JOEL D. RICHARDSON
At the time, I had been searching for some form of low impact exercise that would help me regain some strength and flexibility that had been lost due to surgery on my back. It was suggested to me by some friends that yoga might be what I was looking for. The physical improvements I’ve made over the last two years have been great, specifically, I am much more flexible and toned, my posture is better and most importantly my back pain has greatly improved. Granted, yoga is definitely an activity I think best approached with an open mind. Sanskrit, incense, om-ing, and the like may seem a little intimidating at first, but to me this is what makes yoga interesting, not to forget to mention: fun. Being exposed to the physical aspects of yoga has helped me to draw parallels to what happens on the yoga mat to other aspects of my life, most noticeably, an increased awareness of the importance of patience, not being totally consumed on the outcome of events, and embracing change. Yoga has not been a magic pill for me. It has taken a certain amount of discipline and work to get the most out of my practice. Yoga is simply the medium I have chosen to try and better myself physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I have been practicing yoga for the last four years. I decided to give yoga a try and after one hour of breathing and stretching I felt much better. The sadness was gone. I kept going and find --through yoga-- a better way to deal with my emotions. I also find a new life that has bring me well-being in subtle ways I never had imagine. Then, I quit smoking and my body demanded to eat healthier food. I guess that all of that because of yoga. Now, I am more flexible (mentally and physically), more united to other beings in ways I can't explain and also more connected to people who matter in my life and to nature. And, some how, I have more compassion for myself and others.
I arrive at the studio ready to be elsewhere preferably doing nothing. My day has been challenging, distressing, depressing, stressful and fulfilling. . .and I have been sitting down all day. Within 5 minutes I can feel the day's stress level dropping and my mind beginning to change focus. I struggle to shift from a sedentary outward focused mode to being very aware of body, mind and movement. By the end of class, I am energized and at peace with myself and my day, ready for what the next day may bring.
I hate exercise. But I love freedom. Two years ago I decided to try yoga as I watched the loss of physical freedom that comes with age, and knew I needed to do whatever I could to "live long and die short" as the saying goes. I soon discovered that in fact I had never had the freedom of movement that I began to recover after just a few months of regular yoga at Yoga Gallery. For instance, even as a child I could never touch my toes. People who could do that seemed to have more joints in their bones than me. It turns out what I was missing was moveable hips and hamstrings. I'm still working on both, but after six weeks of yoga I reached my toes without bending my knees (much) for the first time, ever. The bells of freedom began to ring. I don't practice enough, but I do try to incorporate basic yoga principles of movement into daily motion. I am in awe at beginning a practice of learning that I will never exhaust, that is thousands of years old and yet always changing. I love working on a single pose and feeling that with just a small adjustment, perhaps to the way I am placing my hands, or coming into a pose, I can feel my whole body and mind arriving at a new sense of orientation in space. If I had to describe yoga in a sentence, maybe it would be "using the breath to balance mind and body."
I came to yoga after serious horseback riding injuries threatened to cripple my body and my spirit. A gifted physical therapist pointed me toward practicing yoga where I have found the challenge and adventure of exploring body, mind and spirit essential to my mental and physical well-being.
The residuals from my accidents continually vie for dominance. Regular practice holds them at bay as well as teaching me the life lessons of gently challenging my current limits; never allowing the vision I have of perfect expression to be discouraging; and, that even at my age, I can improve and integrate all facets of my life.
I love so many of the asanas, but right now I am most excited about the progress I have made toward a good triangle. Practicing with Lynn and the other teachers has been healing, exciting, humbling and a blessing.