Teacher Feature: Upkar Vaid

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

I went to training in the Fall of 2008 in Acapulco, Mexico. I love this yoga, it saved my life in many ways and opened me to possibilities that I never imagined. I wanted to teach and pass on what I love.

IMG_6016What is your favorite thing about being a Bikram Yoga instructor?

Leading students to realizing their power and true potential!

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

Standing head to knee pose is most challenging for me. My mantra during that posture is never give up, lock my knee.

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

I have very little down time because I have a toddler, but when I do have time, I enjoy spending it with loved ones!

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or saying?

 Yoga is effort. Only practice is important. The rest of knowledge is only theory. Guruji BKS Iyengar

What are you currently reading or listening to?

Radiohead, Moon Shaped Pool

Any final words?

No matter what your outcome in your practice, do it again, and again, and again.

Upkar's Routine at the 2012 Championship

Teacher Feature: Pamela Herron

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

I walked out of my first Bikram class, in ’04,  amazed and with my jaw dropped and knowing I would teach this yoga one day. Two years later in the spring of ’06 i accomplished that goal! Bikram yoga has been such a gift and healing practice for me, in the deepest part of my being i knew it was my purpose to share this and guide others to achieving their ultimate health goals and it has become so much more than that.

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

I love to experience student’s “A-HA” moments, that sweet moment when something just clicks. From little triumphs to big ones in breath, in asana, to discovering joy in their bodies/ beings. 

IMG_5798Tell us about your own practice.

I have experienced the gamut in my own practice. I initially used it to heal an un diagnosable blood imbalance, then  got down to stabilizing the anxiety i used to have, then ridding myself of insomnia (something i had most of my life!) I practiced regularly so I could continue dancing full time. Are you getting this??? all of these things BALANCED-HEALED!!! I have gone through various injuries in my own practice as well and each time as i go back to the foundation and “start again”  and brought back to the gift of this powerful yoga. To practice with breath, commitment, precision, determination, and joy.

Outside of yoga, what projects are you involved with? 

I am thrilled to be co leading a yoga retreat this summer in the Southern Spain with the one and only BridgetteAne Lawrence! July 23rd- 30th at Valle de Vida (The Valley of Life) for information go to: http://yogainthelanes.com/retreats

I offer individual and group intuitive coaching sessions using Gabrielle Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles – A 40 Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness as a platform for transformation. 

Creatively, I am in the process of choreographing a piece for The Research Foundation To Cure AIDS to be performed at their Fundraising Gala (date TBA) bringing together the science of the cure, hope and humanity. 

Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes?

There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
– Albert Einstein 

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I’ve just been turned on to Podcasts and i cannot get enough, one of my favorites Wanderlust Speakeasy “The Unified Field Theory of Nassim Haramein” with Jamie Janover another Fresh Air any of them!

Any final words?

I am so grateful for this practice, this life, and you! 

pamelaherron1

Teacher Feature: Olivia Anselmo

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

I attended teacher training in Summer 2004. 

At that time in my life I was searching for a career in a field that was relevant to my education. However, I also believed (and still do) that when we work in a field that we have passion for, only then can we experience true success.

I chose to attend teacher training because, in a conversation with a friend of mine on this subject, he told me that he had never seen me speak as passionately about any other subject as when I spoke about yoga, particularly when I was trying to convince someone to try it. I think that is still true of me today.

oliviaanselmo1What is your favorite thing about being a Bikram Yoga instructor?

The thing I love most about being a yoga teacher is that I am able to create the space for people to feel good. I have immense respect and gratitude for each student who comes into the room, because no matter what the exact outcome, we are all there because we want to feel good. When we feel good, people around us feel good. 

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

After practicing various styles of yoga for 14 years, I have come to a place where I am getting a lot of fulfillment from WHY I am practicing – using the asana to therapeutically create and maintain body, mind and spirit balance. 

(see above, I practice to feel good :))

Outside of Bikram Yoga NYC, what projects are you involved with? What do you do for fun?

I am co-founder of ‘Corinne & Olivia present’. Corinne and I have been leading workshops and retreats together for 5 years. This December we will be doing our 4th annual retreat in Central America. 

www.corinneandolivia.com for more information 

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or saying?

“Nothing can be achieved without practice”
– Yoga Sutras of Master Patanjali’s 

More than just a quote, this is the foundation of the entire art and science of yoga. More than yoga, I use this as the foundation of living life. 

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I have been listening to Carole King’s Tapestry a lot lately. I just recently started singing lessons and I am working on one the songs from that album. 

Please don’t expect that I will break out in song during your final savasana…let’s leave that to the professionals, people!

