Indiana & Yoga Magazine Summer 2016 Issue 1 | Page 23

Photography : Courtesy of Nancy Schalk
vice , anywhere , in the future . That call did come , but not for five years . Once again she found herself in a locale with almost no formalized , regular yoga classes , let alone studios . “ There was just this cool , hippie , kinda ’ tiny community of a few people that practiced Ashtanga ,” she says . “ So that ’ s where I practiced and taught , and because great teachers were very attracted to that lovely setting , I got to study with Tim Miller and Richard Freeman and of course , Pattabhi Jois .” She finishes by reiterating that when a master teacher such as Jois visited the island , people like Freeman and Miller were her peers . She lights up as she talks about how special this experience was , not in the least because the groups were so small and intimate , maybe twenty students at the most in attendance with Jois .
On Maui , Nancy also saw her own teaching style truly evolve . “ I lived in a clothing optional community , actually a bed and breakfast , and we had a small yoga room , and so I taught classes there along with my 500-hour teacher from Sivananda who had joined me to help set up the yoga program ,” she says . “ I began combining what I ’ d learned from my trainings in both Sivananda and Ashtanga , which was really interesting because the two styles are somewhat like opposites .” Nancy sighs deeply and pauses after this statement and talks about other aspects of her Maui experience such as the immense natural beauty and freedom of self-expression that was part and parcel of living in such a place .
Like any great journey , a dedicated yogic practice comes with surprises , and sometimes coaxes us from our comfort zone . For Nancy , one such surprise and “ stepping out ” came while she was happily living on Maui . She traveled to India , something she ’ d not ever imagined herself doing . Though she knew visiting and studying in India was something “ every good yogi ” should do at some point , the hardship of such a voyage always deterred her . But , the universe had other plans for her . “ After telling the man I was seeing at the time , who ’ d just told me he was going to India with his teacher and their group , to have fun on his trip , I literally woke up one morning and knew I would join in ,” she says . “ It was that matter-of-fact , like angels letting me know , like it wasn ’ t a decision of my own .”
The original one-month visit to India turned into more than three months when Nancy stayed behind initially with a few friends and then on her own to continue traveling , studying and chanting .
Fast forward to 1997 , and Nancy gets that aforementioned “ call ” to service . “ My dad had had a stroke , and I had to come home to Indiana . II knew this was it , this was my service ,” she says . “ But , I still thought I was only coming back to bury my dad , and then help with mom , and then would go back to Maui .” However , Nancy was the only sibling among seven without children , and her mom was in the early stages of Alzheimer ’ s . The need for her to remain in Indianapolis became obvious . While this “ status ” was tough on her , she also realized she was in fact the best person to care for her mother . She moved in with her mom , who lived in a retirement community , and took on the role of round-the-clock caregiver . “ I remember thinking to myself that I could do this , but also that I needed to find some yoga buddies , so I would stay strong and healthy because caregiving is so demanding .”
Not surprisingly , it took a while for Nancy to find those yoga buddies . She laughs as she recalls her first attempt , which involved putting an ad in Indianapolis ’ eastside newspaper . Her plan was to find enough people to either practice with or teach in her home early in the morning . “ I got no response , not one ,” she says . “ I didn ’ t know what I was going to do .” Her parents ’ financial planner said he ’ d join her . And so , she taught him Ashtanga at 6 am . It was a start , but it wasn ’ t enough for Nancy , who yearned to have others on the mat with her . “ At that point , I started class at NIFS once per week and two Saturday classes in Greenwood in a fitness center called Fitness Jungle . That was in 1999 ,” she says .
Nancy ticks off the names of some of the others who were teaching at that time as well , but there aren ’ t many . Although she cannot remember everybody on the scene in those early years of Indianapolis yoga , she mentions Marsha Pappas , Dona Robinson , Jerilee Lucas and a few other “ veterans .”