Yogi of the Month
Our first male Yogi of the Month, Michael Treschow, was nominated by the Moksha crew and has an amazing story.
The Moksha team had this to say.
[quote]When asked to nominate someone for the yogi of the month, I turned to our studio owner and we both immediately thought of Michael– it was that simple. Essentially since our yoga studio opened 2 years ago, he has been a staple around this place. He’s always around with a welcoming and warm heart, a new book he’s reading to tell us about, and is a true student within his own life. We are grateful to know Michael, and he truly reminds us of the importance of living to learn.” -Sarah Martin, instructor at Moksha Kelowna.[/quote]
This is the insight to the practice Michael can offer based on his own journey.
1 What does yoga mean to you?
Most of the time yoga means to me something restorative. But when I am more fully in tune with my yoga practice it also means a kind of freedom. I generally practice hot yoga, except when I practice out of the studio at home, in a hotel room, or somewhere out of doors. In the hotroom that sweat really is a cleansing force and a very sweet sort of resetting of my physical energy. But even outside the hotroom I find that I get a sweat going, especially when I am attentive to my breathing. But the sweat is not the whole story and really is far from the heart of things. The discipline of the poses allows me to pause again and again and again in a sort of purposeful way. I find those pauses to have the purpose of opening me up, physically of course as I stretch and extend and hold, but also mentally and emotionally as I breath into the moment. And when I manage to tune into that process of opening up my body and mind then I find that I gain a kind of freedom, a freedom most immediately to be with merely myself away from the tasks and duties and concerns that can feel so constricting, an experience that I think and hope is tending towards a taste of freedom from selfhood altogether. Because I have a tendency towards melancholy and am at times haunted by a sense of the vanity of existence such moments offer a welcome rest.
2 When did you start yoga and how did that come to be?
The first time I ever attended a yoga class was under fairly strange and trying circumstances. It was about four and a half years ago. My older son Sam was dying of cancer. Some kind people had given my family a gift of a weekend getaway at The Cove. Sam was with us to share in the experience, but he was in pretty rough shape, on a lot of meds, and very restless, anxious, troubled, and confused. He was quite unable to sleep and needed a lot of attention. We were all utterly exhausted. When my turn came to get some alone time I opted for the Bikram Yoga class that was downstairs in the hotel, only because I like heat a lot. This seemed like a chance for a really long sauna with some stretching added in. I was looking forward to something relaxing and soothing. The only kind of exercise that I had been doing at the time was running and basketball, and not much of that lately. Needless to say, the class proved awfully difficult for me. I was the only male there. Everyone else seemed quite capable of all of the strange poses. I felt out of place and utterly hopeless. The instructor came up to me afterwards and remarked on my exceeding stiffness of body and need for a lot more stretching if I didn’t want to end up as some creaky, inflexible old guy. It was fair observation and it stayed with me, even though I wasn’t really in circumstances or a frame of mind where I could really begin practicing. A couple of years later some of my students at UBC told me about the new Moksha studio in town and urged me to come try one of the Karma classes. It may seem strange for students to be inviting a prof to a yoga class, but I think they were conscious of my dispiritedness. In the aftermath of Sam’s death I had been diagnosed with and treated for heart disease. One of my students, a fellow named Scott, would not take “no” for an answer. He was quite insistent on my need for what he was finding fairly blissful. So after a few weeks I finally attended one Friday night. It was pretty crowded. The instructor, Libby, was very welcoming to all the “newbies” and in fact insisted that they would be the ones most likely to get the richest experience. This gentle and friendly tone I found quite comforting. It somehow chimed in with the message of fully accepting yourself where you are and trusting yourself to know your own needs. The class turned into an extension of some of the teaching that I was receiving at the time from reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance, Melody Beattie’s The Grief Club, and Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication.
3 Have you had any teacher(s) in particular that helped you along your journey, if so what made them special?
I’d give a shout out to all of the teachers I have met and received instruction from. Libby, who is long gone from Kelowna, I’d thank her for bringing a lighthearted tone to the class when I was getting started, making it easy for newcomers like me to feel at ease. Some instructors I have taken only one class from, such as Whitnee, Patti, or Susie; they each brought something fresh and new to my practice, especially in the area of meditation. I look forward to more classes from them. From some other instructors, like Sarah, Michelle, Juliana,Bill, and Cara, I have received a great deal of benefit. I always feel glad when I know I am going to one of their classes. They have each helped me in various ways, sometimes with an adjustment to a pose or an attitude, sometimes with a reading that they have chosen, but especially with their genuine friendliness and welcoming cheer. They all inspire me virtually every time I go to class. I suppose I still may be in that “newbie” state of mind where I figure that I have so much more to learn, having gotten started as a stiff and creaky older guy. But I especially have heaps and heaps of gratitude for Kylie and Trish.