Teacher Feature: Natalia Maldonado

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

Spring 2010 Las Vegas. I had been practicing for 2 years, but I knew within a year I wanted to teach. I did work-study program, worked overtime , and became extremely aware of my spending habits. I knew going to teacher training was going to be transformational for me and my long term goals. The truth is the transformation happened even before training. During the process of saving, eating cleaner, taking yoga everyday to prep for training I became a better  human being. 

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

  1. The people. We have a special Bikram yoga community!
  2. The ability to travel and teach anywhere.
  3. It is an honor to say I trained for 9 weeks for something I whole-heartedly believe in.

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

My bikram yoga practice and I have such a special relationship. We go through so many ups and downs! I like to push my body in other areas of fitness so I go into the hot room to heal. I heal physically from the high impact workouts and emotionally from – life. So at the moment I have to say Standing Head to Knee is challenging for me. Yes, physically because of tight lower back and hamstrings.

But also emotionally …the ego loves to creep in on me in the posture. Sometimes the voices in my head are reminding me that I am a teacher and that I SHOULD be killing this posture every time, or that I did the competition in 2014 and it is a disgrace that I am having trouble even grabbing my foot now. I IMMEDIATELY interrupt those DISCOURAGING and sabotaging comments (in my head) by smiling, or just repeating ‘I am doing my best today and my best is enough.’

I silently remind myself that forcing will only hurt me, and it is more POWERFUL to recognize what my body needs and listen.  I also remind myself whatever challenges I face on the mat will allow connection with my students and help me be more compassionate.  And that’s it. I mentally make a deliberate shift in perspective. 

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

I love running, weight lifting, and  I teach intenSati (high impact class with positive affirmations) 

I lead workshops on resilience, and how to become your own “wellness warrior” 

I LOVE to travel. I am leading a retreat in Australia in Feb 2017. 

I have a “Soul on Fire Wellness” Program that helps women become their own wellness warrior so that the can have the courage, confidence and vitality they need to pursue the life they truly desire. 

Making Motivational videos are part of my daily routine!! I go live on Periscope M-F at 8:15am to motivate and help my tribe have a powerful day. 

Working out, reading, attending seminars on self-improvement, dancing , travel, teaching, and Grandma (her food in moderation)  are all things that truly fill up my love tank!! 

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or saying?

“I am safe in the universe all life loves and supports me.” – Marianne Williamson

It comes in handy when fear comes up or moments of doubt. 

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I am reading The Enzyme Factor by Hiromi Shinya, MD and I the one before was Power vs. Force by David Hawkins (game-changer). 

I am ALWAYS listening to motivational videos by Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Eric Thomas. For my workouts I mix up my playlist with all types of music or I go to youtube and search for “motivational workout music” or “bodybuilding motivation music” … they have hours and hours of free music! 

You’re a performer, can you tell us what you’ve worked on lately or when your next gig is?

I am the star IN THE NEWEST HIT ROM-COM called “What if it works out” It is about this Bronx born Puerto Rican raised by a single mom who refuses to settle. She goes for what wants fearlessly all in the name of love. Instead of living in fear and not taking risks … she takes on the challenge and reminds herself… “What if it works out” 

JOKING!!! 

I AM KIDDING GUYS! NO MOVIE. 

I AM a performer in life just dancing , playing and doing the best I can!! ;0)

I would love to see you in Australia: http://www.tranquilpoint.com/wakeupthewarriorwithin

AND if you want to hear my full story feel free to checkout some of these videos: 

Awaken the Warrior within You: 

https://youtu.be/LsTJiDHYaPs

Soul Camp: 

https://youtu.be/LBdK5E0qmzQ

Any final words?

Bikram yoga changed my life. 

This practice has been there for me during the good, bad, and the ugly. 

I say this from the bottom of my heart… all you have to do is SHOW UP with an open heart. 

Show up on the mat for you, your heart, your mental and physical health. 

Honor yourself with 90 minutes of self discovery, awareness without judgement, and love. 

xo

Natalia Maldonado’s Social Channels

instagram: @nywellnesswarrior

twitter: @nati_curlygirl

periscope: nywellnesswarrior

Facebook: New York’s Wellness Warrior 

Youtube: New York’s Wellness Warrior

Teacher Feature: Omri Kleinberger

What made you want to become a Yoga Teacher?

