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