When did you start practicing yoga?
It's well over 5 years since I first walked into BYX and met Kristin. Several months ago, she told me that I had practiced over 500 times in her studio! I've had several memberships to gyms over the years but none that I ever stuck with for more than 6 months. I hate lifting weights, nor am I into the standard machines those places offer, and I lose interest quickly in things that bore me. Something just clicked with me as my practice evolved.
What brought you to BYX?
I had a very rare medical condition that was not responding well to the traditional remedies of drugs and physical therapy. I was in a lot of pain and very out of shape from being bedridden for several months. I was afraid of becoming an invalid. My physical therapist suggested I try Bikram Yoga as she had practiced it a few times at BYX. I was so desperate that I told her "I would walk on hot coals if it would make me better," and I decided to give it a try. At first I could hardly do any of the postures, and the hardest part was lying on my stomach for the spine strengthening series. But with encouragement from Kristin and my physical therapist, I stuck with it, and I now try to get here 3-4 times a week, work permitting.
Why do you keep coming?
Besides the fact that I've never felt better in my 63 years, once I added Bikram Yoga to my medical treatment, my condition slowly improved. I have not seen my doctor/specialist in over 3 years now, and it's been longer than that since I stopped my physical therapy. And I am off just about all of the medication. If you look up Male Pelvic Pain Syndrome in a medical dictionary, you will NOT see Bikram Yoga listed as one of the treatments. But I am 100% convinced that it was the missing piece to my recovery, and both my urologist and physical therapist now "prescribe" Bikram Yoga to their patients with this disorder. I now consider Bikram to be my maintenance, and I'm leery of going too long between practicing for fear that my condition may return.
What benefits have you seen from your practice?
I'm in the best physical shape of my life, and Bikram is really the total of my exercise regimen. My biggest improvement has been in my breathing, and I now rarely find myself needing to take a break during the series. I've seen improvement in all 3 of the basics - strength, flexibility, and balance -- but I'm still a work in progress and my flexibility has the farthest to go. But I do see myself going farther in the postures than I ever thought possible. It's pretty humbling when progress is measured in such micro steps. It took me 4 years to even try to go back in fixed firm and I still can't get my shoulders down to my mat. But I've learned to be patient and I hope it won't be 4 more years before I can get my shoulders to touch the mat!
How has yoga improved/changed your life? Any surprises?
How yoga changed me outside of the room is what was really unexpected. I've always been a worrier. In addition to my illness, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer about 4 years ago. I'm happy to say that I am in complete remission and about as cured as one can be. They say health challenges can really change your life, and that's certainly true for me. I'm a different person than I was before the surgery, but I firmly believe it when teachers say the goal of yoga is to improve the quality of your life outside of the yoga room. Yoga has helped me eliminate almost all stress from my life, and I often use the breathing to keep me calm, especially when I feel any anxiety creeping in.
What's your favorite posture and why?
My favorite postures are Triangle and Locust. Maybe because they were the hardest to "master" (and I've hardly mastered them), but I got a few tips on these that really helped and I'm now hearing much more of the dialogue than when I first started. My favorite part of the whole practice is the walk to my car, especially around this time of year when it's getting cooler. Not only do I feel so damn good physically with the cool air in my face, but I also get such a sense of satisfaction for what I have just accomplished. This practice is very hard for me at 63 years old, and I am proud of myself for what I put myself through each practice, with the ultimate goal of keeping my entire body healthy.
Do you have any goals that you did not have before practicing?
This is a tough question because my life is in a very good place right now, and my main goal is to be the "old guy" in the front of the room when I'm 80, still enjoying my yoga.
Is there anything else about your practice you would like to share?
BYX is a special place, and it has become a very important part of my life over the past 6 years. I am usually one of the last in the room before practice begins, and my long final savasana usually ensures that I'm one of the last to leave the studio. Except for the teachers, I really don't speak to many students... I'm just a private kind of guy. That being said, it is obvious that it is a wonderful community of people who attend BYX, and I sense that every time I show up. As in business, it all starts from the top, and Kristin is really what makes this place special. Yes, she was my first teacher and she IS my Yogi. But without her early encouragement, I am certain I would have given up and tried the next thing. For that I am truly grateful. Namaste, Howard.