Yoga and the Maggie

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Maggie Toussaint. Maggie is a mystery/suspense author and a yoga teacher!   Find out more about Maggie at www.maggietoussaint.com.

Maggie ToussaintLet’s jump back in time nearly eleven years. Imagine, if you would, a 45-50 year old female, that would be me, who is having auto-immune issues. Also imagine that I have a closed mindset.

Closed, that’s right. New things are scary. If I don’t know about it, I don’t need to know about it. Aches and pains I understand. They run in my family. I’ve been to the doctor. I know what’s going on with my health.

Enter my guy who loves to try new things and always keeps me on my toes. He’s been looking into a new gym membership and instead of getting a single membership, is thinking about a family deal because of all the classes offered at this gym. And would I please come look at it with him.

Since this invite also included a stop at my favorite pizza place, I agreed. The gym was pretty much what I expected. Lots of people churning and burning calories, but the manager got my attention when she noticed how stiffly I moved and she showed me a hip-stretching yoga move in the middle of the floor. Going with the flow and trying not to hyperventilate, I tried it and was more than pleasantly surprised with the results. Not only did my hip feel better – I felt better.

Soon we had a gym membership, and I started taking yoga from a willowy, gentle soul named Erica. Her yoga was a mix of styles she’d done throughout her lifelong practice. I loved her choices of music and I loved how she worked with me, even in a large class of nearly 30 men and women, she showed me how to adjust and compensate and strengthen my body – and my spirit.

Other gals subbed or taught different yoga classes in time, but Erica really reached me. I learned to see what I could do, instead of focusing on the negative, and from that starting point, I learned to do more. A few years passed, and we moved six hundred miles away from the gym, back to my hometown, a place where yoga was viewed with outright suspicion because it was different.

I found a kindred spirit, another person with outsider ways, like me. We practiced yoga together, taking turns “leading” our small class for each other, and then others heard about it and wanted to participate. The two of us got certified to teach through AAFAA, but insurance concerns kept my friend from moving forward with a yoga studio.

The start-up YMCA invited me to teach yoga, and they would handle the insurance issues. I said yes to the Y. Much to my surprise, the class kept growing and growing. And many students came to the class who were more advanced than I was. I worked to offer something for beginner through advanced students, which was more challenging than my formerly all beginner’s class. At the same time, two family members developed what became terminal illnesses. I had to let the yoga teaching go to handle my other responsibilities.

Time passed. A niece approached me about yoga. She was recently diagnosed with a related autoimmune issue, and it was suggested that yoga would help her. Would I show her some yoga moves? Yes, of course I would. We began to meet weekly in my living room, both of us benefitting from the yoga time. Soon more family members joined us, and my lifelong best friend.

Family yoga is what we’re calling this iteration of my yoga class. It’s a way I pay it forward to help my family. Our practice consists of various breathing techniques, asanas from Erica’s blended Iyengar/Hatha/other styles of yoga, stretches I learned from various physical therapists, and meditation. Not your typical yoga class, but lots of love and laughter and fellowship.

(Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I’d tell my sisters to twist themselves this way and that, and they’d do it! But each week they come back for more.)

Lessons learned: there’s an ebb and flow to life; we adjust to life’s changes or we become out of sorts; and there is deep joy in helping others.

Namaste,

Maggie Toussaint

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available January 8, 2014 from Midnight Ink!

42 thoughts on “Yoga and the Maggie

  1. Pingback: Yoga and the Maggie + MORE » Hot Yoga Blog

  2. Maggie Toussaint

    Yikes! I forgot to turn my calendar over. Here I am, a day late. That’s not very yoga-esque, but life sometimes does us that way. I’m delighted to be featured on Tracy’s blog. Let me put the word out!

    Namaste everyone! Maggie

    Reply
  3. Amber Polo

    Hi Maggie,
    Loved learning about your relationship with yoga. Yoga helps so many writers and teaching is a special gift to your students and especially to yourself.
    Teaching your family must feel amazing. And they do what you say!
    Amber

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Amber,

      I’m delighted you could stop by. I know how important yoga is in your life, and your Relaxing the Writer book is an inspiration to me.

      Thanks for your time and kind words!

      Maggie

      Reply
      1. Amber Polo

        I didn’t start writing until I began teaching yoga. Somehow I think there’s a connection. Fifth novel coming out in a few months. Before yoga I think I would have never taken the risk.

        Reply
        1. Maggie Toussaint

          Amber,

          I find it interesting that you brought up risk. One of the things I’ve learned with yoga is that there are progressions of expertise. When a writing issue seems complex to me, I know it can be broken down to simpler forms, so I start addressing the issue in the simplest, most basic form. This lessens the risk for me and it enhances my feeling of success.

          With writing being a subjective business and readers’ opinions varying like the wind, its good to have a solid foundation, to have assurances or affirmations of being that are comforting, and to have a network of like-minded friends to share the journey.

