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Teacher Feature: Maura Duignan

I started practicing Bikram Yoga in February 2009 after struggling with a hip injury from running the NYC marathon.  I instantly fell in love with the practice.  The combination of the heat with the 26 postures and two breathing exercises worked very well for me.  After practicing regularly for three months, my hip improved dramatically. That was one of the many changes that occurred in my life.  I also improved physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Both my personal and professional life changed for the better. I reconnected with myself on several different levels.  This practice helps me each day to be the best person I can be and I try to find out something new about myself each class.

I decided I wanted to share my love for this yoga with others and help people gain all the benefits this practice can provide. I decided to go to teacher training in spring 2012 and I am so happy that I did. Teaching brings me tremendous joy and I love connecting with all my students and helping them to change their life for the better.  The energy my students give me and seeing their hard work and dedication is very inspiring.  Being a Bikram yoga teacher and helping people achieve their goals pushed me to follow my dream to go back to graduate school to receive my Master’s degree in Social Work. I am so thankful to be part of the Bikram community and am excited for what is ahead!

What year did you attend training? Why did you go?

I went to training in spring 2012 (in Los Angeles) to become a Bikram yoga teacher so I could help others gain the benefits from the practice and help them improve their lives.

What is your favorite thing about being a Bikram Yoga instructor?

I love my schedule and having recurring students. I am able to develop a connection with the students in my class and I find joy in seeing their progress as students.

Tell us about your own practice. Which posture is most challenging for you and how do you get through it?

Several postures are challenging for me. When I first started practicing I had very little patience with myself. I work very hard today to be in the moment and focus on the posture that I am doing at that moment. I focus on alignment now and performing the posture the correct way. It has been 7 years and there are certainly days where I let my ego creep in and forgot about being in the moment and my mind wanders. But each day I try my best

Outside of yoga, what projects are you involved with? What do you do for fun?

I work for a Wealth & Asset Management team at a bank, I go to school part time to receive my Master’s in Social Work, I teach bikram yoga, I practice bikram yoga, I do something active every day, I am trying to get better at tennis, I love going out to eat, I am getting married in September, I love to travel to new places, I try to cook a new recipe each week, and I spend as much time with my family and friends as I can! Bikram yoga helps to keep me calm and centered to do the things that I love.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or saying?

“If you don’t mind, it don’t matter” – my father. I say this to myself a lot when I feel myself getting overwhelmed or frustrated. I also like the saying “no worries mate”.  I went to Australia last year and try to keep that carefree attitude with me (not so easy in the Big Apple, but I try).

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I read a lot for school. I am currently writing a research paper on the impact of physical activity and depression among adolescents. I love listening to music – Ray Montagne, Ben Harper, and James Morrison have been soothing artists for me lately.

Any final words?

If there is a will, there is a way!

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Posture of the Week: Separate Head to Knee and Stretching Pose

This posture helps to balance the blood sugar level. It improves the flexibility of the sciatic nerves, ankles, knees and hip joints; improves digestion; enhances the proper functioning of the kidneys; and expands the solar plexus. Increases the flexibility of the trapezius, deltoid, erectus femoris, and bicep muscles, sciatic nerves, tendons, hip joints, and the last five vertebrae of the spine. Relieves chronic diarrhea by improving the circulation of the bowels. It also increases circulation to the liver and spleen and improves digestion.

4 Tips for this posture:

  • Keep in mind that with legs to either side your knee can be bent. The forehead-to-knee compression is paramount rather than having your leg straight. Furthermore, whether your knee is bent or straight your foot should always be flexed. 
  • During the compression portion of the posture, your shoulders and elbows are equally aligned over the leg that is out (i.e. leg facing the corner of the room). On the right side, think left elbow and shoulder down toward the floor, and the opposite for the left side.
  • With both legs forward it is important to contract your quadriceps BEFORE you begin to pull on your toes. If you’re unable to keep your knees locked avoid pulling and work on hamstring flexibility first.
  • As always, breath is key. Inhale while lifting and lengthening the spine, exhale as you stretch forward and work toward touching your forehead to your toes.
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1 Hour Introduction to Bikram Method Classes

Have you been reluctant to try Bikram Yoga and want to start off slowly? If so, this is the class for you!  These new clinic-style classes offer will introduce you to the 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in a Bikram Method class. 

In this slower paced one-hour (moderately heated) class, the instructor will guide you gently through the series with simple, concise instruction and demonstration.  You will learn tips on how to prepare for a regular class, take care of any injuries,  and ultimately get the most out of your Bikram Yoga practice. We want to make sure that you achieve your goals, whether you’re striving for weight loss, stress relief, injury prevention or just improving your overall quality of life!

As this class is only offered 3 times per week, we suggest registering online to secure your spot (see below). This class is recommended for first-time Beginners , however first-timers are more than welcome in all classes should these three offerings not fit into your schedule.

