Local instructor gives veterans peace through yoga

by Bradley Hartsell


Elizabeth Dorsey gets into a warrior pose, one of yoga’s patented poses.

It’s 2013, the world is too fast and getting faster.

Moments are processed as tweets and cable news tickers. It’s an era when we’re all relying more on technology than our bodies. And after meeting Elizabeth Dorsey, one begins to reexamine and feel compelled to step away from the mind and body cramping chaos.

Dorsey, who operates the Barefoot Lizard, is one of Newnan’s most reputable yoga teachers, who is a certified E-RYT 500, recognized by the Yoga Alliance as the highest level of classification. And though it’s a fairly recent revelation for her, it’s proven transformative.

Dorsey was a long distance runner until joint pain and broken bones in her foot forced her into needing surgery. She says she “limped” into a yoga class in 2007 before her surgery just hoping to feel better. After her first time, she was hooked.

“It blew me away. I loved it… it was a head thing, it was a spiritual thing.”

As the wife of a retired infantry marine, Dorsey immediately saw the potential for yoga to reach and help combat veterans like her husband, Josh Dorsey (vice president of Glock Inc). Prompted by this desire to help, Dorsey went into teacher training just over a year after doing yoga for the first time.

The opportunity to teach yoga to veterans allows Dorsey to bring not only physical fitness but a way to cope and heal damaged psyches. While the vast physical effects of yoga are a given, such as flexibility, strength and balance, the mental aspect is still elusive to many unfamiliar with the physiology behind it. When considering the balance between the physical and mental, Dorsey reminds that in Hindu, yoga means “union,” and that just the simplest and most natural act is an act of both body and mind harmony: breathing.

“What I love about yoga is it just teaches you how to calm down,” Dorsey says. “It’s all about breathing. Your body slows its breathing down and that signals to your nervous system in your brain that everything is okay.”

Dorsey sees yoga as a way for people to positively and healthily deal ease their anxieties and depression. According to Dorsey, society now is so quick to jump to medicine as the solution for a cluttered mind but many medications bring about negative side effects and are simply mimicking chemicals already present in your body. To her, yoga provides an alternative that naturally taps into the clearing of bad thought pollution.

“You can go to lunch with friends and drive away thinking nobody really listened to you or heard what was on your heart. After yoga class, you should feel like somebody heard you and that’s yourself.”

Dorsey’s energy is contagious. She’s thoughtful, friendly and well spoken. Her teaching style is comforting and constructive. Despite her profession requiring so much tranquil spirituality, the Dorsey between classes is amazingly grounded. She can guide you through a warrior pose that completely frees your mind, then sit down with you five minutes later and discuss life in Newnan.

She and her family initially came to Newnan to find a slower pace of living. “We came from Connecticut, which was very congested, down to Newnan,” she says of her family’s search for more freedom and privacy. “We live at the end of a dirt road. We love it. We have chickens, dogs that roam. It’s a lovely place to live.”

After five years of what she calls a “mobile studio” — stocking up her Prius with mats and equipment and rolling from center to club to the Newnan Carnegie Library — Dorsey is opening her own studio later this month.

She is understandably nervous and excited to own her studio, a place where she can centrally foster an enthusiastic and growing yoga community. Dorsey jokes that when she wakes up in intermittent terror over having her own studio, “that’s when the breathing starts.”

From broken bones in 2007 to E-RYT 500 just this spring, Dorsey is grateful for yoga’s monumental impact.

“For the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve got it all together. My head’s not battling my body and my body’s not battling my head,” asserts Dorsey to the profound effects of yoga. “I’m in a really good place spiritually.”

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