Love Is All You Need — and Yoga
Becky Love (SESP51, G66), a born teacher, has touched a lot of lives through yoga instruction.
Greeting her students with a warm “Hello, precious,” Love invites them to lie down on the mats and relax as they trickle in one by one. Having taught yoga for more than 40 years, Love is serene and healthy; she claims never to have had a headache, hasn’t had a cold in 30 years and can read a phone book without glasses. Her only real need for a doctor was when a dog bit her on the heel. Other than that, Love boasts of health better than most 20-year-olds.
“Yoga has made me stronger,” says Love, who teaches 11 classes a week at the New City YMCA, Harold Washington College, Michael Reese Hospital and various other locales in Chicago. “It has brought health to every single part of my body.”
Her popularity with her yoga students is evident, as they eagerly bring books to share with her and proudly show off their yoga T-shirts. “Since my daughter passed away, I now feel like I have many children,” says Love, whose daughter died of kidney problems in the early 1980s at the age of 35.
In addition to being a yoga instructor, Love taught third grade for 38 years at Doolittle West, a public school on Chicago’s South Side. There, too, she gave her 8- and 9-year-olds a taste of yoga by introducing some basic stretches.
“I was really surprised to see that these kids could hardly touch their knees with their noses,” Love says. “I would say, ‘Stand and stretch!’ but they couldn’t do it. It’s their diet. They would eat french fries and things like that for lunch.” To keep her students healthy, she told them to march to the wastebasket and throw out all their candy, but if they brought fruit, she gladly allowed them to munch all day long.
Love consciously decided to instruct third-graders in part because of the kids’ heights. “I never wanted to teach high school because I’m short, and the students would all tower over me,” she explains, laughing. “Even fifth-graders tower over me. But in the third grade, I felt like I was in control.”
At first Love was unaware of the physical aspect of yoga, but in 1959 she traveled to California for initiation into kriya yoga, a form of meditation. At one point she saw a roomful of people standing on their heads, and from then on Love fused the spiritual and physical components of yoga.
At Northwestern she attended night classes and taught during the day. “It wasn’t tough at all,” she says. “It was wonderful. I expanded my horizons so.” When her energy flagged, late-night yoga stretches gave a boost.
After receiving her undergraduate degree, Love decided to tackle graduate school, studying English and psychology. The 17th-century English poets like John Donne were particular favorites. “I loved them,” she says. “I felt so close to them.”
For 60 years she has lived on the South Side. Her husband, a Chicago politician, died a couple years after their daughter’s death. Love, who still tends her vegetable garden, plans to retire from teaching yoga when she reaches 100.
She’s convinced yoga has enabled her to maintain a state of internal tranquility. “Yoga actually makes you more loving,” she says. “I feel like I love the universe and every single being on the planet. It makes a big difference in your life.”
— Christina Ko (J03)