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    GENTRIFICATION – HOW DO WE PROTECT DIVERSITY? by Brooke Allison, edited by Leslie Hinson

GENTRIFICATION – HOW DO WE PROTECT DIVERSITY? by Brooke Allison, edited by Leslie Hinson

Perhaps it’s time to confront a rumor.

“I stopped coming to your studio because you displaced a Co-Op that used to provide the homeless community with free food…”

This is an uncommon, but not completely isolated, comment that I received.  As a business owner, these occurrences make me stop dead in my tracks, in the middle of whatever I am doing.  To reflect and try to understand. To defend myself in my own mind. Even to reconsider my purpose. And, of course, to wonder how many others are thinking this.

Thankfully, this quoted statement isn’t true.  Yes, we do reside in a building that formerly housed the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry that provides food and clothing to those in need. But no, we didn’t ‘displace’ them.  The ministry moved a mile up Gallatin, and the building had been empty for about a year before we moved in. The building did change hands, but I am not aware of the Cooperative Ministry undergoing any hardship, and it remains open today providing health and wellness services to the Nashville community.

I heard a similar misrepresentation reported in an NPR article that proclaimed – where once a black church stood, now a fancy hot yoga studio has moved in. We are saddened that people want to blame the yoga studio for these displacements and we take some comfort in the fact that those statements  aren’t exactly true. However, we are obviously part of the new wave of niche businesses to open in East Nashville, and would like to examine how we fit into the problem that these statements are alluding to– gentrification.

East Nashville has been through its fair share of changes over the past 150 years.  Once the neighborhood was home to some of the affluent of Nashville like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nashville.  In 1916, 500 homes southeast of 5th and Woodland were destroyed in a fire. Thousands more homes sustained damage in the 1933 tornado.  Since then, many of the historic homes and log house “vacation homes” to the Nashville elite had fallen into disrepair. In 1998, another tornado tore through East Nashville, badly damaging nearly 300 homes and enough trees in Lockeland Springs and Eastwood to fill several football fields.  Ironically, this event is what led the charge of the East Nashville revitalization. Historic homes were restored with insurance money, and the area finally became more prominent on the rest of the city’s radar.

Most of us have heard stories about the neighborhoods we live in and been told – you wouldn’t go to this gas station after dark or you wouldn’t walk down this street, even in the daytime.  O.G. Nashville residents (10 years + status) have passed the story down – how East Nashville has changed – the time that it was down and out and the period in which it began to thrive again.  Indeed, I’ve seen quite a shocking change over the 7 years I’ve been in Nashville – everywhere from Inglewood to Lockeland Springs. I remember when packs of wild dogs would run free in East Nashville. I remember when the very first tall and skinnies went up. I remember when there were no lines at Jeni’s Ice Cream. Ever! I remember being advised not to venture to “the other side of Gallatin” on foot. Right or wrong, it felt a little scarier than my old bohemian, yet family-friendly Seattle neighborhood, and I heeded the warning.

Along with that insurance money following the tornado came the hip bars, coffee shops and restaurants. Yes, even a fancy new hot yoga studio! I remember the grand opening of Barista Parlor and the first month that Bar 308 opened its doors. These young entrepreneurs pioneered the way for the new East Nashville restaurants – moving into old auto shops and abandoned buildings, really anything beyond 5 Points was like the Wild West. Now we have multiple fine dining establishments to choose from, high-end clothing boutiques, and even the mystic legend of a Trader Joe’s moving into the Athlete’s Foot building (Please, please, please, please, please!!).

We don’t hate these amenities. And indeed there are some “upsides” to gentrification.  Crime-ridden neighborhoods are often made safer and cleaner, the tax base is expanded and property values increase.  And the new restaurants, grocery stores, recreation areas that come along with it do provide some improvement to the quality of life for residents – both old and new.  Yet, the problem with this type of neighborhood transformation remains – longtime residents are often forced out of the community due to rising taxes and home values which they can no longer afford….. so what price do we pay for the amenities we want, the houses we want to live in, the yoga studio down the street?  “East Nashville must recognize that its diversity is more than an asset; it lies at the heart of its identity.”

