Scott, 56 years young
When was your first yoga class?
I first did yoga in college in the 60s, sort of a Woodstock generation thing. I practiced a bit in my twenties but went on to other forms of exercise. I went to my first Bikram yoga class on a Saturday morning in February 2010. Linda Hewins taught it. I have a clear memory of doing standing separate head to knee pose and seeing sweat drip off the edge of my gym shorts. In all my years of exercise, I’ve never had an experience quite like that first class.
I should add that in my first months doing Bikram yoga, I became a regular at a class taught by one particular teacher who exuded good physical and emotional health. Not to get too “Woodstock-ish” about it, but she gave off great vibes. Her name was Natasha.
What compelled you to give Bikram Yoga a try?
I have always been an active person: martial arts, running, and for many years before starting Bikram, a cyclist. However, I’m not a gym rat, and I tended to hibernate during winters. My daughter Abby began practicing Bikram yoga in Northampton in 2009 and loved it right away. For months, she kept telling me that I should try it to break out of my cold weather doldrums. I’m eternally grateful to Abby for prodding me into the hot room.
What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve faced in your Bikram Yoga practice?
I practiced regularly from 2010 through 2011. In early 2012, I developed a non-yoga related arthritic back condition brought on by years of wear and tear in the lumbar area. My L4 vertebrae became displaced, pressing against and inflaming the spinal cord and causing excruciating pain in my hips, shins, and feet. I could not stand up long enough to scramble an egg. On many nights I slept, or tried to sleep, in a rocking chair with my legs elevated and ice packs on my feet. Three epidurals did nothing. Doctors were talking major surgery.
Bikram—any activity, really—was impossible. Once it was gone, I realized how important yoga had become in my life. I became determined to get back to practice.
I was eventually able to manage the pain through intense chiropractic manipulation and large doses of anti-inflammatory medication. As soon as I could move a little bit, I began doing a few Bikram postures at home that did not require backward bending, which was something that my spine could not tolerate. I spent weeks doing wind-removing pose, half tortoise, and rabbit. I worked on pranayama breathing.
By then end of 2012, I was ready to return—nervous, but ready. BYDH had been open several months, and I was certain that Natasha (and the rest of the teachers) would accommodate my back issues. I returned to the hot room in January 2013 and have practiced regularly—three to four times per week—since then.
How has Bikram Yoga helped your healing process? Physically and mentally?
Physically, I could point out my excellent blood pressure and resting pulse, my improved balance (very important as one ages), or the fact that I have been cycling better than ever in my 20+ years of riding. But this example best illustrates my healing: Two years ago, my then three-year-old granddaughter, Sadie, could not sit on my lap because her slight weight was too painful for me. I was unable to stand and hold my infant grandson, Sammy, for the same reason. Now I kick the soccer ball with them, play freeze tag, goof around on the floor, and generally DON’T act my age. Thanks to regular Bikram yoga practice, I have gone from an old man in a rocking chair to a five-year-old with white hair.
Mentally, the healing benefits of Bikram yoga began almost immediately. I entered the hot room at a time when I was enmeshed in my career as an educational writer/editor. It was a job of frequent travel, ridiculous hours, and impossible deadlines. I had a constant clenched fist of tension in my gut. Bikram came along at a perfect time. It demanded total concentration, complete focus on the breath and muscle movement. I could not think of anything but the moment I was in. For me, the hot room became a refuge from the demands of the working world.
Now that I am recently retired, my days are wide open and generally weightless. But, like many people, I have a tendency to become world-weary. When I feel that way, I remind myself how lucky I am to have the hot room, to live in the now of open-eye meditation, to be part of the welcoming BYDH community. I am blessed to be able to roll out my mat, to work on brightening my inner light, to be a yogi. No more clenched fist. I am totally content with my place in this sweet little mystery of life.
What is your favorite posture? Why?
Overall, I think that triangle is the most beautiful pose. I love the symmetry of the angles.
My personal favorite in the standing series is eagle pose. Doing that correctly at the beginning of class puts me in a good frame of mind for what is to come. I love the way it loosens my hips and shoulders, two areas that can become stiff from cycling. Floor series, it’s rabbit pose. I did that pose daily as I rehabbed from my injury. It’s incredibly helpful to me in stretching the whole spine and taking pressure off the lumbar area.
What is your most challenging posture? Why?
No surprise here: Standing head to knee pose. I am determined to get it right eventually in the future.
Any message for a newbie considering giving Bikram Yoga a try?
Dress lightly and hydrate. Be patient. Everyone has a first class. Keep coming back. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. All practices are beautiful. Be good to yourself. Rest when you need to. There is no such thing as a bad class. As Rhom says, the only bad class is the one you don’t come to. Pat yourself on the back when coming and going from class. Stick with it. The rewards are life changing.
And Finally: As Lao Tzu put it, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
When Did You Start Practicing Yoga?: My first class was in June 2012. I immediately fell in love and was hooked! I attend 1-2 times a week and make it a priority in my fitness schedule. Whether it be a 6am or 6:30 pm class, summer or winter, it is always just what my body needs.
Why Did You Start Going To Yoga? Fitness is a huge part of my life and something that I consider to be very important and yoga is a key component of a well-rounded fitness program. I am an avid distance runner as well and prior to attending Bikram yoga, I was frequently injured during race season. Since including Bikram as part of my regular fitness routine, not only have I noticed increased flexibility and strength, but I have not been injured in over a year. The instructors at the Bikram Yoga Downtown Hartford center are extremely knowledgeable and each class I learn something new. I have a plate in my right leg from a surfing accident and have limited flexibility in certain poses. The teachers always offer help during class and even spend time with me outside of class, to review the best option for each pose. I am now doing private Bikram classes at the center because I feel so strongly about the practice and how good it is for your body. There are always going to be days where you are not feeling your best, but I always feel better after leaving a Bikram class.
What is your favorite posture? My favorite posture is the Camel Pose. Sometimes I feel dizzy and light-headed, other days I am fine. Regardless of the feeling, I always notice a difference in my overall well-being and flexibility after that posture.
What is Your Favorite Posture?: Camel Pose. It took so long to learn and has the most benefit for my back and really opens up the front.
Why did you start going to Bikram Yoga?
In 2007, at only 40 years old, I was more overweight than I had ever been and my health was seriously deteriorating. I had thought I was active, exercising and weight lifting at the time. It was to my surprise after a routine physical exam that I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My physician discussed medications I may need if I did not take this seriously. I was also experiencing continuous back pain and loss of flexibility. At this time I could not touch my toes without bending my knees.
I had heard about Bikram yoga and the healing benefits of this practice. The thought of me not being healthy at my age had really frightened me. I decided to take my situation seriously and made a commitment for self-improvement at that time. I started taking Bikram yoga classes in November of 2007. I remember my first class was a humbling experience to say the least. What I found immediately was that this 90 minute Bikram yoga class was extremely challenging. I considered this the hardest workout I had ever done. I continued practicing regularly and little by little my health started going in the right direction.
I have been practicing Bikram yoga for nine years now. My physical appearance and muscular definition have improved. My blood pressure and cholesterol are normal with no meds. I am maintaining weight loss without starving or neglecting myself. My core is stronger, I am much more flexible, and I rarely experience back pain. This did time and a real commitment but it was well worth the effort. The results are obvious. I have improved in many ways and I feel better so much better!
What is your favorite posture?
Standing head to knee. This posture is always a challenge for me. Formerly not being able to touch my toes and now I can do this! Wow! The little improvements over time really did add up. It reminds me that I can do anything and face any challenge I am confronted with if I put my mind to it.