My Friend Ti.

I want you to know about a friend of mine. Her full name is Terecita Mahoney Blair, but everyone calls her Ti (sounds like “Tee”).  August 8 is her birthday and I sincerely hope it marks the start of a wonderful next year.

Ti is one of my (s)heroes. Life has dealt her some pretty tough cards yet she consistently inspires with dedication, determination and a relentlessly positive, honest outlook.

I don’t know too much about her early life, but in 2009 Ti got hit by a bus. Her spine was badly broken, and she needed 5 surgeries in the years that followed. Turns out, the hardware that was implanted did not do what it was supposed to and she has been struggling with a host of bizarre and awful symptoms, often being dismissed by orthopedists and other medical professionals. It’s a wonder she was vertical at all, once she learned that nothing more than scar tissue and muscle spasms were keeping her vertebra together (photos below of the faulty and replacement hardware).

photo of spinal hardware
Bad spinal hardware, that never should have been put into anyone’s body, and never permitted spinal fusion to take place.
Ti wrote about her new spinal hardware: “Bottom screws into sacrum, L5 and L4. You can’t see them, but new Titanium plated cages were inserted. Bone should grow within the vertebrae and on the outsides of all the hardware, making for a solid fusion.”

I met Ti five years ago this month in Los Angeles, when I taught a workshop at Black Dog Yoga, where she was working as their Teacher Training Administrator. Ti was familiar with me through my online courses, which Black Dog had been using as part of their teacher training. You never know who’s going to walk into one of your classes. All educators need to remember that. Ti was just four years post-surgical, and I could have asked a million questions of her, but if I thought I could keep her *safe* during my workshop, I would have been sorely mistaken. All we can do is set up reasonable experiments for our students to try on their “rectangular laboratories” (aka yoga mats), and encourage them to notice what they are experiencing.

Ti at her temporary work station (laptop on her bright pink walker) answering questions from students in my online Yoga Anatomy course.

Ti was a careful and wise student, applying the anatomy and asana practice I was presenting, and referencing what she found in her own body. As she wrote in a recent Facebook post: “Leslie Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy (is) the foundation of how I teach and understand pain, relationship and balance.” As an educator, I couldn’t possibly hope for a better student.

When Ti and her husband moved to Denver, it was a natural fit for her to connect with the creator of our online courses Kelsey Kaufman, who lives in Fort Collins, CO. Ti eventually became our anatomy homework coach for the online courses. I am touched and honored to know that her work with us has been a lifeline when she’s been so laid up with physical pain, she’s had to take a break from pretty much everything else.

I travel around the world teaching yoga for a living – mostly to other yoga teachers, and I feel privileged when I meet people like Ti, whose primary focus is on doing whatever good they can for populations they care most about.  For Ti it’s seniors and first responders, two groups that often get lost in the cracks of our society.  For others, it’s trauma survivors, prison populations, people in recovery, teens at risk…the list is endless. This commitment to using the tools of Yoga to better the world is a never-ending source of inspiration.

video link Last year, we were thrilled when she was voted the 2017 Silver Sneakers 2017 Instructor of the Year. Please watch this video celebrating Ti’s award and bear in mind that – unbeknownst to her – her spine was being inadequately held together by ill-conceived hardware all the time she was jumping around and leading these classes! Ti’s commitment to frequently invisible populations, in this case older folks needing to get or stay moving, catapulted her along and her life-experience made her a sympathetic example for these elders experiencing their own physical challenges.

What really makes Ti a hero to me is that through all the pain of recovery as well as her internal demons, she not only maintains a positive attitude but keeps focus on what really matters to her: other people who are struggling. The way she walks through the world reminds me of my teacher, T.K.V. Desikachar’s, admonition that “yoga is relationship.”

Reconnecting with Ti in Los Angeles a number of years after she showed up in one of my workshops, and just as she was joining my online courses as homework coach.

There is a great deal of talk about corruption of yoga, and commercialization, and the need for third-party reimbursement and licensing and blah blah blah blah. But Ti is an example of true yoga in action. She has made it her life’s work to seek out and serve communities in need, people who might not otherwise know about coordinating breath and mind and movement in a way to enrich and embody their day-to-day experience. She works one-on-one with veterans and first responders recovering from traumatic injuries, and has forged remarkable relationships with many of them.

She has been brutally honest about the pain and despair that lurks behind her smiling face and started a Facebook project to help her through this really tough post-surgical period. She is using the medium to raise awareness for many of the causes she supports, by wearing a different “Ti-shirt” every day emblazoned with their logos. Here are a few of the organizations she supports:

The 2018 Colorado 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb honors and remembers fallen firefighters.  Ti has promised (with her surgeon’s permission) to climb at least one stair on 9/11.  She has set a goal of raising $1,111.00 by then, and I am certain she’ll do it simply because it is something she has set her mind to. I just donated $108.00 and hope you will too, if you can spare it.

Safe Call Now: A no-cost confidential crisis referral service for public safety agency employees all first responders and their families nationwide.

Emergency Responder Trauma Counselors (ERTC) provides specialized counseling for emergency services personnel and their family members, related to their work and home life and the variety of stressors in which affect them. Including but not limited to PTSD, anxiety, addiction, depression and grief.

ResponderStrong: Emergency responders working with the National Mental Health Innovation Center to improve mental wellness among Colorado responders and their families. .

Officer Involved Project: Officer Involved is a thoughtful documentary that examines officers who have been involved in deadly force incidents during their tour of duty.

I am proud beyond measure to know Ti and others like her, who constitute the vast majority of the yoga teaching universe.  I’m similarly proud to offer what I can in the way of teaching to the online community we’ve built over the years – a community that now spans 45 countries and over 4,000 students – many of whom are lucky enough to have Ti as their homework coach. On the occasion of Ti Mahoney Blair’s birthday, I recommit to keeping my yoga real and staying connected to those around me. I hope you are inspired, as I have been, by her life and work.

Happy birthday, Ti!

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7 comments on “My Friend Ti.

  1. Happy Birthday to my incredible friend and hero!

    I pray that your day (and new year) is filled with incredible joy, peace, happiness and love.

    You motivate me (and so many others) to keep breathing and moving forward regardless of our
    physical and mental pain.

    You live a life of resiliencya and strength- even though I know it is often difficult to see that within yourself.

    Keep breathing, inspiring, loving, and motivating the people around you. And hopefully, we can do some of the same for you!

    I love you, Friend!!

    John

  2. Happy birthday to our beautiful daughter who shines from within.,⚘❣💜and shows the light to others. ⚘♥️❣
    We love you, Ti. ⚘♥️💜
    Mom & Dad

  3. Leslie,i just have to say, what a wonderful and beautifully written tribute to your friend/student/client/colleague,Ti! i’m sure she was touched and very appreciative to read this. so nice of you to share it with all of us who’ve known you for a very long time, or even not so long a time!

    you have touched many lives and done so in a special way. I’ve always appreciated our relationship, you being my teacher/mentor/yoga therapist and it’s been a pleasure for me to have gotten to know throughout the past 25+ years!

    take care my friend and thanks again for sharing this!

    Namaste’…
    Steven

  4. I am so blessed to know Ti. I miss her at silver sneakers. But I understand her personal challenges are keeping her busy. Birthdays just mark another swing around the sun. Glad we are still on the circuit.

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