One of BYV’s newest teachers, Jessica, tells us all about her practice and gives here top tips for Bikram Yoga students, beginner and advanced alike!
Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class – when and where was it, why did you go and what was the experience like?
My very first Bikram Yoga class was in March 2011 at BYV’s Kitsilano studio. At the time, I was in the middle of my undergraduate degree at UBC, and I was tired of feeling exhausted and run down all of the time. I had a lot of old sports injuries and, as those who know me can attest, I was practically living off of coffee (the life of a student!). One day I was passing the studio on my way home from work and decided, just on an impulse, to give it a try. Actually, I signed up for a membership before I even took the class! I had no idea what I was getting into; I had never done any yoga before, let alone hot yoga. I remember struggling and wanting to leave, and thinking some very unkind thoughts about the teacher. But I’ll also never forget the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the 90 minutes – that “yoga-high.” I was hooked.
How long after that very first class did you decide you wanted to become a teacher, and why?
I’ve always liked the idea of sharing this yoga with others. Not long after I started practising I started toying with the idea of going to Teacher Training, but I would always talk myself out of it. It was expensive; it was time consuming; it was too far away. It definitely wasn’t in my “plan.” Then, in 2013, I was in the midst of preparing to start law school, with the expectation that the next 10 to 20 years of my life were to be committed to studying and practising law. It just kind of hit me that there would never be another point in my life when I could take the time to go to Teacher Training, and I found myself unwilling to let that opportunity go by. Like my first class, I signed up for Teacher Training on an impulse (I literally signed up and bought my plane ticket the week before training started), but I haven’t looked back since.
When did you do Teacher Training and what was it like for you?
I went to the Spring 2013 Teacher Training in LA. It was one of the most amazingly challenging experiences of my life. I learned so much about the yoga from some incredible senior teachers, like Emmy Cleaves, and also a lot about myself as a practitioner and a teacher.
How often do you practise Bikram Yoga these days?
In terms of the beginner Bikram Yoga series, I maintain a daily practice now, and I often try to fit in at least one set of double classes each week. I also enjoy practising other forms of yoga, and have particularly fallen in love with Vinyasa and Ashtanga, which I try to practise whenever I have the chance. Of course, sometimes life just gets in the way, or sometimes I just decide to take a day or two off. What has always been the key for me is that I practise when I want to, because I want to, and because I love it.
Would you consider your practice perfect, or are there still some aspects of it you’re working on?
I don’t think that I’ll ever consider my practice to be “perfect.” That implies that there’s nowhere else to go or grow in my practice. The longer I do this yoga (and the longer I teach), the more I discover about it and about myself. Each class brings something new, which is why I love practising this type of yoga. Of course, I have my days when I struggle in the hot room, and I’m constantly learning how to be OK with that.
Do you currently have a favourite posture? If so, which one is it and why?
Right now I’m telling myself that I love Standing Bow Pulling Pose, because it’s always been one of the most challenging postures for me, and I know that this means that it’s probably the one I need the most! My real favourite posture of the series though is Ustrasana (Camel). I’ve always loved the opening sensation I feel in that backbend.
What do you love most about practicing Bikram Yoga?
I have your classic Type A personality. My friends would tell you that I have a to-do list for my to-do list and, throughout the day, my mind is pretty much going non-stop. My practice helps to ground me. During law school, whenever I felt overwhelmed with readings or studying for exams, I would go to the hot room to give myself the opportunity to take a step back. I love that whatever is going on in my life outside the yoga room, I know that I can come to the studio and spend 90 minutes refocusing and redirecting my mind, and reconnecting it with my body. In a sense, I get to tell my brain to “shut up” for 90 minutes, which is really liberating.
What do you love most about teaching Bikram Yoga?
Seeing my students discover what they’re capable of in the yoga room, and hearing from them how that translates to their life outside the yoga room. My main goal with teaching is to give my students the energy to get them through and encourage them to keep trying the right way. That’s the beauty of group practice: the entire group gets to feed off of each other’s energy and off of the energy of the teacher.
What’s your top, number 1 tip for the first-time Bikram student?
Don’t be afraid. Let go of your judgment and expectations for what you think the “perfect posture” should look like. Your posture is just as beautiful as the person standing in front of you with her head to her knee in Standing Head to Knee, because it’s your posture. And if you feel like you’re really struggling, increase the frequency of your practice. It gets better, but only if you come to class!
What’s your top, number 1 tip for the veteran Bikram student?
Whatever happened in class yesterday, or whatever will happen tomorrow, is irrelevant. Learn how to be present and how to be precise, so you know when to back off the depth, and when you can push a bit more to your edge. Let go of your ego and practice each class like it’s the first time you’re discovering the series.
What do you hope students, at all levels, take away from your class?
I hope that my students leave with a little more trust and understanding in their own capabilities. You’re so much stronger than you think you are!
With some very hot weather upon us, do you have any tips on maintaining one’s practice throughout the summer months?
Keep coming to class! It’s so easy to let your practice slip when it’s a beautiful sunny day, but try to remember why you come to yoga: to spend some time taking care of yourself.