Will, or willpower, is often thought of and talked about in contexts like: “I successfully stopped myself from eating that third cookie…” or “I finally ran that extra mile today.” It’s common for very successful people to be recognized as having willpower, and sometimes, certain kinds of creative people earn the label. Professional athletes. People who perform seemingly impossible or extraordinary feats, or who do something “against all odds.” Influential leaders.
We all know that showing up on our mats, on our cushions, and in our commitments to personal and spiritual growth don’t happen accidentally, randomly, or automatically. And yet, conversations about will – what it really is, how to harness it, and how to channel it not just in the material world, but also toward our spiritual goals – are often curiously absent in spiritual contexts and circles. Sure, will is useful when it comes to eating healthy, exercising, and creating an overall healthy lifestyle; running a business or engaging in creative projects; and creating a life of abundance and prosperity. But what is it we think fuels us in and on our spiritual paths, especially in and for the long-run, if not our will?
We recently had a conversation with Namaspa community member, Shawn Bauer, about his yoga journey and deepening practice, his vision for the future of how he hopes to be in service and give back through yoga, how he channels his willpower now that he is retired, and why he is so grateful for, and loyal to, NYC.
For those of you who know Shawn; who have been in the studio, on the slopes, or on a mountain bike trail with him; or who follow him on Instagram, you’ll probably agree that he is a ‘person of will.’ Shawn spent over 30 years in the fire service, making his way from a firefighter at the beginning of his career, to Fire Captain and Shift Training Captain (administering training and certification to others in the service) at the end of his career. Upon retiring, physical discomfort and injury recovery led him to an orthopedist who recommended not only PT-style stretches and stabilizing exercises for the areas of the body he was experiencing pain, but also yoga. Shawn took the recommendations seriously, and at first, started participating in yoga classes at his gym. That was nearly six years ago, now. Following the pandemic, Shawn decided he wanted to find a dedicated yoga studio and community to be a part of, and started exploring studios around Central Oregon. “From the minute I walked in Namaspa’s doors,” Shawn shares, “I felt welcome. I felt an open and loving environment, and I knew, this is it, I’ve found my yoga home.” Shawn’s preferred styles of yoga are power flow and acro yoga, and he also sometimes incorporates healing flow, restorative, and yin classes because he knows they are beneficial for him and the ongoing development of his practice. He practices three or more times per week at the studio, at home on the other days, and attends an acro jam every Sunday.
Shawn shares openly about how the environment and culture of the fire service shaped his life philosophy, mind, thoughts, belief system, and perspectives about the world in very particular ways, both positively and in some challenging ways. “It was a very rigid and militant environment, and so I was very rigid and militant, and I had quite a short temper,” he reflects. “Even before I retired and started a serious yoga practice, I went through some life changes that sort of forced me into a process of starting to change my thoughts and beliefs, and then diving into yoga accelerated the process. Overall, I would say, yoga has changed my life. The best words I have are that it has been a transformative experience. For one, I’ve chilled out – a lot. I’m a better human, and my relationships with myself, my family, and my kids have improved.” Shawn specifically cites mindfulness and breath practices (pranayama) as being instrumental in his journey of transformation, and says that yoga came at a perfect time in his life, because it became something healthy and awakening to channel his time, energy, dedication, and willpower into after retiring (along with his other passions, like skiing and mountain biking, of course!).
Looking back on his journey, Shawn expresses that he wishes someone would have introduced him to yoga and encouraged him to start a practice thirty years ago, at the beginning of his career in the fire service. “My whole life and experience of my career and the stress it involved could and would have been different,” he reflects. This is one of the reasons Shawn is holding a vision for himself to go through Namaspa’s True U yoga teacher training program in 2024: so he can establish a yoga outreach program for first responders, like the fire service, local sheriff’s and police departments, and folks who work at the hospital. “Of course I want to do the training, first and foremost, because it will enrich my personal practice. But if, through becoming a yoga instructor and starting an outreach program, one person chooses to walk a path that includes yoga, and as a result, their life transforms in some small or big way like mine has, it will be worth it,” Shawn comments.
In addition to his inspiration, aspiration, and intention to attend YTT next year, Shawn also participates in a photo-based yoga project on Instagram called, “Yogi See, Yogi Do” (or perhaps more accurately, #yogiseeyogido). For him, it started a few years ago when, as he started getting more serious about his practice, his social media feed began showing him more posts and photos about yoga, and he got inspired to join in on the #yogiseeyogido challenge – which entails using a photo of someone doing a yoga posture (or two people doing a partner or acro stunt), and then posting the original inspo photo, along with yourself doing the same posture or stunt. Shawn has used this as a way to build strength, flexibility, and skills in his personal yoga practice and his acro practice over time, as he often chooses postures or stunts that are challenging or creative in some way. “With some of the postures or stunts in the inspo photos, I’ve been able to do them immediately, the first time I try; but others have taken me dedicating practice time several times per week for a few weeks or even over a month!” Shawn is particularly proud of many of the inversions he’s been successful at learning and doing successfully through #yogiseeyogido, and of the one-armed peacock, specifically!
Check out some of the postures and partner/acro stunts Shawn has learned below. His acro partners in the photos are Namaspa instructors Petit Davina and PJ Frichtman.
And this … well, this posture to the right is the posture Shawn is currently working on, but hasn’t mastered, yet. We bet he’ll get it by the end of this month, though, and we’ll share his photos when he does!
At the end of Shawn’s interview, he expressed how grateful he is for the cumulative effects and benefits of his deepening practice, as well as how grateful and honored he is to be a part of the Namaspa community. He reflected on how easy it could or would be, on some level, to revert back to old ways of being or default reactions in his relationships and life, but how his commitment to showing up on his mat, combined with #yogiseeyogido, keeps him on his growth edge physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
When you see Shawn next, ask him what pose he’s working on for #yogiseeyogido, and simultaneously, tune into the immensity of his dedication, discipline, and willpower — it seems to radiate from deep inside his Being, into the space around him.
Shawn, thank you for being an inspiration in the Namaspa community!