Category Archives: Guest Blog

Diary of a Yogi: A boxer stands alone on the mat

 

by Peter Wood

I’m 57 and I’m standing on a yoga mat. I’m in a Bikram Yoga class sweating bullets, more so than the middle-aged woman wearing a two-piece leotard on my left, or the thin young man in white shorts on my right. The room in cranked up to a hot 105 degrees and my heart is racing. My towel is sopping wet. I haven’t sweat as much since I was fighting in the ring.

I’m standing in a warm puddle of sweat and it brings me back to when I was someone else—that angry eighteen-year-old middleweight slugging other middleweights in Jersey City. Back then, boxing was my yoga. I didn’t realize it then, but punching felt good because it purified me of my anger, fear and hate. All of that negativity during every training session was good because it spewed out of my fists and never coagulated in my mind. Unknowingly, I was purging myself. Today, I have a smile in my heart because of boxing.

One big difference in this yoga class is that there is no coach barking, “Dig deep!” or “Get tough!” Another big difference is that, thankfully, I don’t see anyone in here who wants to punch the tip of my nose into the back of my brain. Now, it’s only me on my yoga mat beating myself up, gasping for air, pushing myself to stretch and strengthen my old muscles.

I’m new to yoga and I’m enjoying its gentle, meditative philosophy. Om, and its mind-body-spirit thing. At this stage of my life, I enjoy having a supportive teacher who is happy to guide me through various postures, while reminding me to breathe deeply through my crooked nose. I appreciate her encouraging me to release negative thoughts and to avoid all judgments. This gentler, more enlightened coaching is so refreshing. My old anger-fear-hate thing, which worked so well for me as a fighter, has no value here. And, quite frankly, there isn’t much left in me any more. After all, I am 57 years old. Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Feature, Diary of a Yogi, Guest Blog

Dreamin’ Big: the birth of Onzie

by Lauren Balefsky


I was born into a generation of dreamers.

My dad told me to “be happy,” and my Mom told me to “make my passion my career.” Sound familiar and slightly unrealistic?  I took these simple guidelines and, after some trial and error, chose the career of “yoga teacher.” If you also practice Bikram Yoga, you can understand how this yoga became my obsession, and in turn my passion.  I thought my calling was to teach yoga.  I had found happiness and passion.  I was set for life…sort of.

Some people are completely content to just teach yoga, but not this is necessarily true of a BIKRAM Yogi.

Allow me to introduce myself:  I am an overly emotional, type-A, perfectionist with a degree from Northwestern University.  (Though now that I am a yoga teacher those qualities are much less intrusive in my life).  Are you relating yet?  

I soon discovered that to make my yogi euphoria last for a lifetime, I would have to take it to the next level.  I started truly dreaming.  THIS is what my parents meant.  I realized in order to be successful you must allow yourself to find greatness in the passions you possess.  I started by asking the universe for something more that involved yoga.

Bikram Yoga became the facilitator of my dreams, instead of being my dream.

I searched the jobs online, and opened myself to new possibilities.  In early 2010, I got a call from my friend Miriam from Teacher Training.  A fellow Los Angeles resident and a second mother to me,  she was starting a clothing line with her daughter based around a simple one-piece leotard.  She knew that I loved wearing one-pieces and immediately asked that I be involved.

Onzie was born.

Let me tell you about my fashion history.  In high school I was the girl that did not quite fit in.  When everyone shopped at J Crew, I would find black shiny leggings and a cool top from a trendy store.  It wasn’t that I lacked style, I just did not conform to the “norm.”

This repeated itself in my yoga practice.

The day I decided to do the Southern CA competition three years ago, I went to a dance store to buy a leotard.  Since I was not a dancer I was not used to the fit.  I immediately loved the sleek feeling of practicing in a one-peice but was uncomfortable with the high cut bodice.

