Flexibility of the body lengthens muscles and tones the internal organs to keep the body tuned. When the body stagnates, sitting in a chair for long periods of time or driving long distances without an exercise break, tension builds-up. The human body continually needs to be refreshed with oxygenated blood to cleanse toxins from body, thus, the benefit of practicing yoga postures for health and wellness.
At the recent Heritage Festival in Sebring, the past met the present at the Edna Pearce Lockett Estate on the Kissimmee River with beautifully gowned women, replicating the fashions of the early 20th century and the rugged individualism of the rugged cattle ranching lifestyle when John Mizell Pearce was deeded the l57 acres for the Peace homestead after the Civil War. John and his wife Martha, raised 9 children on the family’s cattle ranch.
The Heritage Festival, which occurs every year as an open house on the estate, brings together all those who appreciate the endurance of the early pioneer “cow hunters,” who fought black clouds of mosquitoes, rattlesnakes and moccasins to settle Florida in the 1800’s.
The Pearce homestead on this day replicates the beautifully clad women providing guided visitation up the old wooden stairs onto the front porch and up the two-story staircase to experience the rugged pioneer spirit and preservation of a lost culture.
In celebration of their life and history, I brought my yoga mat to practice postures on the porch dressed in cowboy boots and vest to do yoga and to tell the true stories written in my books of the Florida pioneer “Cow Hunters.” The time span and behavior patterns of those who struggled to survive in early Florida still expresses a cultural refinement embraced on this day. During those early times of the 1800’s, Yoga was not embraced in the U.S. yet today the endurance of the early Florida settlers is similar to those who sailed across the far eastern ocean to bring yoga to these shores.
Recognizing the contrast in time and the present culture, demonstrating Yoga poses on the open wooden porch of the Pearce Estate was meaningful today. This day brought an awakening of those who introduced new ways of life from the past into the present with an appreciation of the endurance of the human spirit.
The yoga poses we practiced today, such as ‘Extended Body Lengthening” requires endurance and flexibility of the core, arms and legs and a challenge to balance while holding the posture for several breaths; it takes mental concentration, focus, will and endurance. As we moved slowly into the yoga lengthening posture, I was ironically reminded of those rugged individualists, who wearing the contrasting cow hunter attire, awoke at the crack of dawn to work cattle on their ranches, round up hogs and slop pigs to sell at the market as a source of food. The 1800s supported rugged individualism similar to those who choose to endure the discipline of practicing yoga postures today.
Yoga students sometimes are surprised that their bodies have a greater dimension of flexibility than they realize until they accept the challenge of Yoga to expand their mind/body. It takes fortitude with a purpose to improve health. When you stand tall in Tadassana or Mountain Pose with wide legs and lengthened arms, the internal organs/muscles are freed from stasis and begin to flow into harmony with the body; the mind begins to relax and tension is released as each pose is held for several breaths. Yoga awakens the lungs, digestive organs, and muscles to expand lengthening and greater depth of breathing. Yoga students express the pioneer spirit to explore and discover just as the early Florida pioneers.
We are fortunate in Sebring to have Butch and Donna Thompson, his family and the many others present who have preserved the beauty and history of the Edna Pearce heritage home that brings inspiration, wonder and admiration to those who preserve the past for appreciation in the present.
Join the Shield Yoga classes in Sebring, Tuesdays and Fridays at 1-2:30 p.m., Thursdays, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Shield Wellness Center, north on U.S. 27 just past Sun and Lakes Blvd. Revive the spirit of the pioneers and preserve the strength of life through your own practice of Yoga.