John’s Letter ~ Winter 2017: A Hello From Our New Administrator Judith Fried
Friday, November 18th, 2016
As many of you may know, the long-time Administrator of Unity Woods, Esther Geiger, is retiring from her position here. I will be taking the reins, although it has been noted that I cannot (and will not try to) replace Esther. But I will try to fill her shoes in a role as general caretaker for John and all the teachers and to guide and support the administrative staff. I have been with Unity Woods practically since its inception, as a student and friend, and now I will truly be part of this family as John, Esther, and everyone at Unity Woods welcome me and ease the transition. By way of introducing myself and helping all of you to get to know me, here is a little bit of my history.
My introduction to yoga was serendipitous. One day in 1975 I came home to my apartment in Philadelphia and announced to my significant other (who became my husband and then later my ex-husband) “I’m going to take a Yoga class”. I found a class at a local cultural center; the teacher was Joan White. I could say here that “the rest is history” but there is so much more to tell. Joan’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and precision in teaching was so infectious that I very quickly became a devotee and was soon completely immersed in a world where confronting physical boundaries allowed exploration of the mind and the spirit. I remained Joan’s student for another 4 years, also being exposed to Iyengar teachers from all over the world… most notably Angela Farmer, Victor Van Kooten, Kofi Busia.
I spent almost all of 1979 living and traveling in Europe. And doing yoga, of course. I traveled to Molivos, Greece in the spring to take classes with Angela Farmer and a memorable group of students from Holland, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston. Our venue was a 12th century castle at the top of the hill overlooking the town. We climbed the hill each morning for asanas and each evening for inversions in that sunny, arid place. I would later travel to India for a 3-week session with Mr. Iyengar with some of the same students I met in Greece.
In 1980, I moved to the Washington area. One of my first tasks upon arriving here was to find a yoga teacher, and I found John teaching small classes in his home in Thurmont and at locations in the Bethesda area. We’ve been friends since then, and I have continued with John as my primary teacher, as well as many classes and workshops with Victor, Angela, Kofi, Mary Dunn, George Purvis, Joan White and others. The 1980’s were great yoga years! UWYC was born in 1979 and grew to a thriving resource and center of excellence – a paragon of yoga classes and teacher training in the Washington area with John Schumacher as a dedicated teacher driven by his love for yoga and giving to us his natural talent and enthusiasm as a mentor and yogi. Now yoga has experienced huge growth in the community at large, including Unity Woods.
My trip to India in 1982 was life-changing. I recall the challenges I had physically (in headstand, for example – “Lift your sacrum, Judith!”) I can still feel BKS Iyengar’s swat on my back as he exhorted “There is the fear!” Perhaps you’ve heard stories about Mr. Iyengar’s fiery personality. It’s all true, and his adjustments were always delivered with love, encouragement, and the most intense insight. And completely unforgettable in every detail! I remember him walking by me in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana as he grunted “huh” when he saw me lift my shoulders. And I remember my sobbing breakthrough when I felt shooting bursts of energy from the center of my chest during seated pranayama and Mr.Iyengar’s challenge to me, “She can’t do pranayama!” I knew he didn’t mean it literally. I knew he meant that I can do pranayama, and I needed more study and refinement. My challenges today are so much more difficult than those of a progressing young student – aging has brought along with it herniated discs, sciatic pain, and physical limitations. I continue to practice yoga to work with and improve these conditions.
Another central focus in my life has been my professional career. With another type of serendipity (there’s that word again) I embarked on a career in Information Technology, starting as a computer programmer and progressing in line with my natural proclivities to positions as a manager of technical staff and projects implementing technical solutions for business problems. Specifically I’ve worked on telecommunications billing systems, government procurement programs, tracking of federal entitlement programs, and most recently and for over 16 years, at Marriott International supporting the loyalty program and reservations systems.
With Esther’s retirement, Unity Woods faces a career transition of its own. How will UWYC adapt to her departure? So many of you have said that I am the “perfect person” for this job. From my point of view it is the perfect job for me. Dear friends, yoga vibes, nurturing environment. I have been a part of Corporate America for many years, and really look forward to a new career! I bring with me to Unity Woods a strong sense of organization, business acumen, self-motivation, and technology orientation. And most of all, I care about Unity Woods. I’ve been so lucky in my own career. When I first came to Marriott, I found a diverse and welcoming environment where people have respect for each other. Now, coming to the next major phase of my work life, I find myself in a welcoming place where diversity is celebrated and we have a common interest. I consider myself lucky beyond belief to be involved with Unity Woods and the people who make it an enjoyable place to be. And finally, for my luck in coming to Unity Woods as Administrator, I must say a special thanks to my dear friend (family, really) Suzie Mann. She knew I needed to find a new work situation, and she knew the changes about to happen at Unity Woods. Serendipity. Once the idea was out there, everyone supported it – for this I am again so very grateful to receive such a warm welcome from old friends and new. I hope to get to know all of you as we embark on the new year and new administration.
“Change is not something we should fear. Rather, it is something we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in the world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.”
~ B.K.S. Iyengar