Jacob, one of our Bikram Yoga (Kitsilano) regulars, is a recent university graduate. In this first week back to school, we asked Jacob to share some of his secrets on how to fit a regular yoga practice into a busy student’s schedule.
We heard you recently graduated from UBC; congratulations! What did you study and what are you up to now?
I just graduated with a bachelor of science this past May. My major was honours genetics, and I am most interested in the genetic basis of adaptation in vertebrates and how evolution uses old genes to produce new traits. Essentially, I want to know what genes produce all of the cool things we see in the animal kingdom, like a leopard’s spots or a bird’s feathers. The coolest thing is that since we have started sequencing DNA from many different organisms we have learned that they share more genes than we ever imagined! The same genes that control the development of something like a wing in one animal may be used to make a completely different structure in something else. I am currently working at the Biodiversity Research Centre at UBC studying evolution in threespined stickleback and the evolution of coat colour in squirrels.
When did you first start practicing Bikram Yoga, and why?
Actually, my first-ever Bikram Yoga class was when I was 15 or 16 years old and came long before I ever started “practicing yoga.” My mom had been going to Bikram classes and was really loving it. I had been running competitive, 10-20 km races, so I thought I was in pretty decent shape. Despite this, my mom would constantly brag about how intense yoga was and tell me that I would never be able to get through a class. I finally decided I’d go to class with her (mainly just to show her I could do it) and it was definitely intense! I managed to do all of the postures and stay in the room, but I distinctly remember losing all of my vision for about 10 seconds after camel pose!
Besides about 10 classes I did sporadically with my mom while I was in high school, I didn’t really do Bikram Yoga until my birthday last year. Cassie (my favourite yoga companion) and I had just got back from South America and she had been going to Bikram Yoga with friends and was trying to convince me to come with her. I resisted, citing financial difficulties, but when she woke me up at 7 a.m. on my birthday and surprised me with two months of yoga, I had no choice. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I started coming as often as I could after that. Sometimes I will practice a ton, and I have done 60 days in a row. Other times I only manage to get in a few classes a week.
How do you juggle school and yoga?
This is actually one of the most interesting things that I found with my yoga practice. The busier school got, the more consistent my practice would be. During the last semester of my degree, I was finishing research and writing my undergraduate honours thesis as well as taking a full course load. This is actually when I did my 60 days of Bikram Yoga in a row. I just got into the habit of going to the lab, going to class and then going to yoga. That was most of what my life consisted of during those months, but I was strangely happy with everything! Since I graduated and am less busy, I’ve also been practicing a little bit less often … but the fact that it is summer gets some of the blame for that.
Why is it important to keep practicing Bikram Yoga on a regular basis, even when you’ve got a heavy workload at school?
A regular practice helps me feel good about all aspects of my life. The mental strength, dedication and determination that I have developed in yoga definitely influence the rest of my life, as well. Sometimes when I’m in yoga and I’m feeling tired or weak, I look in the mirror and think, “You need to turn it on right now. It’s no problem. You’re the kind of person that pushes hard all the time.” It’s this exact same thinking and determination that I use to accomplish my goals outside of the room. The reasons why I will be successful in the real world are the same reasons that my practice is always improving.
Does yoga help you as a student, specifically, in any way?
As I mentioned before, I think the biggest way it has helped me is by developing that sense of determination and appreciation for hard work. I have to admit, I’ve never really viewed yoga as a “stress reliever” like it is often talked about. Maybe doing so much of it is relieving enough stress that I don’t ever realize it was there in the first place! Definitely I think that everyone will take something different from practicing yoga, but it is guaranteed to have some kind of positive impact.
Why should other students give Bikram Yoga a try?
Students should give yoga a try for the same reason everybody else should: it will make you feel awesome. The only reason I can think of for students NOT to try yoga is if they’re absolutely determined to make their lives miserable. A solid yoga practice will make that pretty much impossible.
Got any advice for students, in terms of how they can continue to fit Bikram Yoga into their schedules during the school year?
Just go. Get into a groove and make it a habit. The class is hard, but the hardest part is getting out the door to class. Once you’ve made that decision, 99% of the battle is over. As soon as you’re in the room, you have nothing better to do but work hard and so you probably will. One thing that I tell myself that always gets me to go is that I have never gone to yoga and regretted it. I never come out of the room and think, “Wow, I really should have done something else with my time.”
Students, how do you manage to fit Bikram into your busy schedule? Help your fellow yogis out by leaving a comment below!