My journey from wide receiver to Warrior I
Throughout August, Sam Fuhrer will teach free yoga classes for Breathe at the Chappaqua Farmers Market.
August 5, 2011
by Sam Fuhrer
Up until my junior year at Greeley, my two biggest concerns in life were: How many times can I bench press 185 pounds, and how fast can I run the 40 yard dash. I identified as a wide receiver and was basing the colleges I was looking at on their football programs. I was looking at mostly Division III schools like Gettysburg, Franklin & Marshall and Muhlenberg, but also a couple Division I programs like UMass and Temple.
In January, during a varsity basketball game, injury struck as I tore the cartilage in my right ankle while coming down from grabbing a rebound. I had to get reconstructive ankle surgery and was unable to walk until late July the summer before my senior year at Greeley.
Now that I was immobile I was finally able to forget about my athletic obligations, which took a lot of pressure not only off my body, but allowed me to release mental baggage I had been carrying around as well. I began drawing and reading novels, watching movies, seeing plays, playing music and discovering lots of other interests I had been neglecting.
Complete recovery, and new discovery
Once I healed from my injury I got back into football and played my entire senior season bringing in five touchdowns. I committed to Muhlenberg College and was invited to play on the football team. I stuck with it for the entire preseason, which involved waking up at 6:00 a.m. every day, spending four hours a day watching films, eight hours a day practicing with full pads and all the “free time” I had studying the 210-page play book.
On the last day of preseason I realized that I had outgrown this lifestyle. Football wasn’t everything to me anymore. I had too many interests and passions now that I would not be able to explore if I committed all my time and energy to the sport. I told the coach my decision to leave the team and he reproachfully accepted.
An athlete still, but without a “sport”
Not playing a sport was strange for me. I realized that aside from when I was injured, my entire life had been in season or leading up to a “big” season. Yeah, I was involved with acting and focusing on my schoolwork, but I still needed something a little bit more physical. Weight lifting didn’t do it for me anymore. I couldn’t justify wasting all that time and effort in the gym if I wasn’t playing a sport.
I wanted a more mindful way to exercise, something that would benefit me mentally just as much as physically. I knew what I wanted, but was too embarrassed to admit it to myself. My mom had taught yoga for as long as I can remember and aside from letting her stretch me out before games, I never took it seriously.
Baby steps into yoga
At Muhlenberg I attended a free yoga class. Being in a class with 20 girls who were much more flexible and capable than me was much more intimidating than arousing, believe me. After the intense practice, which I struggled through, the teacher led a meditation at the end. It was then that I started to see who I was becoming. I felt a strong connection and understanding between my past and present and was finally ready to accept it and move into the future with confidence and self-awareness. I continued attending the class every Wednesday.
Over December break I was excited to share my new-found interest in yoga with my mom, who recommended that I begin practicing more than once a week if I really want to experience the benefits. With all that time off I took a three-day trip up to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. But I was ready to take my practice to the next level and really see what yoga was all about.
I started to realize yoga was not just a physical practice that made me sweat and feel good, but was a spiritual inquiry and lifestyle. I learned about nutrition and different hygiene tips that never would have occurred to me, like tongue scraping and using a Neti pot, from the Ayurvedic yoga medical tradition, which I highly recommend for relieving sinus pressure.
I learned about the philosophy and history and about meditation and different ways to breath that can heat or cool my body temperature. I learned so much in such a small amount of time that I felt completely transformed by the end of the third day.
Melding academic inquiry with yoga practice
I began practicing more frequently, but still wasn’t so sure what yoga meant to me. In school I was taking an interdisciplinary course taught by three different professors called “Bodies of Knowledge.” Throughout the semester we examined how the disciplines of acting, neuroscience and sociology all look at the body. It was amazing to me how similar yoga was to all three concentrations; everything was finally starting to make sense.
Acting attempts to explain human behavior from the outside in; neuroscience does so from the inside out; and yoga uses different breathing patterns and physical postures to allow one to view on’e true authentic self and witness one’s own pure consciousness at a higher level. In other words, yoga is a practice that works from the outside in and then one studies the world from the inside out. Yoga has been the perfect middle ground and tool to allow me to continue seeing the similarities between neuroscience and acting, which keeps life fresh, new and exciting.
And now, a certified yoga instructor
Last Friday, July 29, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training at The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The program augmented my personal growth not only as a teacher, but deepened my individual practice, enhanced my respect and sparked a deep inquiry for the philosophy and ancient traditions of yoga. It introduced me to 62 new best friends, and most importantly, allowed me to find the teacher within myself.
The month-long intensive program began at 6:30 a.m. every morning and did not end until 9:00 p.m. Aside from practicing yoga, the program consisted of in-depth studies in anatomy, posture, dealing with injuries and massage therapy. We studied Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language, and ancient yogic philosophies and texts such as the “Bhagavad Gita.” In addition, I took courses in conscious communication, ethics and the business of being a teacher and participated in many personal growth drills as well.
Kripalu yoga focuses on building a conscious connection with the body and the breath to ultimately align the Body, Mind and Spirit. The teacher leads different breathing techniques and physical postures to bring his students into the present moment and hopefully elicit a sense of personal inquiry and increase their sensation and understanding of what it means to be living in a human body in this universe.
This fall I will be studying at an acting workshop in Tuscany and going to India in the spring to do research on the effects of meditation and other physical yogic practices on the brain. It should be an exciting year, but before I go I will be teaching full time throughout the month of August at Breathe Pilates and Yoga studio in downtown Chappaqua. I will be teaching both daytime and evening classes, so go to breathepilatesandyoga.com for a schedule. Or join my free classes during August at the Chappaqua Farmer’s Market at the Chappaqua Train Station starting this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. For details, see “NEW: Free Yoga at Chappaqua Farmer’s Market this Saturday at 8:30 a.m.,” August 5, 2011, NCNOW.org
To me, yoga is just about everything. Yoga is understanding what I can control and accepting what I cannot. Yoga is strength, wisdom and happiness. Yoga is focusing on the smaller picture, but seeing the bigger picture clearly. Yoga is conscious action and response. Yoga is being my true authentic self and accepting the consequences for doing so. Yoga is kindness and mindfulness. Yoga is self-empowerment. Yoga is infinite. I could not be more excited to begin teaching and sharing what I have learned.
Sam Fuhrer is a 2009 Greeley graduate.