I took my first Bikram class in Chicago in 2009, when a friend invited me to "come to yoga, it'll be fun!" I showed up in sweatpants, without even a water bottle, and remember virtually nothing but the heat; it was so hot! I swore I would never go back, and yet...
In early 2010, I began planning for a backpacking trip in tropical climates. I wanted to be stronger, to carry my pack all day, and I wanted to pre-acclimate to the heat, despite the Chicago winter swirling outside. I went back to that Bikram studio, walked in the door, and signed up for a 30-day challenge, committing to practice every day for the next month. It took me nearly the whole 30 days just to hold my arms over my head for both sets of half moon! My shoulders were so tight; but I was definitely building the strength I'd hoped for, while completely falling in love with the heat.
With the Bikram CD uploaded to my iPod and my yoga mat strapped to my backpack, I set off, traveling the world for nearly two years, and practicing the 26+2 series everywhere along the way. I continued to build strength and flexibility, and I found myself improving my mental health as well, reducing my high stress and anxiety by breathing through Pranayama during panic attacks, discovering that I could truly take this yoga with me anywhere. I moved to Minnesota in 2013, and when a difficult engagement ended, I again found peace in the yoga. It was the one time of my day where I could turn my brain off; for 90 minutes, I didn't have to think about anything but stillness and breath.
From the time of that first 30-day challenge, I had considered going to Teacher Training; my background is in education- early childhood and elementary, and I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the postures and learn how to bring the series into the classroom. But it just didn't seem likely for many years; the Training opportunities never seemed to align with my school year schedule. Finally, in the summer of 2018, I completed the 500-hour Bikram method 26+2 training with Yoga Factory in Washington, D.C.
I still travel, and I love to visit and practice at Bikram studios all over the world. I also have found ways to bring aspects of the series into my classrooms, with great success. The 26+2 series remains the hardest thing I have ever done, day after day, yet it is the driving force behind so much of my life, always pushing me to do more, achieve more, breathe more and hold the stillness for just one more second. Throughout all of the joys and challenges each day brings, I return, again, and again, to the yoga, and to a quote from my teacher, Phil Vendemmia, who told me, "There are so many things you cannot control in life, but you can always control your breath.”