Due to a workplace construction accident when I was 19, my right leg heals to become somewhat shorter than before. This leads to episodes of back pain, emotional stress, and more than a bit of imbalance both physical and mental. Twenty years later, in 1989, I learn of Nobby Ota and his yoga class at Antioch College. Just the 20 minute drive from downtown Dayton Ohio to Antioch College in Yellow Springs alone helps melt away the habitual daily concerns. Beginning the practice with Master Nobby (as I come to call him) changes my life in unimagineable ways. Yoga once a week sets me on a course of physical and mental healing in a fashion that no chiropractor nor doctor can match.
Now 30 more years later, all back pain has vanished even as I yearn for the weekly work with him in person. So this is why we come to Missouri to see him and Mary and spend time renewing our connection as well as our practice. The image here, from Nobby’s home, is my totem and symbol for the peace, light, and serenity that Nobby's yoga brings to my life.
“Lighter… softer... freer.” These are the most precious words of daily life in so many ways. Mindfulness in yoga merges peace and the acceptance of grace from all directions, inside and out. Movement in practice on the mat or chair leads to learning to balance as active process. And thanks to Master Nobby's insightful suggestion, standing in a line at the supermarket awaiting check-out becomes a means to tap into the magic of the practice any where at any time.
Nobby’s calm and gentle approach is a lifelong and life-giving practice. A gift to be shared with open hearts and open minds. There is no more ideal path to peace and love in the Life we share in the universe together as one.
Why do I write this in the present tense? Because there is only Now.
(Andy is one of Nobby's original students).
I have been one of Nobby’s students since his first day in Cuba, 13? 14? years ago. I knew I’d like it when on the first day, Nobby assured me we wouldn’t sweat! :)
One of the things I love about Nobby’s classes is that
#1. No matter your current or chronic physical issues, he can find a way for you to move and get benefits from yoga. And
#2. He is always searching and questioning and “chewing” on new, different ways to enter a pose or move or just be the best human structure you can be. We often joke after finding we like the new way better than the old way, “don’t get too used to it, it will change in a few weeks!” But I think that’s what keeps me and others coming back!
Ok, that was 2 things. Yoga has taught me to be flexible!
My initial yoga exposure was on a PBS TV show, called Lillias Yoga and You, nearly 40 years ago. I enjoyed it, but moving as often as we did, I couldn’t always get it and forgot about it.
Then years later, I expressed a desire to try yoga again, so my sister in law got me a mat and a Rodney Ye video for Christmas. After a couple times through it I was hooked again and did the video 4-5 mornings a week.
After a couple more years, Nobby came on the scene and I am hooked for life! I find if I skip yoga for more than 3 or 4 days, (like on vacation) I start developing headaches and/or backaches. I find yoga a help throughout my life, doing “table dogs” at work, or cats and cows to relieve a headache, or just “head turn, spine follows” while backing up the car.
During Nobby’s classes we all benefit from the knowledge of others, or what they have been through. One regular is very knowledgable about herbs and natural remedies, another is a physical therapist and taught me how to relieve and prevent a very bad achilles tendon issue that a podiatrist had not helped. Simply rolling my calves on the noodle a few minutes, several times a week is all it takes! Nobby now includes that “noodle work” in every class. Ours is not the traditional yoga class where everyone is silent, except the teacher, we are a talkative bunch and we all, including Nobby, learn so much because of it. If we disagree with something Nobby has said or taught, we all try it, and then tell him our view. He usually says he’ll chew on that, and a week or 2 later, either says, no, his original thought still works, or he likes our suggestion and has modified it a bit to fit everyone. Because no everyone is exactly alike, this benefits all.
I firmly believe, if I hadn’t found yoga, I’d be a pain racked, hump backed, miserable person. I’m so glad to have found yoga and especially found Nobby to teach me!
I remember my first Nobby’s yoga class at the Riverfront Cultural Society. Laying on the floor I remember asking Nobby, “Is this the right way to do it?” He just said to try it out. How that phrase has stuck with me over 11 years doing yoga with Nobby and his community of learners. Yoga to me is not having to do anything one way or not having to do anything at all. Living the questions is important in taking care of ourselves. After yoga class I feel like I have given myself a massage and I always have the best night’s sleep. Learning Tai Chi Fundamentals from Nobby this past year has also given me another practice that is done daily to help get my mind and body connected and relaxed. Thank you Nobby for being the teacher who learns along with his students. Your classes and teaching continue to bring me much joy through helping me focus on the moment of living and being.
I believe this to be true… Latest AH-HA moment: My time with Nobby over the last 10 years is my most important life lesson. I carry with me everywhere, everyday and every minute so many AH-HA moments they become part of me. Yoga is part of me, easier, softer…slow down…keep your visit short, and smell the flowers. "Be present to the pose-in the pose and enjoy", “you might not be there yet” after the pose. Nobby’s Yoga leads me to the “smile”. Nobby loves and lives love with his yoga community.
Community |kəˈmyo͞onitē| noun (pl. communities)
1 a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common: Rhode Island's Japanese community| the scientific community.
• a group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership: a community of nuns.
• a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants: a rural community.
• a body of nations or states unified by common interests: [ in names ] : the European Community | the African Economic Community.
• (the community) the people of a district or country considered collectively, esp. in the context of social values and responsibilities; society: preparing prisoners for life back in the community.
• [ as modifier ] denoting a worker or resource designed to serve the people of a particular area: community health services.
2 a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals: the sense of community that organized religion can provide.
• [ in sing. ] a similarity or identity: writers who shared a community of interests.
• joint ownership or liability: a commitment to the community of goods.
3 Ecology a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat:communities of insectivorous birds.
the international community the countries of the world considered collectively.
ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French comunete, reinforced by its source, Latin communitas, from communis (see common)
so much more to my yoga practice...
I began taking Nobby's class about 10 years ago, and mainly started to try to decrease my lower back pain. Little did I know there would be so much more to my yoga practice with Nobby!
I am happy to say that after 4-6 months of diligent practice, I found the lower back pain relief that I was seeking, but I continued class for so many other reasons. Nobby's joyful demeanor is one. His willingness to explore and be a student himself is another. Through his insights and encouragement, I found a quiet self-confidence to trust my body. I learned to listen to my body and I was able to do many poses that I wasn't able to at the beginning. That self-confidence carried over to many areas of general living outside of the yoga mat.
Then, about four years ago, I had to stop going to the once-a-week class due to family and work issues. Unfortunately it was all too easy to stop my private practice too. I tried to keep many of our class yoga mantras in mind, but without a regular practice I lost touch with that sense of connectedness that I'd gained.
Fortunately I was able to go back to the weekly class about a year ago. I've gained strength and flexibility again, and I'm relearning my - now older - body's signals. I'm not able to do some of the poses I once did, or go as deeply into a pose. At first I found this frustrating, but with Nobby's gentle reminders, I have realized a blessing in this condition. Namely, that to find a path to where I want to go, I need to honor where I am at currently. I find this to be a powerful lesson that I can take to so many other areas of life.
Thank you Nobby for your guidance, your acceptance of what is, and your example of what can be. Not only on the yoga mat, but in our hearts too.