One hundred classes in just over three months – that’s what we call dedication! Read Gordon’s profile and find out more about this British transplant’s newfound love for Bikram Yoga!
Tell us about your first Bikram Yoga class …
My first-ever Bikram Yoga class was at the Kitsilano hot yoga studio in May. My friend Lindsey suggested it to me, as she felt it had changed her life for the better and knew I was into fitness and would benefit, too. I’ve gone to the gym and running for as long as I can remember – as a former British military special forces officer I’m used to doing every type of physical training in the world EXCEPT yoga, so this was a real venture into the unknown.
Anyway, I remember that day well. I woke up in the morning and decided to grab the Bikram Yoga bull by the horns, emailed the studio and, an hour later, was in my first class. Easy – or, at least I thought it was. I had no idea what lay in store!
My key memory is of the heat. I remember stripping off my T-shirt in the first 10 minutes, as wearing it was pointless. (Typical sign of a first timer: too many clothes!) I also remember feeling totally at home even though it got as hot as hell once the class got underway. It was hard. But that’s down to me. I like to achieve in life, and working hard was how I believed I’d get the most out of the class. So I went for it and, after 90 minutes, I felt like I’d been in a UFC fight. And won. Bruised, worn out, but happy.
Nearly 100 classes later, I still feel like it’s my first class every time I do Bikram Yoga – which is why I continue to love it. The satisfaction I felt at the end as I lay on the floor and, subsequently, walked out of the studio into the May sunshine was euphoric. There is no substitute for that moment. It’s one of the many reasons I’m addicted.
I returned the very next day and did 18 straight days. I would have continued for longer but had a weekend away at Whistler. When I came back I did 30 classes in 30 days. Why? I love a challenge and wanted to begin getting the deeper yoga benefits as soon as I could. My attitude to fitness and health has always been positive and I’ve been told that, after three months or so of Bikram Yoga, you really do begin to see and feel the benefits. That was my initial motivation – and still is. The way I feel after a class is best described as invincible. I don’t feel as if anything can bother me and I can handle anything the world chooses to throw at me. And you know what? I can. I’ve had a few ups and downs over the last few months and life is nothing short of superb. I’m physically fitter and healthier than ever before and biologically my body is getting younger. Don’t believe me? Try it. Dedicate yourself to it and find out.
How often do you practice Bikram Yoga now?
I’m in the studio five or six times a week, so generally over 20 times a month. And that’s what I recommend to my friends, too. There’s a whole crowd of buddies who joined up thanks to my preaching! Sometimes I’ll do a double to mix it up a bit, and I also like to hit the Cambie Studio from time to time; it’s a great space.
Bikram has the beauty of being transferable, too. I was in Toronto in July for a weekend and did a class there – there’s no excuse for missing out when you escape from Vancouver for a few days. Saying that, I did notice the difference. The Bikram Yoga Vancouver practice is definitely more challenging than my Toronto experience. In short: it’s hotter and harder here.
Tell us about the milestone you’re about to achieve …
I’m about to reach my 100th class in about 125 days. I’m a realist, have a full-time career and a social life, too, so I’d say it’s nothing short of an awesome achievement. Next stop 150, then 200 by the end of the year. Why did I choose 100? I suppose I didn’t consciously do it. It’s a little like the benefits of Bikram Yoga: it slowly but surely takes a hold of you and suddenly you notice you’ve achieved a positive goal.
Would you suggest other beginners reach for a similar goal?
It depends on what motivates you and how hard you want to work at getting results. I’d suggest that going once or twice a week is better than not going at all. If you combine it with other physical activities (like swimming, cycling or resistance training), you’ll have a good health regime. But personally I’d recommend a minimum of four weekly Bikram Yoga classes, dedicated yourself to three months of it. See what happens. You’ll be amazed.
What physical benefits have you received from Bikram Yoga?
The physical benefits are superb. I’ve toned up and lost weight. I’ve always been fit but this has lowered my BMI, my visceral fat levels, blood pressure and resting heart rate. It’s increased my flexibility and developed my strength – a mix of hypertrophy and endurance. As I’m also a personal trainer, I’ve taken scientific measurements and my body age is lower than my real body age – this yoga is making me younger. No joke. Fact.
