How did you first discover Bikram yoga?
My oldest daughter and I were looking for an activity to do together. She was working, teaching 6th grade, and I teach high school. We wanted to make time for each other in our busy schedules. We tried a tap dancing class, but it did not go well. We tried out yoga at another studio first; we were the only two people in the class. We both felt that the teacher was just making up stuff to see if we could do it. Even so, we liked it so we decided to try a studio close by and showed up to BYSJ on Mother’s Day. The studio had been open for four months. Holly was our first teacher.
What have you gained from your yoga practice?
I have gained stamina, muscle strength, a healthy lifestyle, time to focus on myself, and above all, a cheerful, welcoming and encouraging community to begin my day with. I started practicing at BYSJ when I was forty-six years old. I was a former competitive swimmer growing up, and enjoyed martial arts, aerobics and finally stuck with running for exercise as an adult. In spite of my efforts, I was not strong. My feet were so sore after work each night that it felt like I was walking on nails. My hands ached so much that I had trouble turning on the bathtub faucet and my back was simply out most of the time. One spring, my neck became so stiff and sore from working on my grades on the computer that it did not stop hurting until August, when I went on our family vacation at the beach. I hardly noticed getting stronger when I first started the practice. It happened gradually over a long time. The result has been that I can now enjoy my big family and my students, much, much more.
What has been your greatest struggle or accomplishment?
Over the years there have been times when I had to stop practicing for one reason or another. My greatest struggle is when I feel like I lose my momentum and have to start over because of an injury. Right now I am struggling with my right leg. It is the result of a damaged nerve due to a herniated disk I suffered two years ago. When I am standing on my right leg, it feels like I am standing on a pile of sand. The back on my leg has numb spots all the way down to my toes. My neurologist told me that there are three levels of nerve damage: pain, sensory and motor. I am between pain and sensory. She said that in her opinion the best thing to do is to keep doing the yoga. I have noticed that when I stop, for even a week, I tend to favor my right leg and lose the muscle strength surprisingly quickly.
What advice would you give to new students or those struggling with their practice?
Keep an open mind and really listen to the words the teachers are saying. Even if you have heard them three hundred times, try to pretend you are hearing them for the first time. For example, last winter I finally listened to “your back is supposed to hurt”. I had always avoided postures that hurt my back. If my back did hurt during a posture then I did not do it a second time. But one day Matt told the story of the woman who hurt her back and ended up in a very bad way when all she needed to do was stretch it and strengthen it. Then another day I came in with a hurting back and Sarah told me to do all of the postures anyway. She explained that all of the postures in our beginning series are the natural way your body is supposed to move. So I did them all. Because, honestly, when Sarah tells me to do something, I do it. I learned that 100% of the time if the posture hurts me when I do it the first time, it doesn’t hurt at all the second time!! That was a huge revelation to me. After fourteen years I finally listened to something that I had heard every single day. Thank you, Sarah (Matt and Sarah teach more 5:30 classes, I think, than anyone else right now, but a great big thanks to Yi Ting, Jenn, Amelia, Kelly, Lee, and everyone else who gets up early to hang with us.)
What do you like to do outside of yoga?
I like to spend time with my family. I have a large family complete with grandchildren. Some of them are far away in SoCal, but I am fortunate that they welcome my visits and they come up and visit me from time to time. When we all get together there are fourteen of us and it’s a party. Sometimes we get to laughing so hard our faces and bellies hurt. They bring me so much joy. Every moment I spend with my children is like a present. I am grateful that three of my daughters are still close by and we do lots of everyday stuff together. I get to go shopping with them, go to breakfast, or we just hang out at home and watch movies and TV. Sometimes, I get to drag them to the studio and they even do the yoga with me.