My yoga journey started a little over a year ago though it should have started back in 2000 when I herniated two disks in my lower back. Back then (no pun intended), I was encouraged to try yoga but I refused. “I will never do yoga.” I avoided surgery on my back by absolute dedication to daily exercises designed to strengthen my back. Little did I know that their roots were from yoga, in fact some were yoga poses. I was doing something I said I would never do. It took just about a year of dedication to those exercises to become pain free and 14 years of fairly regular exercise to maintain a healthy back.

While my back was healthy, my spirit and soul were not, thus the first steps onto a mat. Over my life I had become quite the master of avoiding what I found uncomfortable. Now I find myself in a room with several women all much more flexible than I. “I can’t do this” was first just heard in my head, and then as the weeks rolled by the instructors could hear it too. The instructor would then reply “yes you can” and “I can’t!” was my reply. I guess my soul knew it had found what it was looking for and now it had to convince the body. For months my practice consisted of a class or two a week and an occasional practice at home. I just didn’t have the flow and rhythm at home. Over time it improved.

In February of this year I got a text from a dear friend about a flyer he saw at Pennypack Restoration Ecological Trust about a “yoga hike” that started in April. I love the winter and I found myself wishing for April to come to bring together the two loves of my life, my newly founded love of yoga and my love of hiking that is 45+ years in the making.

April came and went as did May. and then on a Saturday in June, I finally found myself at Pennypack for a “yoga hike!” This is the day I met Kristin, an angel. I had hiked in Pennypack hundreds of times but this was like no other hike I had ever been on there or anywhere else. The hour or so was so magical. I learned on that hike about Nourishing Storm’s Summer Solstice celebration, the famed “108”, scheduled for the very next day, the first day of summer. 108 of anything can be a challenge but 108 sun salutations, that would be a challenge! To this day I’m not sure what I was thinking when I told Kristin I would see her for the 108.

I showed up that Sunday at the studio in Hatboro. Half way through the first set of 27, yes the first set, I said “I can’t do this!” Not sure if anyone heard me, but I did. What have I gotten myself into, I asked. Why did I agree to this? As  I was still at covered in sweat when Kristin said “one more” at the end of the final set of 27 and I have never been the same since.

Shortly after that I started practicing every day and I haven’t missed a day since. I have practiced in various studios in several states, on the beach, at the top of water falls, on rock outcroppings overlooking the Lehigh River, rest areas, state parks, state forests, and numerous vistas and shelters along the Appalachian Trail.

My emotions have spilled over numerous times so much so that I thought there was something seriously wrong. I have learned to love myself instead of beating myself up. The love has started to flow out to others around me. I have found that this moment, the only one promised, is where I want to be. I have come to accept that where there is calm, there is a storm.

I have found a great storm, it a Nourishing Storm and recommend it to everyone!

-Mark, aka Setting Sun