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The Full Story

Teaching yoga is one of my primary passions in life. But if you had known me 20 years ago, you never would have seen this coming. I sure didn’t. 


Back then, twelve months on the front lines of the initial invasion of Iraq shaped me from a naive boy into a cynical twenty-something who’d lost his best friend in war. I made it home, and my small town hailed me as a triumphant hero with my whole life in front of me… to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the second chance I’d been given.  


Then, when a motorcycle accident took my brother from me, not much made sense anymore. My days were spent biking aimlessly around my tiny beach town saying what’s up to the homies, a fully stocked cooler of Coors Light strapped to my back.    

By the time my wife met me, I was working as a hotel security guard nursing a bit of an alcohol problem and more than a slight irritation with authority. This was not the path I’d expected to travel. But within a matter of months, I was a married man. My wife’s educational exploits took us from the California coast to the lush Oregon wetlands. It was there that this lifelong beach kid fell in love with the rhythm of the rolling river. 


When a childhood friend invited us up to Montana in 2012, I knew I’d found home. And on Christmas Eve of my 30th year, I became a dad. Sharp-witted and big-hearted, Joseph “Joey” David carries on the legacy of two men who are now with me only in spirit. Sixteen months later, we welcomed our colorful June Pearl into the world. All at once, I knew it was time to do a deeper work and become the father my kids deserved.   


Somewhere in the midst of getting sober, I found yoga. An extra 30 pounds was wreaking havoc on my spine and hips. Too heavy to run, just about the only activity I could manage was a “silver sneakers” senior stretching class at the YMCA. Thanks to the encouragement of my instructors (who are now my biggest heroes), I soon “graduated” to a flow yoga series. 


Every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, I faithfully showed up to my mat, and my mat returned the favor. I began to grow stronger and leaner, looking forward to that 60 minutes of peace and reflection away from the tumult of two toddlers at home. 


About a year into my practice, a friend invited me to the hot yoga class that would change my life forever. Extreme heat tested my body while the rigid “26 and 2” series challenged my mind. A familiar fire lit within my spirit - a desire to push myself past all physical and mental limits; an invigorating warmth I hadn’t realized I’d missed since my earliest dreams of military service.  


For the next few years, I followed that fire. Anytime I felt it dimming - through a move to Costa Rica, Texas, then back to Montana - I never failed to find it when I returned to my mat. This 79” x 24” rectangle became my safe space to process emotion, work out frustration, and rise to meet life’s biggest challenges.


When I decided to train as an instructor, this mat is where I found the discipline and drive to keep going. As I struggled to memorize the difficult sequencing and stumbled over my words in front of my peers, it reminded me who I was. When the voices of old middle school teachers rang in my head, telling me I wasn’t capable or gifted enough to see it through, this mat held me up and moved me forward. 


Today, the practice of yoga is far more than a workout to me. It’s a way of life; the only constant in a chaotic and confusing world. The mat has continued to meet me where I’m at, yet never fails to call me to a higher standard. It’s where I find grounding in a child’s pose following the stress of driving icy roads. It’s where I tap into my inner warrior before making difficult choices or having hard conversations. 


This mat is where I do my hardest and best work. Here, I expect more of myself. After a decade of steadfast practice, I have learned that the way we show up on our mats reflects the way we show up in the world. Can we quiet our minds and set our egos aside long enough to receive something powerful - a collective experience of growth beyond our current boundaries of comfort or security? 


When I share my mantra that “you are loved, you are a good human, and you deserve to be here,” I mean it - for myself as much as those in my class. I say it because, after all of the twists and turns that marked my journey, I still need to hear it. And because if we can believe it within the space of our mats, we can carry it out into the world. 


Just imagine the kind of future we could create. 

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