JOHN CARSON

Meeting the other Johnny Carson is a pleasant experience—with an Irish accent and an artist’s soul, his gentle intelligence is evident immediately. His medium is film and mixed media. His talents have taken him from his hometown of Belfast to California and London, and three years ago, to Pittsburgh for a job working at Carnegie Mellon University.

Heading the world-renowned art school at CMU is a big job. It comes with huge time commitments, a near-endless workload, and lots of stress. John juggles the demands well, but sometimes he pays personal price. “[I needed to] take some time out for myself and I didn’t feel I was in very good shape. And I thought, what can I do about that?” He tried yoga sessions with his wife. “You go through this generic routine. I didn’t feel it was very satisfactory or engaging really, so I didn’t go back,” he says.

Inevitably, stress brought on more symptoms. A stiff neck and pain in his lower back—and a need to manage stress—drew him toward yoga once more. John knew Lilith Bailey-Kroll through CMU (Lilith is a graduate)and saw her in a magazine article recognizing young people in Pittsburgh making a difference. Could Lilith’s personalized approach to Lilith help John manage his stress and the discomfort that comes with it? “I signed up for six sessions. I thought that would be enough to see whether it works for me and makes a difference.”

“The first thing was the conversation,” John says, of starting his yoga sessions with Lilith. She began with questions about his back, and examined his alignment. Lilith saw John’s back needed to be stretched out. But interestingly, his back pain was resulting from issues elsewhere in his body: his hamstrings were tight, and he needed to develop abdominal strength. Other poses and breathing techniques could directly address John’s need to manage stress.

“It’s a bit like that wonderful moment where you know something’s wrong with you and you get the diagnosis and you think, well I know what’s wrong—maybe we can go about fixing it. I was really grateful to get that information and to recognize what’s going on back there, “John says.

Lilith saw what was ‘going on back there’ and developed a sequence to target problem areas, and worked with John over his six sessions to refine it. John runs through his customized sequence every morning.

When asked if the pain is resolving, John jokes: “Well, I’m getting other pains now!” But he’s quick to clarify that it’s a good pain—the kind that comes with exercise, stretching, and progress. He has not seen weight loss…yet. “I see more of a spring in my step. I feel I have better posture, better understanding of my physique. The breathing… I’m conscious of it in a way I wasn’t before,” John says. “It’s a very simple pleasure of feeling healthy.”

Photographs by Laura Petrilla

JOHN MOORE

For Pittsburgh Symphony double bassist John Moore, just putting in a day’s work demands strength, control and incredible accuracy from seemingly small core of muscles and movements. Those specialized movements, however, rely on the rest of the body for support. That’s why Moore uses a yoga routine designed to “engage the whole body” and ease chronic pain – a routine developed specifically for him by Lilith Bailey-Kroll.

“If you’re a kid, playing, and you’re using your body all the time, you get around to doing everything, moving every which-way. But when you’re an adult, you don’t necessarily do that,” Moore notes. He recommends Lilith to others in similar professions, “especially people that are using repetitive movements,” in danger of ignoring additional muscles and positions vital to performance.

Moore joined the Symphony in 1996 after a stint with another ensemble in San Diego; his wife is now also a Symphony member. When not performing and traveling, Moore has been “trying to fix up an old house” in Lawrenceville, near the Pratique yoga studio. After attending a few open classes at Pratique, he began one-on-one sessions with Lilith.

“I was looking for some therapeutic way to address some of my pain issues,” Moore says. Some of his back and hip soreness, he suspects, comes from the posture required to play the double bass – “it just has to be like that, in order to do what I do.” Some, he notes wryly, simply comes “from being alive for a certain number of years.”

Previously, Moore had taken a group yoga class taught by a friend at CCAC, and found it “a really relaxing and interesting, self-nurturing kind of activity.” But “when you have a yoga routine that’s tailor-made for you, it’s really a whole different thing.”

For Moore, that meant a routine that helped him feel his whole body engaged and energized. “She works really hard to find the position that suits the person – not only to treat the physical ailment or imbalance, but also what people like,” says Moore. “She knows that I like to do a lot of biking, and I used to run a lot, so she wanted to come up with a routine for me that was more energetic.”

