I was so grateful to have 2010 Yoga Champions Brandy and Kasper visiting our studio a few weeks ago. Thank you members! I constantly get feedback from our visitors about just how special our students are, how beautiful the studio is and how refreshing it is for them to visit a place that offers true Bikram Yoga practiced in the right way. Brandy and Kasper were especially taken with all of you, and as I talked with many of you and read your emails, you too were taken with them as well. I shared with a class I taught recently, that one reason I invite people like Brandy and Kasper to come to our studio is to show that despite being champions, they too, are really just like you and me. The single most common phrase I heard from students about Brandy and Kasper was how “down to earth” they both are. True. What’s different is that they have practiced a whole lot more than you and I to get to where they are today.

In the presence of any champion in a field, you can learn so much. Just the visual of how they move, talk and perform their talent causes a reaction within you if you are paying attention. For me, I noticed how they related to themselves and how they related to others. Both Brandy and Kasper will tell you stories of what it was like to train for this competition. Both of them, while very different, chose to make sacrifices to put extra time and effort into practicing more with the use of mentors, coaches and credible training techniques. This is not unusual for anyone competing; however what I heard from Brandy and Kasper was their lack of self-judgment about the struggles they had to overcome while training. You may have noticed how calm they were when they chose to work through hurt neck or torn intercostal muscles. They both seemed to carry a positive attitude about themselves at all times, and regardless of the situation thrown at them they always adjusted with grace. In addition, they related to each person in their presence with honest interest and warmth. Their winnings became a benefit to all of us as they unselfishly gave of their knowledge and their wisdom. Winning wasn’t the prize, it’s what they achieved along the way.

Kyle, our photographer and videographer, of Hands On Photography, was kind enough to video each of their demonstrations and much of the question and answer period that followed. Click on the thumbnail below to see their demonstrations and additional video on our website. You’ll be glad you made the time to watch and listen.

Winning is contagious. However, winning can also have negative connotations too as we can fall into ambitious tendencies that may take us out of balance in all areas of our lives. We often lose sight of the life in front of us. However, the winning I would like to discuss is the kind that optimizes our potential. The type of winners I’m talking about are self-aware, eager to learn, sensitive to their surroundings, maintain integrity, and push limits at a pace that allows for exploring physical, mental and spiritual depths to create a better life; a better human being. I’m lucky to get to see this in the studio all the time. As the owner, I am fortunate enough to get to know some of you and share your profound stories of change. Like the champions and their remarkable sense of character and abilities to persevere and stretch beyond any odds against them, you too have shown these same qualities too.

Congratulations to our 60 Day Challengers! Congratulations to BYSJ member, Amelia! Amelia made a decision to come back and take the yoga every day after having been gone for years! She finished the challenge and still has not stopped. Congratulations to Matt. He has twins and a baby on the way and fell short by 16 days. He didn’t give up and did all those doubles to finish on time. Members on our staff too, with other responsibilities outside the yoga, managed to create time and energy to complete 60 consecutive days. A special congrats to our Work-trade Warriors lead by Jennifer Hohman, BYSJ weekend supervisor. Not only did Jen finish the challenge and lead her group to the finish line but championed something even more: Jennifer has had a burning desire to become a Bikram Yoga teacher, and over the last year has made initiatives to make this dream a reality. Like our champions Brandy and Kasper, she too, preserved and did the homework necessary to do something even when the odds against her were slim to none. She applied for a scholarship to attend this fall’s teacher training. What was super inspiring to watch was Jen’s complete conviction and confidence that this is going to happen. Like a champion, she didn’t judge the hurdles ahead of her, she soaked up the process and conquered the steps one at a time. Like all of you on the challenge, like all of us who take class, like Brandy and Kasper, at some point, we hand it over. We give “up” – up to something greater than the skills we possess. It’s daunting to think about 16 doubles, it’s overwhelming to come in the class when it’s 100 degrees outside, and it’s nerve racking to know you’ve done all you can and now it’s out of your control. That extra step of letting go and letting God (or wherever your faith may be) into the process is huge and represents growth in our spiritual maturity. Jennifer got accepted! We wish her and BYSJ member, Yuka Sugiura blessings as they embark on nine weeks of training so they can come back to stand on our podium and lead us through our practice!

