On this 19th anniversary, it seems like only a short time ago that I walked into the space of the original studio in 2003 – empty, cold, yet filled with a spirit of what would come. I didn’t know initially that this would be the place. Walking out, concerned, I realized that it needed so much work despite its fantastic location and limitless parking. My eyes caught the height of the lone redwood tree that still stands at the end of the building. And, for whatever reason, all obstacles washed away, and I just felt the opportunity that right here was the place to grow big, strong, and Rise.

Three years in, we were bursting at the seams with so many crammed into the 900 square foot yoga room. It took another six years to finally move next door, surprising you members with a 7,000 square foot palace. It took everything out of us and more to make it happen, but by the grace of God, we got to enjoy that home for eight years, meeting more people and creating a bigger family, with the yoga practice as our connecting foundation.

With the idea and support of our landlords, we were offered a brand new state-of-the-art yoga studio to design and build, taking us into another decade of Bikram Yoga. So much fun ensued – much of 2019 was many good meetings to craft a place best suited for what we do in all aspects, from the yoga room’s needs to the areas around the yoga studio that encourage conversation, contemplation, and connection.  

It’s the home we have now. It’s beautiful to the eye and the heart. Thanks especially to Matt Newman for devoting more than he’ll admit, assuring what we wanted was delivered. His liaison work between the builders and us ensured that you got the best!

From open house to closed doors

Celebrating our 17th anniversary in January of 2020 had all the hype and energy to keep us inspired for the year to come. Yet, it didn’t work as we had expected. Just two months in, we had to close our doors on March 16, 2020 – one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, mostly because of the shock. Our planned-out days, weeks, and months ahead for you members came to a grinding halt. Thinking it would only be a few weeks of closure was a bit of soothing balm I used to help me face reality – we were closed for one year, March 16 to March 16. Our 18th anniversary, January 2021, was celebrated on Zoom from home.

As we reopened in March 2021, I realized that opening would be more complicated than closing. Why? The mandate to close was harsh but so swift it didn’t involve the feelings we each had. Opening again, however, did. Each and every one of you is cared for here, so one by one, as you each started to stroll back in, we felt your heart: excited to be back, heavy with concern, lost with next steps, alone and sad about the losses you endured, ready to go, or some of you not so much, but mostly all of you, grateful.

Michele with Kathleen Canevaro, Matt Newman, and Jenn Bird
Cynthia Wehr and Michele
Michele has fun in the lobby with members

What do 19 years of BYSJ mean to me? 

It sounds cliché but grateful.  

During the pandemic, there was no doubt to any of us on staff here that we wouldn’t close, so to speak – we’d stay open, delivering the yoga to you in ways that until then seemed weird, even wrong. How can you teach this yoga outside or at home with no heat? Then, opening at a limited capacity also challenged us to address safety, efficiency, and creativity to enable you to take the yoga inside this building with confidence. 

Today, January 22, 2022, on our 19th anniversary, we have blossomed into a studio that offers this yoga in those new ways, now optimizing with each kind of delivery: in the studio and online.

None of this would have been possible if we weren’t grateful. Grateful for the one thing we all believe in – this yoga. Through the numerous mandates in our county. Through the heightened tension in our nation. Through the family-filled stresses that came with Covid-19. Through the adaptation of teaching and taking classes with masks on. Through the work it took to connect virtually. Through the weekly pivots we’ve had to make as a management team, and so much more. All this was possible only because the 19 years of BYSJ are our pillar of gratitude. Let me explain more:

Lesson in Loyalty 

Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors championship basketball team, a member of the Splash Brothers, one of the all-time top scorers in NBA history, and sure to become a hall-of-famer, recently came back to the team after 941 days of no play. He was injured in June 2019 with an ACL tear in his knee and soon after an Achilles tear in his heel – both huge and usually career-ending injuries. Not only did he not give up, but the true highlight in this story is his team and the management not giving up on him. In that world where winning is everything, where each player carries their own weight, it would be justifiable to let Klay go if he just gave up. I don’t know the underpinnings of this story. Still, I do know that either party would have given in if it weren’t for the single principle that both parties could lean on – gratitude for Klay’s loyalty and efforts to bring his best to win the championship and the organization’s 75 years of integrity and commitment.  

BYSJ community – that is YOU, that is US – you members, your collective loyalty and continuity year after year. Your honest efforts to work hard are some of the very ingredients this pillar of gratitude is made from and the very things that got us through the last two years. Each of us is perhaps “injured” somehow or may have gone dark in our own “941 days.” We can, like Klay, turn to BYSJ to heal, grow, contribute, and win again. Like the Warriors organization, BYSJ’s integrity and commitment to you these last 19 years IS secure because we stayed to one thing that works – Bikram Yoga. BYSJ has withstood its adversities over the years where it needed to lean on you – you were there, and you believed. Nineteen years in, and I’d say we’ve built some good trust in each other. Gratitude is the juice that ensues, like a perfect marriage.

