This story was originally written for Alaska Public Media.
This week we’re hearing from Nile Morris of Anchorage. Morris is a UAA student and is involved in Black Student Union, Planned Parenthood and the Title IX board.
MORRIS: I was a residential adviser at an assisted living facility for people with mental illnesses. I was searching for tools that would empower both myself and the residents. I had read somewhere that yoga was really good, and I had just attended my first year at university, and I was really enthralled with Carl Sagan’s works. He had said something really great in “The Demon Haunted World.” He said, “You want to approach every single aspect of your life with a scientific mind.” And I thought, “Well, I don’t have any experience with yoga, maybe I should do some research.”
And so I left that job, but I still had this thought in the back of my mind, “Okay, I need to research yoga.” I was having a lot of benefits. I was well rested in the morning, my muscles weren’t fatigued, I felt like I had better clarity and my reflexes were improving.
I ended up going to this wonderful place called Spirit Path Yoga and Wellness. Through them, I really learned a lot about both myself and the nature of yoga. It was 200 hours of intensive studies and intensive practice. When we graduated, I felt really empowered, I went right into teaching, and just a few months ago I actually went and applied for my E-RYT, which is experienced yoga teacher. You have to have 1000 hours of teaching under your belt to apply for it, and I did.
My favorite part about teaching is seeing people, or hearing people — rather — and seeing them, tell me that yoga has changed their lives in the same way that it’s changed mine. Because we’re all working with the same nervous systems, with slight variations, and we’re all working with the same muscular and skeletal systems. If you take these practices and these techniques and apply them, you’ll see a lot of the same changes in yourself.
Proprioception and neuromuscular re-education are two of my favorite concepts in yoga. Proprioception is the body’s capability to locate its limbs in space. It has spindles — well — proprioceptors in the joints that tell the rest of the body where these certain limbs are. A lot of people don’t think about it like that — like the next time when you’re alone, try closing your eyes and doing something that isn’t based upon muscle memory. It’s a great practice to get into because you then realize that there’s so many different things going on with the body that we’re just not aware of, and the more awareness we bring, the more refined those movements become. And to perform every act artfully is yoga.