          Maggie

          Reply
  4. Terry Odell

    When we moved to the remote area up here in the Colorado mountains, there was no nearby place to exercise. I bought a recumbent bike, which was my favorite way to exercise at the Y in Orlando. However, after having some knee/hamstring issues, I stopped using it, and once you stop–well, I’m sure you know the drill. About a year ago, Hubster decided to try the yoga classes given at a nearby community center; we’d both done Pilates, but we couldn’t find classes that didn’t entail a 30 mile drive. He kept with it (I think part of his reason might have something to do with the male:female ratio in the class), and a few months ago, I felt my back and knee were sufficiently healed to give it a try. I do enjoy the classes and our instructor sounds a bit like you–she never insists we do anything “her” way and provides lots of variations because the class is made up of everyone from “gumby people” to some of us “less flexible” sorts.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Terry,

      I find it amazing that many of us are on the same journey. As we age, this or that isn’t right health-wise and we all learn the hard way that staying active helps us. That first little bit, that bit of doing it when you don’t feel good or don’t feel good about your self-image, is the hardest, to my way of thinking.

      I’d love to be a gumby person, but I’ve never been wired that way. Some gumbiness can improve with practice, but the best gumby person I ever saw in yoga class came that way out of the womb. Nothing else could explain her perfect form…

      Thanks for visiting me at Whole Life Yoga!

      Maggie

      Reply
  5. LK Hunsaker

    Maggie, I love that you took yoga into your suspicious hometown and had such a nice big class! I also love that your family does it together now. I use videos on my own and I love the effects of it, even today when it’s made me sore shoulders to toes because I was away from it too long. It feels far better than couch potato slump.

    Reply
  6. Maggie Toussaint

    LK,

    I applaud you for doing this on your own. Many people can’t be bothered to continue a daily or even a weekly practice. The physical benefits are great, and I’m enjoying the fellowship and esoteric benefits of my practice now.

    Thanks for stopping in and leaving a word!

    Maggie

    Reply
  7. Nancy J. Cohen

    How very interesting to learn these things about you. I am not a yoga fan or gym goer myself, but we all do what works for us individually. I like taking walks. If I am alone, my mind can wander and sometimes new ideas for my WIP will pop into my head. Stretching is definitely good, especially after long hours sitting in front of the computer.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Nancy,

      You make me sound so mysterious! I love it! Kudos to you for knowing what works to soothe your body, mind, and soul. That’s important, whether its yoga or walking or music or what-have-you.

      Thanks for the visit and the encouragement.

      Maggie

      Reply
  8. Carole Price

    Maggie, your blog reminded me how much I miss yoga. I had done it off and on for years, loving every minute of it. When we moved to California in 1980, we joined a swim/tennis club five minutes from our house. Unfortunately, the yoga instructor didn’t understand how to teach. A very kind, gentle lady, but she’d consult her notes and then smile while she thought what to do next. I stopped going. Yoga offers healing powers that you can’t find in any other exercise. It works! I still have my mat and video but not very disciplined. At least my main character, Cait Pepper, does yoga!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Carole,

      Ask around among your friends to see if there’s interest in practicing yoga together. If nothing else, you could spearhead a group of friends getting together to work through yoga videos together.

      You mentioned something no one else has said – that there can be awkward moments in a class. I imagine your teacher wasn’t confident in her ability to remember the series of poses she wished to explore with the class. If I get stuck, I sometimes cue my class to take a resting breath, then I forge ahead. So what if I’ve forgotten the absolute best sequence of poses. Keeping a yoga class moving and at ease is one of my priorities.

      But its also important to remember that different yoga teachers have different styles of teaching and that they teach different kinds of yoga. If one class doesn’t work for you, I encourage you to look for another.

      Thanks for stopping in and I hope you find something that works for you soon.

      Sending you light and love, Maggie

      Reply
  9. Whole Life Yoga Post author

    Yoga, walking, meditation–any practice that invites mindfulness is a wonderful tool for writers!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Patricia,

      Its amazing how yoga can keep a body and mind flexible. I love meeting people that have practiced yoga for many years. You can see the light glowing inside of them.

      Another thing to remember is that yoga asanas have different levels of difficulty. If you’ve been away from it for awhile, start with some of the easier poses and work up to the level you were at before. It will do your heart good!

      Maggie

      Reply
  10. Mary F. Schoenecker

    I have been an off and on yoga participant here in Florida. I wish I could go more often, or regularly, but my health has been a deterrant lately.We have “free”Yoga on the beach taught by Elin. She is a wonderful instructor and only takes free will contributions. In winter”season she has over a hundred participants!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Mary,

      Your Elin is a kind and generous person, and you are lucky to have someone like her in your area.

      A wonderful thing about yoga is that you can manage a practice of your own at home, but I caution you to study the correct body alignment of the poses, to respect your body, and to make sure you do the meditation aspect of yoga. I’ve had times when that was all I could do, and even five to ten minutes a day of relaxation worked wonders for me. I hope the same would be true for you.

      Maggie

      Reply
  11. Jacqueline Seewald

    Hi, Maggie,

    I didn’t know you taught yoga. I hear such good things about it. You’re convincing me to look into it. As of now, I try to walk on the treadmill if I can’t walk outside a couple of miles a day. But I realize there are better exercises especially for sedentary writers like me.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Jacquie,

      Without standing any taller on my soapbox, I encourage you to try it. Yoga doesn’t replace aerobic exercise, but it will build core strength and flexibility, as well as help you learn to release tension.

