Yoga for Self-Betterment

By Cameron Ripley

Yoga can help people of all genders, backgrounds, and ages learn to better themselves both physically and emotionally. At age 75, after completing both the 200-hour yoga teacher training with River Flow Yoga Teacher in Wausau, WI and 500-hour advanced teacher training with the American Viniyoga Institute, Bill Miller is well on his way to becoming a certified Yoga Therapist so he can help people overcome their challenges and become better, stronger versions of themselves.

I got to chat with Bill about his experience with yoga and the incredible journey that led him to yoga therapy.

How Did You Get into Yoga?
Yoga wasn’t something I was originally interested in. I had a poor conception of yoga, one that I think many people have. Whenever someone mentioned yoga, I got an image of women stretching on rocks—not something that would appeal to me.

Around 18-20 years ago, my wife asked me if I wanted to go to a yoga class. While it wasn’t something that inherently interested me, I was open to trying something new. The class wasn’t bad, so I went back. Two decades later, here I am ready to continue with Viniyoga therapy training.

How Is Viniyoga Different from What You’ve Practiced in the Past?
I’ve had many physical careers in my life. I started in the military and later worked as a police officer for over twenty years. My preferred form of exercise was weight training, which is much more intense than yoga.

When I first started with yoga, I bounced around between a few different techniques including power yoga, gentle yoga, and Iyengar yoga before finding Viniyoga. After I took a Viniyoga class, it was the first time I didn’t hurt as I left the studio. Viniyoga isn’t focused on forms. It’s more holistic. It looks beyond the physical and encourages overall wellbeing.

With other forms of exercise throughout my life, I was taught that there was no gain without pain. I felt like I had to make the forms, and what I lacked in flexibility, I could make up for with physical strength and force myself into positions. It was almost like a competition.

When I took my first Viniyoga class with Mary, she convinced me to back off and keep my ego in check. That’s not what Viniyoga is about. Well, I didn’t hurt as much at the end of the class! With Viniyoga, there was no competition. It was better on my body and my mind.

Viniyoga is ageless.

What Made You Want to Get into Yoga Therapy?
I’ve always enjoyed helping others. I am a Vietnam veteran and went through PTSD therapy myself. Following my time in the military, I worked as a sensitive crimes investigator and a facilitator for a critical incident street debriefing team. I also managed a group for men who batter, helping men who were arrested for domestic abuse. I’d say that over the years I’ve accumulated some wisdom that can help direct others towards a happy, balanced life.

Yoga therapy allows me to share my accumulated wisdom (however much I’ve got, anyway) and offer a different way to look at problems. The mind/body dynamic that yoga therapy offers is an interesting approach to dealing with pain, and much different from what I was used to in my previous work. I find it quite fascinating.

Has Yoga Helped with Aging?
I would say that it has. I hurt my back years ago and have always experienced lower back pain. When I started teaching yoga regularly, I stopped practicing myself. I kept up with sitting meditations, but my yoga practice had fallen to the wayside. Well, my back pain came back. I didn’t really think anything of it because it’s normal for me. It was just a part of life.

When I went for my 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training, I left the very first class pain free. Even with the advanced nature of the course and the complex postures, I felt better than I had in years. Session after session, I felt the same results. I’ve been sure to keep up my daily yoga practice ever since.

At 75, I feel the best I have in years both physically and emotionally, and I believe yoga is to blame.

What Advice Do You Have for People Thinking About Practicing Yoga?
The best advice I can give is to think about yoga differently. Yoga isn’t about stretching. Yes, it’ll work your body, but your mind is the one doing the exercising. It helps you identify and strip away the conditions that make you act and think the way you do. From there, you can reflect on who you really are and who you’ve always been. It will make you a better, stronger person—and no, I don’t mean just physically.

Yoga is all about making ourselves better people so we can better help others.

I also believe that there’s no one-size-fits-all yoga. Viniyoga works for me, but it might not work for someone else. Do your research and find the type of yoga that best fits your emotional and physical needs. If one style doesn’t work for you, try another. Yoga has too much to offer for anyone to give up after one bad experience.

Finding the right teacher is just as important as finding the right style. Check out their credentials and try a few classes. Find a teacher who really speaks to you and it can change your life. Trust me. Mary gave me my start. She put me on the path and told me to take off. Gary Kraftsow guided me even farther down the path. None of us would be where we are without our teachers, and I’m forever thankful to them for helping guide me to where I am today.

Cameron Ripley is a writer who helps small businesses with marketing and communications.