Meet The Studio Member: Charlie Cahill

CharlieYou just finished your dissertation (congratulations!) – what was the topic and what is next:

Thanks! My topic centers on the reception of the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s. In the midst of all the intense rights and divisions in Germany at the time (think today’s political climate ratcheted up several degrees), Kierkegaard emerged as a figure whose writings attracted followers from every corner of society. My dissertation examines how this came to be and asks what it tells us about Germany during this crucial moment before the advent of the Third Reich. What’s next is hopefully a faculty history position at a great university!

How has your yoga practice helped through the process of working on your doctorate?

Before I started practicing yoga (about 7 years ago), I had pretty intense and chronic back pain. After trying a huge spectrum of treatments that did little to relieve the pain, I gave yoga a try and was able to pull myself out of the nasty cycle of back pain and doctor’s visits. But, like so many people who come to yoga initially for its physical benefits, I eventually realized how deeply my practice affects every part of my life. Yoga has helped me in the process of receiving my doctorate not only by alleviating my back pain, but also by helping to keep me grounded. Research and writing do not lend themselves to nice linear progress; sometimes there were weeks or months where my efforts resulted in nothing tangible. My yoga practice provided a sense of stability in my day-to-day life. Granted, yoga is also not about clear linear progress, but I always gained some tangible benefit from my practice. Sometimes it was simply a way for me to feel present in my body after my mind had spent the day in 20th Century Germany.

You also lead a double life as a sailor, tell us a little bit about that and the best place you have been via sailboat:

So many similarities in my life between yoga and sailing. For starters, I discovered both at about the same time and both have helped keep me sane during my time in grad school by providing a physical counterpart to my reading and writing. They also both offer a sense of endless exploration. I learned to sail with the Hoofer’s sailing club here in Madison, where I have now been an instructor for about 5 years. I’ve been lucky enough to sail in lots of places outside of Madison (Apostle Islands, Chicago, Door County, Mediterranean) but I think the best place would have to be down in the Virgin Islands. It truly felt like paradise, especially considering the fact that I left behind a Madison winter for the trip.

When not writing, practicing or sailing, what do you enjoy most about Madison?

It’s simply a beautiful city. Living on the Isthmus one is never more than a couple of blocks from views of the lakes. I love the appreciation of public spaces, festivals, farmer’s markets and bike paths in Madison. I grew up in a city whose ideal seemed to be sprawl, concrete and fenced-in neighborhoods. I feel a sense of investment and pride in Madison that I have never felt toward another city.

We have a feeling you love practicing handstand…why?

Yes, no denying my obsession with handstands. Inversions of all sorts capture many of my favorite elements of yoga. They engage every muscle in your body and are often so challenging that you have no choice but to fully concentrate on your body and breathe. I also love their playful aspect and how they make it difficult to take yourself too seriously. You’re going to fall, and not always gracefully, so you better learn to laugh at yourself. At the same time, inversions can be such beautiful physical expressions. They also provide an instructive analogy for turning the world upside down to gain a new perspective. I sometimes use it as a tool when I’m having writer’s block: shut the computer, go upside down for a bit, and then come back and see if things flow better.

Rock n’ Roll, Jazz or Blues?

Hmm, I like them all but if forced to choose I’ll go with Rock n’ Roll. Especially since it seems like the most capacious category.

Favorite restaurant? Why?

I’ll go with Pig in a Fur Coat. I can’t think of another place that so consistently stuns me with their flavor combinations.

Next place on earth to visit?

Well, I’m heading back to Germany soon for a short visit and plan on seeing Hamburg for the first time. As a German historian and sailor, the idea of visiting one of the oldest port cities in Germany is quite appealing. Also, I’m planning a big sailing trip in the Bahamas with some friends for next summer.

Why do you love The Studio?

I truly feel a sense of community whenever I go to classes at The Studio. This is partly due to the fantastic teachers and partly to the wonderful fellow yogis. But, it is also due to The Studio’s focus on making people feel welcome and comfortable before, during and after class. Finally, with its beautiful interior and views of the lake, The Studio is a stunningly beautiful space.