A Journey to Universal Yoga
Meet CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center’s newest Yoga instructor, Gordon Carpenter, and learn more about his journey to and the practice of Universal Yoga. Join Gordon every Monday at 12 pm beginning this month and experience Universal Yoga for yourself!
Welcome to Colorado and to the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center! How did you find your way here?
Thank you so much, I love it here! I’m originally from Charlotte, NC, but I spent the last 18 months in Philadelphia, PA. where my partners and I developed a system for brain training, alignment, and progress tracking on yoga mats. We began working with some research partners in the Denver area and since I’ve always had an affinity for Colorado, it felt like the perfect time to make the move.
How did your journey into the practice of Yoga begin?
My journey began with a vow to never do yoga again. I had tried a class and walked out with an injury from being adjusted by the instructor. I was so disappointed and angry. For the next 10 years, the mere mention of the word yoga made me cringe. Then I discovered the awesomeness that is rock climbing. I started asking all the great climbers in my gym and at the crags what they did to train to be better climbers. Every time I got the same answer…yoga. After a while I reluctantly gave in and tried it again, but only after I was able to enroll in a teacher training. (I figured if I’m going to do this I may as well make it pay for itself.) So with a completely selfish agenda, I went to yoga teacher training. This time around I was fortunate to have a teacher that was both humble and knowledgeable. I was hooked. From there my motivation completely shifted to simply being the best steward of yoga I could be and helping others discover the benefits of a regular practice.
How would you explain Universal Yoga to someone who’s never tried it – or who may have never tried any style of yoga?
Universal Yoga emphasizes both physical and energetic balance. The most noticeably different feature is the use of arm stretches that mirror leg stretches. Many practices focus on everything below the waist and the spine. But by including arms we balance energy throughout the body and develop a range of motion in all of the major joints that carry us through daily activities. More subtle differences include turning on the mat during practice, the use of sound and visualization, as well as breathing techniques that are rarely used in asana classes. If you are new to Universal or yoga in general, the best thing you can do is approach it with a sense of curiosity and a sense of humor. Yoga is not about doing headstands or putting your feet behind your head (although that stuff is super fun). It’s not about being perfect in a pose. Yoga is about trying something new, giving your full effort and finding contentment in that effort regardless of the outcome. With this mindset and consistent practice, you will find yourself doing things you never dreamed possible.
How has your practice enhanced life off of your mat?
For me, Universal Yoga is the best way I’ve found to develop my body and my brain simultaneously. By using all the techniques described above, I find myself more self-aware, personally accountable and content with whatever my circumstances may be. The icing on the cake is the physical strength and flexibility to work and play as I choose. The possibilities are limitless!
How do you spend your time when you’re not practicing or teaching?
I still love to climb. I also enjoy baseball, skateboarding, mountain biking, reading classic and contemporary literature, and composing music. Staying active and staying creative is what it’s all about!