I reckon she invented the concept of unconditional love. She has always been my number one fan, even when she didn’t quite get what I was up to or why it was important to me. She has been my rock through the years, the person I turned to for advice and support, she was the all-important interpreter between me and my dad of all things ‘girl’, the shoulder to cry on and the first person I called to share good news. In more recent years, through a subtle but definite shift in our maturing relationship, I’m now someone she turns to on a variety of issues big and small, seeking advice and inspiration. She believes I have wisdom on anything medical (I’ve long since stopped saying “I’m not that kind of a doctor”), that I understand the internet, hairstyling, how to get a sponge cake to turn out light and fluffy, and so on. It’s a bit scary being looked up to so much by someone who was once such an influence in my life.
So it’s my fault my mum took up yoga. We went on holiday together last year and she loved watching me practice. By the end of the week she was asking me all sorts of questions about yoga and was excited to try a few poses for herself. When she got back to England I helped her find a local teacher who ran an over 50s class and that’s how it began.
She was so filled with excitement about this new thing in her life. She bought loads of beginner picture books, she bought a couple of mats, a strap, new outfits. The full new lifestyle thing. She phoned me up after every class every week, telling me what poses they did, and asking me questions about alignment, about the meaning of ‘om’, classroom etiquette — it was endless!
But the past month or so she’s stopped going to class. She says the teacher picks on her, and she no longer feels comfortable in the group. And I don’t know how to handle it. I don’t know any more what my role is in my mum’s life. I feel weirdly guilty that I opened some yogic Pandora’s box for her.
Should I encourage her to keep it up since she seemed to be enjoying it before and she said she felt great on it? Should I quote back to her what she said about wishing she’d discovered yoga sooner? Or should I just sympathise that the teacher isn’t being nice and let yoga slip out of her life? Being an irredeemably practical girl I’ve advised her to talk to her teacher, but she doesn’t feel able to do that. I suspect this isn’t even the real issue for my mum, and that really it’s more to do with her not wanting to confront all the stuff that yoga sucks up from your innermost places. And instead of confronting that difficult reality she remains frustrated in her expectations of what her practice would offer her. I’ve talked about non-competition and of cultivating observation without judgment, asana as a practice of patience rather than a performance, but she doesn’t hear these messages. Ultimately I think she wants my practice rather than her practice and I can’t give her that.