Holidays are hectic, but you don’t have to feel harried. Give yourself a gift this season — the gift of healing — or as Hilaire Lockwood, founder, owner and instructor at Hilltop Yoga, describes it “stillness in the midst of chaos.” There are many reasons why her clients first come to her — to lose weight, to increase their energy, to soothe tight muscles — and while yoga can help you reach those goals, yoga can also give you more. “Yoga’s not just a workout, it’s also a work-in,” Lockwood explained. Lockwood should know. She not only practices yoga, she lives it. She found yoga when she was 18 years old — or she might say that yoga found her. “I believe that there are no accidents,” she said. At that time, the East Lansing native was living in Massachusetts and was studying to be a professional dancer. She took a yoga class at a local gym. And eventually, she met three renowned yogis who taught her that, unlike other exercise programs, yoga was more than an external activity. It’s a state of mind. Lockwood began to study the Yoga Sutras “to find focus and to relieve stress in my life,” she said. Through her studies and physical practice, she also found balance between her mind, body and spirit. “When it comes to getting results,” she reflected, “you will notice changes on the outside and also on the inside.” It’s hard work but well worth it. Yoga is not religious, it’s spiritual, and it’s accessible to everyone. “Yoga helps you recognize your own flaws and accept them,” she said. It helps you feel compassion for yourself. Yoga puts you in the here and now — seeing “blessings in the moments of our lives.” For Lockwood, Yoga was a salvation that saw her through a difficult time of joy and fear, gain and loss. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2003, at the same time that she started building her home studio in Haslett and while she was pregnant with her son. While she was in treatment, her brother disappeared and was later found in the Grand River — the victim of a murder. Despite this tragedy, she opened her studio in August 2004. “We all have a story, and I am open about mine because what I know in the deepest pieces of me is that this practice is the reason I am still alive,” Lockwood writes on her website. Her family also saw her through. The Haslett studio is a living testament to the contributions her family made. Her father, husband and late brother all helped to build it. “My whole family is in that room,” she said. “It’s my baby.” She also runs a studio in Old Town. “Old Town is my old friend,” Lockwood said. Lockwood doesn’t let her health issues slow her down. She and Brian, her husband of 18 years, are expanding the Haslett studio to include “Hilltop Healthy Bistro,” a full-service healthy food restaurant. The restaurant will be an extension of the yoga experience. “The food you put in your body is important,” she said. It affects your state of mind as well as your physical health. The expansion will also increase the Haslett studio to accommodate twice as many students. Hilltop Yoga has classes and instructors to suit beginning, intermediate and advanced students. Hilltop also trains those who wish to become registered yoga instructors. When she first opened Hilltop Yoga, there was very little yoga available in the area. To date, Hilltop has trained 27 teachers with 80 more waiting to complete their training. Lockwood takes comfort in the fact that Hilltop Yoga is “the source” saying, “I feel proud that I’ve trained many instructors in traditional yoga. Today, yoga’s everywhere in the community and it started with us.” Even though she trains others, Lockwood is still a student. She continues to read the same Sutras she first read 23 years ago. “I’m still digging deeper, and still doing the work,” she said. “I just put my present interpretation on the readings, hoping to reach a brand new level of self-awareness.” She invites the community to join her — to start fresh each day, to find peace and focus on internal cleansing. And especially now during this hectic holiday season, yoga might be a perfect way to workout, work in, and work on relieving stress and finding the energy to enjoy the yuletide events. For information about Hilltop Yoga, including a list of locations, visit www.hilltopyoga.com.
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.