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Growing up in Newton, Massachusetts, in the 1960s, Patricia Walden was always looking for something more. That something more turned out to be practicing yoga, studying with the revered master B.K.S. Iyengar, and teaching classes internationally. On the way to finding her practice, she lived through the aftermath of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, used heroin off and on for a few years, and survived two broken marriages. Today, a far more peaceful Walden is back in Massachusetts and considered one of the most esteemed yoga teachers in the world.
How did growing up in the 1960s affect you? The beatnik generation was happening. Bob Dylan hadnt gone electric yet, and Joan Baez was popular. These kindred souls became my role models. I hitchhiked to their concerts in 1966 and 1967. That was magical.
How did you get to San Francisco? Before I went to California, I lived in a commune with writers. LSD was a door opener for me. I read about San Francisco, Allen Ginsberg, and a way of living freely. I went to San Francisco with a totally open heart. I thought Id find gold—enlightenment, a community. It didnt turn out that way. When I arrived, the hippie era had gone dark—people were doing hard drugs like methamphetamines. For some years I shot heroin. Im fortunate Im alive.
How did you find yoga? I met someone who taught, and the first pose I learned was Shoulderstand. Id been feeling emptiness. When I did the pose, I felt complete, present, nurtured. Those 10 minutes were a turning point.
How did you meet Mr. Iyengar? It was a beautiful sunny May day in 1976 in Wellesley, Massachusetts, during his second U.S. tour. He walked onto the platform dressed all in white. In those days, teachers sat in the front of the room and didnt adjust people. Iyengar walked around, looked at each of us intensely, and adjusted us. His energy went right into my very cells. Some people were frightened, saying, Hes mean. I felt seen, and I thought, Ive been waiting all my life for an experience like this. The following February I went to Pune, India, and did my first intensive with him. Ive gone every year since.
When did you get serious about teaching? My second marriage hadnt worked out, and my practice wasnt fulfilling. I had been living in a mansion, then moved into a tiny apartment. I spent lots of time alone. I was devastated for a time. But then my practice took off in 1982.
How did you feel about your first video, Yoga for Beginners? Im an introvert, so I initially said no. But I got persuaded. The subtitle was The Best Class Youll Ever Take Is Now on Video. I was embarrassed. My teacher was a master, not me! Id rather be leading a retreat, but doing videos is a certain kind of satisfaction. People who buy them might not find yoga otherwise.
Do you have any children? I had a child and gave him up for adoption in San Francisco. Ive done most everything I want to do in my life, but the one thing I havent done is find my son.