Why Yoga? It began with a serious illness...
In 1990, I became very ill. Two years earlier, while living in Kathmandu, I had climbed to Mt. Everest base camp to visit mountaineering friends who were attempting the summit. Now I was barely able to climb the steps at home. Chronic joint and muscle pain, along with debilitating fatigue threatened my ability to work as an anesthetist. I would go to work, come home and crash on the couch until it was time to go to bed.
I saw several doctors, was given medications without relief, and was tentatively diagnosed with Lupus, Grave’s disease and fibromyalgia. I was a mess! I was taking five prescription drugs and found myself on that slippery slope where I needed more drugs to treat the side effects of the other drugs.
I wrote to my friend, Swami Nirmalratna. She had left India for awhile and said if I sent her a ticket she’d come and take care of me. I had been doing yoga off and on since 1980, and had visited her at ashrams in Australia during that time. I knew the style of yoga could be gentle but I was unsure if it would help. I sent her the ticket anyway and she came for three months.
Every morning she got me up at 5 so I had time to do practices before I was due in at the hospital at 7 am. We began with the Pawanmuktasana series (as taught in Foundation A), simple pranayamas (breathing practices) and Om chanting every morning. When I returned in the late afternoon, it was Yoga Nidra time, and before bed more meditation. Within a month I was feeling better than I had felt in ages, and by the time the three months were up, I was down to 2 1/2 of the medications I had been taking, and I was able to do several round of Sun Salutation. I even drove to Florida and back for a vacation with Nirmal before she left. My energy was back to normal and 90% of the pain was gone.
Nirmal suggested I start teaching the practices to others. I didn’t think I could be successful because I thought no one would want to take classes from a fat yoga teacher. However, after visiting India and meeting my guru in 1995, I decided to try some classes for friends at my home. I knew in my heart that this style of yoga could help all people who were open to experiencing it. My intention as a nurse and then as an anesthetist was always to help others, and this was a new way to do so.
In 1997, the Atma Center bloomed from this intention. Atma means your true self, and I chose Center rather than studio because I hoped this would become more of a community center where people could get in touch with their true nature, their true selves.
Twenty two years ago this month we were scraping old tiles off the wood floor of what had been the State Liquor store, and working hard to transform the space. In the beginning, we only had one small yoga space, a holistic retail area with all sorts of products, and offices for massage therapists. But nothing really worked except the yoga, which grew and grew until we did a major renovation in 2004 and dedicated the whole space to yoga.
Some days it’s tough to keep it going. It seems a new yoga studio opens every week! And there are lots of fads with goat yoga, beer yoga, paddle board yoga, etc. May be fun and different, but not for me!
In the end, what makes the Atma Center different is our unique style of yoga, emphasizing the foundations that will improve your overall well being regardless of your size, shape, level of fitness, age, etc. There are times when my heart fills up and overflows when I see the diversity of students in my class. My intention realized.
The Atma Center is a yoga center.