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Friday, February 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Steve Christilaw: Yoga teacher recenters at studio after facing serious medical issues

Sara Teal owns the little yoga shop in Millwood. The Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio. Just around the corner where Euclid meets Argonne – 9017 E. Euclid Ave.

A yoga studio in little Millwood, where the whistle from the paper mill is as much a part of the community as the Spokane River, fits the tree-lined setting.

If Millwood Presbyterian, a block away, is the spiritual center and the Rocket Bakery, just two blocks away, is its social center, the Mellow Monkey is, well, the centered center of Millwood.

And vice versa.

“Oh, we’ve become SO Millwood,” Teal laughs. “We live a few blocks from the studio and my kids go to school here. I have two kids at West Valley High.”

But at the same time, life has changed over those years and for the last year or so, Teal has been unable to teach classes at her own studio.

“For the last year I’ve been a full-time student,” Teal said. “For me, I’m now two years post-divorce. The last year was about me trying to recreate my life as a single mom and a first-time homeowner. I think I overloaded myself.

“And then some pretty serious medical issues took over. I couldn’t teach and I couldn’t practice.”

Yoga is not a fitness craze and it’s not a fad – unless you count those first few years in the fifth century, BCE. It’s a discipline that works just fine as a meditation, exercise regime and pathway to health. It’s a lifestyle.

Teal likes to tell people she didn’t set out to be a yoga teacher. She started out taking classes at her local YMCA and took a certification class for the added challenge.

Then one day, her YMCA teacher was a no-show and the class became hers.

What brings people to the practice of yoga isn’t necessarily what keeps them practicing. In many ways, people come for the stretch but stay for the overall sense of well-being.

It’s the same with a yoga studio.

“I really don’t like to say that I’m part of the fitness industry,” she said. “The things that bring yoga to a community are different than what keeps yoga in a community. It changes over time.

“You come in looking to get in shape, but you find so much more.”

Being away from the practice of yoga was difficult, but there was always the studio to use as a refuge.

“I used to love to come in and hang out,” she said. “I love to sit and watch classes and stay connected with students.”

With her health issues under control, Teal began a return to her own practice.

“It’s been really humbling,” she said. “And there have been some elements of humility to this whole process.”

This week, she came back to Mellow Monkey to begin teaching again. Nervous, yes. But welcomed with open arms by her students.

“It’s been really good. And scary,” she admitted. “Reapproaching it feels kind of terrifying. Your mind kind of does that thing where it spirals into more of a negative place – the negative rabbit hole.”

The first class was a big hurdle, she explained. She planned out that first class, but threw it out at the last minute because it didn’t feel right. Instead, she winged it, which is even more terrifying.

But it worked. It felt good to be in front of a class again. And her classes enjoyed having her back.

“I have been getting so much feedback and people have been telling me they wished I was back teaching,” she said.

Part of the challenge of returning to teaching, she explained, is figuring out how to talk about her time away.

“It was hard to know just how to share my truth without revealing too much,” she said. “But you know what? People respond to me when I say, ‘You know what, a lot of crap has happened.’”

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