Student Spotlight: David

DAVID, 52, finds the heart of his yoga practice while walking along the bluffs of the Mississippi River and tuning into the rhythm of his breath. On the mat, he brings a quiet focus to each posture, using only those muscles to hold his body in alignment, while letting go of any expectations and judgments. He exemplifies how we can all find in yoga a gateway for attending to our daily activities with greater appreciation and awareness.

“Be gentle with your pace.” – David P.

Name: David Age: 52

  • Length of Practice: Twenty years ago, I spent six months in intense self-practice in order to address a debilitating back injury. This inspired me to integrate the principles of mindful breath and movement into my daily walks. Eight months ago, I resumed a more regular yoga practice with Brian.
  • Most Gratifying Pose: Mountain pose, because it allows for centering and balance. I also appreciate Child’s pose, because it allows my body to reach a more restful state.
  • Most Challenging Pose: Tree pose, because it demands maintaining balance through a calmed strength.
  • Pets: 1 Dog, Bobo, Standard Poodle, 3 years old
  • Favorite Excursion on Bike: The trails under the bluffs along the Mississippi River.
  • Favorite Musician & Recording: Gil Scott-Heron, Spirits.
  • Favorite Novel: Julio Cortázar, Blow-Up and Other Stories.

Equilibrium

David’s yoga practice exemplifies the balance of ease and exertion. He focuses on where to direct his energy while relaxing those areas not directly involved with a pose. Rarely do I notice David’s shoulders hunched up around his ears or his jaw clenched like a weightlifter at the gym. David’s advice to new students is simple, but also profound, “Be gentle with your pace; you can spend a lifetime developing any single pose.” David aspires to carry this quality of attention into all of his everyday routines and interactions.

Groundedness

For many students, the more inward-directed, restorative poses, like Child’s pose are the most challenging. David embraces the stillness, observing his breath and the messages his body is sharing with him. He has remarked that these moments serve as a great opportunity to check in with himself and recharge the batteries.

Playfulness

“We went around without looking for each other, but knowing we went around to find each other.”

― Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch

David balances this steady focus with a quiet, playful sense of levity. In our sessions, we try not to take ourselves too seriously, as it is just practice after all. More importantly, if we’re having fun, we are more likely to keep returning to the mat. Yoga offers us a safe space in which to challenge ourselves and explore our natural thresholds. I am reminded of the guidance shared by one of my own first yoga teachers, who encouraged us to smile when we fell out of a pose. She emphasized that what matters is not achieving that “perfect” pose, but rather staying within ourselves and always following the breath.

Present Moment Awareness

David has always loved walking and feels it is a natural expression of his yoga practice. He reminds me that yoga is not an end into itself, but rather a gateway through which we can bring greater appreciation to whatever it is we are doing throughout the day. It can help us recognize the beauty of our surroundings, and importantly for David in Minnesota, stay upright on those walks through the winter wonderland!

Photos courtesy of Mark Wojahn, 2021

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To reach yoga instructor Brian Jeans directly: brian@teamsunwellness.com

Student Spotlight: Deb

  • Some facts about Deb
    • Age:   67 3/4
    • Astrological Sign:  Gemini
    • Hobbies/Obsessions:  Gardening, photography
    • Favorite Sweet Treat:  Almost any kind of chocolate!
    • Years Practicing: 2
    • Most Challenging Pose: Boat Pose
I feel that it works all parts of my body, incorporating strength, balance, and mobility as I move through the pose.

Evolution

Deb started her yoga practice two years ago somewhat reluctantly, by following up on a friend’s invitation to a group yoga session. While Deb wasn’t convinced that yoga was for her after that first class, I remember meeting her then and seeing her strength and stamina right out of the gate. Plus she gave me a bear hug, back when hugs were a thing. She returned to more group yoga classes, with the hope that yoga could help her get stronger, as well as improving her flexibility and balance. Her consistency over a period of time started to have noticeable results, starting with improved flexibility which has helped her while working in the garden.

