Yogi of the month
[dropcap]Yoga is for all ages! Fran is our first yogi of the month that is not an instructor, but she is an inspiration. She attends classes regularly and her practice is a true thing of beauty; on many occasions those around her are in aww of her ability and practice, she is strong, determined, yet soft and playful. Fran’s asana practice is refined but as she explains yoga extend far past what we see her doing on the mat.[/dropcap]
Fran Charlebois is 71 years old, she is strong and healthy and credits that to yoga!! A retired high school teacher living and practising yoga in the beautiful Okanagan. Fran and and her husband Vic have two married daughters living in California, and a 23 yr. old grandson in Vancouver. Here is a little about Fran’s experience with yoga.
1. What does yoga mean to you?
Yoga has taught me to focus on “being” rather than “doing”. For most of my life, my self esteem was measured by my accomplishments. I did more; I tried harder; I made multi-tasking an art. I was so focussed on the “what next?” that I missed much of what was going on in my life. I was not present. Yoga has allowed me to experience and to value stillness.
2. When did you start yoga, and how did that come to be?
My two daughters, Kirsten and Brit, who have always been my greatest teachers in all things, encouraged me to start yoga when I was 60.
3. Have you had any teacher(s) in particular who helped you along your journey? If so, what made them special?
One special teacher has been Shahia Rivers who taught me in Sivananda style hatha yoga classes in Vernon. Her greatest gift to me has been to model grace and compassion for herself as she has met life with serious, and debilitating health issues in the past few years.
4. What kept you coming back to the mat and has that changed over time?
That “wet noodle” feeling that I get after my practice keeps mecoming back to the mat, and that never changes. I confess that it is a bit of an addiction.
5. What does yoga bring to your life?
Yoga gives me a more balanced life. I feel more peaceful and compassionate, more at one with the other. It helps me stay in the moment.
6. How has your practice evolved?
I have become stronger and more flexible over the years, but I enjoy the variety of classes offered depending on the needs of my body and my spirit of which I am usually more in tune. I say, usually, because a series of Yin classes challenged me with (what I thought!) boring, lengthy asanas, only to find, after the teacher posed the question, “ If you feel the need to move, ask yourself why?” that I was being asked to face my biggest issue. Two months in that class also brought my blood pressure down 10 points.
I would be anxious, overly busy, disconnected……and frail.
8. What is your “can’t do without” favourite pose?
Savasana ( corpse pose) It is the antithesis of doing, just surrendering totally into a peaceful, relaxed state, my mind empty. It is the place from which I am free to meditate at the end of my practice. It takes the discipline and the focus of the preceding poses to put me in that place. Relaxing my tongue seems to be the moment when I finally let go.
9. Tell us about an asana you struggle with.
In my 70s, I find balancing postures more challenging. I have mild osteoporosis, and I have to be mindful of tumbles. Keeping my feet off the mat helps stabilize me. So I get off the mat and ground into the floor directly in standing balance posses to find my balance. I find the floor much more grounding in balance posses such as tree, eagle, and Virbhadrasana 1.
10. Who inspires you, on or off the mat, and what keeps you going?
All the students who share my practice and the amazing teachers who encourage us inspire me and keep me going.
11. What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
Leave your ego at the door. (not an easy task!). It’s not a competition; it’s a journey.
12. How about guidance for beginning teachers. As a veteran student, what would you say to a new teacher?
I think that the task of beginning teachers is to appreciate, encourage, and affirm the uniqueness of each student, and to have compassion both for themselves as well as for their students.
13. What few steps do you think a yogi can take today to tremendously improve their practice? Was there or is there anything that has helped you along the way?
Go back to basics. Now and then, take a different class. Sometimes it’s easy to go on automatic pilot during asanas.