Making good wine comes from vines that have been distressed. In France, the vintners purposely walk around and throw gravel at the grapevines that are thriving. They push the gravel into the soil, giving that vine a chance to toil, to become exquisite with grapes that make the most distinctive wine.

It’s an interesting metaphor that parallels other ideas: the pressure needed to polish rock into a diamond; without enough “fight” a caterpillar in its chrysalis can’t become a butterfly. And even conflict, with it, really great relationships can be made.

Contrast is the mother of clarity.

Bikram Yoga is like that. The teachers with our dialog are throwing gravel at you to push into your soil. They help you refine, rubbing up against that which you are and that which you are not – blossoming the lotus out of the mud.

It’s been 17 years as a community and almost 22 since I started this yoga. Not a day has gone by since then that I haven’t witnessed this transformation from mud to lotus in countless people I’ve come across over the years. I don’t take any of it for granted and thank the Lord for eyes that see and a heart that stays humble, enabling more self-realization.

My start in yoga was 1998 after four long years of watching my young mom die of Alzheimer’s. Dreadful. The feeling of loss was overwhelming, stirring up strange emotions of abandonment, loneliness, guilt, shame, anger, confusion, and uncertainty. These things roll off my tongue because I still experience them now, but with much less intensity.

Bikram yoga gave me the gravel needed to prune these emotions and behaviors off of me just enough to acknowledge their wisdom, but only if I disengaged from their power over me. So instead, what I could start to look at and know was my self. Thus the real question arose, “who am I?” My journey began.

I made my decision to open a yoga studio soon after I started yoga. There was a calling in me that is hard to explain as I look back. A book entitled The Call by Os Guiness, states that a call has to have a Caller, and this Call becomes the center or compass of your life, to which you have a responsibility.

In Fall 2001, I went to teacher training, knowing I was going to leave my plush corporate restaurant life and open a yoga studio combining my skills, and now my passion, for this Call. With my teaching certificate and drawings in hand, I went to Bikram for his approval, as it was required back in those days. My good faith handshake with Bikram sealed my dream, as I now had both the privilege and an obligation to carry out this yoga in the way in which it was taught to me, using a scripted dialog; in 90 minutes; in a hot and humid room; with carpet and lights on. That was how it was then, and that’s how it is now.

I didn’t buy Bikram’s behavior or anyone’s behavior. I didn’t buy anything other than the training of this lineage that came through Bikram and other various places, including his Guru, his Guru’s Guru, his Guru’s Guru’s Guru, and so on.

Three members pose at the fountain in the lobby.
Members listen to Michele at the anniversary party.

The more I do yoga, the more fascinated I am by it. We can all use it, but to have it is elusive. Its mightiness is evident when we surrender to its power in recreating the Self. It loves to show us our true nature and will support us when we are authentic, open, and honest. It won’t comply if we attempt to control, own, or abuse what it is. At times, I wonder if the Me Too movement was the result of the millions of people doing yoga getting what we ask for in our practice – truth. The yoga has no discrimination – it all comes out, the dark and the light.

It’s “Holy,” which means “other.”

It’s a beautiful and reverent application that helps dislodge impurities. It’s not so ironic that even this yoga, Bikram Yoga, can’t be owned by its namesake – Bikram himself. It truly lives in one place: inside you and me, in the divine space we discover through it.

Years ago, Jessica started this great idea; that members acknowledge one word that represents BYSJ. From those words, she made a BYSJ heart graphic that has now become a part of our branding. Now that a few years have passed, she asked for your words once again. All the words are insightful and inspiring to read and hear. One word that came up this year was unusual and spot-on – salvation. It comes from the Greek word, “Sozo” meaning, “to make whole again.”


Notice the word “again” because “whole” is what you always were. Yoga, you’ve heard it many times, is a healing modality. Yoga = Heal. Simple, and as teacher Sarah would say, “think of it.”

For 17 years, BYSJ has met you where you are at providing you with the tools and an atmosphere to “Sozo” – make whole again. 

We’ve done so alongside each other, confronting our demons while in a bubble of warmth, love, and support. Our inclusivity sheds differences, and concerning privacy, we can comfortably struggle to address behaviors that the mirror in front of us won’t tolerate. The yoga will fix you if you practice with frequency, intensity, and consistency. BYSJ will be your rock of stability only with its freedom from judgment, with our compassion, and genuine interest in your well-being. One primary reason we are so successful as a community is because we neither condemn nor praise, giving you the freedom and security you need to do your work. What we celebrate is your progress on your path.

BYSJ harvests Righteousness because it stands on those same principles it started on 17 years ago. To change it into anything else would disengage us from The Call of which this all came to be. It would deny the testimony of thousands who have healed from this yoga, AND this place since January 2003.

So, here we are. BYSJ 3.0. We started in a 900 square foot yoga room, exploding at the seams trying to fit 60 people in each class. Then we moved to the Taj Mahal of studios with 7,000 square feet and finally moved here to a glorious yoga studio with the best yoga room in the world. Yes, it’s smaller. What we have lost in size, we gain in quality. What we gave up in size, we make up in longevity, guaranteeing our future for another 10-year lease. What we lose in space, we strengthen in character and depth. You, as a community, have walked this path with me, being financially unstable, losing a friend and manager to brain cancer, weathering the tide of the Bikram Choudhury lawsuits, and the stress of changing into a new home yet again. And so, I say again, here we are.

I don’t see bricks and mortar, drama or fear, lack or uncertainty, ego, or pretty things. I see love, compassion, joy, gratitude, honor, excellence, fellowship, and belonging. I also see your strength. It’s not just me that has had to stand up to adversity; it’s all of you in perhaps having to clarify why you continue to practice this yoga and even why you continue to practice here. I know why. Your peers here know why.

Your allegiance to the practice of this yoga is the foundation BYSJ is built upon.

Your perseverance to this practice that heals humanity outshines the confusion and contradiction around the creator of this practice. If there was ever a time for you to stand firm, to distill your beliefs – it’s in this momentous hour. Dare I say that you, the students that make up our BYSJ community, can help right wrongs by showing up and doing your practice. The truth is this yoga works.

I’m so grateful for the trust you have in me. This year, I’m also turning it around – I am so grateful for the trust I have in you. Thank you.