Not only has Tierney been practising Bikram Yoga since 2004 and teaching since 2007, she’s going to be studying yoga therapy for the next four years so that she can forge a much deeper personal and professional relationship with yoga. Find out more about her right here on the Bikram Yoga Blog!
Do you remember taking your first class?
Hmm … I remember I got to Eagle Pose and then couldn’t do much more. I kept trying and almost passed out. So, I have a lot of compassion for beginners, especially those who are used to being able to push through something. The heat was a challenge for me, it is a great teacher.
What motivated you to keep practising Bikram Yoga?
I bought my yoga classes in September and in April I was in a really bad car accident. I tore ligaments in my right hip joint, damaged my neck at C1 and couldn’t walk very well for about six months. I had irreversible damage. After about seven months the doctors said I was as good as I was going to get. I was 27 years old and facing a life of chronic pain and immobility. So, I upped my yoga and started going every day. I hit the wall over and over again and just kept going. Slowly I gained strength and the yoga helped me cope with the pain. when I took more than a day off the pain would return. So I kept going.
What motivated you to become a teacher and what do you love most about it?
Going to Teacher Training was the next step in my practice and I always said that I would go when Bikram moved the training to Hawaii. Well, he decided to move it four weeks before training was supposed to start. It was mid-March; I had a month to come up with $10,000, pack my stuff, move out of my apartment and get to Hawaii! It all worked out and I made it there.
One of my favourite things about teaching Bikram Yoga is the people – they’re amazing. The global community is amazing. You can go to any Bikram Studio in the world and be a part of a big extended family. And the practitioners … to be able to lead people through their practice is such a gift and to watch people grow and change over the years, get younger, get stronger, heal, restore and regenerate their vitality; yoga is truly my passion.
Do you have a favourite posture?
My favorite posture by far is Standing Head to Knee Pose. It’s so challenging. Before I do each set I make sure I focus and believe 100% that I can hold it. Clear focus with calm resolve. It’s not an ego thing at all for me. It’s about training the mind to be strong and focused.
Are you still working on improving any aspects of your practice?
I usually have three postures or so that I am “working” on in my practice. Sometimes I’ll ask regular practitioners what they’re working on so I can encourage them to move forward with those elements or postures in class. Personally, I like to focus on different aspects of my practice throughout the 90 minutes: deeper breathing, greater focus, stillness, lightness (smiling and laughing), more intensity with a particular focus on the last few seconds of each posture, and edgework, where I go to my edge and hold it in stillness with breath. There’s lots of ways to keep changing and growing in Bikram Yoga.
What’s your teaching style/philosophy?
I believe that positive energy is key. As a teacher I notice the little things and have a natural attention to detail. It’s best when the class can move together and share the energy in the room. I also try to remain neutral, get out of the way and let people do their practice. I’m there to guide everyone through the 90 minutes.
What are your top tips for new students?
Number 1 is breath. Two is to try not to “sprint” out of the gates on your first marathon; pace yourself on your first day so that you can come back the next day. Third, come as much as you can in the beginning and come consecutively. So if you come three days a week, that’s great, but come three days in a row. Your body will open more and stay open and become acclimatized to the heat. Remember, however long it took you to get where you are on your first day of yoga, take at least a quarter the amount of time to get back to a neutral place and then start progressing, health-wise.
For students who have been practising longer, I’d say keep enjoying all the other activities in your life because they will keep you coming back to the yoga. The other stuff is really fun, like biking, skiing and hiking or whatever, but nothing else gives you what yoga does: longevity, vitality and, most importantly, life force.
For all students, including myself and other teachers, I’d say listen to your body, not so much your mind. Keep the mind in the moment, focus on the breath. In the moment is where you have your greatest potential. Do the best you can for you today.