I enjoy an active lifestyle in the community of CantaMia, nestled in the Estrella Mountains near Goodyear, Arizona; and (almost) admit to being in denial about the ravages of age. However, deny as I might, insidiously, little things creep in. A winking, grinning imposter shows up in my mirror. (Hey, how ya doin’?) Reminders of old injuries and surgeries ominously surface in occasional shoulder, knee, and hip pains. On the tennis court my eyes pick up the ball slower than I remember, which sometimes results in faulty footwork. Shot quality and direction suffers. Frustrating, y’know? |
By-and-by, stiffness and sporadic aches have stepped-to-the-plate and hampered flexibility. A friend allowed as how yoga might be good to alleviate and/or remediate those problems. Having practiced Pilates for a time, the notion seemed reasonable. I decided to give it a try. Nothing ventured…right? In my mind, Pilates and yoga were essentially the same. I was wrong. The former (at least the way I approached it) focused on my physical nature while the latter has been a holistic body, spirit, and mind practice. It took me several months to perceive the difference. I’m either a skeptic or a slow leaner—probably a bit of both.
Once I forgot to remove a tennis ball from my pocket when going from the tennis court to the yoga studio. A neighbor and his wife spotted at me, and he asked with a sarcastic smirk, “Erection?”
I got his joke, and smiled back. “Tennis ball, wiseass.”
His wife said innocently, “It must be painful. I had tennis elbow once, and it was no picnic.”
My initiation into the practice of yoga was (and is) guided by a cheerful, warm-hearted sprite who is solidly built; and looks more like a cross-fit participant—which she once was. See, I always pictured yoga instructors as lissome and thin partly from denying themselves worldly pleasures. I thought they were celibate, ate only miniscule quantities of rice, slept on a bed of spikes, and kept a cobra in a basket. I assumed when they uttered Namaste it meant class was over and the students “must-not-stay”.
Julie Christopher (née Thery) hails from Marseilles, a port on the Mediterranean Sea famous for bouillabaisse, and old movies involving intrigue and the mildly sinister Sidney Greenstreet. She studied performance arts (guitar, voice, dance) in Marseilles and Paris from age 11 to 17 then performed all over the European continent. She began yoga practice at 15 for peace of mind, and clarity of intention. Her childhood and early adult years were filled with darkness, but that is a story only she has the right to disclose. As she tells it, yoga brought her to light, optimism, cheerfulness, and an enthusiasm for life. The innocence of a mid-1960s flower child comes to mind—everything is light and love. Her goal as a teacher is for her students to reach the same level of joy that she possesses. She watches over her charges like a Mother Hen making sure each pose is specific to the student; that no one attempts to do too much—but only what is right for that individual. Julie exudes love for all—not unrequited love, but the kind of love one has for children or siblings.
During her early years of teaching in the greater Phoenix area, Julie conducted thirty 90-minute classes a week, but since marrying and giving birth to two adorable daughters, has reduced her yoga schedule to about five classes per week. She devotes the rest of her time promoting her brand, Biztuition, and giving weekend workshops. Biztuition is her way of expanding from helping individuals to including businesses and groups—mostly those dealing with health care. She has co-authored a book, The Soul of Success, and is currently working on another. She is completely unabashed, and what my mother would call a sweet soul. I do not disagree. There is not a phony bone in her body; that is, I have never met anyone as genuine—outside of my wife, Kay. Julie is a vegan who believes in the healing power of elements (like crystals); and provides “readings” for individuals. I admit to being completely ignorant of such subjects, but was disappointed when I saw her leave CantaMia in a vehicle. I was hoping for something more exotic, say, a hot air balloon.
There is (to me anyway) a humorous side to yoga. After the first several weeks of practicing, not only had my flexibility improved, but I had an extraordinary ability to hold in emissions from the old zephyr window, which can be a challenge when twisting into different poses. My “talent” was to no avail because if I were the only male in class, and a lady ripped one off, guess who got the blame? (Because ladies don’t do that. Puh-leeze!) I attempted to deflect accusatory looks by asking who sat on a duck.
Julie starts and ends class by having us chant OM, which she spells AUM—au having a long o sound in French. Though I’m comfortable with the practice now, at the onset I felt like I was 1) paying homage to a resistor on an electronic circuit board (ohm), and 2) a dyslexic cow “oooommmm”. Afterward, I had an inappropriate little ditty running through my head, “From Calcutta to Darjeeling all the sacred cows I’m stealing; but Punjab is for me…” Hey, I couldn’t help it’ I’m bizarre that way.
Humor aside, we humans tend to be preoccupied about three things: 1) we want more TIME; 2) we want happiness, which is hard to come by without LOVE; and 3) we fear DEATH from whose clutches there is no escape. During my life, I’ve received the second item in spades—there are many whom I love and who love me. No regrets; nothing but gratitude. I try to remain fit and robust, which may afford me more time—maybe, maybe not. I wish I would have used my time more wisely, but what’s past is past. I can only look ahead. To do otherwise would waste what time is remaining. Finally, the biological event that will define the end of my time becomes closer with every heartbeat. Through the practice of yoga, and Julie’s guidance, I see time and death simply as dimensions of ones’ existence with the latter being a circle complete, a noble battle won. Yoga also helps me reconcile myself with my inherent human condition, which contains evil. For me, glibness and beauty masks the beast’s disguise, which thrives and lives on lies. I believe yoga has helped me contain the beast—well, maybe. Stay tuned.
To conclude, the last pose of a 90-minute session is called shavasana—the dead man’s pose. We lay on our backs with open palms facing up, and eyes closed. We imagine our bodies becoming heavy and sinking into the earth. Ironically, it could be considered the hardest yoga pose of all because one can only do the pose correctly ONCE. Circle complete or not, I’m not looking forward to it.
And so, in this world of travail and cheap wine: Namaste, mes amis!
By Gene Myers, your working boy and forklift driver-in-training. Copyright 2016.
Related Articles -
Goodyear, Arizona, Estrella Mountains, yoga, Pilates, Julie Christopher, Biztuition, OM, shavasana,