I started buying a size bigger so that I could pull the bottom of the leotard down to make it look like a 50’s bathing suit.  Compliments poured in.  At the time, I had to explain that I was adjusting a dance leotard, but not anymore.  Onzie has answered my yoga prayers.

Onzie is bringing back the original Bikram Yoga “costume” in a modern way. Starting small we designed two styles, a “classic” and “shortie” leotard in one size with to slowly add new styles.  To flatter all body types, we used solid colours and breathable, durable, Free Flow Fabric.  This fast-drying material keeps yogis feel cool and comfortable throughout class.

Our debut was at the International Yoga Competition this past year: a perfect launch platform.  We attracted a lot of women, young and old, that were curious about practicing in a one-piece.  Many girls tried it and were pleasantly surprised.  We collected feedback on sizing, cut, color, lining and alternative style options.  Being new to the fashion industry, I was surprised how one must be on their toes.  With all this feedback we got right to work designing prototypes and quickly turned around to launch the official spring/summer line within weeks.

Miriam’s garage (no joke) became a makeshift showroom, office and shipping center.  Since April 2010, we have sold out of that line!  You can spot the Onzie brand all over the US and Canada.  Our fall/winter line comes out November 1st, 2010!  (You can view it on www.theonzie.com)

The inspiration behind Onzie will always be the classic women’s yoga costume, but we decided to branch out even more.  We want our women to feel comfortable, cute, and excited when they wear our collection.  We have already added a bandeau top and matching shorts per requests of customers.

Our fall collection includes more modest selections for women who don’t want to show too much skin, as well as a new short for the men.  We are learning more about yogis who inspire us. We visited teacher training and talked to so many types of women from all over the world.  Each of them had ideas and opinions.  Most importantly, they were so happy to get a new outfit.  It seems so juvenile, but I know that feeling!  I love yoga, fashion, and making people feel good!  Onzie is an outlet for all three.

I hold high expectations for the future of our small clothing business. I believe in our cause.  The three of us love what we do.  Each day presents new challenges, ideas, and careful investment.  I never feel that hours are wasted pursuing sales and making contacts.  I love meeting new people, especially Bikram Yogis, all over the world!

Onzie was a blessing that came because I opened myself up to greatness.  If you are looking to start a business, whether in the fashion industry or not, it is important to dream big.  Anything is possible, especially when you have Bikram Yoga on your side.

5 tips to help you start your own clothing line:

1.Think of a niche that is missing in the current market, or a way you can bring back an old trend.
2.Have a partner.  It is always good to have a sounding board for new ideas.
3.Get feedback.  Do not be afraid to ask for help and ask potential customers what they want!
4.Prepare a 5-year plan.  Plan to NOT make your main income from this business right away.  It takes time to build a network.
5.Use the Internet!  Modern technology is mainly free and there is so much opportunity out there.

Contact Info:
Lauren Balefsky, Onzie Sales Manager
Lauren@theonzie.com
323-420-6589
http://www.theonzie.com

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Diary of a Yogi: The difference a teacher can make

by Amber Klahm

To all those that seek healing…

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.BKS Iyengar

My journey of twenty six postures began with my mind set on one goal: to find peace. I searched for a release from anger, depression and anxiety in all the wrong places. I wanted something that was going to challenge me physically and mentally and give me a sense of spiritual balance. Finally that search lead me to Bikram Yoga.

Whether it be a small change or a dramatic effect, we have all felt the hand of healing through this yoga. The yoga brings us to state of peace and enlightenment. But that journey cannot be realized without the help of passionate instructors who know the yoga the best.

Photo: Bennie Shapiro

Along each yogi’s journey we hit a block -sometimes after few weeks or after few years- that makes us question whether Bikram Yoga is really the path we should be following. My block came just a few months into practice. I hit rock bottom. Relationship problems, financial hardships and health scares left me wondering if this yoga could going to give me the strength to hold myself up. I wanted release from my frustrations, fears and excuses. I wanted to let go of all that was holding me back.

