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Yoga practitioners come in all shapes and makes. If a 75 year-old can dedicate himself to his practice,can bring himself to plant two hands on the ground with one leg lifted up, there is truly no excuse for the rest of us. But then again Bill, born William Jerome Staub, is a different sort of man. After retiring as a consultant for the ADB back in 2002, Bill has shown no signs of halting any of his spiritual or intellectual pursuits. In his own words, “I meditate a lot. I do research—psychology, philosophy, Buddhism. I practice Zen, I practice yoga. And I’m writing a book.”
A practitioner of Zen Buddhism for the past fifteen years, Bill is introspective and on the noble mission to spread kindness and understanding through a book called “Getting Through the Day Without Losing Your Smile”, a project he’s been working on for the past three years.He comes off as a good-natured guy with a subtle sense of humor as he graces us with plenty of insightful responses during our morning chat with him about the intersection of Zen and yoga, and how his practices have carried him through today.
Bill:Something like three years ago, I was becoming very stiff and I could feel it. I’m 75. I could no longer sit on a mat. When you meditate, you meditate for 25 minutes. We do this in a Zen retreat and the retreat might go on for five days.We might do 15 of these 25 minute sits. Everyday.
I was beginning to feel very old so I went around and consulted with an awful lot of doctors. I learned about the risks associated with back surgery and the low probability. I went to the chiropractor for maybe 15 times. I stayed with this guy until he said he was finished and that it was up to me now to take care of myself. At that time, I said, “What about yoga?”During one of my initial sessions with the practice, (Jaime was leading the Yin class),I was able to feel my brainstem connected to my knee cap. I could feel the entire line.
B: Being 75 years old, I don’t have too many choices. If I was starting at a younger age, I wouldn’t mind getting into Ashtanga. I do the yoga basics but I’ll sit down and take a rest 2 or 3 times depending on how I feel. I’ll do it either because I’m feeling tired and I want to rest or I’m feeling something and I want to sit with that feeling. And then I’ll come back.
B: With the yoga itself, [I feel] at least five years younger because of Yin Yoga. But to say that it’s only physical misses the point.
Why do I like Yin? It’s all about stretching. It’s about stretching tissues that are deep, deep, deep inside your body. Stretching fascia, ligaments, nerves. The reason you’re holding the poses for a long time is because these things that you’re trying to stretch are deep inside your body and it takes a long time holding that pose at that point before you’re able to reach it and actually stretch it. What I like about it is, once I get in there for about three minutes, rather than my mind wandering here, there, and yonder, I’m really focusing on that stretch, and on what it is that’s being stretched. I’m concentrating on the feeling and on the fact that I’m trying to hold it on the edge between pain and not stretching. It’s a very delicate line and I can’t do that with Zen when you’re just sitting on the mat.
B: It can go wherever it goes. I want to take my Yin practice as deep as I can take it, so I’m doing the master classes and will be doing the immersion. If I’m able to get through the immersion, I might take the instructor class. Although, I have no idea who’s going to want to have a 75-year old Yin Yoga instructor.