Student Story: Vivian

Why did you start practicing Bikram yoga and how long have you been practicing?
I started practicing yoga later in my life (in my 30s) for a number of reasons; my mom had taken me to a hatha yoga class when I was in grade school and while I was terrible at it, I loved the savasana at the end and it planted a seed in me that told me I would need and love yoga later on in my life. Later, in my 20s, I was living in Park Slope, swimming at the nearby branch of the Y for an hour a day which I loved, however when I moved to Prospect Heights in 2003, the Y was inconvenient to get to regularly. One day I walked into the Flatbush Bikram studio, and I just loved it immediately. I enjoy all kinds of yoga but at that time, my wrists were very weak and downward dog was painful; the Bikram method was great because it didn’t have that.  The Flatbush studio was close to where I lived and it’s always been important that my workout place be nearby otherwise, I know I won’t go.

How has your practice affected your life?
I like to say that it cures suicidal tendencies (and homicidal ones, too!).  But seriously, this yoga method really is wonderful for putting things in perspective and clearing your mind and body of interference, negative thoughts, and general worry.  Also, as a musician, I use my body a lot and I find the practice to be essential as a restorative therapy for holding your arms up asymmetrically with an instrument that weighs 8 pounds around your neck for 6 hours a day.

What keeps you coming back for more?
I always feel better after class, no matter how the class itself goes.  If I’m worried or confused about something in my life and I can’t stop worrying about it and trying to figure it out, I notice that after class, even though nothing has changed, I feel more confident and empowered to keep working to figure out a positive solution.  Also, I really like the community of people at the Lefferts studio, which I still go to even though now it’s a mile and a half away.

Do you have any advice/insight for new yogis?
The main advice I have for new yogis is to breathe, listen, and be patient.  Most importantly, do not force postures; if you cannot maintain your calm breath, then leave a posture out and stand in mountain savasana. Breathe and stay as still as possible.  Our tendency in this competitive world is to only hear the teacher when they say, “push”, but not hear them tell us to maintain calm and focused breath. I often see new students huffing and dramatically trying to make every pose and I want to tell them that I’ve “candy-assed” my way through some classes, only doing one set of every posture because I’m too tired or sick and at the end, as long as I maintained a calm focus on my breath, I will still feel as great as if I’d “kicked butt” on every posture.


NEW! Monthly Nutrition Salon: Late Summer Eating

Bikram Yoga Park Slope is pleased to present a new series of articles focused on encouraging more healthful living through food …. something we all need and love! Nancy Campbell gives us her seasonal tips for our first installment:

The seasons have a profound cyclical effect on human growth and well-being. We are highly influenced by our annual climatic changes; Consider fall’s shorter days and longer nights, the brittle winter cold, and the glory of the first spring sun. For many of us who continue living life at the same speed and eating the same diet year-round, these shifts in season can easily make us sick, trigger allergies, and amplify seasonal affective disorder. By living in harmony with the seasons through our diet and activities we can weather the shifts in temperature without getting sick or feeling run down.

Consider where we are now . . . August and September represent a fifth season agrarian societies and the Chinese call Late Summer. In these traditional agrarian cultures and in the principles of the Chinese Five Elements, Late Summer has been considered the peak of the crop season and a time of minimal toil. Activity is meant to be effortless so our days can flourish with ease and tranquility. Since late summer is the transition from the bright intensity of spring and summer to the darker and quieter fall and winter, it gives us a moment to catch our breath before the preparations for winter get us moving again.

This seasonal transition asks us to be sensitive to our needs – our emotional, physical, and spiritual needs – for the colder months ahead. It may seem crazy to prepare in August for the seasonal allergies October brings or to worry now about winter’s depression. Yet, as our ancestors have reminded us, it isn’t crazy at all. This preparation one of the healthiest things we can do to take care of ourselves.

As we merge into fall, our days will soon get shorter, crops will get heartier, and our appetites for richer, more complex foods will ripen. The days will be warm for a while, but our evenings will soon get colder. If we resist these seasonal changes by plowing through the fall at the same speed and on the same light, raw diet we have enjoyed this summer, we stretch ourselves thin, we challenge our digestive system, and the strength of our vitality and immunity cannot be sustained. Welcome flu season!

Right now getting fresh, seasonal, and local food is as easy as joining the studio’s Farmigo CSA service. Our plates should be filled with simple ingredients that honor the season’s bounty: fresh vegetables lightly sautéed, steamed, grilled or broiled to reveal their natural sweetness. Ancient grains such as millet, quinoa and amaranth should be coupled with sweet yellow and orange squash, carrots, peaches, apricots, corn, and yams.

As we approach fall, our diet should gradually be filled with ingredients that are more fully-cooked or baked, letting go of the raw and cooler foods that nourished us all summer. Root vegetables and winter squash will soon share space with hearty greens like kale and brussels sprouts. Fruit will get heartier too, and may even be cooked as we plunge into the apple and pear season.

Again, living in sync with seasons these next few months means that we allow our bodies to begin to slow down and to stay warm as the days get shorter and cooler. Simultaneously, if we encourage easeful digestion with hearty, cooked foods this fall, our immune systems will be more robust and primed for the cold winter months ahead. As resistance to changing your diet shows up and you’re screaming, “This is crazy. I’m way too busy!”  I will pose the question . . . How do you lead a fulfilling life if it’s spent sick, sluggish, and allergy prone?