Amber's Instructor Frank in Rabbit Pose. Photo: Ron Sombilon

That was when Frank came into my life.

It’s not everyday that someone can come into your life and make a profound impact. But through his guidance, I was able to heal myself and move toward the peace I was searching for.

There are many instructors who will help a student find prescence, focus, energy, and conscious meditation. But from the beginning Frank did more. He helped me find the passion to love and accept myself and the faith to push past the barriers that kept me captive for so long.

I endured aches like I never felt before, but I knew this was a part of the healing process. For the first time I began to enjoy my blood coarsing through my veins when reaching new depths in my practise. His voice became the voice in my head. Stern, refreshing, discipline kept me motivated and helped release my frusterations in a room that welcomed tolerable cruelty.

It took sometime for all his teaching to sink in.

Frank taught me that breath is the key to maintaing a balanced practise. He to taught me to laugh especially when we don’t want to. To remind myself that each day is another way to stretch the boundaries of my body and my mind.

He taught me that standing head-to-knee is not a privledged accomplishment, but takes real discipline and work. Because of him, I understand many keys to maintaining this posture: discpline, breath, focus. And now, just before my head touches my knee I exhale and zone out, not focusing on the balance or the kick, just the moment.

The most challenging and valueable lesson was to believe that I could exceed my own limitations. That I could push through obstacles and still stay grounded and balanced to the reasons why I started this yoga to begin with.

A few months ago, I completed a 150 day challenge. And Frank helped me get there. He never let me feel self doubt, he stood beside me while I took myslef to new depths in my practise, and took the time to help me find what I was made of.

I thank Frank for showing me what I didn’t think I possessed. For inspiring a band of yogis and yoginnis who are still motivated and driven after he has left the studio. He has helped us overcome some the hardest hurdles on a journey that continues to open new doors.

Namaste


Amber Klahm is Bikram yogini and blogger based in Langley, British Columbia. She has finished a 150-day yoga challenge at Bikram Yoga Langely and writes for her blog Amber’s Bikram Diary.

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Guest Blog: How to keep your carpets smelling fresh

by Chad Clark

Chad Clark is the owner of Cavalry Service Inc. which specializes in supplying hot yoga studios with custom heating systems (including eco-friendly options). His client list includes studios from all over the USA, including the new Bikram Yoga Headquarters in LA. He joins OMB with a post about keeping your studio smelling fresh in the stinky summer months.

photo: Bikram Yoga Bronx

It is soon maximum “Stinky Season” for all carpeted studios. Warmer weather has a curious effect on hot yoga studios: it makes bacterial carpet infestation multiply and increases risk of infections. To cover up the unsanitary stench of the carpet bacteria, you could try ineffective cleaning and perfumes, or try a more effective options.

Small air purifiers rarely work, you will need something powerful that can actually destroy the bacteria causing the smell. Choices are slim, but here are some that could work for you:

High-output Ionizers work, but only if you can seal the room up tight with an air circulator and get a high dose of Ozone into the carpet fiber. But, beware Ozone is a poison and you can be sued for it if you fail to air out the room completely after an ionizing treatment.

Negative Ion Generators have been in use for a few years and can make a substantial difference. A forced air heating system so equipped can help keep the room smelling fresh during class as well.

Carbon air-filters will last about 30 minutes and need to be changed. There are some high-tech chemical absorber filters now on the market, but they do have chemicals- who can trust that?

High output UVC lamp systems have been in use in Yoga studios since 2003 with remarkable success such as the Sanuvox Biowall 60 which can kill airborne pathogens as well. Don’t be fooled by the little version designed to kill mold on a coil-many studios have been duped into that waste of money. You will need no less than 4-36″ lamps for an average studio to kill the smell.

