Lindsay Stafford Mader 2015-10-26 11:58:04
Strong and Steady A Dallas transactional attorney finds peace and patience in yoga. Three years ago, Matthew Sanderson walked into a Dallas yoga studio, alone and apprehensive. He had done yoga videos at home a few times but was new to doing group classes in public. Sanderson, a 38-year-old member in Gray Reed & McGraw, found himself laying down a mat next to strangers in an attempt to improve his professional life. To be better at his job, he knew he would need to make it more personally rewarding. So he decided that an exercise routine would be helpful, and yoga was the only thing that fit the father of two’s crazy schedule. Sanderson was a convert immediately. After a year of regular yoga practice, he decided to become a certified instructor. Now, in addition to his own home and studio sessions, he teaches three classes a week at Uptown Yoga and recently opened Yogis On The Go, whose mission is to “bring quality yoga to as many people as we can.” So far, its mobile instructors have led classes in office buildings, elementary schools, and on a downtown rooftop where 40 members of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers recently slowed down and struck poses under Sanderson’s guidance. “Almost everyone in my life that I’m close to has now tried yoga,” Sanderson said. “Not all of them are into it, but I can get most people, even the very skeptical, to at least try.” What was going through your mind as you walked into your first studio class? The plain answer is that I was scared. I didn’t go with a friend. It was a frightening experience. However, the studio quickly made me feel at ease—at least after that first class. What got you hooked on yoga? I fell in love with it from day one. If you’ve taken a yoga class, you know in the end there’s a meditation aspect to it. It was hard when I first walked in to just sit still. And the teacher told the whole class, “Sit still, sit still, sit still.” And later I found out she was really just talking to me. At the end of class, after going through an hour of exercise and quieting the body down, I was able to sit still for all of a minute and a half or two minutes, and I felt so good. Why do you think it is difficult to be still and calm, and why is it appealing to attempt to do so? It’s a challenge because all of us—attorneys and others—are constantly in response mode, responding to crisis upon crisis. That’s horrible for the nervous system, and being in that constant state can cause anxiety, sleep loss, and weight gain. Being still promotes the opposite: calmness, the ability to sleep, and better health. Tell us about the genesis and goal of Yogis On The Go. To finish up certification at the studio, you have to give at least 10 free classes. When word got out at my law firm, the staff was like, “You have to come teach us!” I was reluctant at first because of the whole personal/professional divide thing, but I said OK, and the firm agreed. I gave four or five classes, and there was such a reception by the staff and some of the attorneys that we continued. At the same time, I was in the process of looking for a yoga studio to acquire or build out, and this idea hit me: Why do I need a studio when I can just grab a conference room and make it easier on people within a business or a building or a community organization? What was the most surprising feedback you got from staff or fellow attorneys? The most shocking response was seeing some of them realize how good yoga makes you feel. After you know something for so long, you forget how foreign that concept can be to others. It’s fun to see when others experience that same light-bulb moment. How is a yoga class in a professional setting different from a typical studio class? Yoga at the office has to be a much softer experience. You have so many different variations of people than you do in a studio. That doesn’t mean it’s any easier—it’s just that it’s a little slower than a typical class. We make up for that with longer poses that are within everyone’s reach. When designing a class, what are the basic points you try to incorporate? The ultimate goal and outline is to develop aspects of strength, flexibility, breath control, and mental calmness in our students. Each is present in all of my classes. How has your yoga practice influenced your law practice? It allows me to deal with conflict better. As attorneys, we’re always in conflict. Even as a transactional attorney, we’re at odds with the other side in our deals. Yoga helps practice patience and control, and it serves all of our clients better to be patient and in control in these conflicts. Male yoga students and instructors seem to be somewhat less common than female yogis. Why do you think men should consider yoga? While you’re right that women typically practice yoga more than men, it was actually very difficult for Indra Devi, a very famous female yoga teacher, to “break in” to the field. She went through a ton of effort to convince the male yoga teachers that she could practice yoga as well as they could. Now, women dominate the practice. Men should keep an open mind about yoga. It’s a gender-neutral practice. Men should also try to understand what a difference yoga makes in other sports, from golf to any running sport. According to CNN, the Seattle Seahawks, in fact, tout that they practice yoga as a team. What is your favorite pose and what pose do you find most challenging? My favorite pose is handstand, but it’s also the most challenging. Go figure! For more information on Sanderson’s mobile yoga studio, go to yogisonthego.com.
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