Student Profile: Katie W.

Katie’s got an incredible 10 years of Bikram Yoga under her belt, and says it still offers her benefits on a daily basis! Find out why this talented filmmaker loves it when teachers call her out in class, loathes Full Locust Pose and likens the most important lesson she learned in Bikram Yoga to a scene straight out of Baywatch! Oh, and when you’re done, be sure to watch Katie’s latest film – T is for Trash – and vote for it in the ABCs of Death’s “26th Director” Contest. Details below!

Hi Katie! Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …

I did my first class in the fall of 2000. I was working crazy long film-industry hours and finally had a long weekend off. I went to Portland for a weekend getaway with two goals on my mind: get a massage and do a yoga class, even though I’d done yoga before and really didn’t get it. Like, “I just spent $20 to lay on the floor for 20 minutes?!”

Anyway, I was in a Portland café and saw a flyer for a yoga class that promised I’d sweat. So I tried it. I remember being in the back row and realizing really quickly that a) the only way to get through the class would be to completely abandon my ego and b) no one but the teacher was paying attention to me anyway. I remember feeling like I was really challenging myself and something amazing was happening.

When I got back to Vancouver I immediately went to the studio at Broadway and Arbutus. I was still working long hours but would always go to two classes each weekend and whenever I could during the week. I think a lot of people from work tried a class because I wouldn’t shut up about it. I even remember taping a Bikram schedule up in the office.

Now, I make it my goal to practise every day. I’ve been practising mostly at Kitsilano but just did a few classes at the new Cambie Studio; that room is amazing! I killed it the last class I did there – the sweatiest towel I’ve ever left the room with, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed or out of breath.

Wow, 10 years! Do you still encounter any challenges in the hot room?

Monkey mind; I’ve got a tonne of things on the go and am always strategizing about the best ways to get them done. I’ve learned a trick in class that works really well for me: I try to letthe teacher’s words echo in my head. This really helps me focus only on the dialogue (plus, it’s really helped me become a better listener outside of class).

The other trick that really helps me focus is when the teacher calls me out. The last time I got called out was in Julia’s class. In Tree Pose, I raised my hand into prayer early. Julia told me to put my hand down because we weren’t at that part of the posture. Part of me was wondering why I shouldn’t get into the posture as quickly as possible? Wouldn’t I get the most benefits that way? But I think it’s about learning patience – achieving the foundation of the posture before moving onto the next step. I definitely refocused on being mindful after Julia’s advice.

Do you have a favourite posture?

Since my very first class, Standing Bow has been my favourite posture. It’s so beautiful and I feel really tall when I do it. No matter how terrible a class I’m having or how many times I fall out, there are at least a couple of seconds where I’m really in the zone in Standing Bow.

Is there a posture you’d really like to improve?

Full Locust Pose: I have a million reasons why it’s hard for me and I’m a special case and it’s just my body type and it’s probably way easier for everyone else. A few months ago, Cedric mentioned focusing on two vertebrae right at the base of the spine and really lifting both legs up from there. I kind of started to get it; I realized that I was trying to lift from much higher up on my back and it was making a lot more weight to lift in the air. I’m microscopically better because of that advice and at least now my toes are off the ground in the posture and I’m not lying there making every excuse in the book.

Any advice for Bikram Yoga beginners?

They say it all the time in yoga: check your ego at the door. Seriously, nobody but the teacher is paying attention to you. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen? You’re going to fall out, feel sick, need to lie down. So what? I always try to remember that every single second of those 90 minutes someone on the planet is experiencing more discomfort than me.

After doing yoga for a while, listen to what it’s telling you. The worst class I’ve ever had was after I’d had too much coffee. I had to lay out all the postures after Standing Bow. Even in Savasana, my heart was still racing like I was running a marathon. I remember lying there wondering why Rea wasn’t calling an ambulance. What did I learn from this class? That I was drinking too much coffee.

How has Bikram Yoga benefited you?

I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t been doing yoga for the last 10 years. Sometimes, because of work, I have to take large blocks of time off yoga … the last one lasted about five months. After three months off, I noticed my hands were aching. That freaked me out. Was this the beginning of arthritis? I started doing some hand exercises on my own but that didn’t do anything. I went back to yoga as soon as I could and now everything is back to normal.

I’m sure that sore hands were just the first sign of everything that would start to slip away without yoga …

Yoga has also helped me appreciate the now and become more aware and empathetic of what’s going on around me. We’re often told in class that the only thing you can change is you. One of the most astute realizations I’ve ever had came to me in yoga class, and I try to recall that lesson every time I need to. I was in the hot room, doing OK, except the person beside me was breathing in the most annoying way possible. Loud, laboured and raspy, and I swear they had put their mat right beside mine with the sole purpose of annoying me. Then I suddenly had a scenario pop into my head, where this person stopped breathing. What would we do? I imagined the whole yoga room focused on getting this person breathing again, giving CPR and then, success, that awful silence being broken by that same, annoying breathing. Wouldn’t we all be overjoyed and think it was the most beautiful sound in the world? (I know … the most profound realization of my life is straight out of an episode of Baywatch). Still, that little imaginary situation reminds me how I react to things is always based on my frame of reference and it’s very easy for me to see outside of that. I’m very grateful for the empathy that yoga has taught me.

As a movie maker, yoga has also helped me find the confidence and creativity to tell my own stories! In fact, I just finished a film would love for you all to watch and vote. It’s weird and creepy and just in time for Halloween! Visit the ABCs of Death and vote for T is for Trash as the 26th Director before October 31!

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