ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — “With yoga, you don’t ever want any pain,” Mary Schlosser said, bending her waist backward into a "reverse warrior" pose during the Feb. 27 Souper Monday presentation at St. Bonaventure University.
Fifteen years earlier, Schlosser was filled with pain as she became a widow with a 2-year-old son.
“I was not equipped for that type of loss. The grief was so insurmountable that it was beyond anything I could handle,” Schlosser said of her husband’s death.
However, the then-41-year-old promised herself she would find the strength to provide happiness for her son.
“As my husband was dying, I made the promise that I wouldn’t be the mother that couldn’t get off the couch afterward. I wanted to be a mother that could enjoy life as much as I could and give as much happiness to my son as I could give,” Schlosser said.
Schlosser attempted to cope with her angst through her faith and through counseling, and although helpful, nothing seemed to work.
Then, she heard a voice.
“I was at the YMCA one day and I heard a voice in my head that said, ‘You should do yoga.’ I heard the voice again on several other occasions. Then, the Olean YMCA started losing staff, and I was asked to teach a class. I told them I didn’t want to teach any classes unless it a yoga class. They said they were starting yoga classes that fall and said they’d train me to teach yoga,” Schlosser said. “It felt like God was speaking to me.”
Schlosser began teaching yoga when her son began kindergarten, and 13 years later, boasts a large variety of yoga experiences. She has traveled the United States, attending yoga classes and utilizing what she considers to be a "tool."
“I have this tool, yoga, that has allowed me to find acceptance and has allowed me to share it with people. Your tool may not be yoga,” Schlosser said to the Souper Monday attendees, “but I think there are tools for each of us out there to find love and acceptance.”
The now-56-year-old is a yoga instructor at the Olean Meditation Center and is a coordinator of development and volunteers at Mt. Irenaeus for St. Bonaventure University. Faculty and staff welcomed the "gentle yoga" Schlosser offered in the University Club, demonstrating how to do a "downward dog" and balance in a "warrior two" position.
Schlosser concentrated on just two of the eight branches of yoga: breathing and movement. She invited the group to relax, to breathe in and out through their noses and to release stress from their bodies.
“There is no judgment in yoga. You just be,” Schlosser said, “The body holds stress that we become so accustomed to that we don’t realize it. Yoga helps unravel that slowly.”
Despite some aching moans, the university faculty and staff willingly twisted and turned in their chairs under Schlosser’s yoga instruction. Several employees chuckled when trying the different poses.
Schlosser laughed with them, stressing the importance of acceptance in yoga.
“There is a philosophy to yoga, and to me that philosophy is acceptance,” Schlosser said before ending her presentation in a traditional yoga salutation.
Schlosser placed her palms together with her fingertips facing upward, symmetrically aligning her hands and core in a prayer pose. She bowed, saying "namaste," symbolizing a goodbye.
“Namaste means many things, but I believe that it means that the divinity in me sees and honors the divinity in you,” Schlosser said.
“Namaste,” the attendees responded, joining their hands together in the prayer pose and bowing in return.