“She’s a really good teacher,” he adds. “She knows that you can’t expect people to learn everything the first time, so she eases you into the correct position — she gives you a general idea, and then amore specific idea the next time.”

After two years, “I’ve noticed that when I’m doing the yoga regularly at home, I do feel a lot better,” Moore says. Now, “yoga and playing the bass kinda go together.”

Photographs by Laura Petrilla

RICHARD BUTLER

“A moving target” is Richard Butler’s apt self-description — and yoga, he says, is what keeps him moving. A lifelong Pittsburgher, Butler teaches kickboxing, spinning, sports conditioning at Extreme Fitness in Robinson and multicultural perspectives and organizational ethics at Robert Morris University. An avid cyclist, he also serves on the board of Bike Pittsburgh — and these are just his hobbies! Professionally, he’s the inclusion manger for the United States Rowing Association, working toward bringing diversity to the sport.

“All the things that I enjoy that I call my hobbies are all very physical activities,” says Butler; “I know for a fact that I would not be able to continue doing them without the help of Lilith.”

Not long ago, Butler suffered from extremely painful back spasms,despite muscle relaxers, pain pills, even trips to the emergency room.While getting coffee every day at Crazy Mocha, he’d see Pratique Yoga across the street and think, “Hmm, I want to talk to that woman over there!” He’d taken traditional yoga classes on and off over the years,and had low expectations. “I thought, ‘OK, I’ll go to a yoga instructor and they’ll put me through various sequences and poses, and hopefully that works.’” Instead, sessions were designed to specifically address his back problem.

“We started working one-on-one very specifically first, to get rid of the spasms, and then to strengthen the weak areas by using various yoga poses,” he says. “Now it’s preventative — I’ve not had a back problem since.”

An unbalanced physical regimen was partly to blame. “The rowing may not have caused the back spasms, but it contributed,” he says. “I was probably doing something incorrectly, or pulling too much on one side— that causes imbalance. Lilith, with her great skills, took a look at my back and said “Whoa, this side is way overdeveloped!” She could look at me and right away identify it.”

This kind of targeted therapy simply would not be possible in a large group setting. Butler emphasizes that Lilith’s individual sessions area beneficial addition to anyone studying yoga, not just those with injuries. “We get lazy and we get sloppy, and the-one on-one,eyeball-to-eyeball, you can’t. You could be doing everything right,but you could also be doing it better, and she can show you how.”

Most important for an athlete like Butler — who has “been in the fitness business for longer than she’s been alive” — is trust.

“I’ve worked with Olympic athletes, professional athletes, plus one of the trainers and mental coaches for U.S. Olympic teams,” he says. “For me to trust my body with her puts her up there as one of the really elite,” he says. “I believe she is the best in that area.”

The inclusive attitude and professionalism he’s experienced with Bailey-Kroll reflects the values he works toward with the RowingAssociation, and particularly praises Pratique’s donation classes and free outdoor yoga in Schenley Plaza. “Rowing is considered an elite sport, and my job is to get rid of that — to open the doors and make it affordable, accessible and diverse. And yoga can also have that stigma — Lilith has made sure that it’s accessible and affordable, and the door is open for everyone to give it a try.”

“She’s more than just the other yoga studio on the corner,” Butler concludes. “She’s the yoga studio others should be striving to be.”

Photographs by Laura Petrilla

KRISTEN ROCKWELL

Bending. Stretching. Lifting. Straining. It’s a typical day for Kristen Rockwell, who owns an airy import carpet store in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood. Her carpets are as beautiful as they are heavy — lifting them to display or load into clients’ cars or homes is a daily challenge.

And her challenge is worsened by persistent pain. The result of two car accidents, Kristen has scar tissue in her back that impairs mobility and leads to discomfort. She broke a foot while running, and of course her daily work revolves around carpets that can weigh as much as 80 pounds. “The pain was getting so bad I wasn’t sleeping at night. It is hard to be in a good mental state when you’re hurting,” she says.

