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Student of the Month: Cathy Leyva

Cathy truly is an inspiration on how to live a full life.  We admire her strength and determination and thank her so much for all that she offers the world.

Thank you Cathy for being you!  Your grace sparkles brightly!

 

Maitri ~ Tell us a little about yourself.

Cathy ~ I am a Colorado native. I was raised in Pueblo where I met and married my high school sweetheart.  We moved to the Denver metro area in 1972 and celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary in April of this year.  We have two adult sons and two grandchildren (who sometimes keep us pretty busy). I retired in 2009 from Colorado School of Mines after 21 years of service as a contract administrator in the Department of Planning and Construction.  I became a certified yoga teacher in 2009 through Green Mountain Yoga and regularly teach yoga on Wednesday mornings at my home to a group of friends.  Currently, I am enjoying my retirement, grandchildren, practicing and teaching yoga, community activities and traveling as often as possible.

 

Maitri ~ What originally drew you to your yoga practice?

Cathy ~ 1998 was a very stressful year for me in both my personal and work life.  High impact aerobics and stress had certainly taken its toll on my body.   As 1998 drew to a close, I had chronic back pain and could hardly lift my left arm.  1999 was the year of taking care of me.  I scheduled massages and sought chiropractic care which were both very helpful.  I also attended my first yoga class.  While flexibility was what I was seeking, I found myself utterly exhausted but ecstatic after experiencing yogic breathing and realizing the strength it took to sit up straight unsupported by a chair for the first time.  The flexibility has been a long time coming but I’ve been hooked ever since.

 

Maitri ~ How does your practice benefit your career?

Cathy ~ As a yoga teacher, my personal practice helps me be more creative in my teaching.  I also bring what I learn in classes to my students.  As a retiree, my yoga practice grounds me and gives my life structure.   As a person, yoga has taught me to honor and respect others and their points-of-view and decisions.

 

Maitri ~ What is your favorite aspect of yoga?

Cathy ~ Only one?  That’s difficult to answer.  I think I would have to say “group practice” of any kind whether it be asana, mantra or meditation.  The feeling of warmth, acceptance and community I receive when I enter the yoga center is indescribable.  Absorbing and sharing the energy created by everyone is phenomenal.

Maitri ~ If you could share anything with someone who doesn’t practice yoga, what would it be?

Cathy ~ Using the words of my Mother after she began practicing Silver Sneakers Yoga shortly after she turned 84, “This yoga is the real deal.”  As she turns 88 on November 2, she is still practicing.  Yoga will enrich your life mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  The physical benefits of strength, balance, flexibility and the ability to breath fully are an added bonus and are unsurpassed by any other form of exercise (for lack of a better word).  The older you are, the more you need to practice yoga.

 

Maitri ~ Just for giggles what is your favorite asana posture and why?  Least favorite and why?

Cathy ~ I have a few favorite postures.  Headstand is one that gives me a great sense of achievement; being a klutzy kid with little self-confidence, I would never even attempt a headstand.  I feel by accomplishing headstands, I’ve overcome a lot.  Another favorite is standing straddle splits.  I get a tremendous amount of release in that posture.  Dancer is another favorite because it is so much more than the graceful posture it appears to be.  It takes a tremendous amount of openness, strength, balance and focus.

I would have to say, fire log is a least favorite because my hips just won’t open the way that posture requires.  Some days are better than others but it is always challenging.

 

Maitri ~ Anything else that you would like to say?

Cathy ~ I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if yoga weren’t a part of it.  In 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Yoga helped me have the confidence and perseverance to seek information and make difficult decisions concerning my treatment.  Yoga also helped keep me focused throughout a difficult diagnosis, strengthened and healed me after a mastectomy and cleansed my body after chemotherapy.  Today, I am cancer free!

This last May, I had a spinal fusion of L4, L5 and S1.  Yoga helped me delay this major surgery for at least 10 years.  The three months after surgery were the ultimate yoga test of doing no harm, honoring my body, and recognizing and respecting my limitations.  I was able to return to my physical practice after three months of no bending, lifting or twisting.  That was no easy task but my body responded quickly.  Now, five months after surgery, I feel that for all practical purposes I am as strong and flexible as before and in some respects more so.

I’ve come to realize that every physical aspect of yoga (strength, flexibility, balance, focus etc.) transcends throughout my life mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well and because of this I am better able to cope with life’s many challenges.

 

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