A couple of years ago I attended a local health fair with the intention of taking photos for the Neighbors page. As I walked around looking for a “photo op” I stumbled on a Tai Chi demonstration.
The Daily Triplicate/Michele Thomas Instructor Saun Stone (in purple) leads Tai Chi class at Healing Arts Center in Crescent City Monday evening.
At the time I knew little about Tai Chi. I’d seen people practicing Tai Chi in parks and on apartment building balconies in Asia on the Travel Channel. But here, on a small indoor stage at the fairgrounds in Crescent City, Del Norters were doing it, too.
I recognized one of the women. She’s from Smith River, about my age and definitely not a professional athlete. She glided across the stage with confidence and grace, definitely having fun.
“If Gaye can do it, I can do it,” I said to myself as I grabbed the flyer about classes. Two days later I went to the Healing Arts Center on Second Street and began my self-improvement program.
I went to Tai Chi for over a year. There was a core group of four or five students plus occasional drop-ins. Saun Stone led us in flowing movements of hands and feet as one breathes in and breathes out, coaxing every muscle, from head to foot, to relax.
Soon I became interested in yoga as well and joined a gentle yoga class at the same venue. Theresa Scovill, founder of the Healing Arts Center, has a gift for making each student feel comfortable in her own skin. I had always been wary of yoga — convinced that you had to be young, thin and able to twist like a pretzel. Theresa helped me find a level of yoga that works for me.
Eventually Theresa and I decided on private sessions. For more than a year now, for 90 minutes once a week, I have worked one on one with Theresa, allowing myself to be transported to a place where it’s OK to focus on how I feel and what feels good. For me, yoga is like a good massage.
Since I started yoga my balance has improved. I can stand on one foot (Tree Pose) for what seems like a very long time now. If I’ve had a bad day at work, I wobble more. When my mind is off balance, my body follows suit.
I’m more flexible, too. On my birthday last week I took a spill when my son’s dog ran past and clipped me at the knees. My legs flew up and my feet were next to my ears. I landed on concrete in the back yard. Remarkably nothing was broken, sprained or even bruised.
During yoga practice Theresa encourages me to leave my worries at the door and let my thoughts float away while I follow my breath. I stretch my muscles and my mind, and leave the studio feeling better than I did when I walked in.
A couple of months ago I was lying on the floor during Savasana — the pose of total relaxation at the end of every class. It is the 3–5 minutes that I look forward to after all the harder work — like Warrior poses — is done.
That night, I felt the sea air slipping through the open window and heard the foghorn. I let my mind wander and landed on this thought: if I was reading a book about a heroine who finds peace in her yoga class at a studio two blocks from her office and a mile from her home, a tranquil spiritual space with an ocean view and the sound of a foghorn in the distance, I would say, “I want to be her!”
The Healing Arts Center is closing and Theresa and her husband Sam will be going home to the East Coast soon. Their generous gift to the community has benefitted many people, including me. Tonight is my last class. At the end, teacher and student will bow to each other, sharing the ancient Sanskrit blessing, “Namaste.”
People come into your life for a reason. Thank you, Gaye, Saun and especially Theresa.