Yogi of the Month–Meet Lucy!

image1-3Lucy Homiller describes herself as being in her “third stage” of adult life. These days she is full-time mother to her children, Frances, 7, and George, 5. So what was Stage 1? “Between the ages of 17 and 20, I was a professional ballet dancer with the Nashville Ballet,” Lucy says. And then? In 1997, she went from dancing to Randolph Macon Women’s College and then on to UVa Law School, where she graduated in 2004. She practiced law, first at McGuire Woods and then at a small family firm, until George was 18 months old. This year, Lucy placed 18th in the country in the National Yoga Asana Competition in Binghamton, N.Y., three years after beginning her practice at Bikram Yoga Richmond. Could this be Stage 4? Lucy has been a competitor all her life, which she says grew out of the fact that as a child she was diagnosed with asthma (both allergy and exercise induced). “I was lucky enough to have a very progressive asthma doctor who encouraged my mother to put me in exercise programs instead of keeping me inside in a bubble,” Lucy says. She started swimming competitively when she was 8. “My doctor’s theory was that the more I exercised my lungs, the stronger they would be—and he was 100 percent correct,” Lucy says. “I still have asthma and still take a daily preventative inhaler, but it is much better than it would have been had I not had a lifetime of physical activity.” She began ballet at 10, which Lucy says “was very old to start such an intense program.” But she took to dance quickly. As a teenager, she attended summer ballet programs at professional companies including Pennsylvania, Houston, Boston and Pittsburgh. She joined the Nashville Ballet after high school graduation. When she decided to go back to school she again took up competitive swimming. She was Randolph-Macon’s swim-team captain her senior year and set a school record in breaststroke. “I also started running in college and loved it,” Lucy says. Fast forward through five marathons, numerous half-marathons and 10-milers to August 2012 and her first class at Bikram Yoga Richmond. “After my knee swelled to the size of a small cantaloupe for the fourth time, my doctor finally told me I needed to try something other than running,” Lucy says. A friend from her former ballet days recommended Bikram yoga, knowing Lucy would like it because of the intensity of the classes. “So I found my way into my first yoga class with the great Noel Swenson as my first teacher,” Lucy says. “It was hard. It was hot. It was intense. But I left the studio that day knowing that I would be back.” Eventually, Lucy says, she realized she was drawn more to yoga classes than to running. “My body was simply happier in the hot room than it had ever been out on the pavement. My knees were a thousand times better, yes, and I was still running races—with zero injuries—but yoga was giving me something that running never could.” In February 2013, Lucy did her first advanced class with Garland and the gang. “I was completely floored,” Lucy says. “I thought I was fairly flexible until I looked around and saw the advanced group doing these seemingly impossible things with their bodies. I remember telling my husband after that first class, ‘I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.’ But something must have clicked, because I went back the next week and haven’t looked back.” In her first regional yoga competition—eight months after she took her first advanced class—Lucy placed fourth and qualified for nationals. In 2014 she competed in the nationals in San Antonio and just missed qualifying for the semi-final round. Her success this year in New York did not come without effort. “I am always in training for the next competition,” Lucy says. “Now that my youngest is in grade school, I have much more time. During the year, I practice anywhere from seven to 11 classes a week. During the summer months, it’s usually limited to seven or eight, but I am always so grateful for any time I can get in the studio. I do about an hour-and-a half of core work, stretching and strengthening postures before class and another 30 minutes of advanced postures after class.” She describes competing as her “yoga journey.” “The format is unlike anything I had ever done,” Lucy says. “Initially I was drawn to it because it reminded me of my ballet days—performing a routine on stage in front of an audience.” But after two years of competing, she says, “it’s more about conquering fears and fine-tuning mental toughness. It is not easy to put on a leotard, walk on to a cold, drafty stage, and ask your muscles, which are usually shaking from nerves, to calm down and perform three minutes of tough yoga postures.” Of course, when she’s not doing yoga, her full-time job keeps her plenty busy. “I spend as much time as I can with my family, and we usually try and have one family day a weekend,” Lucy says. “I am adamant that my children spend a lot of time outside and in the beauty of nature, so we do a lot of hiking and exploring.”