There’s no doubt that it is unfair to longtime residents.  Rather than look the other way while our neighbors are forced to move out of their childhood homes, we ask, “What can we do?”  The answer is definitely not “don’t take the opportunity to relocate to an empty building.”

Since our first year of operation, we’ve supported the Martha O’Bryan Center through donation classes.  The MOB Center (check out this blog post) works to alleviate the causes and consequences of poverty in East Nashville.

Besides investing in nonprofits that strive to help these families, a simple and attainable goal we hold is to celebrate the diversity we still have and to be good neighbors – extending kindness, greeting people we see, building strong relationships, and shopping locally!  Many locally-owned businesses still remain, and we often partner with them or do our best to support them. 

We can also ask and hold accountable our government to intervene and help….. As Peter Byrne of Georgetown Law writes, “the most negative effect of gentrification, the reduction in affordable housing, results primarily not from gentrification itself, but from the persistent failure of government to produce or secure affordable housing more generally.” There are approximately 100 people moving to Nashville every day. There is already a recognized need for more affordable housing to be erected around the city.  Indeed, the former Mayor Barry even admitted that 31,000 affordable housing units will have to be built by 2025 to accommodate the influx of people and had released a plan to invest $10 million for housing for households making around $30,000 a year, about 60 percent of the city’s median income.  A new coalition called “Welcome Home” has surfaced to propose action initiatives and call attention to the Metro Government on behalf of affordable housing.  Welcome Home worries that attention to affordable housing has been diverted due to the transit plan. For more information or to get involved, please visit https://www.welcomehomenashville.org.  

We believe that words certainly matter, but actions speak louder.  Maybe you’ve heard people call it “living your yoga.” In gratitude to the neighborhood that is our home and in respect to people who would like to practice yoga but find it prohibitively expensive, we have unrolled Free Yoga Wednesdays.  (See details in the previous blog post.)

 

FREE YOGA WEDNESDAYS

Hot Yoga of East Nashville strives to provide a space where everyone feels comfortable, welcome and accepted.  Located in a historic East Nashville building, (formerly the East Nashville Cooperative – a food bank, health and welfare ministry that relocated to another space in East Nashville 3 years ago)  this yoga community is home to artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, students, moms, dads, and everyone in between.  The studio is a place where everyone can find movement, stillness, and strength inside of their minds and bodies.  The yoga we teach can truly restore a person’s sense of well-being and broaden their possibilities through both physical and mental stretching.

While yogis of all ages, shapes, and sizes will find similar benefits by coming to their mats, there is one glaring obstacle that many people face:  financial difficulty. We know there are folks who could benefit from yoga and can’t afford it.  We wish to remove that obstacle.

To this end, we are offering free yoga to any and all on Wednesdays.  (Yes, every Wednesday.) This includes all of the 15 class offerings from 6 am to 9 pm. A person need only show up at the studio to join a class.  Please remember that our classrooms do fill up, and a first-come-first-serve policy will be in place.

Donations are accepted for these classes, and 100% of the proceeds will be given to the Martha O’Bryan Center to support their education programs and their fight to end the cycle of poverty experienced by 1 in 5 people in Nashville today.

We invite you to come practice with us for free on Wednesdays!  Yoga, at its essence, means “union,” and we are committed to deepen our service to the community that has been our home since day one.  We appreciate you.

REFLECTIONS ON MY HOT 26 TEACHER TRAINING BY REBEKAH PAHL

A Slow-Burn Story

As I’ve grown into learning to recognize and trust my intuition, I’ve noticed that she usually appears as a gentle nudging before growing into a flame. This is how I came to the decision to dive into the Hot 26 Teacher Training.