How about mental benefits?
I’ve one major rule. Never leave the studio until it’s over. Once you’re in the studio you stay, and that one rule has made me mentally stronger. It permeates everything I do in the class: every posture, every breath, every moment of, well, death. Drew, one of the teachers, always says, “You’ll die a thousand deaths in here.” He’s right; you do. And every last one makes you mentally stronger as you raise your game to rise to the next challenge.
Spiritually, I’ve become much more focused on the basic fundamentals of mindfulness and awareness – of “living in the moment.” You could say I’ve unintentionally become pseudo-Buddhist – although I’m not entirely sure such a term exists. Bikram Yoga certainly makes life’s challenges a pleasure to deal with. It’s become my “church,” the place where I totally disengage from the world. When I reconnect after class, I’m in a much better place.
What do you like most about Bikram Yoga? What is the biggest challenge?
To me, Bikram Yoga is best described as a kind of über-yoga – there is nothing else like it. The way it physically and mentally affects you – if you’re dedicated – is nothing short of awesome. Physically I’m becoming stronger and healthier than I ever have been, and I’ve done lots of other tough physical training in my life. Mentally I’m more focused, dedicated and have a clarity that grows by the week. Who wouldn’t want that? It makes for a very happy life.
It takes a special dedication to challenge yourself and walk regularly into the hot room – something beyond other yoga styles. The temperature can be your friend and your foe, if you let it. Your achievement is resolving this and other challenges internally to combine your mind, body and spirit in harmony. In short, don’t fight it, feel it. This is the battle I have every time I enter the studio. And the battle I win each time; well, most of the time. I love it. There’s no coincidence that it’s a reflection of life.
Got a favourite posture?
My favourite posture has to be Standing Bow. It’s such an elegant pose and a fantastic stretch. I’m a big fan of Camel Pose, too. The leaning back and release of the physical and emotional tension is chakra heaven. Bring it on!
I also recommend doing all the postures you don’t like or think you can’t improve on. Challenge yourself. I did. Despite my lack of flexibility thanks to all the traditional physical stuff I’ve done in the past, I’m improving one millimetre at a time, mentally and physically. And my body loves it.
Have any BYV teachers made a special impression on you?
I feel challenged by all the teachers. That’s necessary and forms a solid foundation I can rely on because I’ll come to class not always knowing who’ll be teaching. But needless to say many teachers – Gaby, Kirsten, Christine – have left an impression on me.
Drew made an impact with his unique vocal drive to constantly remind me that there should be no compromise in the pursuit of Bikram Yoga excellence. I believe him. Gabe has a talent for making every individual in the class feel like they’re in a personal yoga class with him; without fail, he always gives me an extra point to develop and focus on, which helps me improve. If Julia is teaching, I know she’ll fire up my determination. Rea has a unique talent of taking me to a mentally and physically challenging place. It’s best described as, well, hell. And she has this knack of pulling me back from the brink of it each time. It’s a fantastic way to progress, even if she does insist, “It’s only yoga.” Really? I suppose it is.
Jacob has told me, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” I believe him, although I must admit I’m surprised how much weakness is contained in my body! Ryan always has a subtle joke laced within a comment to throw into the mix when you least suspect it – it reminds me not to take the class too seriously.
BYV girls love a British accent! Tell us a bit about your life outside the hot room …
As a British Army captain I took my troops all over the world – some nice places and some not, some hot as a Bikram Yoga studio and some cold as a chilled coconut water. I then became a classically trained actor; you may have spotted me in some Canadian films and on Coronation Street! I eventually moved to Vancouver. I’ve been busy: I ran my own sports conditioning and boot camp company before taking a position in management and teaching at UBC. I’ve also just started a second master’s degree in education. And in my spare time? Well, Bikram Yoga of course, plus some excellent friends. Given a choice I’ll be out on the water on a boat or a jet ski or, in the winter, on the snow.