Four of us had begun an Ashtanga practice with the "new teacher" in town. We were not acquainted really. We all practiced at different times. Our teacher decided to move. We had just begun to love our practice, so... we continued to pay the rent on his small space and began practicing together. We read anything we could get our hands on about Ashtanga Yoga. We helped each other with our practice. Joanna came into our group shortly thereafter. That was over 12 years ago and we are now family!
We live in the further most corner of Idaho, Washington and Oregon. A small town. No one would have ever heard of Ashtanga. At the time, there was really NO yoga in Lewiston, Idaho.
Teresa works as an accountant, Jenn is a writer for our local Newspaper, Carmen is on the sales staff at the paper, Joanna is a physical therapist and also works at the paper. Janine is a wheat farmer.
We have since upgraded to an improved space. We each share in teaching. We are GROWING, and two months ago began a Mysore class four mornings a week.
On Monday mornings Teresa and Janine "tune in” and take part in Diana's conference. The other three find time during the week!
It is truly a big part of our week. It has been such an inspiration to finally get to meet you in Montana! We are quite a distance from any other Ashtangis.
Kelly and Andrew McMahon
Here was the quote we used for our wedding:
"A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth-that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire.
I had read this book in college and it made a huge impact on me. When Andrew was diagnosed with A.L.L., he was 22 and I was 23. It was a terrifying time and we really had no road map to follow. It was the words of Viktor Frankl that kept coming back to me. His quote about "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way" inspired us to choose our own attitude and our own way throughout his treatments and recovery.
But ultimately, it was the quote from our wedding that inspired me in my role towards Andrew's healing. I truly believed that love could be his salvation - whether he lived or not, loving him and loving each other through it all would be his salvation - and my salvation for that matter. In situations like our - the truth that Frankl speaks about "love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire" becomes so clear and obvious. And the correlation about how this truth has been "set in song" over and over again through the years seemed so perfect for Andrew as a musician.
...when we aspire to love each other, even in the midst of life's greatest struggles and tragedies, we will all find our salvation."
When we got married, only 16 months after Andrew received his stem cell transplant, this quote was a reminder to us about what is truly important. To not forget the gift of clarity this experience gave us. It is a road map to all that would come - a reminder to the power of approaching each other and life in general "through love and in love" and how that when we aspire to love each other, even in the midst of life's greatest struggles and tragedies, we will all find our salvation.
A good metaphor for the interface between practicing yoga and riding horses is "taming the horse, and riding the mind." Both are conversations that illuminate the path. For me, becoming a competent rider means being present with your horse both on the ground and in the saddle. This effort defines the art of horsemanship: creative acts supported by skill and dedication. Of course, like yoga, you need a good teacher. In both cases you listen and follow direction. Then, practice, practice, practice….
I was an accomplished equestrian when I was young and, after forty years, decided to take it up once more at the age of 60. When I started riding again I thought that I would be able to apply the principles I had learned in yoga and forgo the mat practice. Unfortunately the benefits of breath and alignment did not last in the rough and tumble of riding a horse. (Never mind the spinal curling-iron effect of the desk chair and car seat!) Eventually life and circumstances convinced me to resume my mat practice.
Right away, I saw how yoga informs and reinforces my efforts as a rider. I feel it every time I sit in the saddle and notice how my body is elongating and becoming more supple from asana practice. For example, tadasana aligns the spine and helps place my seat in the saddle with my legs evenly on both sides of the horse. Breaking at the waist in downward dog and forward bends trains me to access my bhandas in any position, apply pressure with my legs around the horse, and put my heels down. Upward dog and the backbends open my heart so the horse knows upon my approach that I am accessible to him and his needs. Good drishti informs the horse where we want to go as he responds to my visual focus and the weight and direction of the head, shoulders and waist. Noticing the breath facilitates proprioception and allows me to be aware of where I am in the saddle and in space. It also underscores the tempo of present-centered awareness and supports connection to the ongoing rhythm of the horse's movement and stride.
Over the years, my yoga practice has allowed me to cultivate a focused, non-cluttered mind and supported a certain clarity and precision in all of my efforts, both physical and mental. I am still amazed at how fresh this practice remains in my life. Now, as an equestrian in her sixties, my yoga practice will help me be free from injury and move forward as an athlete unfettered by age. Its future offerings will remain a mystery and I look forward to even more discoveries on both the mat and in the saddle.