I’ve been practicing Hot 26 for five years now, and part of the HYEN community since the beginning of 2017.  I discovered the Hot 26 series while living in Texas in 2013, dipping my toes in for one of those 30-day deals. I was on a journey of discovering what my body connected and responded to when it came to exercise, and there was something about the Hot 26 series that was both challenging and calming all at once. I was drawn to that. Life changes moved me out to California, and while living beneath the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, I found a Bikram studio in a nearby beach town that became a haven to me. Weaving a consistent Hot 26 practice into my routine opened up a portal to feeling more connected, centered, and calm in my body than I had ever been. I knew then that I had stumbled into a life-long love and practice—a ritual I could integrate into my life to help me stay attentive to and manage my depression in a holistic way. I had found something that both calmed my mind and pushed my body simultaneously. Showing up to my mat day-in and day-out was grounding and sacred; knowing that while there were so many things in life outside my control, I had the power to cultivate an inner calm that would be untouchable.

Thinking back on it now, when I would witness a thoughtful and skilled teacher leading a class, I remember having the passing thought that I could see myself doing that someday. I admired the sense of inner power that it took to confidently, and yet naturally recite the Dialogue to a packed room of dedicated practitioners. The idea of leading others through a practice that had given me so much was appealing; but, timing is everything–and I knew I had more work to do in becoming more at home in my own body. I kept the thought in my pocket, trusting that if the desire was still there when opportunity arose, I would consider pursuing becoming a teacher someday.

The Decision

You know those rare, magical moments when intuition and opportunity align— as if the universe is confirming your path, nudging you in the right direction? That’s exactly what happened when I decided to enroll in the Teacher Training this past December. I had asked Cindy (one of the badass women leading the training) in passing one day if she knew of any upcoming Hot 26 teacher trainings, and she just smiled. Literally the next day, Brooke announced the upcoming training via Instagram. I simply couldn’t ignore the synchronicity of it all. But being a songwriter pursuing a career in music, I was hesitant about diving into the training since I wasn’t looking for yoga to be my sole focus. But I had enough friends who know me well assuring me that pursuing a teacher certification would only enhance and strengthen my other passions in life. They had witnessed firsthand how my yoga practice helped me stay present and awake to my life. So I took the financial leap to gain a skill I could carry with me throughout the rest of my life.

Electrolytes, Electrolytes!

Over the course of the nine week training, we logged a total of 54 hot yoga classes. Six classes per week–and on training weekends, two 90-minute classes on Saturdays. While finding and carving out windows in my schedule to practice yoga took over my world for a few months, I noticed that I was sleeping better and more deeply. I could feel my muscles growing stronger. While my body didn’t change dramatically, there were enough subtle shifts that reminded me how being in the flow of multiple classes per week made me feel more in touch with a sense of possibility, agency, and a hopeful outlook. I found myself looking forward to how I knew I would feel at the end of class, and craving whole foods for replenishment. One of the most challenging weekends of training was when Esak Garcia came to town. We had been required to read Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr (highly recommend if you’re curious about Bikram culture and history), and discovered just how influential and revered Esak was within the international yoga community. We sat through posture clinics where he thoroughly unpacked each posture and demonstrated correct alignment. He gave us thoughtful suggestions for deepening our own practice. His knowledge and insights were invaluable. But I was honestly terrified by the words “Backbending Workshop”  on the schedule. We had read about his intensive workshops held all over the country, and knew it would be stretching (pun very much intended). We paired up in groups of two, and lined up along the wall. I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) by how methodical and focused he approached each backbending attempt. We weren’t freestyling here. Rather, we were learning from a master who challenged us to push beyond where our minds believed we could go. Yes, his flexibility was impressive and truly mind-blowing; but what left an impression on me was the way he led from a place of humble and conscious awareness rather than ego. It made total sense to me now why they call it the “Jedi Fight Club.”

