MSU Spartans Football Coach Ron Burton on Development of the Athlete | “Coaching the Coach” | Bikram Yoga

bikram yoga student spartans football coach ron burton Michigan state university

Just over three years ago, Michigan State University Assistant Football Coach Ron Burton started practicing Bikram Yoga with us.  Since then, he has been telling every coach and athlete he knows about this practice, encouraging them to come to class, and bringing his kids to class whenever they are in town.

They call each other “coach”, so if you ever hear Ann say that in class, you know who she is talking to!  🙂

Here you can read a short interview between Coach Burton and “Coach Chrapkiewicz”!  🙂


Can you tell us about your background professionally, as an athlete and a coach?

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and earned a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina, where I graduated with a B.A. in 1987.  I then played linebacker in the National Football League for 4 years (1987-1990). I played for the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Raiders.  Following that I went to graduate school, and became a graduate assistant in football at North Carolina from 1991-93.

I have been a college football assistant coach for 26 years – now going into my 7th season at Michigan State University.  (You can read more about Coach Burton on his MSU profile here.)

What is your experience with yoga practice in general?

My yoga experience started with a few times during the spring in college, then a few times during my off-seasons in my professional football career.  While living in Colorado, I would search for workouts from our cable networks. So I rediscovered yoga in my basement believe it or not, and started following some of the 20-, 30-, and 60- minute yoga workouts.  

I just kept remembering how great I felt physically and mentally after a session.  I was refreshed, my body increased its fluidity and limberness, and the clarity of my mind and focus was always increased. 

We had been living in East Lansing for a few years, when Golf Coach Victor Whipp told me about Bikram Yoga.  I came to Bikram Yoga Capital Area for the first time in May of 2016 and have been coming as much as I can since then.  More frequently in the off-season, but during season whenever I can, too.

How does Bikram Yoga relate to teaching and coaching?

I am just a novice in Bikram Yoga, but I view it as a fundamental.  It is a necessary foundation that helps improve the physical and mental side of any sport or hobby.

The class connects with “we” …. I get to be coached by someone else in a hobby or sport that I know nothing about. 

This yoga forces you to listen fully in the moment, to understand what you are hearing, and then respond. It forces you to focus. Each time in class, I’m learning something new to further improve one of the 26 postures.  I learn how to adjust each posture with precise movements – all  according to my ability in the moment.

As a coach, you are constantly trying to improve your way of getting your point across.   The instructors here speak with clarity, and effective tone of voice.  They respond to and troubleshoot questions.  And they do it without being in a hurry, or loud.  And yet it is so effective.

This improves me as a coach because I get to see, hear, and understand a different way of teaching and getting a point across.  Coach Ann Chrapkiewicz has been a great example for me as a coach.  Not just talk…action!

How does Bikram Yoga contribute to athletic development?

Bikram Yoga definitely contributes to the development of an athlete, regardless of sport!  With a consistent practice, it contributes to mental development – it improves focus, clarity, discipline, and listening skills.  Physically, it improves range of motion at the arms, hips, core, and spine. It feels like it is rinsing the body of toxins.

It’s a lifetime journey!

Here is a video of Coach Burton and the whole class practicing the backward bending portion of Half Moon Pose:

What are some of the benefits that you have personally experienced with Bikram Yoga?

For me personally, the benefits have been numerous.  My focus and clarity have improved, as has my patience.  My stress level has definitely been reduced. My listening skills are better.  Physically, I have an overall better understanding of my body’s weaknesses and strength.  My posture is better, my flexibility has improved, and my breathing is so much better.

I have had numerous athletic injuries in the past – torn pectoral muscles, sprained ankles, pulled groin, broken fingers and thumb, torn ACL, meniscus tear, and multiple neck strains.  The way that Bikram Yoga includes modifications of depth in all of the postures helps you have a starting point.  So even with all of these injuries I can start each posture correctly.  And then when I try the same postures from class to class, I can see improvement in those injured or weak areas.

During the football season, I LOVE Friday morning Bikram Yoga to end my work week, and Sunday morning class before church to start my work week.  My goal this year is to add Wednesday evening class to my schedule.

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year has been to become more consistent in attendance at Bikram Yoga Capital Area.  Why? Simply because I LOVE IT!

I get to be “a COACH being Coached….. “

THANK YOU, COACH CHRAPKIEWICZ!


 

Big Girls Bend: My (Ongoing) Journey as a Fat Yogi

by Marini Lee, Ph.D.


I’ve been practicing bikram yoga for almost 12 years now. According to the Western world (and my recovering internal body critic), I should look differently. I should be thin by now!!!! Shouldn’t I?

Well, I’m not.

