Man changes life, health through yoga

 After being addicted to drugs, Seth Johnston found peace through yoga.

“It’s not simply a female thing to do,” said Seth Johnston, junior in biosystems engineering. “The people that do yoga the least — men — can benefit from it the most.” 

As a runner and wrestler in high school, he was physically strong, but there was very little union in the way his body functioned, he said. 

Yoga coupled with other fitness routines, he said, is the key to being a holistic athlete. This is Johnston’s first semester as a yoga instructor at Auburn’s Recreation and Wellness Center, and his students have already noticed a difference in their bodies. 

During his 6:30 a.m. class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are two male students who have been shocked by the benefits, he said. 

“It’s what keeps them coming back,” he said. “Flexibility allows your muscles to stretch a little longer, so when you’re contracting, say in a squat, you can contract a little bit more. Or when you’re running, you can stride your legs out a little bit more.” 

While both men and women can improve through yoga, there is a certain stereotype surrounding it. 

“I think there’s this very false sense of manhood,” Johnston said. “If you really want to be manly, if you really want to be brave, that happens when you step up to that uncomfortable line for you and go past it.”

Showing up in stereotypical yoga clothes is not required to become a yogi. Whether people are seeking relaxation, strength building or pain relief, yoga often meets numerous needs. 

Johnston’s mom, a 1989 Auburn alumna, introduced him to yoga. He and his siblings would play around in poses as kids. 

“We mostly got in her way,” he said.

Yoga continued to be a source of joy for her even after being diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. 

In her two-year battle, she became more alive in her spirituality and happiness, he said. 

“When you’re a 13-year-old and it’s your mom, it wrecks you,” he said. “The more and more sick she got, the madder I became.” 

Her journey inspired many to pursue their faith, but Johnston found himself falling into a world of confusion and pain. 

“One of the big reasons I started doing yoga was because after my mom died, I got addicted to drugs,” he said. 

While on a psychedelic drug one evening, Johnston had a life revelation.

“I thought about my mom, and I thought about my life,” he said. “It was the most sober I had ever been.” 

Johnston devotes 10 to 15 minutes every morning and night to do yoga and ground himself.

“For some people, that’s waking up and praying, waking up and reading a good book or waking up and meditating. For me, it’s a little bit of all that.” 

His faith, like his mother’s, inspires how he lives. Yoga has become both a physical necessity and a place of spirituality for him. But for others, spirituality doesn’t have to mean religion. 

Meditating and releasing energy can relieve stress and improve mental wellbeing. 

“We fill our brains with all this noise of life,” he said. “Yoga is not about filling up with something else; it’s about releasing.” 

Johnston focuses on meeting his students’ physical needs while encouraging a positive mindset. 

Through careful stretching, breath and movement, yoga is improving the lives of both men and women and opening the door to self-discovery and joy. 

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