Originally published in 2014. Photo by 2Tphoto
Update: 3.13.17 || Our beloved brother, friend, and yogi Richard transitioned today. He was a bright light to so many he came into contact with. He will forever be a part of the Red Clay Yoga family. I am grateful for our very special moments together during this lifetime. Rest in sweet peace my friend. Love, Chelsea
Name: Richard Bowen
Location: Atlanta, GA Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica)
What led you to the practice of yoga? In addition to being a yogi (can’t believe I just called myself that), I have a number of other activities that I am passionate about. I Crossfit, play volleyball and consider myself an enthusiast of all things physical fitness. About a year ago, I was doing all of those activities at an incredible volume, more than my body could really withstand; it was too much. As a result, it all manifested in my body as an overuse injury, specifically IT Band Syndrome. It was pretty debilitating; all of my hard training had come to a screeching halt. I couldn’t squat, deadlift, run or jump without experiencing a serious amount of pain. The only prescription for the problem was a daily dose of stretching and foam rolling to hopefully loosen up and reduce the inflammation in and around the muscles of the IT Band. That is when I started taking the “Yoga for Crossfit-ers” class offered at my Crossfit gym 2 times a week. It was basically a chopped down version of a vinyasa flow class that focused on basic yoga poses to facilitate stretching the hips, hamstrings and shoulders. It did the trick and cleared my IT Band Syndrome right up. I was back to training full time, but it was too late, I had already fallen in love with yoga!
It’s crazy, because as I think about it, I realize it’s not so much the good things that happen in our lives that shape who we become, but it’s how we react to the challenges, the obstacles, the bad things that has the more profound effect on shaping us. If I wasn’t diligent in trying to clear up my IT Band Syndrome I would never have fallen in love with yoga and I would never have been able to call myself a yogi!
What has been the most challenging part of your yoga practice?
I am quite a physical person, but wouldn’t consider myself very flexible. I am also a person that is always on the go, and my mind is always racing. So although I do find that some poses and some practices that require a tremendous amount of flexibility very challenging, if I am honest with myself, the MOST challenging aspect of the yoga practice for me is quieting my mind and being fully present in the moment. To conquer your body is one thing, but to conquer your mind, is truly a noteworthy accomplishment. Yes, I might be able to get into that pose, but if my mind is off somewhere thinking about what I am going to eat after the class, then it was all for naught. I have gotten A LOT better, but to be fully present on your mat, and fully focused on just your breath …that’s always the challenge for me.
What keeps you coming back to the mat? The fact that I have yet to conquer neither my body nor my mind in the context of the yoga practice. I realize now that to conquer just one of those 2 may never happen, and it is that much more impossible to conquer both at the same time in the same moment, but I realize now that it is not the destination, but the journey and your intention that matters. It doesn’t get any easier, you just keep getting better.
What words (if any) would you offer someone who is afraid that yoga is not for them because of their body type, gender, flexibility level, etc?
As a very inflexible black man, with long arms, long legs and a short torso I am probably the last person that you expect to see in a yoga class….at least based on what society has to say about it. But the thing about yoga, about your mat, about your practice is that it doesn’t matter what society says, it doesn’t matter what people say, all that matters is what you have to say about yourself. You quiet those voices, you quiet your mind, focus on your breathe and whatever you say you are while on your mat during your yoga practice you begin to become off your mat outside of your practice.
Want to keep up with Richard you can find him here:
Instagram: Richard Bowen