When i started practicing Bikram Yoga, i had absolutely no yoga experience. I remember struggling tremendously every single class, mentally and physically, it was such an amazing challenge unlike i’ve ever tried before. A lot of what helped get me through was the encouragement and advice of my teachers, I loved how l learned more about myself and broke through hurdles every single class. I became a work study at the studio because it helped me commit to the practice, and a year and a half later i became the studio manager. I got to know students a lot better, and i decided that since i was looking for a change in my professional career, becoming a teacher would allow me to do something i love, and give an opportunity to to inspire people to achieve the same sense of accomplishment that i felt through the practice. Since then, sharing my passion has been a great love of mine and and a big source of fulfillment in my life.

omri3What makes being a Yoga Teacher Amazing?

Being a yoga instructor allows you to connect to people. I’m an introvert by nature, and the teaching made me comfortable interacting more freely. I also love the fact that my students come from all walks of life, and there is a wonderful exchange of ideas and impressions about pretty much anything between us, from which i learn a lot as well. We share our knowledge and our passion, and i feel lucky that we get to spend this time together. We help each other become better people.

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

EVERY single posture in the series has been challenging for me at some point, but the biggest physical obstacle came from my scoliosis. i didn’t even know i have it until i was years into my practice. No teacher I knew at the time could say why my back was hurting unevenly and continuously, and it was a tremendous intellectual challenge to seek out the right teachers to guide me in the right direction. Today i can help students with scoliosis, and i feel that knowing that there’s a reason for their extra struggle, and that it’s something they can work on and get better at  makes them feel hopeful about managing and alleviating the pain, inflexibility and discomfort that are associated with it. My studies into the mechanics of it pushed me to learn a lot about movement, anatomy, and various relaxation and strengthening methods. This coming weekend i’m leading a workshop at Bikram NYC in which i will talk extensively about how to go about overcoming difficulties in the practice.

omri2Outside of yoga, what projects are you involved with? What do you do for fun?

i’m a big fan of wellness in general, especially psychology, sports, and nutrition. I make Yoga Wheels which are called the Mandala Yoga Wheel, a wonderful tool to help with Back Flexibility and relaxation. I’ve always been into cooking and food, i love ethnic and diverse food, and i try new techniques and ingredients often. I love reading about self empowerment, the pursuit of happiness and contentment, competitive nature and overcoming adversity. These days I find myself drawn towards topics of equality and social justice, i believe that now more than ever there is a acknowledgment that underrepresentation of people is unjust and exclusive, and that the future lies in empowerment and the wonderful richness of diversity. I also love trying out new sports. I rock climb, ice skate, and ride an electric unicycle. I like swimming and rowing, and while i’m a relative novice in all these things, i love that the yoga makes them much more accessible to me especially since i was a very un-athletic kid, ridiculously so, and now i get to do everything i want to with relative ease.

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I would love to share three books that have been pivotal to me in the last couple of years, the first is called “Start with why” by Simon Sinek, it talks about the inspiration to our actions. there’s also a TED talk he did about his ideas that i would encourage to watch if you want to know more about it . the second is “Inherit the Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, a wonderful book about omri1empowerment and renewing your faith in your abilities. The third is called “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounces me-hi cheek-sent-me-hi), and it quantifies and organizes the process or becoming passionate. these are amazing books about the workings of the mind and the ability to reconfigure the way you look at things. I’m also a big fan of TED talks and i watch one almost every day. Amazing TED talks i recommend are “The Art of Being Yourself” by Caroline McHugh, and of course the “The power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown.

Any final words?

Finding time to take care yourself and your needs is an important investment in your future. The changes and commitments i made have changed my life dramatically. It wasn’t always clear that they would, i wasn’t always happy or could see it to begin with, but i knew that continuously trying and struggling made me feel as if i was making tangible steps towards something better. If you want to make a change, to make a difference, use the physical struggle and the time in the yoga room to meditate and realign your priorities. Find time to grow as a person, make courageous leaps of faith, and talk to there people about your struggles. I believe people are inherently good in their nature and more often than not will try to help you. they won’t necessarily do the work for you, but they might show you things you can’t or won’t see,and help you move in the right direction. it’s then up to you to keep trying, and not be discouraged by failure. Every failure is a lesson and a step towards Success. Come take class with me, say hi, maybe i can help you move forward. 

Teacher Feature: Kyla Deichl

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

I attended the Spring 2015 Training in Khao Lak Thailand. I’d like to say I dropped everything and went to training but it was a long process! I stepped into my first class at Bikram Yoga NYC UES at age nineteen. I was a theater student at Marymount Manhattan College and had recently gained the freshman twenty and was eager to try something other than the gym!

At the time I lived on 83rd street and I would always walk by a building with moisture dripping down the windows. I had taken yoga in high school (where I received a C because I slept during class) so I assumed it would be just like that class. I spent my first class staring at the door, thinking of ways to get out of the room but I was scared I would faint so I stayed on my mat. Somehow I found myself in the room the next day, then the next and so on.