To learn more and get practical “how to’s” for eating in sync with the seasons, join me for a free workshop and cooking demo at:

BYPS Lefferts Avenue Studio

Tuesday, September 22nd at 7 pm.

About Nancy Campbell, M.S., Culinary Nutritionist: Nancy combines her training in nutrition and integrative health with a masters of urban planning, and over a decade of professional culinary experience in her nutrition practice, Radiant Health NYC.  She supports her clients to redefine how they eat, build culinary skills, and fine-tune their pantries so they can feel amazing in their skin AND in the kitchen. She can be found at:

Pranayama: Standing Deep Breathing

This month we are releasing one posture per week to lead you through the 26 + 2 Bikram yoga series. We know many of you are away over the summer — we miss you over the holiday and look forward to seeing you when you are back! In the mean time, use these videos to support your practice when you find yourself away from your home studio.

Some benefits of Pranayama breathing:

  • Encourages mental relaxation
  • Supports good blood pressure and circulation
  • Improves conditions of the lungs – increasing lung capacity

We would love to hear what Pranayama does for you! Share with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Erin & Rafael

Salsa Party: July 10

On July 10th we are bringing the salsa party to our Lefferts yoga studio. Take the 8 p.m. class with Roody to music and bust a move on the yoga dance floor afterwards! BYPS teacher Erin and her husband Rafael will be there to get the party started.

Rafael will be teaching the entire Beginner Class so please come even if you have no experience or a partner. Rafael owns a salsa dance school in his home town of Santiago de Cuba and he is very good at what he does…i.e. he’s totally used to teaching non-cubans how to dance! Read more of Erin’s story below about how she became a yoga teacher and met the love of her life on the dance floor.

What’s your yoga origin story?

I started practicing Bikram Yoga in Jan 1999 in San Francisco at Mary Jarvis’ Studio (which I randomly found in the yellow pages of the phone book.. when we still used phone books). I got into it as a way to stretch after long bike rides while I was training for the California AIDS Ride. I quickly started doing more yoga and less cycling. I expressed to Mary that I wanted to become a teacher. At the time I was working for a mental health clinic in SF and my goal was to incorporate yoga into the counseling and crisis work we were doing. She was very supportive. I went to training in December 2001 (thats where I met Roody). I taught for Mary for a year before moving to Brooklyn and teaching at various studios around NYC. I began teaching for Roody in May of 2003 and I’ve been with him since.

When I moved to New York, initially I was working as a social worker at a nursing facility for people with an AIDS, mental health and substance abuse issues. I also taught Yoga in this facility, while continuing to teach yoga at Roody’s studio. I went to nursing school 7 years ago and became an Oncology nurse. Now I teach various postures and breathing exercises to my patients while coaching them through the cancer treatment. Being a nurse also serves my yoga teaching. My knowledge of anatomy, physiology and disease process fuels my teaching and my drive to assist people in taking care of themselves…to practice preventative medicine.

Because I am in two caring professions, the yoga is vital to my own self-care. I HAVE to do it in order keep my body strong, my back healthy and my mind clear. It is impossible to care for others properly if we do not care for ourselves first. I would have burnt out long ago if not for my own practice.

When and why did you start dancing salsa?

I started dancing Salsa in 2013. I had been to Cuba once before and when I returned to Brooklyn I vowed to learn how to dance. I was fed up standing on the wall watching everyone else have fun. I started taking classes here in NYC and in 2013 I set up a “dance boot camp” trip for myself as a birthday gift. I met my husband on that trip at his salsa school in Santiago de Cuba.

What are the parallels between dance and yoga?

In yoga you have to focus on your self and build a better connection with your own body. In Salsa, you have to focus on your partner and build a connection with them. If you take your focus off your partner, the connection is broken and you can lose your step or balance. Same in yoga… if I break my focus in a balancing posture, I can break my connection and lose my balance. Salsa, like yoga, is a moving meditation that requires you to stay in the present moment. And of course, if you hold your breath in either activity, you will lose your endurance. I have to remind myself to breath while I am dancing just like in yoga.

Finally, both yoga and dance are challenging and it’s easy to get frustrated and give up in the beginning. We have to be patient as we stumble, trip, lose our balance or melt into a puddle on the floor, but step by step we learn, create a new muscle memory and then succeed.

There is no better feeling than accomplishing something we never thought we were capable of doing.


Liberation Prison Yoga

Join our next benefit class on Friday, December 5th at 7 p.m.

Mats and towels will be free. Suggested donation is $20. All proceeds will go directly to Liberation Prison Yoga. This is a silent class to music so get ready to party!

Refreshments are provided afterwards in our beautiful new space and instructor Saya Ishii Velazquez will be selling and signing her new book, Yoga Baby.

507 Flatbush Avenue, 2nd Floor. B, Q, S train to Prospect Park or B41 to Lincoln Rd.

What does Liberation Prison Yoga do?

  • Serves jails and prisons in New York City and State bringing trauma sensitive yoga and empowerment programs to incarcerated women, men and youth (16+),  and trains yoga instructors to work inside the prison system.
  • Has 19 weekly programs in three NYC jails and two NY state prisons.
  • Works with 22 volunteer yoga instructors,  many with backgrounds in social work and psychology, who use the trauma-sensitive approach while sharing their yoga style. Each class is comprised of hatha yoga and meditation. Some programs also include discussion, free-flow writing or other healing modalities.

For more information, please visit their website and check out their Facebook page too