      Neither of us has any tension, right? Try not to fall out of your chair at that statement!

      I thank you for visiting me here at Whole Life Yoga today.

      Reply
  12. Maggie Toussaint

    Thank you for the comment, Mary.

    You know, one of the things that helped me get back into yoga once I moved south was a Yoga Deck. This is a set of playing cards that has an image of the pose on one side and the directions on the other.

    See if something like that appeals to you, okay?

    Maggie

    Reply
  13. Polly Iyer

    How come I didn’t know this about you? I’m a perfect example of someone who needs to do yoga. I’m stiff and sedentary and should get off my butt and find a place to do some stretching. I know it would help. Thanks for the incentive, Maggie.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hey Polly,

      I don’t know why we haven’t talked about yoga before, but I’d be happy to guide you along the way to better flexibility. Let’s talk about it!

      Maggie

      Reply
  14. Celia Yeary

    Maggie–I’d forgotten about your teaching Yoga. The notion that your teacher emphasized what you could do instead of the negative is a lesson well learned, and one that can apply to all aspects of our lives. That’s what I’ve heard about Yoga.
    I enjoyed reading about your journey with yoga.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Thanks for your comment, Celia. I wish I could say I live my life solely by the teachings and trainings of yoga, but I am as flawed as the next person. But at least I’m aware of when I should be stretching and of trying to help others. Its a big start toward being a more mindful person.

      Reply
  15. Gail Barrett

    I didn’t know you taught yoga, Maggie! You are multi-talented:))) I am looking for a good yoga class here. I really need to get on it before I am too stiff to move. I’m glad to hear that it offers relief!!!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Gail,

      As you can tell from the article, I began teaching here out of self-defense. I’m certainly not the most talented yogi in the world, but I’m sincere in wanting to practice and wanting to help others find their way. Its so rewarding to see that relaxed glow on student’s faces at the end of class.

      Maggie

      Reply
  16. Liana

    Kudos to you, Maggie, for finding a way to continue something near and dear to you despite the detours of Life. The topic of yoga has come up many times in my own journey, but I haven’t made the commitment yet. Bought the mat, bought the DVD, even attended a couple of classes, but they didn’t stick. Maybe this will be the reminder that kicks things off for me again…

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Liana,

      We all journey through life making choices each day. You’ve made plenty of wholeness and wellness choices, but if you ever want to try yoga with me, you have a standing invitation to come to my place. I am a very gentle teacher.

      Maggie

      Reply
  17. Catherine Kean

    Great post, Maggie! I really enjoy Yoga. I have a long mat that I put down on my living room floor. I do a 30-40 minute routine that’s a mix of physical therapy exercises and Yoga–usually with my two kitties meandering in front of my face and trying to get involved. LOL! 🙂 I can’t do strenuous exercise because I have chronic pain in my neck and right shoulder from a car accident a few years ago, and the Yoga really helps to gently stretch the muscles and keep the rest of my body stretched too. My posture always seems better when I do my Yoga. After a few hours at the computer, there’s nothing more worthwhile than a good stretching routine. 🙂

    Reply
  18. Maggie Toussaint

    Hi Celia,

    I’m so glad to have a visit from you here. Thank you for your kind comment. The nice thing about yoga is that it embraces listening and forgiving – yourself and others – as well as touting health benefits. Because when you come right down to it, our mind, body, and spirits are all connected. If we focus our minds on negative or what we can’t do, we close ourselves to the possibilities of what we can do. That’s a lesson I need to relearn from time to time, as of course, I stumble like everyone else. Yoga flexibility applies to more than your body.

    Maggie

    Reply
  19. Sharon Ervin

    Opportunity and attitude. You combined those two and reached lofty heights with your yoga, both personally and for the benefit of others. How many opportunities do we have and slough off, talking ourselves out of them. They take time and energy. You have shown us that the investment is worthwhile. Thank you, again.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Toussaint

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for your kind words. The funny thing is I’m the most introverted person you could ever met and I would never have pegged myself as a leader. But I have a strong passion for yoga and a bone-deep need to make a better life for myself and those around me. Yoga has challenged me in ways I’m just now beginning to understand.

      Maggie

      Reply
  20. Beth Irwin

    My surgeon at Mayo Clinic is a strong proponent of yoga, as is my pain management doc. Rodney Yee’s “AM Yoga” is as advanced as I get, but it’s enough to help with mobility.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Yoga doesn’t have to be strong to be effective. In fact, gentle, therapeutic yoga done regularly can yield incredible benefits!

      Reply
    2. Maggie Toussaint

      WTG, Beth Caudill. One of the most important things to remember about yoga is that it isn’t a competition. I saw that in class all the time, and it applies to me too. Different students excel at different poses, and some of them (in better health than me) have nicer lines, but it isn’t about me falling short of their mark or vice versa. Its about challenging ourselves to do our best each day. Don’t downplay what you can do. Each thing you can do beats lots of negativity.

      Reply

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