Several months ago, I was invited to a yoga/writing workshop as part of a Body Joy Project art show opening. Despite my litany of ready excuses not to, I decided to take a chance and go. The teacher, Gabriela Ayala-Cañizares, led a group of a dozen or so people through a series of yoga poses, and then some writing exercises about yoga and about ourselves. While I struggled through most of the poses, I was much less embarrassed than I thought I would be.
After the workshop, Gabi, who is a friend of my daughter, asked me if I would like to take one-on-one yoga classes with her. I thought perhaps this was an intervention of some sort, or perhaps an opportunity. I took a deeper plunge and said yes.
Gabi spent the first meeting getting my medical history. I’m a 64 year old male, overweight (or as my doctor bluntly put it, obese), with a past history of a heart attack, kidney failure, prostate problems, neuropathy and a sedentary life style. My sister had bought a series of yoga classes for me immediately after my heart attack, but I never managed the courage to go. I’ve had memberships in four or five health clubs over the years, but always felt discouraged.
So, Gabi got my medical history, plus a list of current ailments. And then she asked about stress. It was a long first meeting. What Gabi did was to take all that information and put together a sequence of yoga poses and exercises to work on me in general and on specific problem areas. She also gave me a short list of exercises that I could do on my own between classes. The program she put together included breathing exercises and basic exercises to stretch my back, neck, torso and legs. As the weeks went on, Gabi helped me improve my posture, got me working harder and added a few poses.
The key thing about studying with Gabi is that she listens, observes, and then takes action (and gets me to take action). She is persistent, patient, extremely supportive, and she’s a knowledgeable yoga teacher.
We started on September 10th and we have met every week possible after that. Due to busy schedules over the past few months, we have only met about six or seven times. I have been practicing on my own in between classes pretty regularly, often the full routine.
This has literally been a life-saver. Soon after I started, I felt my posture improving, I walked taller, my back stopped hurting. I found I was much more flexible and more calm. I became more conscious of my diet. Since starting yoga, I have lost eighteen pounds. I feel better. I feel good. I can’t say that yoga is a miracle, but I was very fortunate to meet Gabi at the right moment and I have pushed myself to do the work and take better care of myself. It’s still difficult to say “Namaste” without feeling like a poseur, but I’m working on it.