Yoga Mississippi-style helps locals
By Bob Arnold
Yoga, steeped in the rich history of the Orient and grounded in Eastern religion, isn’t a natural fit in the culture of Mississippi and the South so greatly influenced by the Baptist faith, but is helping locals address their physical, mental and spiritual issues through a retired Brookhaven kindergarten teacher who has come to grips with its benefits in spite of her own deeply held religious beliefs.
Cheryl Myers is conducting yoga classes in the area for Co-Lin students, the college faculty, members of Co-Lin’s Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR), volunteers and patients at a nursing home and the general public in weekly evening sessions she holds in Brookhaven.
Some 20 years ago, Myers tried yoga on the suggestions of physicians to address a variety of health issues.
“Following several surgeries, I was trying to cope with anxiety and stress as well as the underlying health problems,” she says. “Not only did yoga offer an exercise regimen of movement and breathing that strengthened and oxygenated my body, but relaxation, stillness and quiet in which I could connect with my physical needs, relieve mental stress and progress spiritually within my own personal understanding of religion and faith.”
In her classes, Myers tries to bring this experience to participants in an “interesting, informative and enjoyable” way that “demystifies the practice of yoga, presenting it as a wellness resource that combines body and mind benefits that they can take into their daily lives.”
Television and other audio-video resources introduced her to yoga, but she drifted away from practicing it until she found a local teacher who provided one-on-one coaching within the context of in-studio classes. When her teacher asked her to assist with conducting classes, she decided to pursue training for certification, although it is not required.
“I wasn’t comfortable with the spiritual aspect of yoga – connecting with the universe and the elements of fire, earth and light rather than a personal God,” Myers recalls. “I prayed about it and concluded I could reconcile that part of yoga with my personal spirituality.”
So Myers embarked on 200 hours of classes covering yoga history, techniques and styles over eight months in Joyflow Yoga Teacher Training, a registered Yoga Alliance Teacher Training school, and started teaching yoga to locals ten years ago.
The size of her classes vary. Her ILR class, in which she teaches “chair yoga” to older persons who often find the rigors of traditional mat yoga too taxing, has five to seven participants once a week, while regular yoga classes like the ones for Co-Lin students and faculty members may have as many as 20 participants in some sessions. Myers’ ILR yoga participants tell these stories:
Mary Ann Smith: “After eight to 10 years of movement and stretching exercises, my balance is better and I walk better.” Smith, who taught second grade and early elementary students at the Mamie Martin School and kindergartners at the Faith Presbyterian Church in Brookhaven, also practices yoga at the Stillwater Studio in Brookhaven and at Summit. Her daughter-in-law encouraged her to try yoga.
Opal Smith: “I can do house work and laundry, and am thankful to God I can.” A widow, she lives with her two daughters, can no longer drive after a brain bleed two and one half years ago and suffered two strokes and a third mini stroke.
Ketti Breaux: “I have been taking yoga class for six years after taking exercise classes and body pump for strength training. Yoga helps to rejuvenate me mentally and physically, helps tremendously for bone strengthening, and the classes are a great way to meet new people and make friends.” Breaux, a retired accountant, and her husband moved to the area two and one half years ago from Houma, Louisiana, to get away from hurricanes.
Zoula Huffman: “I take yoga to improve my balance and flexibility.” A retired college teacher and administrator with four children, 11 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, she and her husband have spent 12 years traveling around the U.S. in an RV and taken cruises and guided bus trips with visits to 50 states and 35 foreign countries. She also enjoys sewing, gardening and helping at church.
Rob Rector: “I gave up subba diving for exercise and as a hobby a couple of year ago and found yoga to awaken some tired and unused muscles.” A retired engineer who worked in the oil and space exploration industries, he moved from Houston to Wesson “to put my wife in a memory care facility” and to be closer to his daughter and her family.
Myers and her husband are both retired. She taught kindergarten for 13 years at Brookhaven Academy and he worked for the Farm Bureau. They have two daughters and seven grandchildren, like to travel, and are members of Central Baptist Church.
For information about her yoga classes, call Myers at 601-757-2133 or text her at firstname.lastname@example.org.