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Bikram Yoga Maple Ridge Student of the Month (January): Bhavna

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Bhavna's first Bikram Yoga class had her thirsting for more than water. Incredibly, although she remembers hating the heat, she couldn't wait for her next class. "The heat was so overwhelming. I was breathless, and even though hatha yoga was not new to me, hot yoga was. I couldn’t hold any of the postures, but, strangely enough, I came out feeling so alive & invigorated that I knew I had found something really special."

This first experience wasn't enough to transform Bhavna's life, though. Her practice remained sporadic due to family and work commitments until the Bikram Yoga Maple Ridge studio opened. With a more consistent practice she began to see the dramatic physical and mental healing benefits of this yoga practice. "I developed a painful sclerosus in 2007 for which I was taking potent topical steroids; this has now completely cleared up." She began to develop osteo arthritis in her knees and in addition, tore her right right meniscus while skiing. "My knee is now so much better. I'm able to do things that were previously painful and my skiing has actually improved." Understandably, Bhavna's instinct was to be cautious with her knee in class. She never thought she would be able to do Toe Stand: "I was so afraid of damaging my knee further that I would avoid it, until one day in June when Don told me try. Sometimes a little encouragement is all it takes. I only went as far as I could each day, always listening to my body. It was painful initially, but not anymore." Happily, Bhavna's knees are doing so well now that she doesn't need to undergo invasive surgery. As a management accountant, Bhavna has spent much of her life hunched over in front of a computer, thus plagued by back pain. She used to take painkillers for her back, but has found that back bends deliver as much relief. A food lover, Bhavna loves the fact that with a regular practice she can still enjoy eating everything she likes, especially indian sweets she remembers fondly from her childhood. She's also more calm, focused and relaxed. Homesickness and anxiety stemming from being separated from her daughters when they started school pushed her to find mental stillness in her yoga practice. "Mentally I'm so much more stronger, I've been able to let go. I have found this amazing inner peace." She credits yoga challenges with motivating her to stay regular with her practice and those around her with insipiring her to become a Bikram yoga teacher: "I came across such inspiring teachers and yogis that I decided, one day I too would like to teach this amazing yoga." That one day came this fall for Bhavna, when she traveled to Bikram's headquarters to learn from his and his staff along with 443 other prospective Bikram yoga teachers world-wide. Training can be grueling physically and emotionally; Bhavna reached her goal by tapping into her own stores of fortitude, with support from her colleagues at teacher training and through the love and generosity from her family. DSC_1121Going to teacher training meant that Bhavna would be away from her daughters for two months; happily she left them not only in good hands, but the best of hands:  "my in-laws who flew over from England to help look after my girls. If it wasn't for their sacrifices and love, I would not have been able to go to teacher training." Bhavna did her family proud at training, taking the exhausting schedule in stride: "We put in extremely long days where we had very little rest and just had to somehow keep going. There were days when my whole body would be aching because it didn't have time to recover, but there was an amazing amount of group energy that carried you through those tough times." By testing her knee in class and testing her endurance at teacher training, Bhavna realized that breakthroughs happen when we break habits, toss out excuses and push ourselves just a little harder. "I used to go to class expecting my same spot with lots of space around me. At teacher training you had very little space around you; sometimes it was cold, other times very hot. The whole experience taught me how to just accept things the way they are. Most of the time I could not even see myself in the mirror, which taught me how to focus on the way my body felt during the postures." The simple mantra of a very special teacher, Bikram's most senior teacher, the fiery and spirited 86 year-old Emmy Cleaves, also kept Bhavna focused on moving forward rather than giving up or stagnating, "She always reminded us to focus on practicing with frequency, precision & intensity." Gratefulness and a desire to help others also drove Bhavna to complete the teacher training program. "I have received so much from this yoga that I want to now share my knowledge and teach others." She knows first-hand about the benefits of yoga, and hopes to spread the word and make everyone's life happier and healthier. "I lost my parents while I was in high school to diseases that I believe may have been preventable had this yoga been available to them." Her motivation for making a regular practice a part of her life is a strong one: "To live a healthy & happy life, only then can I help my family and those around me. I want to grow old knowing that I did all I could to look after my body and mind. I want to be able to celebrate milestones in my daughters lives." Even with the known and still to be studied effects of Bikram yoga for combating lifestyle disease and depression, many people find it hard to dedicate 90 minutes to a regular yoga practice. Bhavna looks at it this way: "I'm able to do much more with my time by simply devoting 90 minutes for myself. I come out re-energized ready to face whatever the day brings. For me it has become like eating and drinking, a necessity of life." Bhavna adds that she feels fortunate to practice regularly at the Maple Ridge studio and that she hopes that others will begin to heal themselves through practicing Bikram yoga this year.

