Meet Dr Michael Ward

  • IMG_2996.JPG
  • IMG_2993.JPG
  • IMG_2994.JPG
  • IMG_2995.JPG

Full Interview

Meet Dr. Michael Ward, chiropractic physician and yoga instructor at Hip Expressions. Michael’s yoga series, Align & Shine, is perfect for beginners and experienced yogis alike. Trained in the alignment-based style of Anusara, Michael teaches poses from the ground up, establishing a foundation useful for poses in all forms of yoga. Michael helps you feel all four corners of your feet like you’ve never experienced them before. Join him on Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m. at The Centre in St. Pete Beach.

Q. Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you come to live in St. Petersburg?

A. I grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina, playing saxophone on the state level, and working as a veterinary technician by 16 years old. Undergrad consisted of pre-vet and business information systems, and after my first job in IT, I shifted gears because I’d discovered yoga. Rather than work in computers, yoga helped me recognize my calling is to help people through manual therapies. I attended massage therapy school, took every yoga therapy training I could, and dedicated my life to serving my community through the healing arts. Once it was clear this was my path, I invested in graduate studies which brought me to St. Pete and my love for this community keeps me serving it every day.

Q. Why did you become a yoga instructor?

A. It was never my original intention to teach yoga. In the early 2000s, my primary teacher, John Friend who founded Anusara yoga, spread word through the certified teachers that he was shifting focus to students with teacher training paths, and would limit his public all-levels workshops. Since I wanted to study with John, I attended immersions and teacher trainings. Only through the process of training did I realize my aptitude for teaching and overcome some deeply-rooted fears about speaking publicly. My choice to overcome obstacles placed by my teachers forged me into the confident yet empathetic physician I am today.

Q. Why do you call your yoga series Align & Shine?

A. I am deeply rooted in the term alignment, both personally and professionally. It’s such a broad term encompassing physical, mental, and spiritual factors. Through repetitive practices focusing our mental efforts towards cultivating the strength and stability it takes to perform key physical alignment principles, we are more open to receive the Shine. What's the Shine? It's an offering; hopefully an ever growing experience of self-knowing, greater community connection, and Bliss.

Q. What can a student expect from your class?

A. Common to every class I read the room and make sure beginners are comfortable and set up properly. A theme and opportunity to sit, settle, and breathe starts every class. While each class will have specific principles that are focus points, all classes will provide a well-rounded physical practice consisting of standing poses, forward bends, twists, backbends, hip-openers, and introduction to more advanced postures while staying rooted in the basics. Class ends with a cool down period and lengthy savasana. I'll always be available before and after class to connect with the community.

Q. You encourage people with physical limitations to take your yoga series. What kinds of limitations are you thinking of and why would yoga help?

A. Physical limitations can be thought of on spectrum from simple tightness to seriously changed misalignment due to trauma, etc. The most common physical limitations for which people seek yoga as therapy are orthopedic in nature. Yoga can replace physical therapy when done correctly. While I do not perform yoga as therapy in class, students can do it for themselves based on their own medical release orders. Sports injuries are a close second, with simple stiffness being a physical limitation we’ve adopted as “normal.” An example from my own past is jaw clicking/locking. I suffered in my 20s and early 30s with TMD, but following certain hand and shoulder alignment/action principles, I cleared my jaw and no longer suffer nor even click. I did not seek yoga to cure this, so sometimes the limitation isn't even something we think yoga can help.

Q. You show champion miniature schnauzers! How many dogs do you have?

A. I bred my first USA top producing champion litter on Christmas Day,1993, and that gift produced a legacy survived now by six generations of Miniature Schnauzer and Scottish Terriers all over the world. I was highly competitive when showing dogs. My ex-partner and I won Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club dog show held at Madison Square Gardens annually (the USA’s second oldest consecutive sporting event to the Kentucky Derby) and produced 13 owner shown AKC Champions, with many, many other bred champions in UK, Japan, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Shakti whelped her last litter in 2019 and retired to the couch. Katie lost her last litter and had to have an emergency spay. While I no longer can carry on the legacy another generation, I love my house full of four schnauzers: Hanny-Man, Shakti, Katie, and Jaxon!