The best solution which has been slowly gaining footholds in Bikram and other hot studios is the Zebra Flooring Mat as a non-slip carpet alternative. Most studios prefer it in the grey 1/2″ and install it over their concrete or wood floor. It is odor and VOC free, made of recycled latex foam and covered in a tatami textured fully cured vinyl skin. You can vac it, mop it, sweep lint off it and it will last 30 years. It lays down flat and requires no glue so it can leave with you at the end of your lease.

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How to survive teacher training when youre dying.

by Marj Wong

There is nothing like 355 people doing yoga in the desert to turn Bikram’s “torture chamber” joke into reality. Luckily, OMB contributor Marj Wong has come up with her own list of teacher training cheats survival tactics to help you get through. Some of them are PURE survival, but others are clean and simple – get it done.

Enjoy!

Bikram Yoga Teacher Training image: Bikram Yoga Summerlin


Save water in your mouth, drink it later.

Steal the teachers energy, it’s there for the taking.
Like Nike says: “Just Do It”

BEND your knee: your forehead MUST touch your knee. This also works very well in combination with shake like you’re struggling.

Do like Teshia Maher says: go to the beach.

Teacher training is an opportunity for growth, take some time to practice your ESP. Communicate telepathically with the teacher, try the following mantra: “Open the door.”
Get out of your mind and into the posture.

If you’ve set ablaze: blow on yourself. Remember, this should be done discreetly, and is especially helpful if you make it look like you are just focusing on your breathing.

Fake it until you make it.

That previously stored energy from yesterday’s class that you’ve collected so diligently after class and kept between your toes, in your arm pits, the crooks of your elbows, backs of the knees, now is the time to “USE IT”!

Start a movement. Swing your arms ever so slightly to create a breeze.
Move your body: BREATHE.

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Diary of a Yogini: 7/60

Mira is a student and journalist from Bikram Yoga Centre in Toronto. Here she writes about her struggles on Day 7 of her 60 Day Challenge… enjoy.

by Mira Saraf

Guest Blogger Mira Saraf

It is sometime between the first savasana on the floor and the spine strengthening series that I feel the initial pangs of panic.

It is always the same.

Numbness teases my fingertips that have grown extremely icy in spite of the heat.

My heart starts to pound and I feel like laughing and crying simultaneously.

It is day seven of my 60-day challenge.

I have spent the day at the Distillery district on a class field trip, consumed two caffeinated beverages, a small (very small) sample of beer and brunch. Day seven will forever be the day that I wish that I had stayed back with my classmates to sample Mayan hot chocolate at the Soma Chocolatemaker than coming back up here to push my tired limbs in a room crammed with dripping strangers.

I start to breathe heavier, but become acutely aware that I may be distracting others around me so I try to keep it in. I always panic on this side of the room when it’s crowded. But I seem to forget this every class and put my mat down in the same spot.

As I pull my knee towards my chest I curse coffee, I curse alcohol, most of all I curse Eggs Benedict and stupid dehydrating hollandaise sauce.

I wonder why I thought this challenge was a good idea.

Then I quickly retract that thought.

This is progress, I tell myself, this is pushing myself to do something good for my mind and my body.

I stare pleadingly at the vents, praying for the click of the fan switch. As we move into spine strengthening, the air whirs to life, suddenly I feel invincible.

The air-conditioning is my rock, my prince charming, my knight in shining armor. It occurs to me that my dependence on the fan is slightly unhealthy, and I am a little relieved that nobody around me can read my random thoughts.

I sigh inside my head. I have so much to learn.

Cobra pose goes surprisingly well and I feel myself coaxing the fan to stay a little while. In spite of my mental murmurings the fan goes off half way through the next pose. My skin instantly heats to the point of burning but I am stronger now.

We are in fixed firm pose when I first feel the pinch on my shin. I examine it quickly as I come out of savasana and see the faint blue of a developing bruise. Where this came from I have no idea.

Isn’t yoga supposed to give you more balance? If so, then why do I continue to walk into hard objects without realizing. The bruise distracts me from the silence that is supposed to be in my mind.

