“I didn’t find yoga, it found me. Now I understand how it feels to have a quiet mind, to let go, and to live in the present; Even if for a fleeting moment . . .”

You may call Mark Jones’ journey to yoga ‘serendipitous.’  He first stumbled into a hot yoga studio while he was helping his son look for a cure for shin splints and plantar fasciitis.  Mark attended a hot yoga classes with his son, Reece, and even continued for a few months after Reece recovered from his running injuries.  His first encounter with yoga was fortuitous, but it didn’t meet the needs of his soul.  ‘The studio, clad with mirrors, seemed focused upon one’s ego; a practice I believed antithetical to the tenets of yoga. It was during this time I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder,” he explains.

This diagnosis, at first unbelievable to Mark, who is a successful husband and attorney, became a catalyst for his search to find a yoga that would quiet his mind.  Mark describes bi-polar disorder as an “insidious illness” because it it affects the one organ that makes us human.  “Nobody can describe how it feels to be trapped in a mind that is mercilessly living in the past or dreaming of the future; sometimes both at the same time. Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist with bi-polar disorder, best described her illness as ‘An Unquiet Mind.'”  Thus, his search for a practice to help quiet the mind.

Mark goes on to describe the effects of this illness: “At the worst of times [bi-polar disorder] can make a person wildly reckless.  Things like extravagant spending, grandiose beliefs, hyper-sexuality, alienation of friends and family, and suicide are all too common. All that remains after the symptoms abate is the regret for what one has wrought; particularly relationships damaged beyond repair.  None blame a person for having a heart attack or having cancer, and none feel regret from the symptoms of having such an illness.  That is not the case with mental illness because it attacks the one and only thing that matters; a person’s relationship with others.”

Mark did some research into means for treating bi-polar disorder and alleviating the ‘unquiet mind.’  He learned about the system of Ashtanga Yoga and found Maya Yoga, a mere 4 miles away from his home.  Upon first visit, Mark felt welcome.  He loved the atmosphere of the studio and the teachers he met.  “In the studio, the mirror clad walls were replaced with warm earth tone colors; walls and corners adorned with Hindu shrines; prayers; meditation; and a room perfumed with incense.”  It wasn’t easy.  Mark remembers that during his first one-hour class, it was somewhere around the third sun salutation that he began thinking that he’d made a mistake!  It was difficult to hold Downward Facing Dog for 5 breaths!  How was he ever going to make it through a whole class?

Regular practice made it easier.  He says, “As the weeks past, I began to notice that there were brief moments when time elapsed with me having no recollection of what occurred. All that remained was the rhythm of my breath. I was hooked.”

Above all, Mark is grateful to his teachers.  “A yoga studio is nothing more than four walls and some mysterious tapestries, without the compassion, empathy, commitment, and spirituality of its teachers.  Now, at the age of 56, I have been inspired to become a teacher. I have no idea where this path may lead me, but I hope that I will find a place where I may introduce yoga to the elderly and those with mental illness.”

Mark’s unexpected journey to yoga led to him exactly where he needed to be in order to heal and learn self-acceptance.  He is humbled by this journey and eternally grateful for the welcoming he receives at Maya Yoga every time he comes to class.

We hope that Mark’s unexpected journey will inspire you, too!