Five years ago Susan Jarvie was a cardio queen. She thought yoga was a waste of time. “Too much stretching,” said the Mesa 45-year-old, who grew up in Gilbert.
But two days after her first class, which a friend persuaded her to try, she thought maybe there was something to yoga. “I realized it was hard,” she said.
She became hooked and started taking classes.
“It’s a mind-body connection,” she said. “It teaches you how to breathe, how to be calm, have focus and clarity. It brings patience and kindness in life. It gives you the courage to try new things, and gives you self-confidence.”
That new self-confidence turned her life around.
Before yoga, she was in a high-stress job as a business development manager in the construction industry. She also was a planning and zoning commissioner for Gilbert, on the Mayor’s Crime Prevention Board in Mesa and, to top it all off, she was a single mom. Her son, Seth Preiss, 15, is a ninth-grader at Stapley Junior High School.
When she met her husband of almost two years, Lars Jarvie, he suggested she do something different, something less stressful. He is also having fun with life. He is a retired Mesa police chief, and now is a rental manager for Superstition Harley-Davidson.
She took a teacher training program in November 2005 at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe to learn more. At first she just wanted to learn how to do yoga, and she didn’t think she wanted to teach. But she had to teach a class for her degree.
It turned out to be fascinating and fun for her.
She went from finishing the teacher training program on a Monday to teaching yoga at Desert Ridge High School the next day.
She became a substitute teacher in February 2006 and has been subbing in extracurricular classes for Gilbert and Mesa junior high and high school students.
In the Gilbert school district, most of the high schools offer a yoga class, and in Mesa she teaches yoga in either the physical education or dance classes.
“Now I feel less stressed, my friends say I look younger and my doctor said I’m taller,” said the svelte, 5-foot-11 woman, who says she used to be 5 feet 10 inches.
At Desert Ridge High School in the Gilbert school district, she subbed in a yoga class for two months during a teacher’s leave of absence, which gave her the experience needed to work with teens.
“Doing this is really fun for me. It helps me with my teaching,” she said. “It teaches kids to look at the inside for answers.”
Learning how to breathe and calm down can help in stressful test situations. Learning healthy ways helps students choose the right path.
After a while, many students at Mesa’s Westwood High School started asking her where they could take a yoga class on their own. She couldn’t suggest anywhere in the downtown Mesa area to refer them to, so she decided to start a free after-school class for students and staff.
She started the six-week class March 20, which meets every Tuesday in Westwood’s dance studio. She provides yoga mats, yoga blocks and blankets. She got her friends to sponsor mats and bought 10 mats. Her goal is to take it to other Mesa schools as an after-school program.
On Tuesday, 12 students and staff enjoyed their free yoga class. As the students did the various poses, from plank and tabletop to cobra and downward-facing dog, Jarvie talked them through the poses while soothing music played in the background.
The class included everyone from tall, manly Westwood High social studies teacher Larry Green, 56, who was fairly new to yoga, to students such as Christina Adams, a senior who used to do yoga with her stepmom.
“Aaah, it’s fantastic,” said Adams, 18. “I’ve been looking to do yoga forever, but I can’t find the time. And trying to find a studio that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.”
Susan Jarvie, yoga teacher and Yoga Heart sandbag creator, can be reached at (480) 266-5655 or www.fortheloveofyoga.org.