Collaboration Blog: Christopher Byford
Together We Rise
There I was. Let me say that again There I was. For the first time in a long time, I had showed up. Not the me I pretend to be or the me other people want me to be. The real, compassionate, flawed whole being that I had lost several years before.
I was standing in a circle of 80 yogis at Baptiste Yoga’s Art of Assisting. Tears were streaming down my face as I shared my breakthrough. I wanted to make a difference by being of service to others.
I had struggled with the fleeting notion of purpose for most of my adult life. But now I had found it and speaking it into the universe freed me. I was free of others people’s expectations and my old view of what having a purpose meant.
As the universe often does, it opened a door for me to serve my purpose. Connie Simmons, a teacher and good friend at the studio I was teaching at, had been teaching at a local military installation and was creating a non-profit organization to support that idea. The idea of bringing free yoga to active duty military so they could have the mindfulness skills and physical benefits of yoga to assist them through their service and help them acclimate to civilian life when they were finished with their enlistment. That idea turned into Joined Forces Yoga.
I still remember the first class I assisted at Ft. Campbell. I was blown away by the gratitude and warmth of the men and women that came to practice yoga as their Physical Training on that day. They listened intently and followed each point-to-point cue, allowing Connie’s teaching to open their bodies up to new possibilities. Before and after class, they helped us move the mats to and from our vehicle.
The sweaty smiles on their faces and kind words after class carried me through the day with a vigor that I hadn’t experienced since I left teaching middle school. I carried a lesson from that day that I remind self of daily when I teach. I always have my students do some form of partner work. When they begin the pose I have them doing with another student, I always remind them of two things: Never pass up the opportunity to lift someone up, not in yoga and not in life. And we only lift ourselves up by lifting up others.
The mission of Joined Forces Yoga is to bring free yoga to active duty military and veterans where they are. Through the hard work of our members and supporters we are growing by leaps and bounds. We are touching military service members at location across the country.
Teaching with Joined Forces Yoga has given me the joy of watching soldiers grow in their practice on and off the mat. They learn the poses and they learn the importance of space; space between breaths, space between stimulus and response and the space created by giving up old ideas and judgments to open up to snow possibilities.
It is amazing what can be accomplished when people come together to serve. When we strive to lift up others, we lift ourselves up in the process. Never pass I put the opportunity to lift someone up, not in yoga or in life.
Chris is a Baptiste certified teacher from Nashville. He teaches at several studios and for Joined Forces Yoga, where he also serves as a board member.
For more information: www.joinedforcesyoga.com