Student Spotlight: Clark Bunting

In 2012, my wife, Karen and I moved to our Traverse City home after I retired from a media career spanning a quarter of a century on the east coast. In my late fifties, I was over-­stressed, overweight and way over-­caffeinated, and was looking for ways to get fit, relax and make some new friends.  I also was looking for activities that would help keep me flexible and relieve the arthritic pain in my lower back. Pretty much all options were on the table. Karen had already discovered Yen, was there most days, and said it was one of the principal reasons she agreed to move to the area. She suggested that I try a class that was targeted to beginners. I was skeptical at first, but was at that point where I was willing to try almost anything. So I decided to do something totally out of my comfort zone and dove in.

I was surprised at how welcoming everyone was – front desk staff, instructors and fellow yogis. It was my first glimpse of the true Yen community. I could see why Karen was so keen on spending time in this wonderful space. And after that first hour of a gentle class, I didn’t hurt as much. Maybe this truly was the tonic for aging athletes. That was the beginning.

Nearly six years later, Yen has become part of my daily routine. I never would have guessed I would find so much joy and peace from yoga. No matter what else may be happening in my life there are always two constants at Yen -­‐ people will be welcoming and I feel better than when I came in. The arthritis is in check and my flexibility has improved. I have expanded beyond beginner classes and enjoy the challenge and diversity of each one. I’ve also enjoyed learning to meditate. I’m not particularly good at it, but that probably means I need to do more. I could be the poster child for monkey mind, but meditation has helped me slow down and reboot. I’m far from proficient, but as my wife likes to say, “progress not perfection.”

Linking breath to a more mindful approach to life has been one of the most important gifts from Yen. It’s helped me better focus and “be in the moment.” I truly had no idea how powerful something as simple as breathing could be. I’m better able to moderate the effects of stress and have a healthier more positive outlook – all from learning how to breathe better. It’s been a gradual transformation, but living a happier, more fulfilled life surely beats over-stressed, overweight and over-­caffeinated. As one Yen instructor says, our practice makes us “humble and grateful,” something we all can agree on.

Yen has been a gift and it is the community of like-­minded folks I cherish. The circle of friends, opportunity to give and receive, and even courage to try a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, are now part of what makes me who I am. And all because my wife made me go to that first class. . .