Dear Dialogue…

I participated in Speech and Debate competitions throughout high school, so I’m no stranger to memorization. But there’s honestly no way around it: the Bikram Dialogue is downright daunting. Memorizing an hour and a half’s work of Dialogue is a metaphorical Mt. Kilimanjaro—and our teacher training group a small band of mountaineers huddled at the base, swapping stories around the campfire. The steep climb ahead bonded us quickly–there’s nothing quite like a seemingly insurmountable task to ignite a sense of solidarity. If you ever decide to embark on your own Hot 26 training journey, the best advice I can give is to find a study partner to help you pace out the memorization and keep you accountable. That truly became my lifeline, the “secret sauce” to getting through it. And whenever I would start to feel overwhelmed by the memorization, I would change things up: talking to myself while walking through Shelby Park with my London Fog latte in-hand became a weekly ritual. I made up my mind early on that my best bet for learning the Dialogue was to be proactive in creating a memorization plan and sticking to it as closely as possible. Brooke’s words became our group mantra: “If you keep up, you’ll be kept up.” I found this to be very true.

The First Class

March 30th, 4:30am, the morning of my teaching evaluation:

I had spent time journaling a few intentions the night before—how I wanted people to feel when they left my class, what I wanted to remember, how I wanted to inhabit my body. I set my alarm for 4:30am so I could have time to make tea and warm-up my voice before leading my first ever 6am class, the one that would determine if I passed my certification test. The butterflies started fluttering in my chest, but I also heard my soul whispering louder than my quickening pulse: You’ve worked too hard to crumble now. Trust what you know. You’ve been preparing for this moment. Now all that’s left is to show up for it. In the midst of my nerves, I leaned into that place of inner confidence– trusting my body and mind to remember all that I had been steadily feeding her throughout the past nine weeks. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, then opened the door… walking past the threshold into a new chapter of becoming myself.

Coming Into My Power

Looking back through my journal entries from the end of last year, two themes surfaced from the pages: a curiosity about cultivating a sense of inner authority, and growing into my feminine power. Reflecting on the teacher training experience, I can honestly say that I feel like I’ve uncovered a sense of empowerment that translates into every area of my life. Standing in front of a room and owning what I have to offer is a muscle I’m still building, and the training experience has been a powerful catalyst. The heart behind why I practice yoga–showing up and cultivating a sense of inner calm even in the midst of difficult situations–has become a centering mantra for how I hope to keep moving through life. There’s something about dancing along the edge of what you thought you were capable of and coming out the other side that deeply marks you. The support and camaraderie I found throughout the training experience—from the teachers, guest facilitators, other trainees, to the entire HYEN community–has helped me feel more tethered and at home when I walk into the studio. Rather than my coming and going to classes feeling transactional, solely focused on what I’m receiving–I’ve started viewing each class as a gift and exchange of energy. It’s a gift to take a class led by someone who has put in the work to offer a well-honed dialogue, thoughtful presence, and clear directions. And every time I walk into a room to bring my unique voice and person to a Dialogue that’s been handed down and refined for years, I dip my feet into a river that nourishes. I’m slowly but surely inching my way closer to my core and inner power, and I’m grateful for the ways this training has brightened my path along the way.

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    MY YOGA STORY: MORE LOVE, LESS FEAR, MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT IN YOUR LIFE

