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Teacher Feature: Lynn Zinser

Lynn started practicing Bikram yoga in 2009 as a way to recover from a back injury and, feeling relief in the very first week, never stopped showing up in the hot room. Despite being an athlete her whole life, the yoga gave her a level of strength and a feeling of power over her own health that nothing else did. Wanting to share that experience with others, Lynn attended Teacher Training in 2013 and balances teaching with a full-time job as an editor at a non-profit journalism site.

Q&A with Lynn:

1) What drew you to Bikram yoga?

Back in 2009, I was struggling with a chronic back injury. I had a desk job as an editor for the first time after years of being always on the go as a newspaper reporter. I would sit at my desk and my left hand and foot would go numb. Doctors couldn’t figure it out and physical therapy was useless. So I started investigating ways to heal myself, and a retired judge I know in Los Angeles, Charlie Lee, told me about Bikram yoga. I gave it a try.

2) Was it love at first stretch?

Heavens, no. In my first class, I was a mess. I couldn’t come close to touching my toes. The postures seemed approachable, but like most first-timers, the heat felt like a crazy thing. The only thing I really learned from that first class was that I needed to come back tomorrow to really understand it, and after I slept like a rock that night, I decided I would. The next class was totally different, my body dealt with the heat so much better and within a week, my back was feeling better. I loved that every class was a challenge. I was hooked.

me3) How did you decide to become a teacher?

Well, the only reason I stuck with the yoga was because I had an amazing set of teachers who cared about me and helped me understand it. They led me through a bunch of injuries (my back, pulled hamstrings, temperamental knees, a broken foot) and believed in me even on the days I didn’t believe in myself. They inspired me to pass along the same kind of love to help others through their challenges.

4) What was teacher training like?

I went in the fall of 2013 in Los Angeles, and was so happy to be roommates with Lesley Klose, our lovely Bikram Yoga NYC manager. But I was 47 years old, with lots of injuries in my past, so it was a huge physical challenge to do two classes a day. To top it off, I came down with a case of vertigo in the middle of the nine weeks. But, persevering taught me so much about myself and the feeling of accomplishment after the final class was the most amazing feeling. We ran around like we had just won an Olympic gold medal. It was that exhilarating.

5) Now you teach and balance that and your practice with a full-time career as a journalist. How do you do that?

It’s more of a question of how couldn’t I do it. My practice saves both my body and my sanity, it is 90 (or sometimes 75 or 60) minutes a day just for me. Teaching is my joy. It’s the part of my day in which I am not thinking about myself for even a second because class is 100 percent about the students.

My career is a big part of who I am, and I am lucky to now work as an editor with a fantastic group of people at a journalism non-profit, InsideClimate News. It is important work. My colleagues there won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2013. We have our fingers crossed for another this year for an investigative series we published in 2015. Root for us!

I am beyond blessed to have a truly patient and devoted husband (who also practices!) and a puppy who reminds me to always live in this moment, just like she does.

6) What has teaching yoga taught you?

It has taught me mostly how to put my whole heart and soul into something without expecting any particular result. You face a whole class of students and you have no idea what’s going on in their lives, what happened in their day. So you just give them everything you have, and you have no idea what’s going to stick, what’s going to resonate with them. You just give it and trust it finds its way through. If you see their postures improve or their concentration get better, great. If not, that’s great too.

7) Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes?

One of my favorites is from Ernest Hemingway:

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.