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.
Let’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.