First of all, being and/or getting “thin” is not (nor should be) the goal of yoga. Yoga means “union.” It is my understanding that this union is about optimal health – mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

So let me tell you what I have experienced as a result of practicing this healing yoga.

MENTAL CLARITY

That monkey mind is a TRIP!

Yoga has helped me to quiet the chatter in my mind, even if for only 90 minutes at a time. Those 90 minutes are usually the most mentally calm 90 minutes of my day!

Sometimes my mind is racing so much with what I “should” or “need” or “didn’t” or “must” do next, right now, always, that I even have to catch myself in class and say, “Where are you now?” That happens less – much less than it used to -, but one of the aspects of this practice where I have experienced the most growth, is in my mental clarity, inside and outside of the studio. Inside of the studio, I pretty much know that I’m not going to die from the heat or from any of the postures.

I can focus and concentrate because I know I am strong. I know I am a work in progress. I know all I have to do is try. I am enough.

I’m still working on transferring that mental strength outside of the class, but I’m getting there.

ardha chandrasana half moon bikram yoga bigger bodies

EMOTIONAL STABILITY

The emotional self is the roller coaster the monkey (mind) LOVES to ride! Besides the increased mental focus I have experienced over the years, I am also extremely proud and really in awe of the emotional stability I have cultivated and am continually learning to cultivate. Again, while I am a work in progress, I am much less apt to “go off the deep end” emotionally when things go awry – and also when things are great.

There are times, in poses, particularly back bends when a rush of emotion will come over me, but as I breathe into it and “simply” allow the emotion to run its course, it becomes less powerful in its ability to overwhelm me. I’m not even sure how the practice does this, but I think it must have something to do with the heat.

It’s really hard to be sad or even elated when you are trying to balance on one foot with the other stretched high in the air.

There’s really no space for emotional instability in the hot room, and I’m actually grateful for that.  Because then I can focus my energy on healing.

bikram yoga original hot yoga fat big plus size locust pose

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

Many people erroneously equate yoga with a religion. To me, religion is the box you put God in to make sense of your/our purpose and existence. Again, from my understanding that yoga is about union, you can’t put the practice into such a box. I do believe the practice can make you better at your particular box, but it is not a box itself. Some may use it as a way to and through their respective boxes, but if anyone is worshipping sweating in a room for 90 minutes, you’ve got a bigger problem than we have room to discuss in this blog.

So, while I don’t feel that yoga is a religion, I do feel like this practice has made me a better Christian. I am MUCH more patient with myself and others.

I no longer cringe on the inside (or smirk on the outside) when a newbie talks during class or sets up in “my spot” or mouth breathes or moves during a balancing posture. I am more compassionate with myself and others. Especially now that I am experiencing difficulties in postures because of my size, I am much more empathetic to beginners who are challenged (and intimidated) physically by some of the postures.

I have learned to forgive myself for not being perfect. I have learned to seek peace instead of being right (i.e. focusing on the breath, effort and balance as opposed to striving to make the postures look pretty).

 

AND FINALLY….PHYSICAL WELL-BEING

Now, don’t get me wrong. Despite not having the perfect bikram body and in fact being the biggest I have been since I started, there have been many positive physical manifestations of my years of practice (and buckets of sweat). My half moon is SWEET! My backbends are EXCELLENT! I can do Standing Head to Knee pose AND KICK OUT!

When I visited a studio in Texas, a teacher asked me to model Standing Bow Pulling Pose because he said, “Your spine is ready for this. You just need the confidence to match.” I may be the heaviest I have ever been as a yogi, but I am also the strongest and most flexible I have ever been.

Now, there are plenty of poses in which I am not as proficient as I would like to be (and/or have been in the past with a smaller body), but I am proud that I approach each class, each posture as if I CAN and/or WILL, someday. That’s that mental game again.

And so, as you can see, this blog (and journey) really isn’t about being fat at all.

No one IS fat. I have fat on my body. Period. More than you probably, but I am the happiest I have ever been and that is because I realized (a long time ago), that this practice, this life, is SO much more than the physical.

I pray that any yogi, with fat or not, has the opportunity to experience the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical freedom I have since I became a yogi many many moons ago.

NAMASTE


Marini Lee, Ph.D., age 39, is a native of Richmond, CA.  She is a Teacher Educator at Michigan State University’s College of Education.  Over the past 12 years she has practiced Bikram Yoga in Ann Arbor (both studios); El Cerrito, CA; New Orleans; Denver; Atlanta; Allen, TX; Charleston, SC; Toledo, OH; Detroit; and now East Lansing, Michigan.  Her passions are learning, teaching, and community healing.

Marini recently became an adoptive mom, and on this she says: “I’m still in awe and shock that I am responsible for the well-being of another human being.  This is the most spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, economically challenging – and yet the most important – experience of my life thus far.”