MY YOGA STORY: MORE LOVE, LESS FEAR, MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT IN YOUR LIFE

From: Allison Fallon
I started going to yoga about six weeks before everything fell apart. My husband-at-the-time and I had been trying to have a baby for almost two years at that point, and I was starting to lose hope that it would ever happen for us. But I heard a story about a woman who struggled with fertility for years, and when she started a regular yoga practice, she became pregnant within six months.
That was enough to convince me.
I walked down the street and signed up.
It had been a few years since I’d been in a regular routine of moving my body, but it didn’t seem like all that long since I’d been a distance runner. I had completed several half-marathons and a full marathon. So when the instructor suggested that for my first few classes I should focus on simply staying in the room, I balked a little.
I mean, how hard could it be to stay in a room?
That was before the class started and the heat pressed in and I realized how far you can get from yourself without even knowing it; how long you can go without paying any attention to the fact that you have been barely breathing.
Those first few classes were miserable.
I felt like I might be dying—and I was barely doing anything. Just sitting there on my mat. The only reason I kept coming back was that the instructor said yoga would help us to get three things, and I wanted each of those three things:
1. More love
2. Less fear
3. More of what we want in our lives.
I hoped she was right. I hoped yoga would help me get what I wanted.
Six weeks later, everything fell apart.
It was a normal Thursday afternoon when I uncovered the truth of my marriage, and suddenly the fact that we hadn’t been able to become pregnant wasn’t the problem anymore. The day I found what I found, a friend asked me if I was surprised, and I told a her to imagine she had been in a fist fight for years with a blindfold on.
Then today, someone took the blindfold off.
No, I was not surprised.
We hold truths in our bodies that are too big for our minds.
The irony is not lost on me that I went to yoga to get pregnant and instead ended up getting a divorce. But I am learning the hard and beautiful truth that sometimes what we think we want is not what we actually want, and that the process of getting what we want usually involves several things we did not want at all.
 So I kept going to yoga.
One of the things I have loved most about yoga is that there is nowhere to hide.
In life we hide behind make-up or name brands or job titles or relationship statuses. In yoga, in that hot room with all those smelly, sweaty not-so-covered-up bodies, there is nowhere to go except… right there.
In the truth.
The fleshy, terrible, magical, beautiful truth of you.
It’s a terrifying and beautiful thing to to see yourself so completely.
To look at where you are weak or soft or grieving or heartbroken and let love go there.
What a strange and petrifying feeling to find that all the pieces of the puzzle you had been fighting to hold together weren’t even your puzzle pieces in the first place, and that all that love you were dying to have had always been right there in front of you.
All you have to do is get soft enough to receive it.
All you had to do was stop trying so hard, and relax enough to let it in. That winter, I filed for divorce.
I walked into the attorney’s office and did the thing I swore to myself I would never do, the thing I had judged others for doing, the thing I had wanted to do for longer than I could even allow myself to admit. The truth does this to you, I guess. Humbles you. Makes you human again. Gets you back into alignment with yourself.
Yoga does this to you.
More love.
Less fear.
More of what you want in your life.
And after signing all of those terrible, beautiful, life-altering papers, I went to yoga again. I fought and cried and melted into my mat again, and again and again.
It was all I had. My offering. It was all it took.
What I’m learning from yoga is the same thing I’m learning from the rest of my life—which is that we are entitled to our efforts, but not to our outcomes; that we can either be in control, or be in love, but not both.
I’m learning to be in love. I’m choosing to be in love.
 Several things have changed in my life since those early days of yoga—beyond the fact that I am finally breathing again. I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I sleep better. I have better tools to calm my own anxiety. I’m more focused and productive. I feel more confident, more capable.
I’m stronger and also softer. I’ve even fallen in love.
And although in those early days yoga seemed like the hardest thing I had ever done, I’m learning now that it is also the easiest—the easiest and the best and the most life-changing thing you could ever do, showing up. Getting on your mat. Starting where you are.
Giving it all you have.
Slowly, without even knowing it, we are all getting where we’re trying to go.

MARCH 21-DAY CHALLENGE: CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN!

