Rural west Tennessee isn't exactly a yoga hub, far from it in fact. Cotton fields, pulled pork sandwiches, plastic tumblers filled with ice and wine, and super Wal-Marts are a more apt description. The pace is slow and the summer days are hot and sticky. The closest yoga studio is in Memphis; an hour drive away. In 24 years of visiting my family in Tennessee, I have never heard of a yoga class being offered.
I recently rode the train from New Orleans for a visit and lucked out as the local SportsPlex had begun offering two morning yoga classes per week. I took the plunge and showed up slightly apprehensive to the Tuesday class. The gymnastics room doubled as the studio with bouncy blue flooring and an over-sized trampoline. There were approximately 20 other yogis, ranging in age from 18 to 80. Yoga was new to most people in the room and I didn't spot much spandex, let alone Lululemon. The teacher was a fit, 61-year-old man named Buz. He was a retired military radiologist and colonel turned yoga teacher. After 26 years of active duty in the U.S. Army, and a few more in private practice, Buz had returned to his hometown and began work on his teacher training. He started by teaching for free but after a few months the plex found it in the budget to pay Buz.
As class was beginning, students began piping up, asking about the much anticipated daily theme. I was expecting something like connecting breath and movement or forming a personal intention. Instead, Buz's response was, "Today we're gonna work on taking breaks." I was surprised by this unusual and refreshing response. Class began and Buz put on a classical Mozart CD as motivational music. A few of the yogis were quite vocal in grunts and groans as we moved through sun salutations. There was some hesitation as we got to Side Plank and later, Pigeon. Stemming from his 25+ years as a doctor, Buz had extensive knowledge of anatomy and alignment. He provided comic relief and some much appreciated sarcasm as the hour long session progressed.
Class proved to be both challenging and entertaining. Post-yoga, the regulars gathered around a table in the foray to chat. The appreciation for a yoga class in the county was palpable and one faithful devotee, Kathy, told me how much she loved her new found practice. She added that if there was a class everyday she would always attend. I'm fortunate to live in a place where I can go to class almost whenever I like, but thankful that my dad, Buz, is spreading yoga bliss.