I had fallen in love with Bikram Yoga and could not stop talking about it. I would show up and tune out for 90 minutes with nothing else to face but myself. It was my therapy, using my body in an amazing way to fight off the anxiety and depression that I had been dealing with.  I never viewed myself as a leader, a teacher but a month into practicing I knew that I wanted to be a Bikram Yoga Teacher. I wanted to share my love for Bikram Yoga. Five years went by and I was still talking about becoming a teacher. I kept on making excuses but the truth was I did not believe in myself.

After graduation I spent about three years in limbo trying to make it as an actress with only one constant, Bikram Yoga. It was the first time in my life where I did not have a clear goal. I wasn’t proud of who I was or where I was going. In 2014 I lost someone very near to me who always had a plan and a bright bright future, the loss provoked me to stop and reflect. I could have stayed in bed or I could get up and make something of myself. Some force pushed me to Flatiron where I kicked and stretched until I could finally see the color come back to my face.

I marched up to the instructor after class and blurted out “I want to be a Bikram teacher” and he said “okay, lets get to work.” 

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

I will be 100% candid but I did not start enjoying teaching until about a few months ago. I was trying to be ” a perfect bikram teacher” and any mistake I made would drive me insane. I would go home and cry or just spend a good amount of time being frustrated. It all came to light when a student came up to me before class crying because she had a bad day. I realized in that moment that this is not about me, this is about the students. I had to take myself out of it because we are all fighting our own battles and we come to yoga to work through them. I love to watch the progress that my students make and remind them to have compassion for themselves.

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

I have worked very hard on my practice to get to the point where I am proud of it! It is not perfect but that’s not what it’s about. I am still waiting for the day when I fully understand Triangle!!  I am very disciplined and calm when I practice but I have also learned to let go and SMILE! I have worked on taking who it is on my mat ( what I consider the best version of myself) outside of the room. Staying present, not skipping ahead.  My favorite posture is my most challenging, standing head to knee pose. It took me 5 years to touch my forehead to my knee because I  was scared I would fall. At the moment I am unable to touch my forehead to my knee and bring my elbows below my calf muscles but I still tuck my chin and try! I am working on letting go of the fact that it does not look perfect but I love that everything goes silent in the posture and in that tiny moment, I feel free. 

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

Funny you ask! This year I have worked on getting back in touch with what Kyla does outside yoga. I recently moved into my dream apartment so I have been busy decorating and cooking for guests! I enjoy walking around aimlessly and sitting on the steps of Union Square listening to music and zoning out. I spend a good amount of time jotting down ideas and writing poetry. I’ve been working with a integrated body worker which has been eye opening. I’ve learned to rebalance my body, mind and in turn I have been on a beautiful healing road! I am very interested in holistic skin care and plan to begin an apprenticeship this summer to learn how to make holistic products! I would also like to go back to clown school…yep! Clown school. 

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or saying?

“The greatest oak was once a little nut who held it’s ground” 

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I am currently reading “Let the Great World Spin”  by Colum McCann

I am listening to everything! There is always music playing in my home. I am always listening to Spotify. An album that I have revisited lately is Future Islands “In Evening Air.” I love it because hidden underneath this upbeat melody are some deep beautiful lyrics. 

Some fun songs to look into:

Any final words?

If you fall out. Get right back in. 

Kyla Demonstrates Awkward Pose

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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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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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Teacher Feature: Luke Strandquist

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

I attended TT in Spring of 08 in Acapulco Mexico. I had been trying to attend for 6 years prior but was truly grateful in the end that I arrived when I did as it made me a much better teacher.

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

My favorite thing about being a Bikram yoga teacher is the ‘lil shorts of course lol. That – and it is the one kind of yoga that I truly believe reaches the widest spectrum of different students of all ages and abilities.

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

My practice? It is a huge source of comfort, therapy, and joy in my life. From my first class on the UWS in the Summer of 2002 as a 19 year old with incredibly bad knees, acne,  asthma, and anger (both from my rocky childhood as well as living through 9/11), I was hooked and not only knew I had found my practice but also that I would teach (which kinda terrified me honestly because I knew my life was changing in a beautiful but unexpected way).

I find all the postures challenging, some more than others at various times. These past few months I have been struggling with intence vertigo so it is Balancing Stick pose that is the bane of my existence. To get through it, I simply follow the instructions and CHARGE with intention and intensity. It has just recently started improving after many months so STICK with it ya’all
😉

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

Outside of yoga you can find me either performing as a singer/songwriter  in a myriad of ways here in NYC and internationally as well as hanging from various industrial things for Greenpeace as an avid climber/activist. Or eating. I LOVE TO EAT! 😉

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or saying?