I didn’t grow up in a church that practiced Lent but I’ve always liked the idea of Lenten Season. 1) Because I like a good challenge or maybe I like the opportunity or excuse to try something new or clean up my routine. 2) Because I value the concept of shaking up routine, taking something away that I depend on, making myself a little uncomfortable in order to grow. I believe that one of the original concepts of giving something up for Lent (40 days) or any fasting is that when you miss, crave, or think about that thing you’ve given up (which will probably be many times a day), you use the opportunity to turn your mind to the thing you’re remembering and trying to meditate on more deeply. There are many things we can notice as we give something up that we are used to having or doing, when we simply shake up our routine – our emotional and physical patterns, our reliances, our habits around that thing that may not even be about the thing. Do I need the thing for the thing or to quiet some other desire or unrest that arises during my day?
Let’s be honest, I also like the idea of Lent or Cleanses or Challenges because it gives me a recipe for self-restraint – clear instructions, boundaries. But do I really need more self-restraint, more self-harm in my life, and isn’t that really more of a self-serving motive when look at my intentions? What can I do that will help me to grow and do better as a friend, a wife, a business owner, a dog-mama, a yoga teacher? For this challenge, I’m choosing to give up sugar – yes, because it contains empty calories but also because it is my comfort food, my go-to distraction from stillness and mindfulness, my craving that comes up most often that I actually need the least. I’m adding something to make me a more present, mindful wife and partner – giving positive affirmations each day to Clay… you know, being nicer and all that!  The hardest one, the habit I’m working on is not offering or giving my opinion on things when I’m not asked. You get it. It’s hard. I want to help but am I helping? Let’s try something new. Shake things up. Spring Challenge!
 
Get ready for your Choose-Your-Own-Challenge if you would like to join me!  You choose 3 ways to challenge yourself over the first 21 days of March:
1) Something you’re giving up
2) Something you’re adding
3) A habit your want to create or cultivate

I’m also providing daily guide for yoga/mindful challenges to keep you motivated and to inspire your sharing on social media (you’ll want to follow the challenge #hyespringchallenge on Instagram and post your challenges and inspirations): 

Day 1) Warrior
– choose your warrior posture, standing firm and ready for whatever comes your way!
Day 2) Breath Work
– demonstrate a breathing exercise that you are practicing, Pranyama – breathwork to still and focus the mind; to improve lungs and respiratory system.
Day 3) Backbend
– choose a backbend to send nourishing blood and oxygen to the vertebrae and cartilage. Healthy spine for a happy life!
Day 4) Nourish
– how are you nourishing yourself differently today and during this challenge? Try a new recipe or new way of cooking or preparing your favorite dish!
Day 5) Twist
– find a twist to squeeze out the internal organs and the spine – detoxify and stimulate the organs and glands.
Day 6) Hydrate
– drink water! Today try drinking – not 64 ounces but 132 ounces (16 glasses) of water. Maybe do it again tomorrow and the next day and for all 21 days.
Day 7) Shoulder Strength
– use a shoulder strengthening exercise to build strength for a stronger practice or maybe building your inversion practice
Day 8) Meditate
– practice a meditation exercise today… We will provide an exercise you can try!
 
Day 9) Dancer
– find grace and focus in your variation of dancer. Just like in our daily lives, in Dancer Posture, you have to find what to engage and what to soften – where to work and where to relax.
Day 10) Cleanse
– take something out of your routine/your body that isn’t serving you or something you don’t need today.
Day 11) Spiral Movement
– use a spiral movement to move energy, strengthen the inner and outer core, and to awaken your mind and body
Day 12) Balance
– find a balancing posture to develop your concentration – focus your mind on one thing only. You will find that you have no choice but to be present, in the moment, when you are balancing on one leg
Day 13) Inspiration
– Share who or what has been an inspiration lately or throughout your life. What words or example do you come back to as a reminder of what you are working towards or what is important to you.
Day 14) Heart Opener
– Open your heart with physical asana (posture) and follow it with internal reflection – what came up? Use meditation, prayer, intention or journalling to respond to what you saw or noticed
Day 15) Inversion
– Try an inversion today to change your perspective. Need support? No problem! Use a friend, a tree, your dog or another object!
Day 16) Hip Opener
– practice a hip-opening posture AND for extra credit – stay in the posture for 5 minutes (this means 5 minutes on each side if it is a single-sided posture)
Day 17) Free Movement
– find your free movement, dance or flow! Can you step to this? We want to see a video and don’t hold back… extra bonus points for yogis who get creative, have fun and let go of inhibitions!
Day 18) Core Strength
– practice an abdominal strengthening exercise. We strengthen our core so we can support the rest of our body and support the dreams we are building.
Day 19) Chakra Opener
– try a chakra opening movement to move energy through an area in your body that may feel “stuck” … We will give you some examples to try!
Day 20) Spine Lengthener / Back-body Opener
– find a forward fold or a seated stretch to decompress your spine, sending fresh blood flow to the space between the vertebrae. Lengthen the back sides of the legs, even the souls of the feet to allow your body to be at ease – not just to do more yoga postures but to do more life!
Day 21) Salutation
– Practice a salute to the sun, the moon, the gods and goddesses, your choice. Namasakara – means to bow to, to honor, to adore… in closing this challenge, we bow in honor to each of you, in gratitude for the world created around us.
Lastly, we have prizes! Sponsored Prizes include:
~ Aveda Hair + Skin Gift Sets
~ Lululemon – Professional Mat
~ Chelsea Young – Pantry Makeover & Grocery Trip | Meal Prep Class for you + 3 friends!
~ The Raw Deal – Gift Certificate for delivered raw meals!
~ Free Massage from Claire Wallace – Safe Camp Massage
~ Free Tuition for a Buti Yoga Teacher Training ($725 value)
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    BIKRAM + KUNDALINI PAIRING – YOUR SUN AND YOUR MOON PRACTICE

