Hailing from two different worlds as a corporate graphic designer and a construction worker in Detroit, Michael Johnson and his wife Stephanie shifted gears to offer a healing environment for the Asheville community during the last three years.
“We have felt supported since we first moved here. We have unique niches.” Michael Johnson says about the husband and wife team, which teaches yoga at several studios including West Asheville Yoga and Asheville Yoga Center. While his area of study is in neurobiology and how it affects contemporary practices like meditation, Stephanie Johnson focuses on psychology.
“I am interested in why you feel good when you walk out of yoga practice,” the 34-year-old says. “There is a big opportunity for us as contemporary yoga teachers to use the tools of science and yoga in a way that has never been done before. Yoga changes the physiology and brain states.”
The married couple invites students to engage in social action off the mat as well, an aspect of Karma Yoga, or the yoga of service. Accepting donations from Kirtan participants, the money benefits the Asheville Homeless Network. “One-fifth of the Asheville families are struggling for food. It inspires me to do more,” Michael Johnson says. “We have to interact and help people and create change in our life. It is ethical living. We have to support the health and well-being as a community. The hope is to inspire others to help in whatever ways feel exciting to them. We are building a stronger network through broader relationships.”
The couple also donates to Manna Food Bank. In addition to service, Stephanie Johnson says that people can find joy and build these networks in other ways as well.
“Either listening or singing and creating music is another access point into joy. The idea is how to sustain that because it wears out after a while,” she says. “We collaborate by informing each other musically.”
The couple is offering a weekend workshop on the yoga sutras to bridge the gap of neuroscience psychology with traditional ancient wisdom. They call it the “practice manual recipe for enlightenment,” at Asheville Yoga Center from Nov. 9-11, culminating with a community Kirtan on the last day.
A full schedule of Johnsons’s weekly classes, workshops, and kirtans can be accessed at www.clearlightyoga.com.
Kate Lundquist is a freelance writer and yoga teacher living in Asheville. Her website is here, and she teaches Saturdays, 2:15 p.m.-3:45 p.m., at Asheville Yoga Center.