BY LIZA STROUT - Asanas. Pranayama. Savasamas. You don’t need to know the definitions of these Sanskrit words that are associated with yoga to enjoy the benefits of the ancient art.
Patty Seidensticker is a long-time practitioner and newly-minted instructor of yoga, who came to the practice of yoga as a warm-up routine to use before she hit the slopes to go skiing or hiking in the mountains of Colorado. She is also a life coach and business owner.
The Oak Park, Ill., native was living in Estes Park, Colo. when she began using the postures to stretch for her chilly sports of choice.
Patty was actually born in Phoenix, Arizona. Before she was even old enough to remember the Southwest, though, her mother moved to the western Chicago suburbs to be closer to her family after her marriage ended. Patty grew up living in an apartment that looked over a busy intersection, a far cry from her current island home.
She grew up with two brothers, and caught the mass transit bus to attend a Catholic primary school. She explained, “We didn’t have school buses there, it was all mass transit. We also didn’t get rides from our mother, so it was an adventure.”
When Patty started high school, she was in for a bit of a culture shock. From her small religious school, she transferred to Oak Park and River Forest High School, which had a student population drawn from two separate towns. To this day, this highly-rated college prep school, known for a long line of impressive alumni, is the only high school in the district.
“There were around 3,500 kids who went to the school, between the two communities,” she said. “It’s a huge school, and a big deal in the community.
Patty first came to Boca Grande soon after she graduated from high school. She had become friends with Jim and Joe Wyman, brothers from Oak Park. That summer they invited her to Gasparilla Island, and she was introduced to her future home.
She spent a couple of months here, enough time to fall in love with the island before continuing on a meandering journey that eventually end in the mountains of Colorado.
“After being in the big city, living in the mountains at 19, and skiing ... it was my dream. I loved it.”
She worked in Colorado for half a decade, but changes in the state’s economy led her to realign her career.
She returned to Boca Grande in 1978 to work at the Gasparilla Inn & Club. She spent the next few years living and working on Gasparilla Island in the winter, and Colorado in the summer. To this day, she returns to Colorado every few years to spend time in her beloved mountains.
“Colorado is one of my favorite places, I loved living out there,” she said. “It’s really where I became an adult. When I left Oak Park, I was just a teen who didn’t know who she was.”
By the time she returned to the island, Patty had a young daughter, the first of three children.
Lisa, 31, spent the first three years of her life traveling between Estes Park and Gasparilla Island with her mother. Much like Patty, she was born elsewhere but has adopted the island as her hometown.
Her brothers, Joseph and Patrick, were born and raised here.
“They pretty much spent their whole childhood here,” Patty explained.
Patty has passed her love of yoga on to her daughter, and her entrepreneurial spirit to all three of her children.
Patty met her partner, Buzz Mallet, through another Boca Grande couple, Bill and Katie Caldwell. Buzz is a singer and guitarist, well-known in local circles. He grew up on Palm Island and in St. Petersburg.
When Patty is not teaching yoga classes, running marathons, or sharing a meal with friends, she loves to swim in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. To her, a swim in the surf is more than just exercise.
“Being surrounded by the water, and all of the beauty out there, it’s healing,” she said.
Until last April, her most constant swimming companion was her dog, Campbell. She inherited the dog from Lisa when she went away to school. The dog, unfortunately, died last spring.“Campbell was the protector of all critters and people in the Gulf,” Patty said. “She would swim circles around whoever was out there, and she let any predators in the water know that we were under her protection. We missed her this year, when she wasn’t there to keep an eye out for us.”
Campbell also knew the island as only a native dog can.
“She knew all of the trails on this island back and forth,” Patti recollected. “We walked them at least twice a day, every day, for 12 years. I’m surprised that there aren’t Campbell-sized ruts worn into some of the paths on the island, we spent so much time on them together.”
Patty is a life coach, a path she started on after a life coach helped her to make changes in her own life.
Life coaches are specially-trained professionals who help other people go through transitions in their lives.
She was so impressed by the coach’s effect on her life that she decided she wanted to help others in the same way. Patty said, “I thought I could help others as much as she has helped me.”
Three years ago, she spent a three-month period attending Coach U in Denver, learning the skills and techniques that were so effective in helping her with her own changes.
“I really enjoyed it, I met some fabulous coaches, and I learned a lot about how to help others,” she said.
Recently, Patty achieved a goal she has had since she was in her 20’s. When she started practicing yoga, it was simply as a physical exercise to stay limber and flexible. Over time, though, she had become acquainted with the philosophical side of the art.
“I found that I was more relaxed, clear-minded, and focused when I took the time to go through the ritual of postures, breathing techniques, and meditations, so I have always stuck with it,” she said.“It’s always been my dream to teach yoga,” she said. “Until last year, though, there was no way to become a certified yoga instructor without traveling out of the region to an ashram (school) for over a month of dedicated study.”
Then, for the first time in Sarasota, ReFLEX Arts Studio began offering the 200 hours of training required for certification. Patty was in the first class when they started training in October, and was one of 19 students to graduate in January.
“It was fabulous,” she said. “We were exposed to every kind of yoga in the training classes. I was very excited about it, and the teacher was great. It was a wonderful experience.”
Patty has subbed for Nancy Cooper at Banyan Tree Pilates for a few classes, but she starts her own “Candlelight Yoga” class on February 7. It’s an idea that she got in Sarasota.
“I like the idea of being there for people after work and in the evening, to quiet the mind,” she said. “Even the name gives you a calming feeling. I’m hoping to appeal to the people out there who are having busy Boca Grande days. They can come and stretch and relax and have a wonderful end to a crazy day.”
The class is for everyone, from beginners to advanced. You don’t need to have any experience with yoga to participate, and you don’t even have to be able to touch your toes.
The class will involve basic asanas, pranayama, and savasamas. Or, in simple English, basic postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques. So bring your tense body and stressed mind. Patty will be happy to help.
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