“I have noticed greater stability through my core and hip muscles which has improved my balance, particularly on uneven surfaces.  

Overall I have felt more energized and I have learned ways to bring ‘calm’ to my day through some breathing techniques and guided meditation.”

Yoga is Essential

“Up until just a few months ago, I was content to take the weekly group classes (in person and then through Zoom) and perhaps practice on my own during the week but most times not. Then a medical incident occurred that impacted my balance.  It caused me to reflect on the fragility of independence and how life could potentially change drastically for me as well as my partner if allowed to persist or worsen.”

As part of her journey back to a state of health and independence, Deb expanded her “wellness team” to include me, and committed to private one-on-one sessions together. We created a practice plan to address Deb’s challenges and goals. I introduced some new tools for her yoga toolbox: restorative and yin postures, breathing exercises, and yoga nidra. I tailored her asana practice to take into account her medical challenges, with her doctor’s approval.

“Overall I feel more balanced during my day…or able to get to that centered feeling just by practicing some of the techniques I have learned from Ann along the way. It doesn’t take a formal session for me to practice yoga during my everyday routine and that, to me, brings value into my life.”

-Deb S.
Heart Opening Restorative Pose, resting lengthwise on a bolster with additional neck support

“Two years ago when I attended my first ‘try it on for size’ session, I certainly did not think that it would be on my list of essential elements for living a healthy, balanced life; but it is. And while I admit I still am not a person who rolls out her mat every day to practice, I believe aspects of my practice are present as I go about my daily routines. And that is a satisfying feeling.”

Deb’s advice to someone beginning yoga: Think about why you are practicing yoga. Look for those aspects of the practice that address your ‘why’.

Air hugs, Deb. It’s an honor to be a member of your Wellness Team!

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Student Spotlight: Evan

Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1:2.

  • Name: Evan Silverstein
  • Age: 38
  • Length of Practice: 16 years, most active over past two years.
  • Most Gratifying Pose: Triangle
  • Most Challenging Pose: Crescent Moon
  • Pets: 3 Dogs, Sweet Potato (Beagle Mix) 14, Rosie (Poodle Mix) 12 & Tina (Poodle Mix) 7.
  • Favorite Philly Bike Excursion: Schuylkill River Trail

Curiosity

Improvising a triangle variation to build strength, flexibility and self-awareness

Evan was one of the first curious souls to join our Men’s Yoga class here in South Philly. He brings a sense of fearlessness to his practice, constantly setting new goals for himself and exploring ways to integrate yoga and mindfulness into his everyday activities at work, home and everywhere in between.

Determination

Evan building core strength while flying high in a variation of Locust Pose

Evan brings a quiet intensity to his practice, exemplifying the yogic metaphor of heating the iron in order to shape it. I admire his determination to develop the strength, flexibility and focus needed to find stillness in even the most advanced postures.

Balance

Grounded and focused in Extended Hand to Toe Pose

Evan demonstrates a quiet confidence moving into challenging poses and holding them while focused on his breathing. Evan enters AND exits these postures with the same degree of grace and focus, remaining centered and grounded.

Present Moment Awareness

Evan reflecting on how to pay closer attention to his breath, both on and off the mat.

Our Men’s Yoga class focuses on building the core strength needed to keep doing all the things in life we love doing. We break down traditional yoga postures into basic physical movements that can be applied to our everyday work-life routines. Evan exemplifies this integration of mindful movement into our everyday activities at work, home and everywhere in between. It is perhaps his present moment awareness that makes Evan such an inspiring student. He follows his breath through each posture and then applies what he learns on the mat to reach his full potential off the mat. I cannot wait to take his class when he completes his teacher training!

Student Spotlight: Judy

  • Name: Judy
  • Age: 71 (she adds, “old enough to know better and young enough to do it anyway!”)
  • Sun Sign: Aries
  • Pets: Two long-haired black cats, Amos and Pinkerton
  • Favorite Sweet Treat: anything chocolate

Interoception

One thing I’ve noticed about Judy since I met her in 2016 (besides her lovely posture!) is her ability to open herself up to whatever she’s experiencing, and I can tell she’s really listening inward during class. She has been a fixture in my group classes since then, adding her special brand of graceful goodwill and lightheartedness.