For the past ten years, Kristen has been successful in managing her pain with the help of chiropractors and massage therapists. But she began to suspect she needed more help when a visit to the doctor revealed she’d shrunk a full inch in height. Was it an early sign of the arthritis and osteoporosis that runs in her family? “I love to walk, I don’t want to be denied walking in 10 years because I’ve abused myself now,” she says. “I want to stand up straight. I’m 46years old, I’m not going to get a lot of that stuff back.”

Kristen found help just a block away. At Pratique Yoga Studio, Lilith Bailey-Kroll evaluated Kristen’s body. “The first thing I noticed was Kristen has a rounding in her back, and she had two locked areas,” says Lilith. This would account for Kristen’s pain, and her shrinking statue. It would also lead her to lift carpets in a way that perpetuated the injury, further tightening her aching back. “We started with back bends to get her back to release, and created sequence that alleviated the pain. I suggested poses that elongate the spine, since she was having a lot of compression.”

It’s taken hands-on, one-one-one work, but Kristen does see a big difference, and swears by her weekly yoga sessions at Pratique. “When Lilith is pushing on me, then I understand,” Kristen says, describing why Lilith’s approach is different from other approaches she has tried. “It’s that tactile thing; with that pressure and contact my head can understand—can make the connection with–what my body doing. If Lilith didn’t lean on my knee or elbow or hold in specific places, I wouldn’t get that.”

“There’s this pattern we have that’s habitual and part of our personality,” Lilith says, addressing Kristen’s quest to reprogram the way her body moves. “That neural pathway takes multiple times to develop, so to shift it you need to do it correctly multiple times to develop new habits.”

After months of working with Lilith, Kristen’s results are also promising. “My shoulders have opened up, and I’m trying to have better posture,” Kristen says. She regained three-quarters of an inch of height. And every day finds relief from her pain through her practice of yoga.

Photographs by Laura Petrilla

JEFFREY SMITH

Located in a sumptuously restored historic Lawrenceville building, Jeffrey Smith Studio bears the motto, “Find Beauty Everywhere.” It’s a simple philosophy, yet one that resonates with Smith’s 21 years as a personal stylist, paying attention to his clients’ individual, unique needs, and his equally considerable study of yoga and meditation. For the last 12 years, he’s hosted weekly public meditation at his home —techniques learned while studying in India with his teacher Grumayi —and he started practicing hatha yoga in 1987.

In recent years, Smith drifted away from the practice, and realized it would take extra, more focused efforts to get him back in shape. A year ago, he found exactly what he needed through sessions with Lilith Bailey-Kroll, whose individualized, compassionate attention mirrors the type of experience he tries to create for his salon clients.

“When I stopped doing yoga, and I thought about rejoining, I was a little embarrassed about going into the system because I was out of shape and out of practice,” Smith says. “Lilith is very good at making you feel comfortable, understanding where you are in time and space,and sensitive to what your needs are. And I try to do that with my clients, especially new clients.”

“I thought one-on-one would be great to put me in a position where I could start back in a group class,” he says. “She pushed me to get back into yoga, and I needed that little edge.”

“My expectations were greater than my physical ability,” he adds wryly. “She brought me back to earth — age, weight, there’s certain factors” to consider, “but I could advance a little bit more.” The individual sessions help him focus on fundamentals, slowly building his stamina and strength, instead of scrambling to keep up with a group class. “It brings you back into the center of holding the positions for longer times, and feeling where your body should be,where your posture should be.”

Smith has long found yoga a powerful aid in his professional life:Working as a stylist means long hours on your feet, repetitive movements, and a posture that puts stress on the body. “In our profession, we’re leaning over a lot, so yoga does the opposite — it opens,” he says. “The occupational hazards that you have in this profession are back, lower back, leg, shoulder — yoga doesn’t eliminate them, but it helps the body adapt better.”

“There’s a subtlety to yoga that I don’t think we have a language to describe,” he concludes. “It works on so many levels, and on the highest, subtle level, it’s not hokey to say that it does change your life — because it really does, in ways you’re not capable of articulating. But there’s a subtle vibration to your everyday well-being that it does affect.”

Photographs by Laura Petrilla