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Yoga Is Freedom, Not Hippy Dippy Hocus Pocus

In June, I will have the pleasure of calling this Valley my home for 40 years — 40 years of hard work, splitting firewood, chain sawing, T-post driving, motorcycles, horses, humping plywood, sheetrock, pounding nails, digging ditches, falling off orchard ladders, fishing 200 days a year for 5-½ years in the Bering Sea, throw in ten years of experimentation, three years rehab, and 20 days induced coma, ten trips to the ER, hand, back and arm surgeries. Operating tractors, 15 years of landscape con­tracting, ranching and lots of driving have left me beat-up, sore, and stiff. At times unable to even lift my arms to drive, having to pull off the road just so I could drop my arms and breathe in/out. “I can’t do this anymore. This is no way to live.” Getting cortisone shots and tak­ing ibuprofen, vicodin, just to be able to drive.

Up on the edge of my bed in the middle of the night crying because my body hurts, my mind is numb from pain drugs, can’t sleep on this side, can’t sleep on that side, my ankle hurts. How can I live like this? What is life going to look like when I am 60? What will it feel like? The doctor says to stay on these crutches for eight weeks. (Yeah, right!)

If I knew then what I know now — I would have made different choices. I would be softer, kinder, and gentler on myself. But if I had made those choices, I might not have found my way “HERE.” Your choices make you who you are!

Sara Larkin and my wife Wendy were urging me to try the Intro to Balance Yoga class with Kristen Walker. The class was four consecutive Sundays for two hours each. The night of the second class, I slept straight through the night without waking up. At the end of the fourth class, I was off pain drugs after eight hours of the practice, I could sleep on both shoulders, I hadn’t slept like that in years. I found something magical.

I was hooked. I joined Kristen Walker’s “Yoga Bal­ance” class in session twice a week. I started feeling even better, my mind started to clear, my depression started to wane and my pained face began to change to calm.

Low-level, long-term pain is debilitating and depress­ing. I would not attend events because of my discomfort — driving hurt, sitting hurt, standing hurt. I had to learn to breathe. I could breathe to sustain my life but not to save my life. I had to learn to move and breathe and not to hold my breath. I learned to see my body from the inside out. To know where my arms and legs were in space in relationship to my body. I had to learn balance and how to stand in the gravity line. Hence the term “Yoga Balance.” (Who doesn’t need more of that?)

We are taught as men to stand with our chests out, chin up, put on a brave face. This has not served me well. That kind of thinking just allows me to continue to damage my body and mind further. The answer for me was so simple — maybe this will work for others. I bought six visit gift passes and gave them to friends and contractors. They started to show up at class. One day Steve Woods asked me, “Does that really work? Does it help you?” I told him, “Yes — you got a few minutes? Let me tell you my story.” I gave him a pass. He is now going regularly.

Once a week is relaxing but twice a week yields bene­fits that last two days. Three times a week is bliss but four is my magic number. I am calmer. I think clearer. I am better at solving problems and more detail-oriented in my work. I am more organized and more motivated. The more yoga I do, the more I accomplish in my life.

I have only been doing “Yoga Balance” for 10-½ months. I can’t claim to be 100% pain-free but I can say I am pill-free. My life is hugely different. I look and feel different. I have lost 23 pounds to date; not so much to the practice but because of my empowerment, I feel bet­ter, I eat better, so I do better. Who would have thought?

What I don’t need is the power to move mountains; what I need is the power to my body through life for the next 30-35 years. If not now, then when? I am changing my life and my daily schedule to work around these classes. I walk in with an open heart and a willing body. These classes have been and continue to be extraordinary experiences. Through Kristen Walker’s instructional skills, she relaxes and calms you, then builds heat and energy. It is like having your fuse lit and then through twists and controlled poses the energy and tension are released. It is really quite a blissful rush. It is freedom from the pain of my body. It is like being given wings to fly. I have never known such empowerment and I leave the studio more fit to face what awaits me each day.

These instructors at Studio SoBo are amazing. Their generosity, the encouragement, their loving way and beautiful styles are inspiring. The physical healing, per­sonal growth, mental challenges are gifts that I didn’t know I would receive.

John Mayor says, “I am scared at getting old. I am only good at being young, so I play the numbers game to find a way to say my life has just begun.”)

Well I am 55 and feel 40. This practice with Kristen Walker has saved my life and given it back to me. Diane Patterson tells me in her songs, “Slowly, I have learned that it is just about sharing my voice, my art, my ideas, my real caring, to own my own gifts, to nurture and grow them, to fearlessly share them, to sing them, to bestow them; it’s not about perfection or winning a race. It is just be me with some style and grace, to risk it all and yet to risk nothing to birth myself into being.”

This is my birthing, my journey, my path!

How do I show my gratitude for receiving such a pro­found gift? With my heart I say thanks to Kristen Walker, Forest, Kira, and Mary.

I wonder what 5 will be like — cool beans!


      These amazing instructors can be reached at: Classes through the Grange:

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