John W.

Freeing the Joy Within
Anyone who gives themselves the chance to see what yoga is about can get something positive out of it.

As a veteran police lieutenant living in Philadelphia, I’m not your typical yogi. About a decade ago, while looking to add stretching to my exercise routine, I discovered Bikram Yoga. I quickly found that incorporating yoga into my life made me feel radically different—less worried, more grounded. Even doing a 20-minute routine before work left me feeling at peace with myself and better able to handle people with grace. I also found that yoga helped dissipate the low-level anxiety I’d lived with for so long.

Yoga soon took on a central role in my life, and, five years ago, I decided to become a teacher so I could share what I’d learned with others. I’d been teaching in Philadelphia for about a year when I flipped through the Kripalu catalog and was intrigued by a program with Shiva Rea. It seemed to have an element of flow to it that I hadn’t experienced in other classes I’d taken.

Her program was my first opportunity to take yoga all day long, and the experience was supernatural. When I came out of the class the next day, I felt like I was flying. It was as if someone had unleashed a sense of joy in my body; I felt so light and exhilarated. I couldn’t believe I could feel that good. I thought to myself, “I need to learn how to bring this feeling into my teaching.”

Shiva opened up the fluidity of yoga for me. I’d been trained in classical poses but her instruction helped me connect with the sensuality and naturalness of the movements. Since the program, I’ve been trying to incorporate that philosophy into my own teaching.

Now I’m not only passing on the lessons I learned to my yoga students, but I’m also extolling the benefits of yoga to my fellow policemen. I’ve even had the opportunity to present yoga as a stress-reduction exercise at police conferences. I truly believe anyone who gives themselves the chance to see what yoga is about can get something positive out of it.

I’ll never forget the sense of elation I found at Kripalu or what it was like to be around people focused on wellness and serenity. I’m grateful I had the chance to take a break from my life, given the work I do, and just be with myself. Now that I know it’s possible to feel that good, it’s my goal to recreate that feeling in myself every day, and introduce others to this exquisite joy.

—John W., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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