What made this challenge more fun was creating teams. It was optional, but, even if you weren’t on a team, you could feel and perhaps feed off of the support team members extended to one another. Big congratulations to team members who took two classes back-to-back at 5:30 and then again at 7:15 – whoa! It’s enough to see individuals rise to another level within themselves but what a surprise and even more inspiring to watch members take care of each other. That is true service, putting aside some of your own self-benefit for the good of a group. It shows me that we’ve really grown in the study of our selves:improving self-awareness, health and wellbeing, self-appreciation, and self-love, and now have taken our studies beyond ourselves to include an awareness of what is in the greater good! I recall Bikram sipping his tea, sitting on his throne at one of his nightly lectures, tell us that true friendship (or service) is not only helping that friend climb to the same rung on the ladder as you but giving them that boost to step up to the one above you. It will be an honor to award our first team trophy! Don’t miss out. Come Saturday, September 25 at 6:30 pm.

Dr. Denis Waitley, author and motivational speaker, wrote The Psychology of Winning, which is heavily influenced by Earl Nightingale, his mentor, and also a motivational speaker on personal development. In the book, he talks about Earl Nightingale’s trip to the Great Barrier Reef. There was a noticeable difference in how the coral on the inside of the reef, where the sea was quiet and more still, was more pale and lifeless while the coral on the outside of the reef, subject to the surge of the tide and power of the waves, were bright and vibrant with splendid colors and flowing growth. Earl, inquisitive as to why, was told that the coral on the lagoon-side dies rapidly with no challenge for growth and survival, while the coral facing the current and open sea, thrives and multiplies because it is challenged and tested every day! And so it is with every living organism.

I love that. Be hungry. Stay challenged. Be curious about what’s in you. Discoveries happen all the time. If you’ve seen me practice lately, you might notice that I am having a difficult time. I don’t drink water in class at all and over the years have minimized any distractions. In fact, I choose to use a white towel only and regular mat. It’s just my thing to stay pure with no extra decoration. I was sharing with our BYSJ teacher Chris Gray that I have this intense feeling in my head, like oxygen just can’t get in there, like some sort of block that at first makes me feel dizzy and eventually, I want to pass out – literally. The yoga over the years has made me, like you, more of a witness to my practice and I am able to be with this feeling to the extent that I can and sort of interview it. What happens during the class, I was saying to Chris, is that I have a moment where there’s a rush. The energy in my head rushes like rapids crashing down a river and then I feel almost euphoric. Physically, I must have opened a path to better circulation. As Chris saw it, he thought it was a great way to look at life: noticing the blocks that were there, no air, no life, and once the obstacles were removed, a state of bliss. I know I carry emotional baggage. You carry emotional baggage. For me, I thought this was all a great discovery and perhaps more of that euphoric feeling is on the other side of my suffering.

I recently saw the film, Eat Pray Love. I read the book and bought several copies for all my friends to read. It’s a true story about a woman who leaves her comfortable, successful life with friends and a good marriage to find her spiritual self. If you haven’t read it, please do. The movie is good, but as usual the book is better and is hilarious. Elizabeth, the writer, is so funny and you will laugh out loud. In summary, she takes a year off and spends four months in Italy learning Italian and eating gelato, and then four months at an Ashram in India and then the last four of her yearlong journey in Bali with a medicine doctor. Julia Roberts portrays Elizabeth in the movie. Italy is fabulous and establishes her sense of freedom within herself. You can see her become more carefree. Italians just love life with no regard to schedule or stress. However, at the Ashram where things are more internal, subdued and minimal, Elizabeth can’t turn to gelato or friends for release, and must subject herself to the rules of the Ashram. She is up early each morning chanting. She scrubs the temple floor as a way of volunteering her service and repeats this chore every day. At the end, before she leaves for Bali, her heart now more open, full of new self awareness; her discipline to stay the course of the ritual tasks each day awakens in her a discovery: “God dwells within us as us; that God dwells within me as me.” Yes, what a great discovery Elizabeth! May our visiting guests, our BYSJ 60 Day challenges serve as examples of avenues to continual discovery. That’s winning!