Grace

Warrior Two Pose

Judy’s been practicing on and off since 1998, but in 2000, she needed spine surgery in her neck to repair a serious bone spur that was interfering with her range of motion and causing numbness down her arm. They took the discs out of C6+C7 and replaced them with bone from her left hip. While she suffers from arthritis throughout most of her joints, Judy has learned that she feels much better if she keeps moving.

“If it hurts, it means I’m still alive.”

-Judy s.

Currently, she practices yoga about 2-3 hours each week, which has also helped strengthen her bones as we reported earlier this year. (Her improved Dexa Scan scores contributed to the blogpost I wrote on Yoga for Stronger Bones.) In fact, I blame Judy and another student for getting me interested in yoga for osteoporosis, and I’m only at the beginning of that journey, so thank you…

Effort

Extended Side Angle Pose

Judy came to my house for a special one-on-one session – or an osteocyte party as I like to say! Osteocytes are important building blocks of bone synthesis, but we need to practice the right poses with proper alignment and work hard within the pose (hold for at least 30 seconds, for one!) in order to put enough stress on the bone to get that bone-building party started. She even got into an Extended Side Angle Pose, great for stimulating the femurs and spinal vertebrae – the areas where Judy has thinning bone.

Centering

With her weak ankles and neuropathy in her feet, Judy’s toughest challenge is balancing poses like Tree. “Balance is hard for me, and it makes me feel less successful, though it does get somewhat easier with practice!”

“Let go of your judgments and just do what you can, but make it a regular part of your routine.”

-Judy S.

Because of Judy’s regular yoga practice, she experiences less arthritis pain, stronger bones, and feels more centered in her daily life. Yoga class provides her with a social connection with like-minded people. I’m so grateful to have Judy’s beaming smile in my classes, along with her humor and present-moment insight into her own practice. I hope she will consider the yoga dose response study with Dr. Fishman and keep those BMD scores improving!

It’s truly an honor, Judy!

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Student Spotlight: Carol

We feel really strongly that yoga is for everybody, and yet the images of people doing yoga don’t tend to represent our own bodies or those we teach. So we decided to start a new blog series highlighting our own students, in an effort to shine light on regular people doing yoga and what that might look like. Plus, we wanted to learn more about our wonderful students outside of the classroom! Our first spotlight is on Carol, who was kind enough to come into our home so that we could get to know her a little better. Carol is so motivated and consistent in her practice, she inspires all of us to show up!

C is for Carol and Consistency

  • Name: Carol
  • Age: 68
  • How Long Practicing Yoga: 4 years consistently, 20 years sporadically
  • Favorite Pose: So many feel good!
  • Most Challenging Pose: Boat Pose
  • Sun Sign: Pisces
  • Pets: 2 cats, Diva and Misty
  • Favorite Sweet Treat: Dried Fruit
Carol holds her plank pose for 2 minutes every day!

I first met Carol L. in the fall of 2017 while teaching a Hatha Yoga series run by the Wallingford-Swarthmore Community Classes organization. Since then, she has attended roughly 115 yoga classes with me and a few workshops!!

“Compared to most other exercises, yoga is the best for allowing you to move at your own pace and accepting your limitations. It gives the best benefits without stressing joints and muscles. And it helps with self acceptance.”

-Carol L.

Carol gets to the mat about 5 hours a week and on top of that, logs a lot of miles on her treadmill for cardio.

“Yoga just makes me happy. Even thinking about doing yoga makes me happy. I’m more flexible, stronger and my balance has improved. I also have reduced much of my stiffness and back pain. I experience sciatica much less often, and when it does come on, it lasts a much shorter time.   My balance has improved.

-Carol L.

See you soon on the mat, Carol! Stay tuned for more Student Spotlights!