#Beginners #Yoga #BrandNew

Exclusive discount code for Yoga Journal LIVE!

Practice Your Power at Yoga Journal LIVE! New York April 8-11

Code BIKRAM saves 15% on day, weekend, or full passes: www.yjevents.com/ny

Practice your power with master teachers in a weekend packed with yoga classes of every style bookended with two full-day workshops. Indulge, relax, and have fun with your yoga community in the Yoga Market and Sangha Space.

Seane Corn, Kathryn Budig, Bo Forbes, Gary Kraftsow, Shiva Rea, Dharma Mittra, Eric Paskel, Sianna Sherman, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee…PLUS True Power with Gabrielle Bernstein and workshops with Baptiste Yoga @Yoga Journal Events #YJLIVE #NewYork

Reserve your space now with code BIKRAM and get 15% off a day, weekend, or full event pass.

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Posture of the Week: Rabbit Pose

Produces the opposite effect of the Camel, giving maximum longitudinal extension of the spine. As a result, it stretches the spine to permit the nervous system to receive proper nutrition. It also maintains the mobility and elasticity of the spine and back muscles. The Rabbit improves digestion and helps cure colds, sinus problems and chronic tonsilitis. And it has a wonderful effect on thyroid and parathyroid glands. The pose improves the flexibility of the scapula and trapezius and helps children reach their full growth potential.

3 Tips for this Posture:

  • A proper, tight grip is important. Place the towel over your heels, grab your heels over the towel (thumbs outside). Without a firm grip, extra pressure will be placed on the head and cervical spine. This grip is continuous from the postures’s start to finish. 
  • Avoid executing the posture with a flat back (different from Half Tortoise pose). Tuck chin to chest, round shoulders down and forward and suck your belly in!
  • While in maximum expression of the posture, engage your feet with the heels together, drawn your navel to your spine and bring your shoulder back away from your ears. This will allow for a better stretch from coccyx to the neck.
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Relax to Stretch Deeper with Omri

We all experience tightness in our bodies, chronic aches and pains, often in the same places again and again. Old injuries, scoliosis, bad posture, and even deep emotional stress are examples of why we may feel limited in our movement. Traditionally we address these with body work, but is that a successful long term solution to this problem? do you feel the tightness coming back again and again? you might even think by now thats just how your body is, that you’re destined to live with chronic tension.

In this workshop we will learn about and explore the principals of misuse that lead to chronic tension, and how to observe the physical and mental connections that entrench them. Using this heightened awareness, you will learn how to self-correct your tensions by strategically “letting go”. Learning these principals has the incredible potential to change how you move throughout your day, how you practice, even how you sleep.

Discussion and sharing will be encouraged.

Relax to go Deeper with Omri
Bikram Yoga NYC Flatiron
182 5th Avenue – 3rd Floor Checkin
Saturday, April 16th – Noon to 4pm
$45 – Pre-registration Only

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Teacher Feature: Melissa Porricelli

What year did you go to training?  Why did you go?

I finally went to training in the fall of 2008.  I started practicing Bikram in 2002 and knew after a few short months of practicing that I wanted to go to training.  I loved the yoga so much and as teachers would talk about the training I knew that it was something I had to experience.  The thought of practicing this yoga 2 times a day and learning from senior teachers that have been a part of the series since as early as the 70s sounded so exciting.  I did NOT know however that I wanted to be a teacher.  I had a full time job that I really enjoyed but I thought it would be a great adventure and learning experience.  After going through 9 weeks of the intensive training I was so inspired that I knew I wanted to share this yoga with the world.  When I returned to NY I taught full time for a few months.  It was an amazing experience however I eventually returned to my job in the medical field and balanced my time between that and teaching 4 classes a week.  I luckily still maintain a daily practice which I know helps motivate me to inspire others the way I was first inspired!

 What is your favorite thing about being a Bikram Instructor?

My favorite thing about being a Bikram instructor is seeing the positive changes it brings to so many people’s lives.  Whether is curing chronic back and knee pains, changing bodies and weight loss, healing old injuries (both mental and physical), or simply helping people feel better it always still makes me so happy when I see a student first realize that change.  It is an amazing feeling when a student comes up to me and tells me how Bikram has helped them.  Over the past 8 years of teaching at BYNYC I have witnessed countless examples of this change.  I love being just a small part of this amazing community.

Tell us more about your own practice.  Which posture is most challenging for you and how do you get through it?