Staff have a hug at the front desk
Two members pose in front of the fountain
Staff and members have fun with the anniversary balloons

Pillar of Gratitude

The 19th anniversary of BYSJ has become an expression and embodiment of what gratitude is! If you’ve gone dark for what might seem like 941 days, no problem, walk in again and reconnect to that spirit of gratitude in which you, this body of people, have created eternal.  

Use this force of gratitude and come into the studio to calm an anxious mind and heart; open up again, creating the capacity to heal.

If Covid-19 is responsible for stealing your routine, welcome gratitude with new seeds of opportunity – perhaps deaden, once and for all, and sabotage the habits that had you stuck.  

Use this force of gratitude to make a fresh start, which can mean a free mind, breaking the grip of a stronghold that had the best of you, self-included. These past two years “injured” my psyche with feelings of loneliness, only to see it differently with gratitude, restoring an improper balance within myself.  

So, what do 19 years of Bikram Yoga San Jose truly mean? That “I’m never too sick, never too old, never too late to do yoga and start from scratch once again.” That “my yoga will maintain my youth, keep my body full of vitality and immune to diseases even at an old, old age.” You, too.

I once read that gratitude is the vaccine against selfishness and discontent. BYSJ is the antidote to chaotic thoughts that drift into insecurities, confusion, and depression. 

In case you didn’t know, gratitude is one of our core values at BYSJ, written on the walls in the studio and a part of our new website in What We Believe. Regarding the new website, let’s congratulate Jessica Guinn and Michael Wickler on their hard work in getting this website from creation to manifestation. If you haven’t seen it yet, get on there and peruse the content. In the coming months and years, you will see a lot more coming out of this virtual BYSJ home.  

You’ll read that gratitude means “awareness and appreciation for ALL that arises” on the website. Do your yoga, and this thought won’t seem daunting but arise within you that All is Well. Melody Beattie states beautifully in her Gratitude poem, “gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”

Thank you, BYSJ teachers, karma yogis, and staff, for working differently to keep our pillar of gratitude strong and standing firm for our members these past two years. These people exemplify the core values of BYSJ that enable us to weather ANY adversity.

Our remaining core values are:

  • Integrity: complete and undivided, whole. Consistent in principles and actions.
  • Passion: burning enthusiasm
  • Compassion: aware and feeling of another’s suffering with the desire to help
  • Community: a feeling of belonging and shared support of each other’s well-being
  • Joy: unconditional delight

And it’s not just staff that models these core traits; it’s you members, it’s US! The juice of gratitude and all these core values ARE the ingredients to your accomplishment of self-realization, the same focus we’ve had for 19 years and counting! 

Cynthia Wehr and Matt Newman jump for joy
BYSJ teachers celebrate the 19th anniversary
Members participate in the Awkward pose contest

The Rise Award

Each year since 2019, we’ve highlighted an individual who represents US as an ambassador of our core values. Matt Newman received the first Rise Award in 2019.

Last year, Shirley Pak received the 2020 award. We honored Shirley at our virtual anniversary party last year, and I feel compelled to honor her again. Shirley is on our senior staff team. She came to BYSJ as a Karma Yogi, growing in her practice, and then she applied to be the finance manager for BYSJ. Shirley excels at her job, but what makes her stand out is her burning enthusiasm for making BYSJ strong enough to stay open during these challenging years. Shirley single-handedly secured two Covid stimulus PPP loans for us – we might not be here without them. In addition, she tirelessly searched for grants and ways to save money, strategizing effective financial and business structures. Shirley accomplished this with an eye on the integrity of who we are and compassion for what we do and how we do it – with the inspiration she carries, knowing how much this yoga studio means to you and her.

The Rise Award for 2021 goes to a member you all know. He’s a front-row dude and is always one of the first to participate in our events. Ready to do a favor before you get a chance to finish saying what you need, he’s a willing model for the photoshoots we need. A confidant believer in this yoga, he healed an injured wrist that brought him here with his mother-in-law more than ten years ago. He’s always ready with a comment to share about what he’s learned recently and is a kind encourager to our new students that come in like a deer in the headlights. He’s helped BYSJ financially with his “no big deal” generosity. Just recently, reporting to him the state of affairs with BYSJ, he shook his head and said, “is it good for BYSJ? If so, I’m in,” showing the trust he has in our management. Congratulations, Sundar Narayanan.

Sundar and Michele pose with the Rise Award plate.

Longtime BYSJ member Sundar Narayanan received the 2021 Rise Award.

Thank you for representing all of US this past year, embodying gratitude, integrity, compassion, passion, community, and JOY, JOY, JOY – with your great big smile and all that we’ve come to love about you over the years.

Watch Michele’s 19th anniversary speech