Kylie was the one who helped me feel especially welcome at her studio. I remember standing out in the cold one morning at around 6 am waiting for the doors to be unlocked for an early class. I had taken only a few classes by this point, all of them with Libby and all but the first being Yin classes. I don’t remember what possessed me to go out to a very early Moksha class under altogether new instruction. But there I was in the murky dawn feeling a bit strange because I figured that I must look like some fairly creepy middle aged guy lurking for no good reason. Then up comes Kylie bold and bright spirited and says, “Welcome, my friend!” as she unlocked the door to the studio. I had no idea that she was the owner and manager and of course had no idea that she would bring so much encouragement and kindness to my beginner’s practice over the months (which are now starting to turn into years). Kylie has a powerful voice and gentle heart, which makes her instruction both energized and soothing at the same time. And Trish has been a wonderful counterpart to Kylie in helping me develop my practice. She has a lot of tenderhearted wisdom, a lot of knowledge about the body and the mind and the spirit. She has given me a great deal of guidance and also has shown me a great deal of kindness. I always feel nourished under her teaching.
4 What kept you coming back to the mat and has that changed over time?
The need for health and healing got me started and it certainly keeps me coming back. The experience of pure refreshment certainly surprised me and has proved a real motivator.
5 What does yoga bring to your life?
The most immediate benefit of yoga is the physical and emotional well-being that I feel after class. Hot yoga is the best destressor that I have found. It is especially an important opportunity to practice acceptance.
6 How has your practice evolved?
Being a fairly standard issue sort of guy who likes sports, I quite readily bring my ego to class and something of a spirit of competition, even if competition with merely myself. Freedom from that sort of ego is the trajectory that I am learning to bring to the mat and then also take with me when I get off the mat.
7 How might you and/or your life be different if you hadn’t found Yoga?
That is a hard question to answer. I think that given the changes that I went through after my son’s death and then with my own health problems yoga was somehow an inevitability for me. I don’t mean in a fated sort of way. I mean that my own needs were seeking out what yoga provided some of the answers for.
But to answer in a concrete way, I think that without yoga I would have had a harder time learning some measure of renewed and reconstituted gratitude. I was really struggling with anger when I started going to Moksha.
8 What is your “can’t do without” favorite pose?
I don’t know why I don’t resort to child’s pose more often, since it certainly has the sweetest savour for me. It soothes and calms and opens all at the same time. It is what I resort to when I feel overwhelmed.
9 Tell us about an asana you struggle with.
Eagle pose is the one balancing pose that really challenges me. I’m not sure why. I think it may be a combination of the fact that I am a bit top heavy and that I lack the flexibility in my hips to get my centre of gravity lower down. It is the pose where I especially seek to bring acceptance to my practice.
10 Who inspires you, on or off the mat, what keeps you going?
I think what really inspires me towards yoga is the desire to be quiet and meditative and stress free. Yoga seems to me to be an important aid in developing that state of being.
Of the people who most inspire me towards yoga I would first point to all my instructors, and then also some of the authors I have read to learn a meditative sort of life, such as Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, and Cheri Huber.
11 What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
I doubt that I have any special insight about how to get started with a safe practice. Certainly I hear my own instructors giving lots of good advice to classes when beginners are present. But from my own experience the most important advice that I offer to myself is to trust my own desire to learn yoga, which means taking the long view. It is another form of an “ars longa,” a craft very long in the learning. There is no hurry to become adept, no need to bend like a pretzel in short order.
12 How about guidance for beginning teachers. As a veteran student what would you say to a new teacher?
I’m not really a veteran, but this much I can say. Most people coming to yoga are learning to practice acceptance: you can speak with confidence in your own practice knowing that you are in a safe and free place where judgement doesn’t really have standing. That will help your class to have a gentle tone.
I was born in Calgary and grew up there, but moved around Canada quite a bit for my university education and early years of employment. I’ve lived in Kelowna since 1990 with my wife Jill. Both our sons were born here in Kelowna. My son Paul comes with me sometimes to Moksha when he is home from university. Jill is not such a fan of heat, but has practiced at Yoga House. We currently have one dog, a large doodle named Charlie, who once visited Moksha Kelowna and had a fine romp with Kylie’s equally doodlish studio dog, Marley.