The most challenging part of class for me is definitely the spine strengthening series.  Physically, it is not that bad… but mentally, I really struggle with it.  I know it is an integral part of class and a healthy strong spine is imperative but those 5 to 10 minutes seem to last forever.  I used to skip a set of one of those postures here and there, or even tune out, but that only seemed to make it worse.  What has helped me tremendously is focusing on just the task at hand.  Listening very carefully to the set up and hyper focusing on everything I am doing allowed me to “tune in” to the posture even if I was exhausted.  I would tell myself, ‘just set it up and see what you can do’.  When I focused this way, I realized that my spine strengthening postures greatly improved and the entire series was over in no time at all.  My best advice to anyone struggling with any part of class is to take away the pressure of doing it “perfectly” and tackle it head on by focusing on the set up, the alignment, and even the benefits.  When you start approaching a posture or part of class this way, not only does it go by much faster, but before you know it, it may be your favorite part of class!

Outside of yoga, what projects are you involved with?  What do you do for fun?

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favorite things to do (no matter where I am) is start my day with Bikram.  Outside of yoga however, I love all sports and activities.  I still love to run every week.  I love to snowboard (despite how much I detest being cold).  I also love the beach and the ocean (which is why it is hard to find me anywhere else in the summer). 

As far as special projects go, one of the things I am most proud of is my volunteer work at the VA and with nursing homes.  There, I teach yoga to veterans and senior citizens.   Although the series is obviously modified it is inspiring to see what this community can do and extremely rewarding to be a part of! 

Any final words? 

Just get to class!  It does not matter how long you have taken off, how “out of shape” you think you might be, how much you have going on, or how badly you may feel… Just get here!  You always feel better after the 90 minutes.  I have been fortunate enough to have been practicing for almost 15 years.  Although I have practiced all around the world I could not imagine my life without Bikram Yoga NYC!  Not only are the classes amazing, the teachers the best, and the facilities great, but the community at the studios is inspiring.  Miracles certainly do not happen overnight, but if you can just get to class you will be well on your way!   

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Name that Pose!

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Student Stories: Marilou Peral

My name is Marylou Peral, I am 25 years old, I am from Puebla Mexico and I have two little girls. My first daughter is 5 years old and my youngest is 2 years old. They are my pried and joy! I keep very busy when it comes to raising my daughters and being part of the Bikram yoga family.  I have been working for Bikram Yoga NYC for 3 years, however it took me an entire marysmmonth to realize the gift of yoga that I was given. I am forever grateful to Zayra Torres for referring me to the opportunity to a part of the team. I was under a lot of pressure when I was hired, I had a really bad smoking habit, I found my self living a very unhealthy life style drinking and partying on the weekends and I was a 200lbs and stressed, depressed and slowly losing self confidence.

On my first day on work, I found things to very different, out of the ordinary, the staff and the teachers they were all so positive and much disciplined. One day I was working my manager asked me if I would like to take class I said no, but that day I was so stressed out  and sad all I wanted  was something different to happen for me  in my life. I decide at the last minute to take the class and I have to say it was one the toughest, hardest and hottest thing I’ve ever had to do. In class I felt as if I couldn’t breathe and I struggled but In my mind, I refused to give up and I pushed myself to finish the class because I wanted to look and feel better. After I felt amazing, I could tell that I was more relaxed and at peace. It was rewarding to feel that way after the hard work I went through in the class and I feel in love with Bikram Yoga.

smarysmI was hooked! I was taking class four times a week! Then I started working full time but I pushed my self to keep my practice consistent. I found my self doing double classes once a week, 90 minutes in morning and 90 more in the night. I started to learn things about myself and my body, I realized that when I took class I lost the urge to smoke and when id miss class that’s when I would crave my old unhealthy habits. I started to eat better and live happier for my self and for the daughters. With the discipline and the responsibility I learned from practice I lost 60 pounds in one year, it was very difficult but not impossible. Today yoga is a huge part of my life, every accomplishment in class is reflected in personal growth. I find that the more I push myself in class, the more control I have over my mind body and spirit. I will continue to practice the self love and discipline from Bikram yoga on and off the mat and share it with my daughters. My first Bikram yoga teacher said to me “Inhale the Future and Exhale the past”. This is what I say to myself when I am practicing my favorite posture Standing Bow pose.

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Posture of the Week: Camel Pose

Produces maximum compression of the spine, which stimulates the nervous system. Improves the flexibility of the neck and spine and relieves backache. The peak of the floor series. This posture stretches the abdominal organs to the maximum and cures constipation. It stretches the throat, thyroid gland, and parathyroid gland. Like the Bow Pose, it opens a narrow rib cage to give more space to the lungs. It also firms and slims the abdomen and the waistline. In addition, this posture allows release of emotional tension held in the body as stress, anxiety, anger and depression.

3 Tips for Camel Pose:

  • When you drop your head back try your best to relax your neck so the weight of your head will bring you closer to being able to grab your heels. 
  • Visualize your entire spine in the back bend. You want to access each part of your spine. You don’t want to give in to any part of your spine that may be more flexible than another.
  • This posture helps to strip away layers of emotional stress. By focusing on the middle of your chest and breathing deeply you might experience thoughts and feelings surfacing. This is a good thing so let your emotions surface and then let them go.  You will feel much better.