My Journey to Wellness
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
By Sifu Stewart Maxwell
My journey to wellness began in my early years of childhood. As a 7 year old I was a competitive swimmer at the YMCA with Speedos. I also participated in track and field at Mona Prep. I ran in the Gibson Relays from as early as 8 years old and I was also competing in chess from I was 9 or 10 so a varied early sporting background which continued through my High School years through to early college.
At the time swimming at the YMCA and training there and even in the earlier years of approximately 5 years old, my mother would take my sister and I while she did Yoga there and we sat down in the back of the room laughing at the different poses. It was there that I was introduced to my Yoga teacher Joseph White Swami Hariomananda from an early age and still have close links with him now.
There were also Karate classes at the YMCA so I had exposure to the martial arts. In those early days in our neighbourhood a regular Saturday afternoon activity would be getting on the 67 Bus in Hope Pastures and going down to the Carib Cinema to watch the triple Bill and with Kung Fu movies starring Jackie Chan in Drunken Master and the infamous villain Silver Fox. And so I went through the rest of my childhood going on to Jamaica College where I continued with Track and Field and this led me to the US briefly where I did a few years of High School and got introduced to Basketball. Upon returning to Jamaica in the mid-80s I represented Jamaica College in Track and Field and Basketball.
I then went on to CAST, now UTECH, where I continued my track and field exploits specializing in the 400 m, 800 m and 400 m hurdles and this eventually led me back to the US where I spent two years at College, one year with the College Team as it had to suspend its athletic programme. I eventually left school where I went back to Ithaca NY, where I had done two years of High School in the 80s.
1992-95 was really my formative time when I was formally introduced to Yoga, Kung Fu and Tai Chi which I have done from 1992 to present. So sports really laid the foundation for me getting towards my path as a Wellness Consultant as a Tai Chi Master, Reiki Master, Masseur, Squash Coach and fitness instructor. My competitive sporting journey still continues as I just last year represented Jamaica in the 50 and over Category at the Caribbean Squash Championships.
So in 1996 I was in a car accident and I had a major injury where I had a compound fracture of my left arm, the bone was crushed and the brachial artery and medial nerve severed. I was lucky to have saved my arm and I had surgery and an external fixator attached and this was a long recovery in terms of the healing of the bone and skin. However during this time I never missed a day of Tai Chi practice. As a matter of fact in the morning of the accident I taught classes and by the next afternoon after waking up in my bed after surgery I spoke to the nurses and they said I was fine to walk around because my arm was my only injury and my arm was taped to my body. I got up and took the IV bag off the stand and put it over my shoulder and went out to the hospital verandah where I did my Tai Chi and this became my daily practice during my time at the Kingston Public Hospital.
After coming out of hospital I continued with a couple of clients who stuck with me and the gym I was working with was kind enough to continue to keep me on staff for a period, and this eventually led me to working fully on my own just doing private classes and eventually starting group Tai Chi and Yoga classes as well.
So this injury allowed me to delve into the healing aspects of martial arts and yoga so for example when the accident occurred and I came to I quickly assessed the situation and went into deep breathing and I told myself that the worst thing that could happen was that I would lose my arm but I was not going to die. And I went into deep breathing while going into hospital and I was able to maintain full consciousness right up until surgery. I strongly believe that I prevented myself from going into shock with the deep breathing practices and just the ability to keep calm and focused in a time of crisis which is a key element of the martial arts.
After recovering and coming out of hospital and going home there was one particular day when I was at the health centre getting my wounds dressed and I got some disturbing news and I simply went outside on to the front lawn in front of the Health Centre and again I did my Tai Chi and as I went through the form I wept and I wept and I wept some more and it was truly a very powerful and emotional healing and release which I was in great need of not just as a part of my physical healing but also of my mental and emotional wellbeing.
