In a relatively short period of time – and despite the challenge of asthma – extraordinary BYV student Chelsea has advanced her Bikram Yoga practice by leaps and bounds. Found out how this competitive dancer did it (hint: you’ll be inspired to try Core 40 classes and Lisa Pelzer’s Posture Workshops)!
When and why did you start practising Bikram Yoga?
I started my regular practice four years ago in the Comox Valley. I had been a dancer throughout high school and wanted to get into better shape, plus maintain my flexibility. I had been dragged to a Bikram Yoga class a year before and made the decision that, if I was serious about improving my health and fitness, this was the way to do it.
What was your very first class like?
TERRIBLE! My mother convinced me to go to a class with her. I was a cocky teenage competitive dancer and thought I was just going to be doing some stretches in the heat. When the breathing exercise started I was sure this was some sort of cult. I spent the next 80 minutes trying not to faint – and a good portion lying down. It was definitely a good little ego check!
What was it that finally got you “hooked” on Bikram Yoga?
When I decided to give Bikram Yoga an honest try I bought a month unlimited Groupon pass and told myself I was going to give it my best shot and decide after that. I had a good, consistent practice for about three years, but I really got hooked just over a year ago. I really learned to love and enjoy my practice and, instead of dreading going to class, it became the highlight of my day.
How often do you practice Bikram Yoga these days?
These days I aim to do a minimum of six classes a week, sometimes up to eight.
What are some of the main/best benefits you receive from Bikram Yoga?
All-around health and wellness. I feel like Bikram Yoga gives me balanced and practical fitness as well as mental clarity. No matter how my day has gone, or how I feel, I always come out of the hot room with my body and mind in a better place.
What do you love most about Bikram Yoga?
I love the challenge. Every class is different, even though the postures never change. It really shows that our bodies are always transitioning into new places.
What have some of the challenges been for you in the hot room?
Keeping calm breathing. I have asthma and, when I first started, breathing in the hot room was very difficult. It’s hard enough to keep breathing through your nose and slow down your breath in the heat as it is, let alone when my lungs would tighten up. Slowing down my breathing has been a challenge, but continually working on it has really helped my lungs.
Got any good tips for making it through a 90-minute class?
A huge part of your practice is in your head. I think the best advice for making it through a 90-minute class is to keep a positive attitude. So many people treat yoga like a chore, when it really can be fun. Convincing yourself that you’re excited to come to class and trying to smile when things get tough makes a huge difference. If you get out of your struggle and focus on your strengths it can make the class fly by. I figure if you love the results, you should learn to love the process.
Has any BYV teacher in particular made a lasting impression on you or helped you advance your practice?
All the teachers at BYV are great, and I love their classes for different reasons, but I would say Stefanie has had a big impact on my practice. I moved to Vancouver from a tiny town with a close, small yoga studio, and I knew nobody in Vancouver. Stef was the first person to remember my name and made me feel welcome at the studio. I also really enjoy how she keeps her classes light and throws in some humour. It’s nice to be reminded to not take yourself TOO seriously. On top of that, I feel like she always does a good job addressing and adjusting individuals, while still keeping the class on track.
Have you done anything special to help advance your practice? How do you think these things can help other yogis looking to take their practice further?
I have done a few Core 40 classes, but my goal for the summer is to do one per week. I have attended one of Lisa’s workshops and found it very helpful. It’s nice to have a few postures slowed down and hear feedback that you can bring into your regular practice.
Tell us a bit about yourself outside of the hot room:
I’m 23 and my biggest passion in life is dance. Currently I teach hip hop, work the odd freelance dance gig and spend a lot of time dancing around in my kitchen. I am also a trainer at Pure Vibe Fitness and work out there around five days a week doing HIIT classes. I also model part time professionally and on artistic collaborations. My favourite and niche genre is modelling body paint and special FX makeup. It’s quite common for me to show up in the hot room looking dirty or stained funny colours from being fully covered in makeup! I don’t have much free time outside of work and working out but, when I do, I’m on my motorcycle. I love riding over to Vancouver Island and going for night rides through the city.