George (Billy) Essex
By Renée Tillotson
If you come to yoga classes at Still & Moving Center, chances are high you’ve met an affable chap named Billy. Ever since Billy (aka George aka George William) Essex started showing up at Still & Moving Center, he’s added a certain feeling of groundedness to the place.
There is nothing fancy or hifalutin’ about Billy. He arrives at the studio before or after his work at auto body shops as an electrical system mechanic, and happily heads into any one of a number of classes he likes to take with us.
Often it’s yoga, sometimes MELT or aerial. Pilates with Murat. He loves our Sound Healing and yoga events. He says he’s working his way up to Turkish Belly Dance! We’re halfway between work and home, and sometimes he plays hooky from work to get in an extra workout. You’ll also find him in the Membership room lifting weights. Nothing flashy, just getting it done.
His self-mandate is to put in at least 4 classes a week.
What’s behind Billy’s steady persistence to show up?
He went for a long while not feeling good at all. He suspects he had long Covid. “I still worked, but I wasn’t very physically active,” he explains. He had been a heavy smoker for a long time. Then 2 or 3 years ago he went on a family vacation to the North Shore and was going into severe coughing fits, almost blacking out. For the life of him, he couldn’t catch his breath.
Not being able to breathe is scary – as many of us know from personal experience.
Billy went to the doctor and got lots of X-rays, etc., but they found nothing. He decided not to get caught up in relying on the medical system to make him better. Billy said to himself, “We’re going to have to put these cigarettes down and get our health back on track.”
He looked at his niece’s posts on social media. She hadn’t been able to run a quarter mile, and now she was running regularly. He looked at his wife, Dr. Candy Branson, who had taken up swimming every morning. He thought, “I can do that. I can get back in shape.”
By that time Billy had lost a lot of strength. When he saw himself in a picture his friend had taken, he thought, “Whoa – I’ve gotten pretty big.”
So he started biking again, which he knew had helped him with his weight in the past when he’d bike to work in his slippers, change into his boots, then back into flip flops to ride home at the end of the day.
Now his biking took him past Leahi Park, where he saw outdoor yoga classes going on. “I could do that,” he commented to himself. And he did.
I asked him how he happens to be a guy in the trades who is coming to yoga classes. “I was raised by a mom and 2 sisters. I don’t play rugby or football. I just don’t have hangups about needing to act super masculine.”
As he followed yoga women leading the classes in the park, he watched them easily balance all their weight on their hands and bend into all sorts of positions. “They are so strong in their bodies, they are like goddesses,” he mused. “Since they can be goddess-like, I want to be god-like (with a small g) to reach the full expression of my potential.”
At that point he committed himself to a regular exercise practice.
“I really enjoyed yoga in the park, but to go as frequently as I wanted to was getting expensive. With the change of season, outside classes would get dark earlier, and there are also the elements to deal with.”
Then, early this year, Billy was looking for a yoga strap and happened to find Still & Moving Center. He enrolled in our intro offer, then signed up for a membership. Once he started taking classes, there was no stopping him.
“I slip in whenever I can. Once in a while I even slip away from work if my body needs it. I really like everyone here and the comradery of the classes.”
He continues, “I used to go to 24 Hour Fitness yoga classes. I wanted to get more serious. The level of teachers here at this studio is different than in a gym setting.
The teachers here at Still & Moving give a lot of personal attention. One day in yoga class, Robin took out a stick from the equipment closet for my plantar fasciitis. She had me roll my foot over it.
“Still & Moving has something for everybody. I haven’t even touched the surface, there’s so much. I haven’t done the tai chi, hula, or a lot of the dancing. That’s a goal of mine – to push myself and do more. I’m getting my endurance up to be able to do Murat’s two classes back to back.
“I’m also learning to listen to my body, and I’m healing my back from reaching down to pick something up. So I’m taking this week off, which I’m bummed about, but I am taking care of myself, which is good.”
Billy says he’s started realizing how important the meditation side of yoga is. “It’s allowed me to pull from a different level of concentration when I’m at work. With this focus, I’m able to get through problems with more ease. I’m overall in a better mood.
“Life is very noisy, so I ask myself: What do I know?… I know that mantras, adages, and scripture, help get me on track.
“I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m feeling a marked change, both physically and spiritually. Even though I’m still in the beginning phases, I feel like I’m on a journey that the Center is really helping with.”
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)