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Bikram Yoga Langley Student of the Month (January): Zahra

imageIt takes just a little bit of crazy – crazy about how she looks and feels doing Bikram yoga – to motivate Zahra to get up at 4:45 every weekday morning for her practice. If you'd have told her she'd be doing this a few years ago, she would have thought you were the one who was nuts! For Zahra, though, it's a great investment, the time she puts into her yoga practice pays off in dividends of energy: "I was doing school and working full-time for the last couple of years. When I wasn't doing yoga, I was always so tired by the end of the day… But when I did yoga, I had that little extra burst of energy." But why go first thing in the morning? "I go in the morning so that I have my evenings free to do what I need to get done. I think it's very important to put your body and your mind first.  If you don't feel well, or if you're overwhelmed, you probably can't get a lot done, but if you find the time for yoga or for a different kind work out - something that relieves your stress – more than likely you'll feel better overall." Over the years, she's seen changes in her body and her practice: "I used to have to use a nettipot almost daily to deal with my Sinus headaches, but with my regular practice, I don't need it at all anymore. I also get fewer migraines!" She's also noticed that her body is more firm and toned, her flexibility has increased and her skin is nicer. "I love seeing how I progress in each posture as every day passes. It's amazing the changes you see in your body." Even after seven years, Zahra continues to see the changes a dedicated Bikram practice brings. "My goal for my practice is to get better in each posture as every day passes. I would really like to be a able to do full [splits in] standing bow." Her body has been through some other big changes recently: she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on December 4th. She practiced almost right up to the delivery. "I think that the yoga was a big reason why had a very easy pregnancy. I was very active throughout the entire pregnancy: I practiced 2 to 5 times a week, walked almost every day, as well as did a prenatal Bootcamp." And, as you can see from her photos, she looked fantastic throughout her pregnancy, too. It's perfectly safe to practice Bikram yoga during pregnancy for people who have practiced before; there are just a few adaptations to the series that can be learned from instructors or Rajashree's Pregnancy Yoga DVD.  image(2) Zahra first decided to try Bikram yoga after hearing about what an amazing work out it was and how good it makes you feel. "My first class was hell! Ha ha. I couldn't control my breath, I was feeling like I was going to pass out or puke. When we hit the floor series, I was shocked to know that we still had another half of the class left!" As a senior accountant, Zahra loves the opportunity to get out of her head and work with her body and plans on adding more activities to her fitness routine: "I plan to start running and, hopefully, do the sun run this year." Bikram yoga, she notes, helps her to treat her body as a temple: "I don't crave bad foods; I always feel like eating healthy." Aside from Bikram Yoga, Zahra loves spending time with family and friends, going for walks and shopping. The bond with other yogis and teachers at our studio is also somethings she loves, "I love seeing the familiar faces of other regulars and teachers. It really is a little family." If Zahra has any advice for anyone trying to find more time for their yoga practice it is: "Everyone needs to remember to live everyday to their fullest and to live everyday like it's their last." And most of all, to come to class to be rejuvenated.

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