You’ve likely taken a yoga class with Jim Mihaly.
Jim has been practicing yoga in the Toledo area for over 20 years--long before yoga was mainstream--and he has been with Yogaja since the early stages. He jokes that Julie Shapiro, one of our first Yogaja teachers, has “the ring around him,” and he will follow her wherever she goes.
Jim met Julie over twenty years ago, and when she walked out of Village Inn all those years ago, Jim quips, “Jim Mihaly has never been at a loss for words, but when I met Julie, I was stunned by her beauty, and for once, I had no words.”
“My wife knows--she doesn’t mind,” laughs Jim. “I think she considers me a bit of a flirt.”
He continues, “Julie and her husband moved to Alabama, and when they came back, she’s doing this thing called yoga. I decide to try her class--then at the Morse Center. Since I my life is busy, I used to drive like a bat out of hell from work to [get there] on time. Then I get there and have to relax. I did that once a week for twenty years. I used it for relaxation, and the only reason why was because Julie taught it. She also helped my wife use yoga through all of her pregnancies.”
In a rare serious moment, Jim says, “Julie was an anchor in my life for a long time.”
While Jim is focused and intent during class, his gregarious personality outside of class is impossible to miss. If you hear boisterous laughter, Jim is likely the cause. When he tells a story, he leans in intently, as if telling a secret, with eyes open widely and innocently, before he delivers his punchline in a confidential tone.
We wanted to interview Jim because he brings laughter to those around him, but little did we know he’d have such an amazing life story--and we merely skimmed the surface.
Growing up, Jim moved 7 times in 14 years--the result of being an ”oil company brat.” His moves were not easy, and as a result of the trials he faced, he became tough of mind and body. Jim has also survived two near-death experiences in which he experienced the proverbial white light, but “that’s not the point.”
While Jim’s Hungarian father wanted him to be an engineer, after one year of chemical engineering, Jim quit college and moved out to Colorado. At only 18, Jim was utterly on his own, “but that’s the way I wanted it.” He worked “crappy jobs, established residency, and went back to school for business.”
Jim returned to the Midwest when his parents needed help with their ailing parents, Jim’s grandparents, and he explains, “I met a beautiful redhead and now I have a mortgage and four kids: Madeline, Eric, Shannon, and Gretchen.
Jim describes himself as a “crazy, strange deal. I’m nuts. I’m so out of my mind I don’t know why you’re talking to me.” Jim uses yoga to calm down the energetic side of his personality, as well as to stretch out his tight muscles from marathon bike riding.
Jim expounds, “Julie was so kind and patient because I was an angry, wound-up, uptight guy. All the crap that I learned in life--perform, achieve, be the best--yoga forced me to stop all that for an hour.”
“My wife and I did [yoga] for date night when she was pregnant with all the kids,” Jim continues. “That’s why I started [yoga] and why I [continued] it for 20 years. I did it for relaxation, calmness...a guard against my hyperness.”
“Then there are all these health benefits I didn’t know. Before yoga, I rode 50 miles on my bike, worked, and slept. Yoga taught me to be conscious without movement--a sort of forced meditation."
"How to actually address what’s in front of you instead of staying active through it" Jim continues. In moments of confusion, if I could be still, I’d get moments of clarity. My blood pressure went down, my cholesterol went down, I sleep better--and the only thing I changed was more yoga.”
Jim ends, explaining, “I just speak my mind never knowing what I say. My goal in life is simple: am I being the best person I can be according to the unique gifts--and grace--that have been bestowed on me? Past that I get confused.”
Next time you see Jim in class, ask him for a joke. Or better yet, ask him why he calls Margaret “Marge the Sarge.” He’ll be sure to make you laugh.