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My path to a lifestyle transformation

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By Nick Montoya

Nick Montoya, wild thing pose in Bodega Bay, California. Photos courtesy of the author

I returned to Arizona a year ago and the question I got asked most often was, “What happened to you? You look a lot younger.” The short answer was, “Yoga.” After a little more conversation, they understood that my life underwent a major transformation and I was now the happiest and healthiest I had ever been. By the end of the conversation they would say, “I need that in my life. Can you help me?”

In February of 2009, I woke up one morning and could not walk. The back and leg pain that I had been dealing with for a few years suddenly got worse. Laying there, I reflected on how my health had gotten to where it was. It was a gradual decline over the years and the medicine cabinet full of prescribed medications was the result of treating the symptoms and not the source. My doctor referred to me as a “walking time bomb.” My total cholesterol level was 230 and my blood pressure was 180/98. Migraines or unbearable headaches were an everyday occurrence. I had no energy and felt the weight of the world upon me.

No one, not even my three daughters, knew the gravity of these health issues, as I held to my Hispanic/Latino perception of machismo – that I am a strong man and can handle anything. I should be able to handle a divorce from a 24-year marriage, and able to handle being solely responsible for the care and welfare of my three daughters, and able to handle my job as a senior manager at Intel Corporation, where I had enjoyed a successful career for 27 years, and able to handle the publication of a book I wrote, and able to handle the care of our horses, and able to handle leadership positions within several Hispanic-based, community organizations in Sacramento. I did handle everything, some say perfectly. However, underneath, my health was crumbling. The time bomb was going to explode at any time.

When I woke up that morning in early 2009 and could not walk, I soon found myself under the care of the Chief of Staff of Pain Management at University of California-Davis Medical Center. The diagnosis was “extrusions in L4/L5.” The doctor suggested that I try a series of steroid epidurals first to see if those would “loosen things up.”

My eldest daughter, Giana, 23 years old at the time, drove me to the hospital for the first surgical procedure. On the way home, she pulled over to the side of the road, turned the engine off and stated that she would not drive one inch further until I promised her I would go to a yoga class. Giana had been practicing yoga for a couple of years and had been bugging me to give it a try. I had refused, thinking that yoga was for sissies. I did promise, and fulfilled the commitment a few days later when the epidural seemed to take effect.

That first yoga class was mind-blowing, one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I had ever experienced. I sweated more than I had ever sweated in my life, and it was not a hot yoga class. As I was walking to my car, I realized I felt better than I had in a long time. I went back for more. I kept feeling better and had lots more energy.

Within six months, I lost 50 pounds and was able to get off all medication. My total cholesterol level dropped to a healthy level of 152. I no longer got migraines, and headaches were at a minimum. My back and leg pain were greatly reduced and no longer inhibited activity. It was not necessary to return for the remaining two steroid epidurals. My doctors were amazed.

I wanted to learn more about this ancient practice and my philosophy of accelerated learning is: if you want to learn something, learn how to teach it. So I enrolled in a 250-hour teacher training program and, within one year from taking my first yoga class ever, I began teaching five classes per week. I soon found myself to be a role model and inspiration for other middle-aged people that needed to improve their health. I was also able to integrate life experiences, concepts from my book and years of leadership training into step-by-step programs to help people in their transformation to a healthier lifestyle.

Nick Montoya, warrior pose

Once I started teaching yoga, I found myself at another crossroads: Do I finish my career in the corporate world, or do I make a significant change and become a full-time yoga teacher? After a lot of reflection, prayer and meditation, I decided to leave the corporate world and become a world-class yoga teacher, adopting a new mission for my life: help people get healthy.

My first stop was my home state of Arizona to spend time with my parents and to see what I could do to help my Mom feel better. She was managing several chronic pain issues and her health was continuing to decline, despite a cabinet full of prescribed medications. After four months of practicing yoga breathing techniques, the doctor took her off oxygen. Through a daily chair yoga routine, she lost weight, increased her strength and was able to reduce daily medications from ten to three. My Dad takes my power classes and, at 83 years old, is stronger than most students half his age.

There are now three generations of Montoyas practicing yoga. Besides my parents, all three daughters practice. The eldest daughter has gone on to become a teacher herself and has combined yoga and Latin dancing into a program, based in Florida, called Shiva Latina.

As I get older, I am actually getting stronger, more flexible, more balanced, more focused and have more energy. I am “aging less” and, through my teaching, helping others to achieve their own sense of ageless health.

Hey, if I can do it, anyone can! 

Ageless Yoga with Nick Montoya

Today, I teach ten yoga classes per week at the Blissful Yoga Studios based in Scottsdale, Arizona. I conduct lifestyle transformation workshops and retreats, guest-teach in any city I visit, and am the teacher featured in a new unique four-DVD, eight-week program for beginners, called Ageless Yoga with Nick Montoya. Thousands of people are now doing “Ageless” and producers are looking to turn this into the “P90X phenomenon” for people 40-plus.

The next Ageless Yoga Retreat is Sept 20-23, 2012, and it’s special to me, because I’ll be returning to my northern Arizona roots. I left the White Mountains as a college-bound 18-year-old and, through the years, earned a reputation as a successful corporate executive for a Fortune 100 company, only to return some 35 years later as a yoga teacher with a passion and mission for helping people get healthy 

– my most rewarding work yet.

“Ageless” has become a term associated with me. It is not only the name of my yoga programs, it also reflects my physical and mental outlook on life. 

To learn more about Nick Montoya, The Ageless Program, and his teaching and retreat schedule, visit vayuproductions.com.

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