At age 70, Patty Jo Thompson, or ‘Yoga Mama,’ no longer has a heart murmur, a condition that runs in her family which she has suffered from her whole life.
“When you do yoga, you just kind of have a healing wisdom that goes on inside of you, and you don’t know what it’s going to do for you – I didn’t do yoga to heal my heart murmur,” Thompson said.
Although Thompson began doing yoga for different reasons, after practicing the discipline for 11 years, becoming the director of the Ancient Yoga Institute and giving up sugar, she is healthier now than she has ever been.
“I haven’t had any sugar in my body (since 2000)… I don’t miss it, and I actually used to be a gourmet dessert maker,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that today she is doing everything that she can to “feel good,” which includes practicing yoga and drinking plenty of water.
“When you do yoga you detoxify and purify all your nerves, so when you have all that happen, you don’t want those (toxins) to stay in your body, you want to get it out, so you want to drink water,” Thompson said.
As the director of the Ancient Yoga Institute, Thompson is able to certify others to teach yoga. Thompson was certified in Texas to teach ancient yoga.
Thompson said there are many different forms of yoga, but all styles are essentially ancient yoga, the very first form, with specific additions like props and aerobics. Ancient yoga is the most basic.
“I really like this (ancient yoga) because it’s just really gentle stretched just like the animals do – it’s pure,” Thompson said.
Thompson has been teaching ancient yoga in Emporia for about seven and a half years. She began teaching at the Emporia Recreation Center in 2003, and then K-4 grade school students along with ESU. Her grade school students dubbed her “Yoga Mama” about four years ago.
“Age doesn’t matter,” Thompson said. “You’re as young as your spine is supple.”
Thompson said the benefits of yoga include an increase in flexibility and strength, lubrication of one’s joints, ligaments and tendons, an increase in coordination and ability to balance and yoga massages the internal organs and strengthens the immune system.
The overall aim of yoga is “to be bendy and flexible and have a flexible spine, so that when you’re spine is flexible… you don’t get old and stiff,” Thompson said.
Joshua East, senior music education major, plays the piano, violin and sings. He said that yoga has both toned his muscles to aid in his playing and improved his breathing techniques.
“The class itself helps me relax after a long day… it’s nice to unwind and let go for an hour,” East said.
Myles Louderback, graduate student in psychology, has been in Thompson’s class since the spring semester of his freshman year. For five years, he has stayed behind after his evening classes to help Thompson gather up her equipment and escort her to her car. Louderback said that he and Thompson have developed a good friendship.
“Out of all of the wonderful professors that I have, she has been the one that will go above and beyond to do anything she possibly can to help you with any problem. If you are sick or you have problems at home, she will listen to you or give you advice, and she will always be there for you if you want her,” Louderback said.
Charlie Heptas/Kenzie Templeton
Video by Kellen Jenkins