Pam makes the newspapers

Original Article

Don't stress out Pamela Gassaway or she's likely to go and stand on her head for a while.

"Oh, it's one of my favorite poses," Gassaway gushed. "It's such a mood changer."

But don't worry about this limber lady hurting herself - she's a pro. Gassaway teaches yoga and has been helping folks use the ancient art to improve their health for years.

People sometimes joke about the sometimes peculiar poses and postures used in yoga, but this teacher swears that more people should seriously give being upside-down a spin.

"You know handstands can do the same thing. If you're really dragging in energy, drag yourself over to the wall and do a handstand. It just works wonders."

She currently teaches yoga at Club Yuma, where she emphasizes that yoga offers the human body much more than an emotional response.

"It gives you a workout, it increases your flexibility and your strength. And the meditation is just like taking a trip. Without psychedelic drugs, it's the next best thing!"

Gassaway just chuckles when the uninformed write off yoga as being new or faddish. She just smiles and points to its history - its ancient history.

"Yoga has been here for many centuries, almost like forever. This is certainly nothing new."

In addition to yoga, Gassaway also performs other healing modalities ranging from massage to healing touch. She is a recent graduate of the new massage therapy program at Arizona Western College. She also practices a form of energy exchange simply known as healing touch.

Gassaway describes her own spiritual path as being most parallel to Buddhism. She travels for events and workshops to a center in El Centro where a Buddhist lama from Los Angeles visits.

Gassaway says she was hatched in Ohio but grew up in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area.

"You lived in a cocoon there, though. You thought everyone had sunshine, a good time, and going to the beach was just a routine of life," she said, chuckling. "It was a good way to grow up."

Her mother worked as a teacher-librarian and her father sailed around the world with the Merchant Marines, a combination of influences that would have a unique affect on young Gassaway.

"I ended up with the idea that you needed book learning, but you could always go wherever you wanted to go. Travel was good for the soul. The trick is that I was too into having a good time and fooling around to get an education. That's why I'm still going to Arizona Western College!"

It was the 1960s during her college years and Gassaway may be quite the free spirit today, but she says the whole counterculture thing was just one ride that passed her up somehow.

"I was not the '60s flower child. I missed out on that. My upbringing was not in that variety at all. I didn't learn anything about being a flower child until I moved to Denver. That's when I finally got with it."

Instead Gassaway got married in Florida, had two children and "got divorced somewhere in there." She also pursued her dream of becoming a legal secretary.

"Do you remember Perry Mason? Well, his secretary just knew how to do everything. I knew I could do all that, too."

Gassaway eventually moved to Denver, where she worked for an international broker and married her husband, Tom. The couple have since run businesses selling fire extinguishers and lightning rods in Denver, San Francisco and around Farmington, N.M.

They moved to these parts in search of cleaner and warmer air to help Gassaway's asthma.

The lifelong lover of jogging and running discovered yoga 23 years ago, back in Denver. But unlike now, yoga wasn't found at practically every gym. There was only one yoga studio at the time in the entire city of Denver.

"I first got into Jazzercise, when that addiction hit. Well, I was right in there, right in the center until I could no longer move! I was obviously doing something wrong and told my friend that we needed to find something else to try."

But she found something far more than just another form of exercise.

"You can take from yoga whatever you want. You can have a meditative workout. You can have total concentration on the breath. Or you can have a physical workout and get going with the muscles full force just like a jock would. You just tune into the level you want."

She began teaching 19 years ago.

Outside of her work at Club Yuma, she has also taken yoga into more experimental territories, including a year of teaching special education students at a local school.

"It was the most rewarding experience ever. These kids had all kinds of problems, mental and physical, but it didn't matter and they didn't care. We can all do yoga - and they loved it."

More recently Gassaway began working with Hospice of Yuma, offering the comfort of healing touch to clients preparing to make the transition into death. It's obviously hard losing clients, especially those whose bodies she worked on for a long time. But Gassaway stressed how that challenge is also the source of the greatest joy.

"You know that you were blessed to have been there with them," she said, smiling. "It just makes life more special."


Name: Pamela Gassaway
Birthplace: Somewhere in Ohio
Occupation: Yoga instructor
Marital status: Married
Children: Daughter and son
Pets: Two cats Pokemon and Pound Cake. I once had a horse at a racetrack in Denver, but he never earned us a dang penny!
Political affiliation: I am glad to be a Democrat and I just wish more people would stand up and say 'I am.'
Favorite thing to eat: Seafood
Favorite midnight snack: Please. Stay away from midnight snacks!
Favorite movie: Anything with Brad Pitt!
Favorite TV show: Anything on BBC America. I love "Footballers Wives." My grandson looks just like that bad boy that got killed on the show.
Biggest pet peeve: I really have to 'Om' over some of these drivers who have to turn left on the light when it's red.
If the world was ending tomorrow, what I'd do today: I'd be on a flight to London.
If my life had a theme song it would be: "Pearl" by Janis Joplin
If they make a movie about me I'll be played by: I don't think there would be a movie about me when we could watch one about Brad Pitt.
Favorite weekend getaway: Palm Springs