Longtime Bikram Hot Yoga practitioner Janice has done us proud by bringing yoga into her Grade 1 classroom. Read our earlier post about the at-risk children she – along with extraordinary BYV teachers like Tanya Chernov and Lisa Pelzer – motivates and inspires through weekly yoga classes for kids during the school year, and check out her own reasons for keeping up a regular Bikram Yoga practice!
Tell us about your very first Bikram Hot Yoga class …
If I recall correctly, I was talked into my first class back in the spring of 2000. My best friend had been trying for months to get me to go with her to a class, but I had a preconceived notion about what Bikram Yoga was and was really resistant to try. Finally, we took a class at the original Kits hot yoga studio on Broadway and Arbutus; Barb taught and, although it was difficult and confusing, I remember feeling surprised and motivated to pursue the practice.
It took me only about a week to return; to be honest, I attended hot yoga classes just once a week for a long time, so it was a slower start for me. But I became hooked on Bikram Yoga when I experienced the stress relief from my work and noticed the amazing feeling I was getting after class. I believe that learning not to judge myself was huge for me; being in the moment and going with the flow really impacted my world. These days I practise about three times a week. I have never been a daily practitioner but, rather, a longtime devotee!
What are the main benefits from Bikram Yoga that you’ve received?
Having the opportunity to release stress is one amazing benefit I receive from the yoga. Working with at-risk children full time can be daunting to say the least. I am able to let it go and become stronger both mentally and emotionally so that I’m better able to give my students my best. And, of course, the physical health benefits of hot yoga are incredible!
At the end of the day I want to be healthy and happy, and Bikram Yoga continues to help me achieve my goals. I feel it is the perfect combination of strengthening exercises, cardio and stretching. Add in the mind-body connection and letting go of your stressors, and it is the perfect 90-minute activity! Also, Lisa and Danny and all of their staff are so dedicated to maintaining the highest standards at the studios, and I am grateful to them for that. I feel very lucky to have been a part of this community for so many years.
How do you deal with bikram yoga postures that pose a special challenge?
I struggle with Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose – I injured myself years ago and just find this posture so challenging. My best advice to get through any difficult posture or class is to try to visualize the feeling you have after class and how glad you are that you went. I do this all the time!
How have your students benefitted from yoga in the classroom?
Our school is located on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest postal codes in Canada. We’re dealing with a range of issues every day, from kids who haven’t eaten breakfast to children without socks on their feet to students who have a difficult home life, ESL needs or learning, anxiety and attention-deficit disorders. You try to get them to focus and it’s hard. Some can’t even grasp what you mean by the word “focus”; they don’t understand why it’s so crucial not only to learning, but to coping with life in general.
Coming from 12 years of Bikram Yoga practice I can really see how much I’ve changed. Now, thanks to instructors … who are willing to donate their free time to come and teach us yoga for half an hour, I’m seeing the same positive shifts occurring in my kids. Besides building their confidence, concentration and connection to self, yoga inherently teaches them to listen to their bodies, still their minds, take risks, challenge themselves, stay positive and learn from, encourage and help each other. These are all lessons they can take with them when they leave our classroom that will last them well beyond the school year. Any time you arm people with strategies to cope, you’re enhancing and improving their lives. To these children, the yoga … is a very special gift.
Have you inspired anyone else in your life to take up the practice?
Yup! I introduced Bikram Yoga to my sister and, in April, her two daughters, my nieces, opened a fabulous new studio in Edmonton, Bikram Yoga East Edmonton. I couldn’t be more thrilled or proud!