What follows is an article about an inspiring teacher.
Please read, with joy, about this seasoned yoga instructor.
"Take It From a 93-Year-Old Yogi: Stretch, Hold and Laugh"
By COREY KILGANNON MAY 5, 2017 New York Times
“Its not a basement; it’s a sanctum sanctorum,” said Ronnie Arond, 93, as a half-dozen yoga students convened in the basement of her modest house in Bellerose, Queens.
She and her husband, Hank Arond, also 93, had greeted the students in their living room and made small talk and introductions as if this were a weekly mah-jongg game.
But then Ms. Arond slipped away into her kitchen and began ringing chimes to summon her students to the basement stairs leading to her version of an ashram.
“We’re here to do yoga from the best instructor in the world,” she told her students one recent weeknight as she lit a candle to begin the class. “Which is really yourself.”
The basement has changed little since the Aronds first moved to their home in 1950. There is an antiquated television set built into a brown paneled wall. There is wall-to-wall carpeting and a dropped tile ceiling above, as well as a cocktail bar and the requisite bowling trophy on a shelf.
“It’s a time capsule from the ’50s, but at least it’s real,” Ms. Arond said. “We once had 36 people down here for Passover.”
If the setting hardly exudes an Eastern spiritual vibe, with dim lighting from an ordinary table lamp stuck in the corner, a serene aura still somehow descends, perhaps emanating from Ms. Arond herself.
She runs classes more in the manner of a zany Gracie Allen-type ingénue than some New Age guru affectation. She instructs with folksy patter sprinkled with wisecracking, delivered in a New Yawkese chirp. For her comedic groaners, Ms. Arond blames formative summers spent at Catskills resorts.
“If I don’t tell a joke, call an ambulance because something’s wrong,” she said.
“You can’t have yoga without humor,” she said while teaching the class. “Now lower the shoulders, breathe and enjoy.”
Ms. Arond began taking yoga classes 40 years ago at the Cross Island Y.M.C.A. in Queens, where she was teaching synchronized swimming. She began teaching yoga using an approach “made up of all things I borrowed from other teachers.” She taught both at home and at the Y.M.C.A., where she has a sizable following, even after taking time off to recover from a broken hip after a fall last year.
“The sidewalk attacked my hip,” she said, still wisecracking. “The pain was so bad, I was afraid I was going to live.”
When Ms. Arond returned to teaching at the Y.M.C.A. this spring, fliers were posted bearing her photo and a simple message: “She Is Back.”
The basement where Ms. Arond teaches yoga has changed little since the Aronds first moved to their home, in 1950. CreditCeleste Sloman for The New York Times
Both she and her husband are World War II veterans. Mr. Arond was in the Army Signal Corps, and Ms. Arond was an Army nurse. They began dating in 1943, and married a year later.
“We’re married 73 years, but it’s more like 36 and a half,” she said, “because half the time, I don’t listen to him.”
Ms. Arond said she grew up in the Bronx, then Queens, then Manhattan, as her family struggled during the Great Depression. After a friend joined the Army and was killed in Okinawa, she signed up at 17 for training as an Army nurse, she said.
You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services.
“I served in the Army, but we won the war anyway,” she cracked, adding that she served at Halloran Hospital, caring for wounded soldiers. “I was stationed overseas, on Staten Island — there was no Verrazano Bridge then,” she said.
“Me and my two sisters, we all became nurses,” she said. “With our white uniforms, my mother called us her three milk bottles.”
Halfway through the recent class, Ms. Around pressed play on an aging cassette player, which whirred to life with serene Indian flute music. Her teaching style is a mix of spiritual patter, pragmatic instruction and shtick. As she drones on, she manages to convey a Zen-like calm, guiding the class through asana poses and stretches.
“Think about the spaces between your toes — who ever talks about that?” she said. “Tighten your seat. Oh, squeeze it like never before.”
Then she led the class into a flamingo pose.
“After we’re done, we always say, ‘Oh we should have done the flamingo,’ so we’re doing it now,” she said, adding moments later: “Let’s do one more. Every time I say one more, something else comes to my head.”
She guided the students into a cat pose.
“Oh, feel that in your seat — no flabby bottoms here,” she said. “Let’s wag that left leg like it was a puppy dog’s tail.”
She directed the students into a rowing pose to strengthen the back muscles, because, she said, “For some of us, somebody sneezes in Chicago and your back goes out.”
After class, the students left $10 bills on an end table and headed up to the dining room, where tea and dessert were served.
It would not be a gathering without the Aronds being coaxed into their vaudeville-style comedy duet, in which they trade barbs and flirtations, with Mr. Arond supplying quick interludes on his violin and finishing by singing, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”
Around the table, Ms. Arond revealed the real truth.
“The yoga,” she said, “is just an excuse for the refreshments afterward.”
Click here to go to the article online and to see photos of Ronnie Arond.