This experience led me to the healing and holistic aspects of the martial arts – Tai Chi and Yoga and prior to this I was involved in the teaching and practice of Power Yoga an offshoot of an Iyengar Yoga based practice. By about 1998 is when I formally started studying with Swami Joseph White and he is still my teacher today and this got me more into Hatha Yoga.
Thus the journey began in terms of the holistic aspect and so I have been blessed with various teachers: my martial arts instructor both Tai Chi and Kung Fu was Sifu Maurice Haulton in Ithaca in New York and I studied with him from 1992-95 and I was able to visit with him a few times after I left Jamaica to continue my studies. Various workshops and classes and studying with other teachers visiting classes and my own personal practice helped to hone me into becoming a better teacher.
In 1998 I discovered a Reiki workshop and I enrolled in it and I became a Reiki Master in 2002 but prior to this coming back to this coming back to my car accident, Reiki was actually a therapy that I actually used in my recovery. So I was introduced to it and the Reiki master encouraged me to learn to do it myself and she introduced me to some of the breathing techniques and the visualizing of the chakras and the colours related to the various energy centres for my healing. This was pivotal and what was interesting was that also it was a mutual respect of fellow teachers as while she was teaching me Reiki I was teaching her Tai Chi. This is something that I have continued to do to this day to exchange with other practitioners to exchange with other practitioners for treatment as we learn and grow together.
I returned to Jamaica in late 1995 and since then I have been practicing and teaching Yoga, Tai chi and Kung Fu and eventually adding Reiki in 1998 and Massage in 2000. I have been practicing these various disciplines for the most part privately. I worked in various hotels in Ocho Rios at one point, I’ve done classes at various venues and different gyms, given talks and workshops. I have had the opportunity to be interviewed on the media both radio and television over the years. Really my passion is a commitment to health and wellness and to lift up and enlighten as many people as possible to natural healing, of being mindful and of walking the path.
A great passion with me along this path is merging my two loves of sports and martial arts and yoga. I have had the opportunity to work with individual athletes and teams in helping them with their flexibility and balance and fluidity which helps any athlete in any sport and helping them to make the mind-body connection, to visualize the action of their sport, to calm themselves before competition, to relax and win. Initially when I first started merging the disciplines I had the opportunity to bring a mental focus to athletes, I worked with a basketball team ,the Urban Knights, in the Jamaican local league, they had qualified in 8th place just barely making it to the playoffs and I worked with them throughout the playoffs and they eventually won the Championship.
This then led me to brief stints working with the MVP club track and field athletes and also with the Reggae Boyz,( the Jamaica national football team) and a couple of the junior teams and also with Jamaica college track and field team. So over the years I have been happy to bring this to athletes and it is my intention to continue to bring this to them in years to come.
The path or the way is referred to in many spiritual and religious traditions as a journey through consciousness to enlightenment. Meditation, healing the body, centering and focusing the mind, connecting to spirit and connecting to source . The physical body is the vessel we have and so we use this and ultimately we want to stretch and strengthen and heal the physical body thus honouring the temple that we have, focusing the mind, relaxing and centering, ultimately emptying the mind and connecting to spirit.
So relax the body, focus the mind and connect to spirit and ultimately spirit will guide you. This is important because oftentimes the mind will get in the way, the subconscious mind or habits or programming. So as one goes along the path and is able to centre and focus the mind which they often say is like a monkey stung by a bee in its activity and its restlessness.
Emptying the mind is a difficult concept which maybe few people really get to so in my opinion it isn’t actually emptying the mind as they say classically but to focus, calm and relax it. So the physical body relaxes and ultimately so does the mind. And remember that the mind is not your brain, the mind is your consciousness and it is in your body, it is in your fingers and your toes, in your knees, in your whole body and in your whole being. So as we calm and centre , we can allow spirit to guide us.
Sifu Stewart Maxwell is a Reiki and Tai Chi Master, Yoga Instructor and Massage therapist. He is also a Squash Coach and Personal Trainer with 30 years of experience.
You can contact Stewart at sjmax876@gmail
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