BIKRAM + KUNDALINI PAIRING – YOUR SUN AND YOUR MOON PRACTICE

Submitted by Annie Peterson, currently on her way to Nashville to teach Kundalini paired with an Advanced Bikram Yoga Class.
As this workshop came together, I really thought about how these two practices fit together for me.  The expressive hatha practice feels amazing in my body – the physicality, the process of alchemy that you undergo in the room, the confrontation of self and ego in the mirror.  It still works for me and I’ve been practicing consistently for 10 years.
5 years ago I found Kundalini yoga and added it to my Bikram practice.  As they say “All Roads Lead to Rome” and so the union, energy balance, mental clarity, meditation and awakening of the body’s systems are all present in both, as well as other yogic and non-yogic practices.  Anything humans do with mindfulness and intention can lead to self-realization, self-mastery and growth.
That said, to get to Rome (i.e. the self, potential, realization, to “come home”) you must choose one road, or a few, as the case may be.
The road to Rome for me has been a balancing of the hot and unheated practices of Bikram and Kundalini yoga – Kundalini mirrors the hatha practice: the room isn’t (intentionally) heated, often we close our eyes, and so it invites an experience of the self, body and consciousness from a different, yet equal, angle.
When I’ve stacked these practices back-to-back, the combined effect for me has been profoundly positive — that is, on the rare occasions I can do three hours of yoga in one day!
So, as Bre and I continued talking and brainstorming what we wanted this to be, we continued on our own paths and this concept emerged as an offering to students to experience a deeper hatha practice & learn about another set of tools to compliment whatever practice you already have…
I can only speak for myself, but I find these two lineages to be fascinating, and they’ve each brought so much to my life.  I’m looking forward to serving and engaging with this community this weekend!

BIKRAM YOGIS ANONYMOUS

Step 1 – Admittance: I am a Bikram yogi. I am continually in love with, healed by, and captivated with this addiction. It is an incessant influence, a time-consuming preoccupation, but predominantly worthwhile addiction. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here now, having the gift of a yoga studio where I get to share my passion for yoga with others and, hopefully, give them something that will also change their lives. But the journey has had its ups and downs. In fact, I’ve come full circle with the practice.

Myself and most anyone who has practiced the 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises that were taught to us Americans by the now-notorious Bikram Choudhury and his guru, Bishnu Ghosh, has likely experienced both love and hatred for this practice, and skepticism about its founder. But I’m not interested in talking about the man today; I want to talk about the practice. That journey through being broken down, built up, humbled, empowered, opened, closed off, stretched, compressed, emptied out, filled up, never-the-same-again yoga revelation. Bikram was the first and only kind of yoga I knew for the first 8 years of practicing.

My feelings about this style over more than a decade range from “I can barely get through a class” to “I can still barely get through a class.” The challenge never changes. It is always hard, physically and mentally. Yes, over 10 years or longer, it never gets easier. But it does become different.

