Yoga teacher spreads encouragement, strength at Concord gym

Who knew I would find a teacher at my Concord gym who would change me – body and soul?

Ten months ago, I complained to my son, Erik.

“I have no flexibility anymore.”

Erik, who was a geeky, awkward kid, grew up to be a geeky health and exercise nut.

“Didn’t you once go to the yoga class at the gym?” he asked.

“That was 10 years ago,” I said, “and I don’t remember anything.”

“Try again,” he advised.

So I did. The teacher, Tara Absher, was tall – somewhere near the 6-foot mark, I guessed. She asked my name as soon as I walked in, gave loads of helpful direction and was encouraging.

I’d look over at her and be amazed; the lines and the power in her every pose were inspiring. Then I’d look into the mirror and see my barely 5-foot-1½-inch body struggling to hold a line.

“I look like an aging 12-year-old,” I told Erik.

“Keep at it,” he said.

I did. I kept at it because I liked it, but also because Tara kept encouraging me despite my frustrations.

“My balance is shot,” I told Tara.

“It will come back,” she said reassuringly.

I believed her. I kept toppling over during Warrior 3, a balance pose standing on one leg with your arms extended in front and the other leg raised and horizontal to the floor. Eventually, I could hold that pose – on my right side.

Month after month, I’d lose my balance when we moved to the other side. “It’s a mental block, Barbara,” she said. “You can do this.”

In every lesson, Tara would remind us: “Shake your head ‘yes,’ it’s going to be a good day. Shake your head ‘no.’ No negative self-talk.”

I’ve taught for more than 30 years. I care about my students. I get to witness moments of victory and joy. I also know what it is to see students in tears because they are exhausted from the stress of constantly being measured, assessed and seemingly found wanting.

I got to telling my students before exams: “Shake your head ‘yes,’ it’s going to be OK. Shake your head ‘no.’ No negative self-talk.”

Tara gives room, space, and praise to every student.

“You got this,” she’d say as I was trying, yet again, to get Warrior 3.

The day I finally got Warrior 3 on both sides – and it took nine months – Tara was as happy as I was. And I was so happy I was jumping up and down like a little kid after class.

Yoga classes began to be my peace of mind. One week, after a class when I was struggling with fear and sadness, I thanked her.

“Tara,” I said, “I needed that.”

She already knew something wasn’t right; Tara is like that.

“What’s up?” she asked.

I told her: That weekend I was going to see a young woman in her early 20s, a former student of mine who had been diagnosed with fourth-stage colon cancer. I was afraid, unsure.

“Tara,” I said, “in 10 years I never worked with anyone so young.”

She looked at me, her face open and kind: “What a blessing!” she said. “Because now you have the knowledge and the wisdom you will need.”

I thought about what she said all day. Tara had, once again, helped me feel stronger.

Provide for yourself a teacher and you get yourself a friend.

Barbara Thiede is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Barbara? Email her at