**First There Is a Mountain: Elizabeth Kadetsky’s Journey Through Yoga**

6 Min Read

By Jessica Neuman Beck

Elizabeth Kadetsky’s Intimate Memoir of Her Yoga Odyssey

In her memoir, “First There Is a Mountain,” Elizabeth Kadetsky paints a vivid portrait of her passionate relationship with the ancient practice of yoga. Her journey, which began as a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, led her to the hallowed halls of the Iyengar Yoga Institute in India and ultimately to a profound understanding of the art’s transformative power.

Kadetsky’s memoir is not merely a chronicle of poses and postures. It is an introspective examination of the physiological and spiritual transformations she underwent as she delved deeper into the practice. She explores the meticulous techniques of Iyengar yoga, the complex philosophy that underpins it, and the profound impact it had on her life.

From Student to Teacher to Writer

Kadetsky’s journey began with a surge of excitement as she attended her first yoga class as a college student. Her passion grew as she immersed herself in Iyengar yoga in Los Angeles and embarked on a pilgrimage to India to study with the legendary master, B.K.S. Iyengar.

Upon her return from India, Kadetsky became a yoga teacher, sharing her knowledge and passion with others. However, her ultimate calling lay elsewhere. After deciding to step away from teaching, Kadetsky turned to writing, using her experiences to craft a compelling narrative that captures the essence of her yoga journey.

The Yoga-India Paradox

One of the intriguing insights Kadetsky shares in her book is the paradox surrounding yoga’s popularity in India. While yoga is a deeply rooted tradition in the country, it was not until its embrace by Westerners that it gained widespread recognition in India.

This phenomenon, Kadetsky argues, stems from the perception that yoga has become a “Western thing.” As a result, many Indians view it with a sense of amusement or estrangement, despite its deep connection to their cultural heritage.

The Importance of Individual Practice

Kadetsky also challenges the widespread practice of yoga in large classes, a trend she attributes to the influence of Iyengar’s teacher, Krishnamacharya. While she acknowledges the benefits of group sessions, she emphasizes the profound value of individual practice.

In her experience, one-on-one practice with a teacher fosters a deeper connection between student and instructor, allowing for tailored guidance and enhanced understanding of the poses. It also encourages reliance on one’s own body and intuition, fostering a greater sense of self-awareness.

Beyond the Physical

Kadetsky’s memoir transcends the realm of physical practice to explore the transformative power of yoga on the mind and spirit. She recounts the profound experiences she had during her time in India, where she encountered gurus and witnessed the deep spiritual significance that yoga holds for many practitioners.

Through her introspective reflections, Kadetsky unveils the ways in which yoga can guide us toward inner harmony, self-discovery, and a heightened awareness of our own being. Her narrative serves as a testament to the transformative potential of this ancient practice and invites readers to embark on their own journeys of self-exploration through yoga.

Excerpt from “First There Is a Mountain”

The Pollution and Purification of Los Angeles

The environmental contamination I’d escaped in Los Angeles had followed me to New York on this trip. It was the most foul day of the year–mid-August, about a hundred degrees and sticky. The soot from taxicabs and subways stuck to your skin like sugar. The air felt soggy, like walking through a sponge.

I nevertheless made my way to the studio, an unmarked eighth-floor loft on a Midtown side street. Several dozen Americans, many in Indian dress, sat on the wood floor waiting quietly. I sat with them until finally a flash of white appeared at the doorway. I recognized Iyengar from pictures I had seen of his yoga demonstrations, in which he twisted into contortions while wearing shiny shorts. This Iyengar looked smaller inside his loose-fitting garb. Even as he strode through the parting sea of devotees, I was struck by how hefty his belly seemed in the photos and yet how weightlessly he seemed to move.

He installed himself at the top of a tall dias sitting cross-legged. His hand gestures were jumpy, his fingers flying to his head again and again to tame his silver mane. His eyes flashed from face to face. One time, they met mine. They made me feel warm, as if there were a furnace inside of me. But then his eyes darted to the next face, kinetically, feeding off the nervousness on the street outside. There, high-pitched melodies cycled on broken car alarms, taxi drivers leaned on horns, pedestrians took out frustrations in shouting matches.

The guru seemed as sensitive to the urban irritants as I was.

“People say the cities in my country are the most polluted cities in the world,” he complained in his difficult accent. “But New York City is worse even than Calcutta.”

**© OMG I Yoga**

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