Healing Yoga Comes to America

a healing center in India. Now his “American daughter” is creating the first U.S. offshoot.

Healing Yoga Comes to America

By anna dubrovsky

Sundar Das disappeared for a couple of years. He told his yoga teacher, Kate Holcombe, that he was visiting his native India, and he didn’t call again until a few weeks ago. Now he’s sitting at a Middle Eastern café at the end of her block, dunk- ing a tea bag in hot water. The two were supposed to meet at her azure home near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, but the steps to her front door might as well be mountains. Das is partially para-lyzed on his left side.

Holcombe meets him at the café, and together they shuffle to her house. She carries his cup of tea. He’s much weaker and his hair grayer than the last time she saw him. At the steps, he pauses and plots. “My leg isn’t as strong as it used to be,” he says. “Let me try.” He hands her his metal cane. Then he turns around and climbs backwards, grasping the railing and her shoulder with his good hand.

Inside, the yoga lesson begins. Student and teacher sit in chairs from start to finish.

This is how Holcombe teaches yoga—meeting the student where he is.It’s how she learned from legendary teacher T.K.V. Desikachar and why for many years she balked at being called a yoga teacher. The yoga she discovered in India 16 years ago bore little resemblance to the fitness phenomenon labeled yoga in the United States. “I used to call it the ‘y’ word,” she says. “It took me a long time to be comfortable saying that what I was doing was yoga because what I was studying and learning and seeing and doing in India felt so completely different from what I saw people calling yoga here.”

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