Fred Johnson

I was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago; where I met my childhood sweetheart, Jane, my wife of twenty nine years. We raised three wonderful children, two whom are professional ballet dancers and one is an aspiring artist. At twenty four years old, I experienced the death of my close friend and this sent me down the career path of emergency medical service. I soon became a volunteer firefighter in my home town while pursuing a career as a full time firefighter paramedic. I took a job in a neighboring community in 1988 and over the next twenty five years rose to the rank of battalion chief.

I started my yoga practice because of a promise to Jane, that when I retired from the fire service I would begin yoga. She had for years tried to get me to practice yoga but I was more focused on the strength training and plyometric exercises that I thought I needed for my job performance.

Life has a way of slowing you down even if you are not listening. At forty eight years old, I had my first hip replacement. Sixty three days later I was back on the job fighting fire. My orthopedic surgeon informed me that my other hip would need to be replaced in two to three years. Unfortunately he was correct. At fifty two years old, I had my second hip replacement. At that time I was no longer a line firefighter but a battalion chief. Prior to my second surgery, Jane had planted the seed that I would not return to work but instead retire and join her in sunny Florida. She was right. Unfortunately, my second surgery did not go as well as the first and I continued to have nagging issues with my psoas muscle. I then enrolled in an introduction to yoga class at The Yoga Sanctuary where Jennifer exposed me to the basics of yoga and proper yoga etiquette.

I started practicing regularly two years ago with chair and gentle yoga. Slowly progressing into level 1, level 2 and yin. Yoga has changed my life. By the end of my career, with numerous broken bones, a torn ACL, bulging discs and bi-lateral hip replacement, I could barely dress myself. This was not how I had envisioned going into retirement. My yoga practice has helped me to slow down and truly listen to my body and not just use it as a tool to accomplish a task.

I’ve discovered yoga to be an emotional roller coaster. In a class I go from calm to frustrated, I find myself laughing and the next second I want to cry. It is an exhausting ride for a one hour class. I have come to the understanding that it will be a long slow process to reverse the damage I inflicted onto my body over the past fifty years.

Outside The Yoga Sanctuary, I assist Jane with her art business. We both enjoy fly fishing Charlotte Harbor and golf at Myakka Pines. The running joke with our kids when they found out that I was doing yoga was that I was in class just for the savasana. Well – that is my favorite pose. It gives me time to reflect on the changes that occurred in class and the work that has to be done.

What keeps me coming back is the fact that I see positive change in my body. No matter how small the effect, it is positive.

As I was sitting in my physical therapist’s office one day, I stumbled across a quote by Ashleigh Brilliant, “There is a whole word that I am in control of and it ends at my fingertips.” This struck me as fitting for my current life outlook.