Happy Anniversary BYSJ. It seems fitting to celebrate an Anniversary after celebrating the holidays. It was the first time in years that I went home to Chicago to visit my sister and her family. Growing up in the Midwest was challenging, especially with regard to the weather, which was a major reason I left that area. But, on this trip I filtered out the wind chill factor and instead felt more of the warm, heartfelt connection of family and friends. It was beautiful to witness the close-knit relationships my sister and her family have built over the years, not just with me but with their neighbors, kid’s coaches, teachers, friends they grew up with, co-workers of past employers and more. It was a moving experience how well they knew each other, no matter how much time had passed. I see it now as a form of community.

My mother passed away 11 years ago and one of her favorite holidays was Christmas. She made so much food and was famous for the abundant variety of sweets she would make to ensure that there was something for everyone. My sister carries on that tradition to the last detail – when I first arrived, we sat at her decorated dining table viewing the inches of fresh snow piling up outside her bay windows eating lemon bread, apple pie, frying pan cookies and peanut butter bon-bons. Tradition. Not only was this a welcoming gesture for her big sister but a token of kindness that happens all the time in her “community.” Neighbors exchange cookies, babysitters come over to have some holiday goodies, and even other family members come in from out of town and get plates of food wrapped to take home with them. Not that this is unusual behavior but I felt something very endearing about it which seemed to inform other aspects of their lives like watching local sports on TV together, attending a nephew’s basketball game or calling up friends and family to arrange to see the latest blockbuster movie together. These are important rituals. It’s “community” Mid-West style.

When you walk into my sister’s home, you immediately notice all the photos she has everywhere, of people and events – past and present. I mean everywhere: on bookshelves, the refrigerator, any available wall space, even the bathroom. Not just of relatives but friends as well, old and new: a storybook of experiences of the last four decades put together to create tradition. The same rituals year after year carry the same content but gain more meaning as time goes by. I felt it being in her house. While I don’t visit often, I felt very included in the “community.” I felt special being a small part of their traditional ways. This human connection was also a very yogic connection as it felt very non-separate with a genuine interest in each other’s well-being. There is a collective history there which harvests, a wealth of growth for each on their journey. The result is a feeling of Oneness.

BYSJ open January 19th, 2003. Over the years, we too, have created a similarly colorful tapestry of experiences and connections. In the seven years of our history, we’ve introduced yoga to over 17,000 people. We’ve doubled the number of classes scheduled, brought in over four dozen teachers, added staff and created events that have blossomed over the years to become a part of our brand: the 60 Day Challenge; the Anniversary Party; Charitable Holiday Gift Giving; Posture Clinics and more including the York Peppermint Patties, the fresh cut and arranged flowers, the almonds, the inspirational quotes in the bathrooms – even to the way we sign in. All of this also adds up to rituals in our BYSJ community – tradition. We, too, have a collective history. We, too, have harvested a wealth of experience together resulting in Oneness.

In the last year alone, we’ve welcomed over 2300 new students. We’ve introduced yoga to kids and our most recent class brought in the most kids ever. We have welcomed dozens of new babies over the years and in the last year worked to establish routine pregnancy seminars for new moms. The 60 Day Challenge continues to expand bringing in more and more participants each year with well over 100 students on the tracking board January 2009. Over the years, a few members from BYSJ competed in the yoga competition (now in its seventh year) led by our own yoga champion, Cynthia Wehr. This year we have 13 members competing in the Regional Competition – the most of any studio. All of this tradition is threaded together by you, our colorful group of students of all shapes, backgrounds and sizes. Our community is a sight to behold and admire.

I live in the area so it is not uncommon for me to bump into many of you around town. It’s nice to see you all dressed up (and not so sweaty ☺) especially when you how yoga has changed your life. How often the very reason you started yoga is no longer the reason you continue to come back. That there was something answered and something more discovered. I know it is not easy. Being in that hot room doing intense postures is flat-out hard. Even looking at yourself in the mirror for those long 90 minutes is hard. But-you do it and you do it gladly in spite of the suffering. Our ritual of pain is also a ritual of joy for us. It’s Tradition as I define it now because it won’t change. It will keep going.

Be met with smiles and know that you matter here. This is so much more than exercise. It’s a feeling of confidence, a place where you can be exactly who you are – it’s a coming home to ourselves. Show up to heal, show up to sweat, show up to grow. Be supported in making positive changes in your life with the best yoga available and watch the same life you’ve lived, become more of the life you’ve imagined. Join our vibrant inclusive community and add your smile to ours. Welcome to Bikram Yoga San Jose.

Let’s keep our flower petal blooming. Continue to empower me with your feedback. Continue to inspire each other with your practice. Continue to spread the yoga with your character. Our responsibility as a collective whole is to bring more into the yoga practice. We don’t need to be persuasive. We just need to be examples. Our tradition is special because it is all inclusive.

Thank you for your extra patience during this busy time at the studio. It’s exciting to see so many new people and so many new challengers starting their 60 consecutive days. The energy is electric despite some of the sacrifices we make when classes are full. Hopefully, you will enjoy as I do the feeling the energy of those around me knowing they too have their own story and despite the differences in our bow pulling posture, we are very much the same.

Here is to another great year of tradition.
–Michele Vennard