It didn’t much matter to me whether the class was MW or TTh, so in the end I picked the TTh one because Helen is teaching three yoga classes and Barbara mostly teaches Tai Chi and just has the one yoga class. I thought maybe that meant that Helen is a better yoga teacher, but really, who knows?
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When I was in my late 20’s I used to swim a mile every day at Barton Springs. It’s an eighth of a mile long so it only took 8 licks (four laps) to do a mile, which I thought was quite wonderful since I am totally incapable of counting thirty something laps in a regular pool to get a mile in.
More important of course, is that Barton Springs is beautiful and beginning the day in a beautiful place does more for one’s health than any amount of exercise.
(I did these laps topless, by the way. It was an okay thing to do at the time and topless women at Barton Springs was a pretty ordinary sight.)
I usually swam in the early afternoon but for some reason one day I went to swim later. It may even have been a Saturday and I usually only swam on weekdays. I can’t remember why I went there then, just that it felt odd because it wasn’t my usual time to be there.
But when I got there, no one was in the pool, which was even odder. A crowd of people was sitting on the banks on blankets and lawn chairs.
Actually, one person was swimming the length of the pool. Back and forth. Every one was watching her.
And then . . . well, here’s what the Chronicle said about it years later:
Dancers would march through the shallows in a conga line and lie on the rocks on their backs, their upturned arms and legs undulating like underwater grasses. They'd form a circle and hit the water in sequence to make a running wave. And most often and most delightfully, they'd parade around imitating assorted animals: apes, seals, crabs, frogs, flamingos, dolphins, elephants .... Not since Ovid have there been so many magical metamorphoses.
Oh, and that one person swimming back and forth – she did that the entire time. For some reason I really liked that part.
I was enchanted, transfixed, delighted. For years after I tried to tell people about this wonderful thing that I had stumbled upon by pure luck, but it was hard to describe.
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I was talking to my daughter about the class I've signed up for, at Rio Grande campus, which is where she took a yoga class a few years ago. She asked who was the teacher - she really liked her teacher. I couldn't remember. Betty? We looked it up. No, Helen. She said that sounded familiar, but . . . She googled and found some former students commenting on her class. "She'll ask you to call her Dee . . ."
My daughter said, "Yes that's her. She's also a dancer. She was with Ballet Austin. She's older. She's what I want to be like when I'm her age. That's one reason I want to keep doing yoga."
She got up and hobbled around. "She said, have you seen old people walk like this? That's because they have poor circulation. You need to do yoga so you won't walk like that when you're old."
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When I woke up this morning at 5am, as I've been doing lately, for some reason I found myself thinking about the yoga class and thought, wait, what was Helen's last name?
Once upon a time, one of the best stages in town was Barton Springs Pool. That's because every three or four years, Dee McCandless and Gene Menger would take a couple dozen swimsuit-clad performers and present a dance around and in its chilly waters.
I groped for the iPad in the dark and checked the ACC course schedule.
I'll be damned. Dee McCandless is going to be my yoga teacher.
[published on 12/12/11]