Move over Lady Gaga. In New York City yoga circles, there's only one Lady -- and her name is Lady Ruth.
Ruth Lauer-Manenti, affectionately known as Lady Ruth by many of her students at Jivamukti, began practicing yoga in 1989 as a way to heal from a bad car accident. Since then, her keen observation of everyday beauty and blend of spirit and movement has made her one of the most respected teachers around.
Lady Ruth talks to us about how she began her practice, her inspiration, and more.
How did you first come to yoga? How has yoga helped heal your body?
I first came to toga when I was 20 after spending 2 years in bed after a terrible car accident where I broke my neck, one rib, my jaw and had over 100 stitches throughout my body. I had a nurse in the Kingston Hospital in 1983 who was a devotee of who at that time was called Bhagavan Rajneesh. She was the most beautiful person I had ever met. She had this inner beauty that shined into the room and I always felt blessed in her presence. She took incredible care of me and taught me about nutrition. Her boyfriend taught me some yoga asana, because at 22 I was like an old lady -- very stiff and always afraid of falling or catching a cold. I took to the yoga immediately. It seemed familiar to me, like something I had done before and it brought me great relief. It was as if for years I had been carrying a backpack that was very heavy and I had finally taken it off. It was mysterious because I had never been interested in sports and I was always a bit clumsy or awkward, but on the yoga mat I could be graceful. As I continued with seriousness with yoga there were many postures that I felt I should stay away from on account of my neck injury -- especially headstand. When I met my Guru, Sri K Patabhi Jois, who I got to because of a heart felt suggestion by my teacher Sharon Gannon, I told him that I would not do headstand because I had broken my neck. Everyday he insisted that I do it, yelling "Yes, you do you go you do you can, yes you can!" Finally after months of fighting with him I thought that maybe he was right and that I should consider what he was saying and upon that consideration I felt free, like I could do anything. Up I went and Guruji said, "Yes, yes" and walked out of the room so as not to let it go to my ego. This experience got me thinking -- what else do I assume I can't do, and why do I limit myself? Through my Guru, who always lives in the realm of possibility, my potential started to peek through my life. I was able to do many things that I never dreamed possible, and while it started on a physical level, like doing headstand, it proved that this was true in many other ares in my life. Doing headstand was just the beginning.
Who's inspired your practice? People? Books?
My practice was and is and will continue to be inspired by my teachers Sharon Gannon and David Life. Their faith in the practice as a method of Self Realization, as a way of becoming who we are meant to be, happy servants or perfect helpers of the Lord never wavering in the inevitable ups and downs of running a yoga center in NYC and now in other places all over the world, never stopping delivering their message of veganism, keeping the yogi's tradition of a gentle diet from being lost or put off to the side continues to compel me to work for them, with them and stay always by their side. I want to go with them wherever they are going and that involves staying on the path of yoga and going deep into that path.
I am also inspired by the yoga community at large as I have seen it grow into something so good and lovely over the past 20 years. I am also inspired by the yoga texts, especially the Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita as they are so poetic and practical and mysterious and kind of lay out a fantastic adventure that is ours if we finally get to a place in our lives where we want it.