Starting Young and Sticking with It An Interview with the Youngest U.S. Iyengar Yoga Teacher

Rose Goldblatt, 25, is the youngest Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher in the U.S. She passed her Introductory II assessment last year and lives in northeastern Vermont.

Chris Beach: When did you start doing yoga?
Rose Goldblatt: I was 14, and I became a serious student at 15. I had danced, though not seriously, and my father, David Goldblatt, had been teaching yoga since the 1970s. He was a student of Dona Holleman in the early days of Iyengar Yoga in this country, and has continued to study regularly with Iyengar teachers. The first workshop Patricia Walden taught was at his studio in Franconia, NH, around 1981. When my dance teacher moved away, my father was teaching yoga in the studio in our house, and I began to study with him.

At 16, I went to a workshop with Patricia and fell in love with yoga. I said to myself, “This is my calling; I know this is what I want to do.” I wanted to study and study, and eventually become a teacher. At 17, I started going to Patricia’s Wednesday class in Cambridge. Then, at around 19, I decided I wanted to start teaching. Patricia told me I was too young to do a teacher training, but said it was all right if I began teaching some small classes for young people.
When I was 22, I began a two-year teacher training program with Janice Vien, and at 24 I took my Introductory I assessment. The next year I did my Intro II.

CB: You live in a fairly isolated area at the border of northern Vermont and New Hampshire. What is the demand for Iyengar Yoga there?
RG: I teach at my Dad’s studio in Littleton, NH. I have more than 70 students, and my classes average about 8-12 students. There seems to be an ongoing interest in our classes. The people in this area do not really distinguish between one form of yoga or another. There are a couple of other teachers in the area, but not many. However, there is a demand for yoga. People in this rural area tend to be very self-sufficient. They chop their own firewood and grow food. Their down-to-earth practicality seems to make them interested in the precision of the Iyengar method. They also don’t have many preconceptions about what yoga is.

CB: Many younger people find Iyengar Yoga to be less “exciting” or movement-oriented than some other kinds of yoga. We hold poses for a long time and work on details. As a younger practitioner and teacher, how do you feel about Iyengar Yoga versus other kinds of yoga?
RG: I haven’t had much experience with other kinds of yoga, so it’s hard for me to compare. Coming from dance, I knew I needed strength and stability. As far as teaching Iyengar Yoga to young people, it’s important to make things fun and exciting. You can still teach Iyengar Yoga with softness instead of rigidity. Patricia was an inspiration to me in terms of making things accessible, light. Young people don’t need to take things too seriously.

CB: Do you have young people in your classes?
RG: Some­—probably in part because I’m younger. But the majority are not under 30.

We need to get people to see how yoga can be transformative.

CB: Have you been to Pune yet?
RG: I went to Pune in February 2010. It was the month when the bombing happened, which freaked me out so much that I had to go home early. However, the three weeks that I spent was an important learning experience and I am scheduled to return in December 2011. Overall, it was a good experience, and I learned a lot.

CB: Are there ways that IYNAUS can reach out to younger people?
RG: It’s not so much about attracting young people to Iyengar Yoga as getting them to stick with it. They won’t want to unless they see how good it is for them, spiritually and physically. I wouldn’t be surprised if even in the other styles of yoga very few young people actually come day after day, year after year. I bet those Bikram classes that you think have lots of young people have a lot of turnover. We need to get people to see how yoga can be transformative, and as yoga teachers we need to continue to let ourselves be transformed and not get stuck in our ways.

I think the fact that my dad and I do yoga together is very important. Discussing it with him has been invaluable and continues to be a learning experience for both of us.