My favorite yoga quote is from one of my first teachers Aiko: “Try and have a little fun and lightness with your yoga”

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I am currently reading “The Mallorean” by David Eddings out loud to my husband. I LOVE “His Dark Materials” series by Phillip Pullman too, I think its brilliant and beautiful. I am currently obsessed with the new musical American Psycho as well, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Duncan Sheik.

You’re a performer, can you tell us what you’ve worked on lately or when your next gig is?

This past year I was a headliner in a new play at the Asian American Theater Festival in Philly called Chang(E). It then came to NYC this Fall at HERE ARTS. In addition to that I am currently recording my own album “Dreamscaping”. Stay tuned. Im ALWAYS looking for a rock musical to be a part of too 😉 so if you are casting… Check out some of my stuff on my backstage profile or my Youtube channel Daniel Luke and share share share 😉

Any final words?

This yoga is life. Life is yoga. Come. Smile. Sweat. Look. Laugh. Love. Werk 😉

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Teacher Feature: Justine Kay

I plunged into the hot room and committed to my first 30 day challenge at a time in my life when I had let my guilt of things past and fear of moving ahead keep me running in circles with severe back pain and a job that paid my bills but did not fulfill my passions.

On the surface everything was fine. I was a hard-working artist in a loving , healthy relationship and I felt lucky to be living in one of the most diverse and forward-thinking cities in the world. But I felt stuck in my chosen career path and finally my body forced me to pay attention to what was happening deep inside.

Sciatica had reared its ugly head in my lower spine and with it came crippling hip pain that forced me to pay closer attention to how I was treating my body, mind and spirit. I knew there had to be a way to heal that was natural and addressed the root of my condition, not just its symptoms.

I didn’t have health insurance so I had to find another way outside of the traditional medical system here in the US. I found some relief with community acupuncture & a compassionate chiropractor, but those were just temporary fixes. I knew I needed to do something more proactive. Something that would not only heal the pain temporarily, but prevent it from recurring repeatedly.

For years I had flirted with all different kinds of yoga, including Bikram yoga, but never maintained a frequent practice. It was at this time that I knew I had to make a commitment, and I knew it had to be Bikram because no other class had ever made me feel as good, mentally, emotionally and physically. In fact, I found I often aggravated my back in other classes. So after I took the plunge with that first 30 day challenge, I maintained a regular practice, 3-4 times a week.

It was never easy, but I was determined. I asked my instructors a lot of questions. I came to class even when I really didn’t feel like it and was still feeling some pain. I took it easy when I had to, but I continued to practice regularly. After one year of dedicated practice, I didn’t have to visit the chiropractor or receive acupuncture anymore. I was truly healing and truly amazed.

However, just as I was starting to experience some long term benefits and was ready to celebrate my one year anniversary with another 30 day challenge, it became very difficult for me to afford classes. Fortunately my home studio offered a work study program in exchange for classes. I enrolled and the studio owner quickly recognized my diligence and strong practice. She invited me to attend their advanced classes and I began practicing postures that only a year earlier would have brought me pain just thinking about them. It blew my mind.

As I was practicing and healing in the studio, I also found the courage and confidence within myself to pursue an artistic project of my own in India and Nepal. I created a Kickstarter fundraiser and received full support for the project, which combined photography and meditation with travel and the art of observation. In order to see the project through from beginning to end, it took enduring patience, determination and faith in my ability to persevere and succeed against the odds. All things I had improved with my Bikram Yoga practice.

justinecamelAfter one year of advanced practice I competed in the USA Yoga Regional Championship in New York City. I choose to perform a posture that had me bend my spine so far back that I was able to grab my heels with my hands, elbows on the floor, while touching my face in between the soles of my feet. I was convinced. This amazing, healing practice, was something I needed to share with others. So I made another commitment to myself to make it to teacher training, however possible, as soon as possible.

It took quite a bit of sacrifice, but six months later, in Fall of 2013, I made it happen. I could never have done it without the support of my family and the advice and encouragement of my many teachers and mentors. Two and a half years after making that first serious commitment to healing and growing with Bikram yoga I became certified to teach it. Now after over two years of teaching, I can say for certain that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

The transformational power of this practice is evident to me, not only in my personal life, but also as I witness it improve my students’ lives and from the multitude of stories I’ve heard from other practitioners. Over time, the extraordinary physical results are accompanied by genuine mental and spiritual growth. A dedicated, consistent Bikram Yoga practice can truly help build the foundation for a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Justine is also a photographer.