BY CARMEN SIERING
In Bloomington, where there seems to be a yoga studio on every block and yoga pants are de rigueur, it’s hard to imagine a yoga program was ever controversial, but Diane Thayer remembers when it was — just 30 years ago. “At the time, yoga was anything but mainstream,” she says of the program she helped develop at the Monroe County YMCA.
Thayer, 74, is quick to tell you she didn’t start yoga classes at the Y— that honor belongs to Jan Snyder Lambrecht, who taught a handful of classes there in the early 1980s. Lambrecht would ask her more advanced students to occasionally substitute for her, and Thayer, along with Gloria Estes and Maggie Upsall, were among those who did. In 1984, Lambrecht left the Y and Thayer took over as head yoga instructor. “I didn’t hire Gloria and Maggie, they came on board with me when Jan left,” Thayer says.
The three women faced a bit of a battle. “At the time, there were people who looked at yoga as something of a religion, and a lot of people who didn’t know what it was at all,” Upsall says. Thayer credits Marlene Vass, YMCA executive director at the time, with supporting the new yoga program. “There were people who were strongly opposed to having yoga at the Y,” Thayer says. “Marlene felt otherwise. And Roberta Kelzer [who followed Vass as executive director] continued that support. That’s why we have the strong yoga program we have today.” While she continues to teach yoga classes, Thayer retired as prime time wellness/yoga director in 2012.
Twenty years ago, Gayle Ebel began taking yoga from Thayer. Now, as adult wellness director, she’s in charge of the program Thayer started in 1984. Ebel sees the program’s continuity and the long tenure of its teachers as its strength. “We don’t have people floating in and out. We have a highly skilled staff who show that yoga can be reliable throughout your lifetime,” she says.
Thayer, Estes, and Upsall agree there is no end of yoga in sight as far as they are concerned. “It’s a lifelong journey, not a job,” says Estes, 60. “I haven’t ever asked Diane, but I doubt she intends to retire [from teaching yoga]. I know I don’t plan to. They might boot me out, but I don’t plan to leave.”