BYV Teacher Profile: Michael H.
One of our newest teachers, Michael brings a fiery passion and desire to “help people heal and better themselves” to Bikram Yoga Vancouver. Read more about him in his fascinating profile, below!
Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class – when and where was it, why did you go and what was the experience like?
It was the 4 p.m. class on December 9, 2012, at Bikram Yoga Hamilton-Dundas – this date is marked as an anniversary on my phone! I went because, with it being winter in Ontario, I didn’t like the idea of jogging in the snow. I wanted to stay fit, though, so I Googled the closest yoga studio to me, and voilà! I wore a cotton tank top and heavy compression shorts to that first class. I took the tank top off within the first five minutes. I forgot to bring a water bottle. Nothing made sense. I remember not understanding how to move my arms and head together during the first Pranayama exercise and I grabbed my ankle incorrectly in Standing Bow Pulling Pose; I was seeing strange coloured stars on the ceiling after Camel. A huge puddle surrounded me. After class the instructor was encouraging and told me to come back ASAP. I noticed how calm, clear and light I felt. That feeling captivated me.
When did you decide you wanted to become a teacher, and why?
About a month after I started practicing the studio held a 30-day challenge, so I signed up. I noticed subtle changes in the way I held myself, how my spine moved, the foods I wanted to eat, and I became convinced this practice could help many people. It was then that I decided to pursue Teacher Training. At the time I was working as a quality assurance technician in a food-production facility, which involved long, soul-sucking hours in shift work. There was no passion for what I was doing. When I discovered this yoga something lit up inside of me. I had found something I really loved doing, so I decided to pursue it to the fullest extent possible. I read books about the yoga and thought it would be pretty cool to be able to teach anywhere in the world while helping people heal and better themselves. It is a selfish thing to find something of value and not to share it with others.
When did you do Teacher Training and what was it like for you?
My training was in the fall of 2013 in Los Angeles. I’d describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, being able to devote myself completely to the study and practice of yoga for nine weeks. I would redo it all over again if I could! I met so many incredible people and learned so much about who I am as a person, what I stand for and what I want to do with the rest of this precious life.
How often do you practise Bikram Yoga these days?
I practise a minimum of five times a week if you only count the Beginner’s Series classes. Other times I like to work on my own on other postures that aren’t in the beginner’s class, or I’ll take the Core 40 class at Bikram Yoga Vancouver.
Would you consider your practice perfect, or are there still some aspects of it you’re working on?
I think you’re talking about an objective definition of perfect, or how postures look. Let’s shift that definition and say that, on the metaphysical, ultimate level, everyone’s practice is perfect and as it should be in that moment, given the conditions, circumstances – for example, how much ice cream I ate last night, how much I’ve been sitting at a desk versus backbending, etc. Every practice IS perfect and can be approached with such an attitude of contentment. When your practice doesn’t feel perfect in that moment, it’s your perception that needs to change. If you struggle to comprehend this, come take my class!
Do you currently have a favourite posture? What is it?
I try to be indifferent to all the postures. Once you think about “liking” and “disliking” anything you become caught up in the fluctuations of your mind. Don’t do something only because you like it – do it because it has to be done. Conquer your mind and you’ll conquer the world, a saying goes. That’s where the real yoga begins. (That said, backbending postures will always be one of my favourite pastimes!)
What do you love most about practising Bikram Yoga?
That almost post-coital feeling at final Savasana. The lights dim. Eyes closed. Your heart is beating. Slow inhale, deep long exhale. Every part of your body is worked and more open. You feel like you’re floating as you walk down the street. Nothing can compare to that feeling of peaceful accomplishment at the end of every class, and that’s why I keep going.
What do you love most about teaching Bikram Yoga?
I love knowing that I am, in some way, contributing to people’s betterment and evolution, either directly or indirectly.
What’s your main goal when heading up a Bikram Yoga class?
Being fully present and teaching my students to be fully present in their practice and, ultimately, in their life as well. You only live once (unless you believe in reincarnation, then this discussion is over) so you can’t waste this life living in a zombie-like trance. Be here. Show up. Don’t let life pass you by.
What’s your top, number 1 tip for first-time Bikram students?
Come again and again and again and again … don’t stop coming! The moment you give up is the moment you lose the benefits of the practice. To steal a phrase from writer Dan Savage, “It Gets Better.” It will get better, if you give it time to ripen and bear fruit. Cultivate patience and love yourself fully as you look in the mirror. As drag queen RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?!”
What’s your top, number 1 tip for veteran Bikram students?
Over the years I’m sure your life has changed – why shouldn’t your yoga practice as well? Accept those changes, whether they pertain to the physical or the more subtle aspects of your practice. Cultivate more stillness both in and between postures. Keep an open, humble heart, and find ways to still love the yoga – maybe that entails going on retreats, attending workshops, learning new postures at the Core 40 class, practising more or practising less. Stick with it. There are people almost 90 years old still doing this yoga. You can be one of them, too!
What do you hope students, at all levels, take away from your class?
Self-empowerment with the knowledge that everything you need to be truly happy, healthy and strong lies within yourself and is solely, strictly your own responsibility. A new bounce in your step. Maybe a few giggles, too!
Besides Bikram, do you have any other fitness interests?
I moved to B.C. two years ago. I would still love to explore much of the natural beauty this region of Canada has to offer. Hiking (when the weather permits) is definitely on my list of things I love to do when not in the hot room.