I started practicing Ashtanga yoga on a mat next to my older brother’s when I was a toddler and I giggled through my first several years of practice because we thought the chanting of “Om Shanti” was hysterical. My mother and grandmother belonged to an ashram in Long Island, so we were around yogis often. I practiced sparsely throughout my childhood and teens, but mostly took up equestrian riding and other sports.
I returned to (Bikram) yoga in high school and college but really began my daily practice in 2009 when I moved back to the States from a year abroad. The philosophy of yoga is one that has been a familiar thread throughout my life, but no other practice has transformed my mind (and as a result, my body) like Bikram yoga. My athletically disciplined mind became more determined than ever. My self love and artistic creativity expanded 100 times over. Compassion for others had always been important to me and I loved that my Bikram practice fed that. I physically felt like I could do anything. I started canceling social plans so I could take class… I was hooked!
Becoming a Bikram teacher has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest lessons and gifts Bikram Yoga has given me. I continue to learn and be inspired through teaching. Making note of how this yoga has changed my life would be an extremely long list, which would definitely lose the attention of those reading this! What I believe to be more powerful is how I have seen this yoga transform my students. I have seen those who have been disempowered by traumatic physical and emotional circumstances in their life take their power back, literally by the sweat of their brow. I have seen self esteem blossom and kindness grow where resentment once was. I have seen tremendous efforts and strides made towards patience, empathy, understanding, and acceptance of not only individuals, but of the group.
Our Bikram Yoga Park Slope community is incredibly special and the only proof you need is right in the locker rooms! The encouragement that happens from veteran students to newcomers over a shower after a killer classes is heartwarming. The bonds made over students navigating through tough personal issues while having their yogi friends to encourage them and their practice to ground them has been among the most special things to witness as a teacher.
BYPS has become home to so many, and I am SO proud to call it my yoga home. The only advice I have for new students is to drink plenty of water in preparation for class and just get to class! Then come back, even if it’s hard! Oh, and please don’t wear cotton, it makes you feel sooo much hotter. We have that part taken care of for you 😉 My last tip is paraphrased from Bikram himself: Let nothing steal your peace. You are infinitely stronger than you think you are. Never, ever give up.
photo: Monica Felix