I wonder briefly about dehydration and kidney stones.

A friend at work had kidney stones from too much yoga and not enough hydration. Could I have kidney stones? No bruises are something else, blood clots. Yes it’s true, I am in fact sitting here in the middle of half-tortoise diagnosing myself with blood clots.

“This is ridiculous,” I tell myself and try to silence my mind.

Finally, my efforts start to yield results. By camel my mind is calm and my body has accepted it’s fate. By the end of final savasana I dream of the electrolytes swishing down my parched mouth.

On the walk home it is cold, colder than it was earlier. The sun has set and I am heading home to Superbowl Sunday.

As I walk and the cold breath of winter clings to my legs below my tights, I realize that my muscles have softened and my body does not have carry that limp feeling of weakness I felt this morning.

My body is no longer fighting.

I realize that for once, my mind and body are one, in sync: pure, beautiful harmony.

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Filed under Bikram Yoga Centre, Diary of a Yogi, Guest Blog, Yoga Challenge

Guest Blog: Tales from the Competition by Juliana

Juliana Olmstead spent the last weekend down in LA getting inspired by the amazing competitiors of the International Bishnu Ghosh Hatha Yoga Competition. Here blow she gives us the inside scoop on what it was like to be among the world’s yoga champions. Enjoy!

by Juliana Olmstead

The Yoga, the fun…

The performances were amazing this weekend.  Things started strong on Friday with the U.S. championship, but by the final round on Sunday, things were really being taken to a whole new level!

The championships really do get better every time.  Courtney Mace, last year’s international champion, taught the 7am class at headquarters on Friday, and she kept saying that it was amazing to see how everyone, collectively, is getting so much stronger every year.

I adore the championship weekend because it’s just like a massive family reunion (where there are hundreds of people in the family and very few of them are related by blood).  Teacher training groups were reunited – the fall 2005 graduates were very proud to point out that almost all of their Group One was there! – students were reunited with their favorite teachers, Facebook friends met face-to-face for the first time, and of course everyone got to see Bikram, Rajashree, and Emmy.

I kept describing it as a “yoga convention” to my friends at home, because that’s what it feels like to me.

Even if you’re not competing, you spend the entire weekend immersed in the world of Bikram yoga.  I was getting up before 6am every morning to take the 7am at Headquarters, but I still found myself awake past 1am, at the hotel bar with a glass of wine talking about yoga miracles or in a friend’s hotel room talking about how to pick up the foot in standing head to knee.  In other words, it was yoga dork heaven!!

Bikram’s birthday party on Saturday night, complete with Indian buffet, mind-boggling demonstrations from last year’s champions, and a classic Bikram speech.  And yes, he danced. (He loves to show off his disco moves.  “I invented disco; I just took off the -theque!”)  And yes, I did too.  It was glorious and silly. It was everything that you wish you’d had at your awkward middle school dances.

On a personal level, I was thrilled to meet some great new friends and spend time with some of my favorite people.  On Sunday night, after the awards ceremony, a car-full of us took off and went to the Korean bathhouse and to a late-night Pakistani place and filled our stomachs. When  our waitress asked if were were from here, and everyone laughed; we had one person from Hawaii, one from Australia, two from Massachusetts, and one Massachusetts/California hybrid (me).  It was such a joy to be in that moment, in that place, with those people.

On the Youth Division…

One of the youth competitors in full standing bow. Photo: Mike McInnis for YogaCup

My jaw was on the floor for most of the kids’ performances.  It’s great to see people starting Bikram yoga so early in life!  And there was some seriously good yoga this year, especially among the girls. One after another, they went up there and nailed advanced postures that I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do for years!  (Can anyone tell me, when did all the little kids start doing full standing bow?!) It was really inspiring to see.
On the International finals…
Those top 10 performances were mind-blowing.  In the men’s division, Kasper Van Den Wijngaard and Joseph Encinia were neck-and-neck for the International gold medal.  I honestly couldn’t tell who had won. Kasper ended up coming ahead of Joseph by only six-tenths of a point. (The routines are scored out of 80 points.)  I also have to give a shout-out to Deepak, whose score would have been in the same range if he hadn’t gone over time in his last posture!!

