Nancy Sampson has heard all the excuses about why people don’t want to try yoga and she has an answer for most of them.
“Recently, I had a man say he couldn’t do yoga because he’d had a hip replacement,” she said. “I told him I had him beat. I had two [hip replacements].”
Nancy just celebrated her first year anniversary at Pathways Yoga Center in Carterville, but she has been teaching yoga for many more years, including stints as an instructor for Great Shapes in Carbondale, the extension program at John A. Logan College and Vigiano’s World of Fitness in Herrin.
She also started building her Carterville clientele with home lessons, beginning with Carol Zwick. Soon, Carol introduced her friend Susan Murphy to the at-home yoga program and Nancy was on the path that would lead her to create Pathways Yoga.
“They were the first ones I did yoga with after my hip replacement. I think it was about two weeks after the first surgery,” Nancy said.
Susan is still one of Nancy’s regulars. You can find her there most Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
“I think as we get older, we tend to have a lot more problems with balance. Most people don’t even realize it until they’ve had a fall. I think yoga can help prevent that,” Susan said.
Nancy teaches Iyengar yoga, a form of yoga that concentrates on form and balance in an effort to prevent people from injuring themselves while trying to get fit. It is a lesson she learned the hard way.
“I had taken yoga for several years with two different teachers when I went to Florida to get the training to start teaching,” she said. “The first night, I could barely move as I walked to the drug store and picked up some epsom salts. That’s when I decided either I hadn’t been doing yoga or I hadn’t been doing it correctly.”
The Iyengar style that Nancy teaches concentrates on slow stretches to improve the mind, body and spirit and emphasizes the importance of correct positioning. While teaching her classes, Nancy will often step out into the room and using a very hands on approach, help students find the right position.
She also is careful not to push students beyond their ability or comfort range, working often with clients who have had injuries or illnesses that affect their range of motion.
Nancy has a few of those problems herself, because of the hip replacement, so she is very understanding of physical limitations. And, when she can demonstrate the pose properly due to her own limitations, there is always “Yoga Monkey,” a long-legged stuffed monkey, that can demonstrate the positions.
Iyengar yoga concentrates on breathing and relaxation as well, making it a refreshing and peaceful way to strengthen the body. And, Nancy said, since it is a way of viewing life, it can help people through even the most trying times.
“After my husband died, I was nothing but a shell. And, his sister told me I needed to try yoga. I went to a class when I was visiting her and I just cried and cried at that first class. Yoga helps you release the emotional strain,” she said. “I absolutely loved it, but then I figured, ‘Where am I going to find a yoga class in Southern Illinois?'”
The answer was at Great Shapes in Carbondale. After a couple years of classes and a couple different teachers, she was asked to teach and decided to look around for a program that would teach her as an instructor. Since then, she has sought out another instructional program every year to expend her knowledge of yoga and give herself a refresher course.
She has learned corporate yoga [to help fight stress in the workplace] and programs for moms and toddlers. Now, she hopes to bring those programs to Southern Illinois.
“The hardest part is remembering that this is supposed to be a business,” Nancy said. “I am just so enthused about yoga and how it can improve people’s lives that I want to share it. And, sometimes I forget I’m supposed to be asking people to pay for it.”
Nancy opened Pathways Yoga in the old Dollar General building at the corner of Division and Illinois streets in Carterville and shares her cool purple walls with healing touch practitioner Steve Rhodes and massage therapist Katie Rider.
The building is decorated in shades of purple, red and green, a choice Nancy attributes to her favorite chakras–the crown, root and heart. “A lot of people look at me funny when I start talking about chakras and think maybe I’m saying chocolate,” she said. Chakras are the energy centers of the body and each is represented by the color of energy associated with it.
“I really didn’t think those colors would work together, but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out,” she said.
Now that her business is getting off its feet, Nancy is trying a few new ideas to get people interested in yoga. First, she will be holding a series of free yoga workshops of Saturday, February 24 to introduce people unfamiliar with yoga to the basics. There she will be trying to overcome some misconceptions, like the idea that Christians don’t practice yoga.
“When I worked for other people I wouldn’t bring the spiritual side of it in, but now I can and I really want to reassure people that this is not a religious thing and will not conflict with their church beliefs,” she said.
In addition, she is hoping to sponsor a “yoga cruise” in March or April. If the cruise line can book at least 8 cabins related to the “yoga” theme, they will include events on board for the group and give them access to a room to practice yoga in. The cruise would be to the Bahamas. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to call Nancy at (618)985-9642