In 2006, I started having bad abdominal pains and drove myself to Stanford ER. I was there most of the day, waiting for test results and routinely talking to a very smart (and very busy) Stanford doctor. She took a liking to my yoga life after discovering that this might be why my blood pressure was so low; we started to talk more in depth. She was a traveling doctor and had heard about yoga, hot yoga and was intrigued.

Hours later, they discovered that my appendix needed to be removed as soon as possible. As I left for surgery, she asked me to keep doing what I do. She told me:

“I can help to cure, but many times when it gets to me it’s too late. What you do in yoga is preventative. It needs to start there.”

Just today, Bikram posted a three-minute clip on this very topic – prevention. Years ago, Dr. Andrew Weil was on Larry King Live. It was a time when healthcare was starting to be both an opportunity and a problem. We started to hear more on homeopathy and other alternative ways to take responsibility for our own health. At the end of the show, I recall Larry King asking Dr. Weil if there was one thing that we could all do to improve our health. Dr. Weil answered: “Breathe. Learn how to breathe.

Earl Nightingale too (long before Youtube and internet accessibility) did a popular piece called “The Strangest Secret”. He emphasized taking care of the things we essentially get for free: our heart, our lungs, our brain, our mind, and our breathing.

It’s been two weeks since we at Bikram Yoga San Jose have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and honestly, it’s only now that I’ve started to breathe. Really breathe. Maybe like many of you, the last two weeks have been more doing than being. There have been a world of logistics to tackle: How to set up an online business (if at all), how to eat, work, sleep, exercise, school the kids – and arrange other things that we’ve never had to think about or second-guess before. So, at the moment, it hasn’t been about opening the waiting books piled up, diving into the long-postponed list of projects that I now “have time for,” or even setting up a home practice and doing more yoga.

Instead, I have had the surprising pleasure of joining in on livestream breathing each day with all of you on BYSJ Everywhere. In so doing, I’ve had a chance to reach out and e-talk with many teachers around the globe, scheduling them to lead us in this powerful gesture to breathe each morning. I’ve signed up for a 30 Day Backbend Challenge with over a 100 of you, and together over Facebook, we are guiding, correcting, supporting and sharing our experiences to learn and grow together in a way that I would never have imagined!

Michele and sister Sheri

Michele and her sister Sheri play Scrabble.

And I have learned so much more about YOU, members!  I have seen your bathrooms become yoga rooms, and your bedroom walls become your backbend practice area. I have met your cats and dogs, and I have seen more of our male members bake – blueberry loafs, Bundt cakes, pies, and more!

Personally, I’ve had a chance to walk – a lot. To play Lionel Richie and Bob Seger tunes while cooking with my sister, to learn new words in games of Scrabble (did you know that ‘Hix’ and ‘Quip’ are words?!). I have gotten to FaceTime with friends and family without an agenda – just to say hello.

In this time, BYSJ is revealing to me more of what self-realization is! It doesn’t come in “I ought to” or scheduled activities. And it’s our yoga practice that’s led me here: prompting me to be present, aware and still. Not a stillness where I don’t move, but a stillness of moving with the flow of life that I have in front of me – no resistance, and a joy that keeps me confident and trusting that this process “is what it is” – right and even good. And members, this is here for you to recognize, too!

Can you believe that the angel card that I picked this year was “kindness?” I’ve never in my 20 years of picking angel cards, picked this one. I recall my initial thoughts and naturally said, “yes, I can be more kind.” But, if you’ve picked angel cards like me before, you know the word is never at all what you think it might mean. I’m amazed at how fitting this word is now in our world today as we see on TV, hear such stories and even in our own experience the amount of kindness being extended to all human beings across the globe. It’s a reflection of that natural spirit we have within us shining brighter in the absence of our selfish ways.

However, the word ‘kind’ also means ‘similar in character,’ like a kind of wine, a kind of school, or mankind. Add ‘ness’ to it and you’ve emphasized the quality of that word: kindness! We are one kind and 2020 is strengthening our resolve to KNOW that.

Yes, I’m breathing AND I’m breathing the same as you.

With love, Michele Vennard

Michele with her cat

Jack the cat and Michele, in communion.