Myra Timmerman – Nominee for U3A Life Member
Myra Timmerman loves life through the practice and teaching of Yoga and Tai Chi, and she is passionate about passing on this positive outlook to her many students. Myra also follows Buddhism and other like disciplines in understanding how the mind works – or how it can work – to help relieve the stress and mental issues connected with modern life.
Myra’s philosophy is progression to a better life for herself and her students, which is absolutely satisfying for Myra. “That’s what keeps me going; I even have people say, ‘oh, Myra saved my life’, but of course it’s not me, they’ve done it themselves. You can see it, emotionally, physically and mentally – and while I’ve taught all age groups the most satisfying for me is seeing the positive changes in older people.
“People progress at their own pace but I say to them, ‘know your limits but don’t limit yourself’. It’s not a race, it’s not a competition, but I also ask people to challenge themselves within their own limits every day. It’s living in the moment because the only thing we really know is this moment. What’s gone is gone and what you are doing now is going to influence what is to come. Do the best you can now and your future is going to be a lot better.
Myra began her journey with U3A in 1982 when she started as a Yoga and Tai Chi teacher, returning from Mission Beach in North Queensland. Classes in the early days numbered nine to 12, which doubled the following year. Now, 150 people are registered for her classes: three Yoga, one chair-Yoga and two Tai Chi classes.
“Yoga and Tai Chi allows people in any age group the opportunity to do something for themselves, not always to rely on other people, and to know how important is our mental health,” Myra said.
“With Yoga, it’s not only the physical, it’s the whole balance of the physical and mental wellbeing: understanding your own mind and how it works, and bringing that into your daily life. That’s the basis of Yoga.
Myra’s career spans 40 years
Often, life turns out unexpectedly. Growing up, Myra wanted to be a Physical Training Teacher but her parents could not afford university so a different path was inevitable for the girl from Hughenden.
The dangers of personal stress that Myra teaches with passion came home to her so clearly when her father died from acute stress at the early age of 54 years. She was only 33 and couldn’t understand how this could happen. Since then, in a career spanning 40 years, Myra has endeavoured to help as many people as possible avoid such a tragic loss of a relatively young life.
One meeting can change a life. In 1980, Myra met renowned Yoga teacher, Elsa Rabold, in Montville and was inspired by Elsa’s belief that “Yoga is the science of life.”
“I had an interest in Yoga for many years but couldn’t find anyone who knew much about it, but Elsa Rabold was a legend in that area – and it was she who suggested I do a teacher training course in Yoga,” Myra said.
Qualifying with the International Yoga Teachers Association, Myra started teaching in her own studio in Montville and also taught in Maleny, Mapleton and Maroochydore.
“At this time I also undertook training in Tai Chi,” Myra said. “Both Yoga and Tai Chi became my passion and I delved into other things; this was the 80s with gurus and everything spiritual, and I was into everything that was going on. Meditation also became a passion.
“Through practising Yoga, Tai Chi and while looking into Buddhism I discovered meditation, particularly Vipassana meditation. With the 10-day silent retreats and everything else, this helped me understand how one’s mind can be a help or a hinderance, or both.
“These pursuits taught me a lot about myself and how important your own practice is along with self-study.
“I learned that through study and teaching these aspects in my classes that many people who were benefiting from that said how much it was helping them in their everyday life, and how they were able to cope better with the mental issues of the busy lives we follow.”
“Young people are more interested in the exercise aspect, which is important but it’s not the main thing. People say to me, ‘oh, I can’t meditate’ but you give your mind something else to do; you learn to scan throughout your body, you learn to follow your breath, and that brings your whole together. You listen to your emotions when you’re doing a posture or an exercise, you listen your thoughts and everything. It’s all about listening and learning about yourself and being involved in the company of others. It’s also a very social thing to do and that’s important; I love the classes because everyone is involved together – and that’s what Yoga is, the yoke or holding that brings people together.
Myra says anyone can achieve in Yoga
“My mission is to present a positive approach to thinking and an environment in classes that is happy and inclusive; to understand there are life challenges as we age but there is still joy [of life] and happiness even if there’s pain and discomfort,” Myra said.
“Through practice there can be ways to meet these challenges, and knowing we are not alone in our quest.” In her classes, Myra focuses on developing easy techniques to help with stressful situations, through breathing techniques and meditation.
Continuity in the practice of Yoga is vital, says Myra. “Older people especially get the benefit over time. Some people come along and do a few classes and say ‘I can’t do this, and leave’ but the ones that stay find there are things they can do, there are benefits in their life, and they start to think about things.
“Yoga is not something where you go to a class and you go home. I try to instil in people that Yoga is everything in life: when you walk up the stairs, when you are sweeping the floor, exercising – it’s in everything. I call this holistic approach ‘Yoga therapy’.”
Myra has travelled widely, including trips to India and other spiritual places, but now the Big One for her is understanding the mind through her teachings and disciplines.
While Myra embraces the idea of classes through videoconferencing it’s not a substitute for classes but she understands that we need to do what we can in current circumstances.
“I just love the classes and I get a lot out of it. The interaction is key and perhaps that won’t come across as well with an online class. Still it’s something, we’ve got to do something because I think the mental health of people moment to moment is the most important thing.”
Myra also promotes good mental health