Each month or so, we sit down with one of our regular students to get to know them a bit better and hear how yoga has impacted their life. This month, I chatted to Michael Gasbarre over an oat milk latte at Agricole. He arrived looking bright eyed and invigorated after having just taken Janine’s Breathe Vinyasa class. (Tuesdays, 8:30am)
Michael is a native of Wooster, Ohio. He has lived the past 18 years in Chelsea, Michigan, and is married to April. They have two sons, Dominic and Gabe.
I asked Michael how he first came to his mat:
“It was through April. She was a student from the beginning after you first opened, and she bought me a Beginner’s Workshop class in January 2016. It was my first ever introduction to yoga.”
I checked our records - since taking that workshop, Michael has practiced over 200 hours of yoga at Breathe!
What kept you coming after that introduction?
“Well, I started coming to Ashtanga regularly, and also did Yoga Nidra occasionally. I really dug into my practice though after I lost my job.
I worked in medical sales for 20 years, and then one day, very unexpectedly, I was out of a job. I think we base so much of our identity on our career and it defines who we are. Finding myself unemployed was devastating. My life now revolved around making dinner and applying for new jobs. What I needed was a different sense of purpose.
I found yoga gave me that purpose, and an opportunity to focus on self. There were several months in the spring of 2018 when I was probably in the studio 4 or 5 times a week. Ashtanga was my focus then. I loved the repetitive nature of it. It’s amazing how yoga clears the mind; the whole outside world is gone.”
What other aspects of having a regular studio practice do you feel are valuable to you?
“The other thing I needed at that time was community; a sense of connection to other like minded people. I am amazed at the number of friendships that I have built in this town centered around the studio. Great people whom I would never have met otherwise.”
At this point, one of the very people Michael had mentioned by name walked in - Harry Zoccoli. (Heads up Harry, you might be next for our featured student piece!)
Michael continued: “I feel like a better person for coming to the studio and having yoga in my life. I love the moai that we have here, I love the community that we’re building, and I wish for us to continue to grow it even more. People need connection, especially with others who have the same interests and focus.”
How do you think yoga has impacted your life off of the mat?
“I feel I am so much more calm of a person as a result. It’s helped me re-evaluate judgement - both of myself and of others. It’s helped me too in terms of recognizing the good in people. And being able to express that out loud, or in writing. Tell people what they really mean to me. That’s important.”
Before we both got too emotional, I asked Michael, which part of the practice he most enjoyed?
“I’ve found I love balance postures. Standing in line at the store, I find myself standing in tree pose, trying to hold it for 5 minutes. I like them because they require you to focus on coming back to your center. Engaging your whole self.
I also love Warrior 3 or floating lotus. You really need to engage your entire body to really be in the pose. Inversions too. Inversions are something I love as I can really see my progress over time. I no longer have to kick up into headstand which so much force. Makes me feel like everyday I am moving forward and finding improvement. I like to challenge myself. Yoga is a discipline.”
What is your favourite quotation right now?
“Don’t rush anything. When the time is right, it’ll happen.”
…I have to agree with that, Michael.
Michael and April have been such incredible supporters of the studio and to me personally since the beginning. I am lucky to call them my friends. Wishing you continued abundance, growth and healing on your journey, Michael!
Namaste my friend