My original teacher was explaining how a posture works and said, “when you’re a beginner – you know, the first 10 years of practice…” Wait, WHAT? …. You’re a beginner for the first TEN years? I laughed in my head when I heard him say that because I considered myself at least intermediate-level by that point – but now, after 10 years, I’m beginning to understand.

There have been, and will be, many seasons of my Bikram journey – times when I hated Pranayama breathing (the first breathing exercise), another when I was tediously impatient in Half Moon, periods when I am in love with Standing Bow, and seasons when I deeply dreaded Camel. There are times when I fall from a posture and an unexplainable flood of tears comes to my eyes, and there are times when I laugh out loud. There are times when the postures hurt and times when the postures heal.

Step 2 – Faith: It was this last part of the journey that has really challenged me over the last four years. I had an injury. An un-diagnosable pain in my right hip. I went to all the doctors, physical therapists, Rolfers, acupuncturists and chiropractors. Finally, I took a break. I took a break from yoga for two months. It was something I thought I would never do. I had practiced for nine years, at least five to seven times a week. I rarely missed a day; sometimes I would even do two classes a day. Then I remember the day, as I was laying in savasana, feeling defeated from the pain and the lack of mobility that I once had, I realized that it wasn’t fun anymore, so I decided right at that moment, I would let it go… for a while anyway.

When I came back to the mat, I approached everything very carefully. Every posture. I made sure to really keep my core engaged and not overdo it in postures just to look a certain way. It felt a lot better but the hip was still not fully recovered. I started back in just a couple times a week and eventually added different yoga disciplines – vinyasa power flow and eventually Buti yoga. The new practices and new postures opened up certain areas and strengthened others. It turned out to be the perfect complement to my Bikram yoga practice, and I began to realize that the answer was, as Bikram himself would prescribe, “more yoga.” Well, not exactly… first I needed a break and then I needed more yoga, and different kinds of yoga. The thing about the 26 postures is that it is a lot of repetition, and if you are not careful or practicing with proper form with muscular support, then the repetition can be hard on certain joints. The bikram dialogue is designed to ensure that you do practice the postures correctly but, depending on your skeletal structure, your joints and the stress your life may have brought them thus far, there is the potential for repeated stress to occur and even potential injury.

Although I now have a love and appreciation for many different styles of yoga, I have an even stronger faith in Bikram yoga and a deeper appreciation for it. For all my ups and downs with the practice, I have always admired this elegant series – these 26 postures and the brilliance of their sequencing. The heat, the mirrors, the dialogue, they are added tools, which all work together to force out any opportunity for outside distraction. We are truly forced to concentrate and given the opportunity to be fully present. There’s really nothing else we can do. Just yesterday during a class, the dialogue made more sense than it ever had. Same words I’ve heard a thousand times but they were once again new to me. The words were all I heard… my mind was blank but for these words: “PUSH your stomach, hips thighs forward!” I did so, and it worked. Another layer stripped away. In final savasana, I had peace in my mind about something I’d been worried about all day. It wasn’t the first time these things had happened. They can happen any and every time we practice this series. No matter how many years we’ve practiced this yoga series, there is always something to learn, and it will always be a great accomplishment to finish the class.

So far, in my first 10 years as a beginner of bikram yogi, I have learned some of the greatest lessons and habits of my life. Habits that have helped me through every scenario – heartbreak, anxiety, worry, opening businesses, friendships, and marriage. I wanted to share just a few of these with you:

  • If you can, you must (Bikram Choudhury).
  • Don’t react or attach to the pain or the victory. Calmly observe it and let it pass by so you can give your full energy to the present.
  • Let nothing steal your peace. (Bikram Choudhury)
  • Don’t waste your energy on the things you cannot change.
  • Transcend discomfort by sitting with it, allowing it to be part of you as you move with it until it is no longer there.
  • If you are trying correctly, even if only able to do just a small step of the full posture, you will receive 100% of the benefits.