First published in Seattle Yoga Arts newsletter, Fall 1998
Updates follow include photos from SYA Calendar

Yoga has been in the background of my life for a long time. I took my first class in 1971. My bookshelf includes such classics as Jess Stearn’s Youth, Yoga, and Reincarnation and Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan both dated in the ’60s. One of my first friends in Seattle was a yoga teacher. But it just never really came to the foreground until a year ago. I want to share my story of how that changed.

In 1991 I broke my foot in a bike accident. After that, I could no longer run or do some of the other activities I had once enjoyed. With the onset of menopause my body has been thickening and craving the stretching and strengthening of yoga. After a summer of trying to use yoga videos with no feedback from a teacher, I finally decided I wanted yoga in my life enough to actually go somewhere and pay for it.

Early last year I started at Seattle Yoga Arts with one class a week. About mid-year, after taking a weekend workshop at Community Yoga Circle with Elise Browning Miller, I decided to up my commitment to twice a week and found a tremendous difference in my body. All this time I hoped to develop a “home practice” but was still finding that I just didn’t make the time. The wide assortment of videos I tried was either way too slow with lots of talking, or too fast paced and difficult. I tend to get overwhelmed with the enormous number of choices to make: which poses (there are so many), what sequence, am I positioned correctly, etc. Also I end up doing the things I like the best without necessarily doing appropriate warm-up and preparation or counter poses.

Sometime after returning from Lisa Holtby’s weekend retreat in the fall I was laying in shivasana thinking about how much I liked the partner poses we’d just done and suddenly a light bulb went off! People have running partners and gym partners, why not a yoga partner?! So I posted a sign on the board for women with at least a year’s experience who wanted to do “contact” yoga in my home once a week. I had several responses. In January I set up a schedule with three different people each coming one time a week.

It does help that I have no kids and a living room with a wood floor large enough for two people to do yoga. Scheduling the same time every day for yoga has helped a lot too. When one person can’t make it I try to get one of the others to come over. Even though I’ll practice headstands alone or have Spencer spot some handstand attempts, I still don’t practice much by myself.

What we do is still evolving. We tried some of the videos and found that the ones that seemed too difficult in the beginning are actually great. And of course the pause button is helpful. We can always stop it and do more warm-ups, or repeat it or add a variation before going on. One of my partners has many years’ experience and she really enjoys doing whatever we think of. We each throw out ideas as we go along. It’s great to be able to give each other feedback on our positions. I’m actually starting to work out some flow routines of my own! Generally we tend to still do mostly independent yoga with an occasional partner pose thrown in as we remember them from classes. Now we’re also using a partner video.

During my first full year of yoga I lost the ten pounds I put on with menopause. In fourteen months when I turn 50 I hope to be in the best shape ever! To me that means losing ten more pounds and being strong enough to do handstands, back-bends, push-ups and many of the other poses that still seem beyond me. With the help of my yoga partners I think I’ll make it and the journey will be great fun! Having yoga partners has totally met my expectations. I look forward to seeing my partners and doing yoga together. And I know our relationships will continue to unfold with our yoga practice. I encourage you to consider looking for someone you can do yoga with at home, even once a week. It’ll make a huge difference.

Yoga update: 2001

Currently I’m taking yoga twice a week and don’t do any yoga at home (with or without partners). I try to take weekend workshops whenever good teachers come through town. I’ve done several with Rodney Yee, John Friend, Judith Lasater and Elise Miller. I also splurged and went to the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park in the fall of 2000. That was quite an experience. I can now do both handstand and wheel (backbend) however my form still needs a lot of work and I can’t hold either very long. The horizon keeps moving as you get closer (the goals just keep evolving).

I’m really pleased to say that Spencer started doing yoga a few years ago and it’s made a huge difference. He no longer gets any back pain. He doesn’t love it the way I do, but he knows it’s good for him. We try to do some yoga stretches when we’re doing long tandem rides.

Yoga update: 2002

Seattle Yoga Arts, where we study yoga, teaches John Friend’s style of yoga called Anusara. This year I took a weekend with John in Seattle and will sign up to do so again in ‘03. This style of yoga offers principals of alignment and a heart-centered approach. For my birthday I’m doing a weekend retreat at Brietenbush (Oregon) with Sarahjoy Marsh, an Anusara teacher.

Yoga update

I continue to take yoga three a week from Rainey and Bianca at Seattle Yoga Arts. I designed a calendar for SYA two years in a row and was featured on December of the 2009 calendar (first two images below). Here are links to PDFs of both calendars: 2008 SYA Calendar PDF and 2009 SYA Calendar PDF.

Yoga Asanas

Surprise 60th for Sheila
Standing work station for better health