A local businessman tries to live a life of selfless service, as promoted in the yoga philosophy and St. Francis of Assisi.
Paul Cheek, owner and director of Rushing Water Yoga, of Camas, said yoga is about the development of character as human beings — from a selfish state to selfless.
“It is idealistic,” he said. “If we lived our life for other people, the world would be a better place. I’m not giving up on that potential.”
Cheek’s involvement in the community has included teaching a yoga class on Thanksgiving Day. This year, seven people attended and two additional individuals donated without attending.
In all, the eighth annual event raised $200 for YWCA programs for women and children.
Cheek will teach another holiday restorative yoga class Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 6 p.m. The minimum donation is $20 per person for the YWCA.
Cheek, 51, said he wants to be an active member of the community.“I give people the opportunity to give back,” he said.
Four times a year, Cheek requests his students bring in cash donations or non-perishable food such as peanut butter, canned fruit, meat, chili and soups for the Inter-Faith Treasure House, in Washougal.
He teaches yoga for men at the minimum security Columbia River Correctional Institute, in Portland. It is a coordinated effort with the Oregon State Department of Corrections and the “Living Yoga” program.
In the summer, Rushing Water held a “Yoga in the Park” program for area residents. It involved Cheek hosting the event and Sheila Britschgi leading a free class in Crown Park.
“Yoga in the Park was really fun,” Cheek said. “It was to give back to the community, have fun and recruit students.”
He teaches Iyengar yoga, which focuses on developing strength, endurance and correct body alignment while maintaining flexibility and encouraging relaxation.
Cheek has been studying and practicing yoga since 1990 and teaching since 1999. He has completed a teacher-training course with Julie Lawrence — a two-year, 500-hour, teacher-training program at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. He also apprenticed with Lawrence.
Cheek, a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, is currently training for higher levels of certification with senior Iyengar yoga teachers.
There are nine teachers, other than Cheek, who teach a variety of types of yoga at Rushing Water. In addition to Pilates, classes include Hatha, classic Hatha, power yoga, Prana Flow - Vinyasa, prenatal and family yoga.
A gentle yoga class includes 84- and 89-year-old students.
“Teaching gentle yoga is a gift to me,” Cheek said. “I love being able to modify the postures and practices to suit seniors, people with medical problems and those who are differently abled. A lot of the art of teaching is to be able to make yoga accessible to everyone.
“The biggest blessings in teaching the gentle classes is to be able to work with these people and be a part of their growth and development and to see them challenge themselves and build their confidence,” he added. “Plus the smiles and exchange of energy are nourishing to me too.”
Rushing Water provides 36 hours of open practice time per week. That provides opportunities for registered students to practice yoga in between classes. Monthly events include a book group, clothing exchange and a “Satsang,” — a potluck gathering with a discussion topic or film.
Cheek, a Washougal resident since 1994, has been a senior statistical analyst at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, in Portland, for 22 years.
Rushing Water Yoga is located at 417 N.E. Birch St. For more information, call 834-5994 or visit www.rushingwateryoga.com.