JOPLIN, Mo. —
The competitive drive pushed Dai Flake to run. To the point of injury. As her knee slowly degraded, Flake also noticed how tight everything on her body was. Legs. Arms. Neck.
"Being that tight catches up with you," Flake said. "If you don't stretch, you won't have any flexibility."
But the tightest thing may have been her spirit, she said.
Now her spirit is just as flexible as her frame.
A practitioner of yoga, Flake is a relatively new teacher who has something to offer fellow runners and other active people: a little peace.
Flake operates Downtown Yoga, a new yoga studio at Fourth and Virginia. She has taught yoga for the Joplin Family Y and at Run Around Running Company and recently opened her own studio on Main Street.
The new facility lets her and her students stretch out a bit more.
And she said that a session is no race, with no finish line.
"This is not another form of competition," Flake said. "That's what I want to share. This complements any activity and keeps everything nice and loose."
Yoga is a system of physical and mental practices that originated in India.
Based on stretching, movements and meditation, it now includes many different varieties of philosophies, regimens and other characteristics.
Flake practices ashtanga yoga, a more modern version of yoga that puts more of an emphasis on physical movements and flexibility, Flake said. It's also referred to as "power" or "eight-limb" yoga. Strength-building is very minimal in this form, Flake said: Participants need only a mat for the floor.
"We are not dependent on machines or weights," Flake said. "I feel that using the body's own weight is enough to keep the body strong."
She and her husband, Rich, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, have lived around the world, including Japan and Hawaii. While living in San Antonio, Texas, she discovered yoga after cumulative damage from marathons and other running took its toll on her knee.
A friend recommended yoga to her, and she dove in.
"I tried some prenatal yoga when I was pregnant in Hawaii," Flake said. "But in San Antonio is where I discovered an amazing teacher."
Stretching into Joplin
When her husband retired from the Air Force and took a job at Tamko about two years ago, Flake brought yoga and a love of cycling with her. Finding that activity to be much less strenuous on her joints, she got involved in Joplin's bicycling community and was one of the participants in last year's Jomonola ride to New Orleans.
She also found that others around Joplin appreciated how the stretching helped them deal with the tolls of physical activity Ñ and everything else.
"Athletes especially tend to hang on to a competition," Flake said. "Yoga taught me how to let go and not be so competitive with myself. It's about taking a moment to arrive and breathe."
Earning a certification from Darling Yoga in Kansas City, she started to teach classes around Joplin. Originally, she wanted to see how the Joplin area would respond to yoga classes.
So far, so good she said: Her studio on Main Street filled up quickly, so she moved the studio to its current location above Red Onion Restaurant. And barely into her second month, she's already dreaming about knocking out a wall to expand floorspace.
"On my first night, I had 21 students," Flake said. "Usually, I have two."
Flake said she likes to keep classes small so she can offer more attention and education. She also teaches a yoga class for kinesiology students at Missouri Southern State University. And she seeks to take on more male clients, who would benefit more from the flexibility yoga enhances.
But she's happy for anyone to get the message behind yoga.
"It's about balance, a union between mind and body," Flake said. "It's not a religion, but it's spiritual. Every student brings in an individual background, but when we're practicing yoga, we're together. That's the spirit of yoga."
Want to try?
Dai Flake offers classes Monday through Thursday and Saturday at Downtown Yoga, located at Fourth and Virginia streets.