Yoga instructor Michael Curtis answers five questions – Canton Repository

Michael Curtis started doing yoga while in college before it became a global phenomenon. According to studies by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, yoga is practiced by 37 million people in the United States alone and hundreds of millions more across the world.
Curtis started practicing yoga the way he did his music when in college — every day. About 10 years after he started, he was asked to teach yoga. Later, a student had the idea of opening a yoga studio.
Curtis has a doctorate in music from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve. He had a Fulbright Scholarship to study music in South America. He is still involved in music as a guitar player, and teaches in the music department at Malone University. When the studio first opened, his music career subsidized the yoga studio.
“Music is like yoga in that music teaches you about yourself, but music is not about the musician,” Curtis said. “Bach, who wrote some of the greatest music of all time, would write at the end of his compositions ‘All glory be to God.’ The best music is when you disappear and get lost in the music. I like getting lost in what I am doing — especially yoga and music. The musician is the sailboat, and the music is the ocean. In yoga, we refer to this lost-and-then-found state as the ‘ocean of bliss.'”
Today, he operates two local studios, The Yoga Place at 6734 Wise Ave in North Canton which uses solar power and has a heated flow, and Yoga Central at 4626 Cleveland Ave. NW in Canton.
I began trying yoga when I was in college. There were no yoga classes. No yoga mats. No commercialization. But there were books and a few people who practiced. I was a musician at the time, but I met someone in the philosophy department who did yoga.
The movements in yoga were new and intriguing to me, but I was also totally fascinated by the history, philosophy and ethical principles of yoga, too. I was a runner who was starting to really tighten up. I loved the running but was suspicious of the tightening process caused by the running.
That is a hard question. Yoga helps in every area of life, but I think if we place too much importance on the benefits of yoga, then the benefits become a distraction. I don’t like to use the “benefits of yoga” as a persuasion tool because yoga is not a selfish practice.
Physically, I’ve put in the time and work with a skillful practice and I experience optimal health. Mentally, and spiritually, I’m not a wise man or a saint. I need to live another 100 years so I can climb that escarpment! Currently, I climb a bit, slide a little. Climb and slide. It is fun, not frustrating.
I like challenge and my mistakes humor me. Human folly is present, but so is resilience. Yoga has helped me dance and laugh with the mistakes and the challenges.
It isn’t what yoga does for me, but what I do for others — yoga as service. Yes, I have great health, but life is not about great health. Health is just another thing, like a house, a car or a guitar. Having two yoga centers, good health, great classes and excellent teachers allows us to give back, and we do it with love and enthusiasm.
I participate. If it is music, dance, books, Frisbee, bicycling, sports and/or conversation, I want to be part of it. I like to either organize these things or join in. Although a shy person, I tend to say “yes.”
I’m very involved in Ohio Forest Sanctuaries, a nonprofit working to preserve woodlands and green space for the benefit of all. Recently, at Yoga Central we raised $500 for Stark Blessing Box. In December, we also had a charity event for the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank. On Martin Luther King Day, we have a fundraiser for the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition.
Helping people with their health is one of the services we provide, but more importantly yoga is about deeper awareness, higher consciousness and living a more mindful caring life. Caring more may sometimes hurt more, but what is life without caring?
The world may snap at you, and even bite you sometimes, but don’t turn your back on a world that needs more care, love and goodwill.
It is completely normal to have people who create problems. It is also perfectly normal to have people who try to solve problems. There may be a very few who decide to be a hermit, but I do not know any, and I suspect you do not either.
Yoga is not about turning your back on the drama of life, but instead, as we see in the Bhagavad Gita, we have to participate. We are meant to join in and do our best. You have an important role in this drama. The fascinating teaching of yoga is to “participate in a selfless way.” That is one aspect of “skill in action.”
Editor’s note: Five questions with … is a Sunday feature that showcases a member of the Stark County community. If you’d like to recommend someone to participate, send an email to [email protected]

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