The Circle of Health and Harmony is a guiding philosophy and a symbol that illustrates how health is more than just the absence of disease. Rather, it is a state of physical and mental well-being that takes many forms- from spiritual or cultural health to nutritional and physical health. This is the final article in a series from the Center for Healthy Air Water and Soil at the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville that shares how Health Ambassadors are working to bring a Health in All Policies lens to many different fields and conversations around Louisville. See more articles in this series here.

Micah Cargin is a Health Ambassador that represents Physical Health because he believes that the benefits of yoga, his personal passion, span all forms of health in the Circle of Health and Harmony and he wants to share those benefits with others.

With his soon-to-be nonprofit, Humble Warrior Inc., Cargin hopes to share those multifaceted benefits with others. The aim of Humble Warrior, Inc. is to invite more people to practice yoga in places that lack opportunities and spaces to learn yoga. “In yoga classes, I often find that I’m the only person of color, and sometimes the only male present. I want to change that and take yoga to people who normally wouldn’t be exposed to it so they can reap the benefits.”

He also noticed that most places that he went for yoga were located in certain parts of town—the East End or the Highlands. He wanted to make it more accessible to people of all neighborhoods. “There are people who haven’t had the opportunity to be exposed to the discipline and benefits of yoga, due to many reasons. I want to change that.”

Physical health

Yoga promotes physical health in multiple ways. According to Harvard Health Publishing, some of the rewards of regular yoga practice come directly from the physical movements and postures, which help promote flexibility and reduce joint pain. There is also some preliminary research available that indicate that yoga can help with migraines, chronic lower back pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, balance and mobility issues, and multiple sclerosis. “It’s about much more than just stretching,” Cargin said.

Micah Cargin, photo courtesy Jessa Mayhew

One barrier people can experience when starting a yoga practice is the feeling that they are alone in the class or studio because nobody else looks like them. In fact, while about one in every 15 Americans practices yoga, according to a 2012 Yoga Journal study, more than four-fifths of them are white.

Through Humble Warrior, Michal Chargin wants to remove social barriers like this and invite more people to practice yoga in relaxed, and judgement-free spaces.

Psychological health

Yoga’s positive benefits on psychological health have made it an important practice tool of psychotherapy, according to the American Psychological Association. It relieves stress, sharpens concentration, calms the nervous system, and can improve the symptoms of depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity, and sleep disorders.

“When I first started practicing yoga, it was more a physical workout for me. But the more I practiced the more I started to see things that translated off the mat. When I’m doing yoga, I’m totally concentrating on my body, from my fingertips to my toes. It taught me how to control my thoughts and process my emotions,” Cargin said. He has learned to live in the moment and stop stressing about things.

Spiritual health

Cargin says that if you practice yoga with an awareness of yourself, you come to learn about the different ways you act, how you react, and what you are like as a person. You create an awareness of yourself that transforms your mind. “That then affects how you live your life and how you interact with others,” he said. “Developing a spiritual side with yoga is about holding your pose regardless of the circumstances through an awareness of yourself and your experience.”

Being able to label thoughts and feelings then work through them constructively is one of the benefits Cargin mentions from his own practice. He wants to help other young people exercise that skill on their own. But, he knows to get there, he’ll have to tire the kids out first, and then they’ll be able to begin to grow their practice from just the physical to the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga.

Cultural health

As Cargin stated, not every neighborhood or population demographic has ready access to yoga classes. At present, he doesn’t think his organization will have a physical location because that would still be expecting people to leave their neighborhoods and come out of their comfort zones.

Instead, Humble Warrior will travel, with donated mats in hand, to those neighborhoods and familiarize people with the basics. “I want to show them the fundamentals, just to make the introduction to yoga. I want to connect with the neighborhoods. That’s half the battle of getting people to improve their lives with it.”

Recently, Cargin was asked by a friend at Metro United Way to do a class for a group in their boys’ summer camp.

“I was a little intimidated going in. I didn’t know whether they would accept it. But they grasped the message and were interested. It also wore them out a bit which showed them the discipline is very physical.” Cargin has been asked back to do more yoga sessions there.

Cargin, a Business Analyst at Humana by day, is a walking, talking example of the benefits of yoga. Yoga has helped him realize what the Circle of Health and Harmony shows – that health is not one dimensional. He says that practicing yoga improves all areas of his life. “It makes me want to make better nutritional choices and it clears my mind so I can make the best choices in every aspect of my life, whether that’s work or my relationships with others.”

It is because of seeing the changes that it made in his own life, from physical and nutritional to psychological and spiritual that drives him to share yoga with others. As a yoga evangelist, he wants to share myriad of health the benefits that yoga can offer with people who might not have the opportunity otherwise.