I have been practicing yoga for the past four years at Urban Body Studios in Atlanta, GA and in my home. At the time I started doing yoga in 2007, I was in anxiety over-drive. I had nasal surgery in 2006 and have never been able to breath quite right since that time. After a year of visiting every specialist under the sun, they all told me nothing was wrong with me. I was advised for health reasons by several of my doctors that yoga would relieve my anxiety attacks and lower the effects of stress on my body. I was told that many of my health problems were caused only by stress and that there were no physical problems with my body. Stress overload had created erratically very high blood pressure spikes, heart palpitations, sweats and total lack of energy.
Hence, the need to control my breathing and state-of-mind! Yoga was the answer.
I have thought about becoming a yoga teacher for the past two years but haven’t signed up due to financial reasons. I’m an adjunct economics instructor at a few local universities in the greater Atlanta area. However, as an adjunct, I get classes canceled often as most universities use the LIFO system of assigning courses. Working part-time at various colleges allows me more personal freedom and less stress than my previous corporate career.
Teaching mid-day allows me the freedom to practice yoga most mornings. Yoga has taught me how to calm my breathing and consciously control the breath. By doing this, I am able to control any anxiety and eliminate it before it begins affecting my body. Yoga has also taught me how to make my mind still and focus on the present, rather than being focused on the past or pre-occupied by all the things that could or could not occur in the future. It is for these reasons, controlled breathing and stillness and focused presence of the mind and body that I have continued to practice yoga.
After my illness, I had gained 25 pounds. Beginning yoga in an overweight body was much harder than in a thin body. I easily tired at first and couldn’t keep many of the poses held for the required time suggested. I was plain clumsy compared with many of the hard-core yogis who stood straight, lean and tall. Through the years, I found that if I wanted my yoga practice to be more meaningful, I had to change the way I ate food. Rather than sugary snacks, I began to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into my diet. Focusing on now meant that I cared about what I put into my body, for if I drank coffee, the calming effects of yoga were gone. So coffee was eliminated from my diet. Water replaced it.
As I began to do more yoga in the studio, I came to learn that many of the regular students ate very healthy meals. I began doing research into nutrition and starting eating more nuts, more vegetables, eliminated red meats and soda. I drank more water, ate more fruits and vegetables, and began to bake my own bread to eliminate all of the preservatives that come from store-bought bread. As my diet improved, my yoga improved. As my yoga improved, my anxiety disappeared. My energy level came back to higher levels than I’ve had since childhood. I could once again do headstands and backbends in the middle of a park! The flexibility of youth was restored. And the 25 pounds came off and more!
I began to discuss the benefits of my yoga practice with many of my friends. We would go to a local park and practice in the middle of a grassy area on blankets. Many of them would tire, as I had, when I just began. They would complement me on how amazing it was that I could do a headstand, a handstand and a backbend at age 51 without any props. But my mind is now still and I can focus and control my thoughts and my body’s actions. I encourage them to practice continually to understand what it means to “do” yoga.
I certainly couldn’t have achieved any level of satisfaction in my yoga practice if it were not for the patience and guidance of my yoga instructor, Robert Joiner. As I listen to his calming voice while the class does the various asanas, I can only aspire to be as good a yoga teacher as he has achieved. I’ve only practiced with about 10 or so instructors, but he clearly challenges every student to do their best and to continue to practice yoga more in the studio and at home. He is the epitomy of what I strive for when I teach yoga—practice, practice, practice and the wisdom of the actions will be more clear. He is constantly striving to learn more about how the body works mechanically by studying various martial arts and studying human physiology. He incorporates this knowledge back into the classroom and corrects students so they don’t injure themselves.
I find myself continually wanting to read more and more about yoga, besides my daily practice. Yoga has helped me overcome many of my health problems. I believe that it can help millions of people achieve better satisfaction with their lives. I want to help others enjoy many of the spiritual, psychological and physical benefits that I have benefitted from during my practice.
I have researched many times on the Internet various yoga training schools. While studying in India or Bali, like in Eat, Love and Pray is only a dream, my reality exists in the greater Atlanta area. I was thrilled to learn that there is a studio in Cartersville where I could take my yoga certification if I win this contest and am accepted. I was even more pleased to see they have a full-time 6 week summer schedule, as this fits perfectly around my college teaching schedule. Cartersville is not far from the Etowah Indian Mounds, a magical place that sits high above the river. I can’t think of a better place to get in touch with oneself and practice yoga.
As a business person with over 30 years corporate and consulting experience, I plan to make an impact on the world with yoga by getting children and seniors more involved, and also business people. Children today are grossly overweight and don’t exercise enough. Most K-12 schools have dropped gym. Children need to have yoga classes brought into the schools as an after-school activity or as a health elective, tied in with nutrition and healthy lifestyles. I would also like to offer yoga to seniors at senior community centers and health care facilities. Practicing yoga makes one feel in control of one’s life. In the closing years of life, many seniors due to their failing bodies, feel they lack this control. While many exercises from yoga may be beyond the scope of many elderly, many would benefit from any exercise and feeling of self control. Lastly, I’d like to introduce yoga practice into the office gym. Rather than a sweaty workout, why not travel to various offices and teach yoga relaxation techniques.
Rather than the 20 minutes coffee break, offer a yoga class with a ice-cold water refreshment. With many health care plans providing incentives for exercise, why not train workers to enjoy a yoga class rather than an alcoholic drink at the end of the day to calm one’s spirit. Yoga is a win-win for all!
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Dianne Fishel
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