Yoga heals with meaning and inspiration

By Stacey Reynolds

I met Bill 22 years ago as a student in my yoga class. The class was at a church, and Bill attended primarily to please his mother-in-law. All these years later Bill has not only become a dear friend, but also a yoga teacher. Although Bill’s inspirational story isn’t necessarily what we think of as “yoga therapy,” being a part of it is a great honor for me and an illustration of yoga’s healing power for others.

Bill was expecting a “stretch and tone” workout from that first yoga class. Serving in the Korean War, Bill suffered a serious heart injury that, along with debilitating neck and ankle injuries, makes exercise painful and difficult. He found to his surprise that he preferred yoga over his other exercise routines, and when his mother-in-law passed away, he continued practicing. 

When I moved from teaching in the church to opening my own studio, Bill came with me, as many students did. There, I started a program called YogaBLUEprint for Advanced Age and Living. Bill, then about 75 years old, became one of the inspirations for the program.

Inspired to go deeper

The benefits of regularly practicing yoga are deep for Bill—his doctor says his yoga practice has kept him out of a wheelchair. For several years I encouraged Bill to take his practice deeper by completing a teacher training program. In 2022, at age 85, he was ready. He was inspired to pass on the physical, mental, and spiritual growth he has received from yoga to others in his community.

It wasn’t easy. During the training Bill’s wife was hospitalized for 6 weeks, then she was disabled in a fall, and she later contracted COVID twice. Bill took on the role of chief caretaker. Midway through the training, Bill himself suffered a brain bleed. Yet he dug in and graduated from his training earlier this year, just 4 days shy of his 86th birthday. 

Finding meaning in serving others

Bill wants to teach seniors and others who may have physical limitations, especially those who use wheelchairs. He has a special interest in helping military veterans. He is grateful for the community at his studio and says the mind, body, and spirit elements of the training and his yoga practice “strengthened him and enabled him to do the work he had to do.”

Yoga has certainly been good therapy for Bill, changing his life in meaningful ways. His example is inspirational, as is his presence in every class he teaches or participates in.

Stacey Reynolds, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is the founder and owner of Blue Yoga Nyla in North Little Rock, Arkansas. She focuses on serving special populations including people healing from trauma, addiction, and grief.