Joseph Encina, in Handstand Tiger-Scorpion pose. Photo: Mike McInnis for Yoga Cup

And then, in the women’s division… that may have been the best 30 minutes of yoga I’ve ever seen.  One of the more senior Bikram teachers wandered past me halfway through (I was working as volunteer, guarding the door), and said, “The ladies are bringing it this year!!”  I think it’s fair to say that 5 years ago, any one of those performances would have earned an international medal.

Brandy Winfield ended up with a definitive win, but again, the scores were really tight; there was only eight-tenths of a point difference between third and seventh place!

The Technical Stuff

You can learn a lot by watching these performances.  You get to see the postures in their fullest expression, and you get a good glimpse of the advanced postures.  The competition also helps you to start understanding the nuances of the postures.

Think all standing head to knee poses look the same?

Chau Kei Stephani Ngai in Standing Head to Knee Photo: Mike McInnis for YogaCup

Try watching 60 different people do excellent versions of the pose, all in a row.  Your eye starts to recognize all the differences and subtleties.  The little technical details – the exact position of the grip, the height of the heel, the angle of the wrists – start to jump out at you.  And since every body is unique – long legs, long spines, short arms, short torsos, muscular and strong, slim and flexible – you start to see what correct execution looks like on all the different bodies, with all their different proportions.

On the events afterward…

On Monday there was a choice between advanced class with Emmy or judge’s clinic with Bikram.  I headed to advanced class, and I was happy with that choice, since Bikram was actually there with us for the first hour before he headed over to the clinic!

Bikram and Emmy started the class by talking about the postures that they’d seen on stage over the weekend.  Their advice to future competitors was clear and simple: follow the Dialogue!  They said it over and over.

At the national and international championship level, people are still just getting deductions for not following the precise set-ups that are given in the dialogue.

Teshia Maher, Eastern Hatha Yoga Champion in Advanced Class. Photo: Mike McInnis for Yoga Cup

They mentioned things like

  • gripping three inches below the toes in standing head to knee
  • two inches below the toes in bow
  • keeping the wrists straight in bow

Have no doubt, these guys know exactly what is written in the dialogue, and they are sort of baffled when people aren’t following it!  Emmy thinks that when people get advanced, they start to do things their own way, but they should be doing it the way the dialogue says in order to get the best benefits.

Even in competition, it’s not about doing the “prettiest” posture; it’s all about doing the most correct posture, according to the dialogue, to get maximum medical benefits.


The Real Competition…

On the final day, just before the last awards ceremony, last year’s champions all got up to speak.  I was really moved by Courtney Mace’s speech.  She said that she started Bikram yoga about 6 years ago because she “just wanted to feel better,” and she never imagined the potential that would be unlocked by just 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises.  (At this point, I was already mumbling, “I think I have something in my eye…”)  She said that when you see the competition, and especially when you are a part of it, you know that it’s not really a competition between people.

Courtney Mace delivering her closing speech. Photo: Mike McInnis for Yoga Cup

“There is always a competition,” she explained, “but it’s not between people.  It happens every time you step into the hot room, and it’s a competition between the ego and the soul.  And the soul always wins.  It has to.  So by the time you get on the stage, there is no competition anymore.  There is only your soul.”

(Okay, I admit it, I definitely got teary!)

It was a wild, disorganized, and wonderful weekend, all in true Bikram style.  If you ever get the chance to attend one of these championships, it’s most definitely worth the visit.

Juliana will be updating my her blog (keepitlocking.blogspot.com) with more bits and pieces throughout the week, so keep checking over there if you still want to hear more!!

Photos from the 2010 Bishnu Ghosh Cup can all be found here.

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