Youth Yoga – Celebrating our Kids at BYCA

If you have not yet attended our Thursday evening warm class, you have yet to be part of a special treat.

Since 2016, we have regularly invited youth ages 6 and up to participate in the second half of the traditional Bikram Yoga series, and many have “graduated” to practicing the whole class now.

This month we have a few very special things to celebrate.

One-Year Anniversary

First: our youngest student, Summer, has been practicing regularly since mid-March, 2017.  She started her practice when she was 5 years old!  It is now her one-year anniversary, and she has completed 27 classes.

100-class anniversary

Second: Forrest, age 11, has just completed his 100th class at Bikram Yoga Capital Area!!  (He also did over 100 classes while still in the womb, but we aren’t counting those.)

A Family Affair

Finally: Nadia (8) and Amelia Pauly (12) have been attending weekly with their father, Matt Pauly.  Amelia has started practicing the full class, including the standing series, and Nadia is the youngest person I have worked with who is starting progressions towards full camel posture.  Both young ladies have great focus and a wonderful attitude in their practice!

It is SO COOL to see this family embrace yoga for their own reasons, and so inspiring to think of what is to come.

If you are interested in attending our Youth Yoga class on Thursday evenings, check out the events page for details, and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Thank you to all of our BYCA members for all of your support of humans of all ages and bodies!!  It is a great joy to be with you all and watch the healing process unfold.

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.”

Healing Asthma, Sciatica, Wrist Sprains, …. and Growing Almost an inch!

Meet Sarah Cook, 34, of St. John’s, Michigan.  Sarah started practicing Bikram Yoga with us in the spring of 2014, upon a recommendation from her sister.  As of this writing, Sarah has practiced exactly 365 classes!  Sarah has had some exciting updates recently, but her whole history of benefits is very diverse, and quite exciting!

Year 1:

“Before I started yoga, I had gotten a bone bruise (near-fracture) close to my knee, and after 4 weeks on crutches, I was supposed to do physical therapy.  Instead, with permission of my specialist, I practiced Bikram Yoga 3 times a week for 6 weeks.  After that, the specialist said I was completely healed, I did not need any physical therapy, and she would not need to see me anymore.

“In my first year of yoga I lost 30 pounds….and I have kept it off! I used to gain about 5 pounds every winter, but now it doesn’t stick with me anymore.

“I had several previous wrist sprains and injuries and had so much pain I could not use scissors.  Within a few months of practicing, I could use scissors again and the pain was gone.

Year 2:

“My need for asthma medication was drastically reduced.  Before Bikram Yoga I was taking a daily inhaler at 220 mcg every day – sometimes twice a day.  As of Spring 2017 I was taking half of that dose, and I only needed it an average of once a week!

“My sciatica also went away.  My dad walks with a cane because of similar issues, and it was starting to develop in me.  Before yoga I could hardly carry my toddler for a minute without intense pain.  After practicing regularly, I was able to carry her an entire mile without pain.”


Bikram Yoga Full Locust
Sarah Cook in Full Locust Pose, November 2016

Year 3:

“I recently went through a Candida overgrowth and hormone imbalance.  I treated it with a massive change in my diet, and that was very difficult.  I had a lot of anxiety and depression as a result of making these changes so quickly.  Practicing Bikram Yoga not only helped my hormones balance out quicker, but it made it possible for me to take a complete break from the stress and cost of meal planning and preparation.

“Despite my asthma, my lung capacity has always been slightly above average (111% before yoga).  But now, 3 years into yoga, it has increased to 116%.”

September 2017:

“As an adult I have always been 5 foot 3 and 3/4.  At my check-up last week I was 5 foot 4 and 1/2 inch.  At my check-up this month, the nurses looked at my chart and could not figure out what was going on!”


All we are doing is the not-at-all-secret secret of a regular Bikram Yoga practice.  Feel free to share the goodness and healing with anyone who might need a little boost.

Healing Chronic Back Pain and Reversing Chronic Kidney Disease

Meet John, who started practicing Bikram Yoga with us in December 2013, at age 68.  Just prior to beginning Bikram Yoga, he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

Against the advice of his physician, he started coming to class 4-5 times per week.

In only 3 months of this new routine, his health dramatically improved.  Here are the official numbers from his diagnostic tests:


BEFORE (Fall 2013):

1) resting blood pressure (with medication): 135/85
2) resting heart rate: mid 90s
3) fasting glucose: above normal range


AFTER (April 2014):

1) resting blood pressure: 115/68
2) resting heart rate: high 60s
3) non-fasting glucose: normal
4) chronic kidney disease: COMPLETELY GONE!!!


We realize these numbers seem too good to be true – John even says so himself.

back pain yoga aging

3 years later

Although John has a very skeptical side to his personality, he has come to see that the yoga just works.  Things that previously seemed impossible happened – in his own body.

Advice his teachers gave him helped in ways he could not have predicted.

He admits that even though he heard Ann tell him to suck his stomach in during all of the postures, over and over, during every class….it was 3 years into his practice that he finally started doing it!

And within one month of doing so, his chronic back pain of almost 40 years went away.  He is now waking up in the morning without back pain and can walk without stooping over.

For those who would like a little visual to see the changes in his health, here you go.  We look forward to welcoming you, your loved ones, your friends, or your patients into our practice.

Before Bikram Yoga
(Fall 2013)
After 3 months of practicing 4-5 days per week
(April 2014)
300 classes later
Early 2017
resting blood pressure (with medication): 135/85resting blood pressure: 115/68benefits maintained!
resting heart rate: mid 90sresting heart rate: high 60s
fasting glucose: above normalnon-fasting glucose: normal range
chronic back pain of 40 yearsback pain completely gone

2017 Spring Yoga Buddy Challenge – Inspiration, Highlights, and Special Projects

Half Moon Ghosh Yoga Bikram Yoga Backward Bend East Lansing MSU

by Ann Chrapkiewicz

……………………………………

Our annual Spring Yoga Buddy Challenge is a true highlight of the year and takes place from April 1 – May 31 each year.

It expands and deepens our practice and understanding of yoga, and it is so much fun!!

All teams who completed the challenge by May 31 received a unique 2017 Yoga Buddy shirt for each team member.  (These are also available for sale if you would like one.)

You can view more photos on the Facebook album here.

Check out the amazing things the Yoga Buddies did this past Spring!

Shaking things up

Each team member practiced in at least 10 different designated spots in the room.  While this may not seem like a big deal, it is amazing how easy it is to get stuck in a pattern.  This is a simple way to see what attachments we might have created to geography, mirrors, sides of the room, “hot spots”, etc….and to get a new perspective on how we are affected by the external circumstances.

With the increased emotional control that comes from yoga, we can tolerate a wider range of circumstances, places, and people in the world.  Not by “acting” or pretending to be more tolerant, but by truly, deeply, having less of an automatic reaction to things we do not initially “like”.

Standing in a place we do not gravitate to is a great way to start testing this process – to test our attachments to preferences and comfort zones.

Depth of thought

Part of the challenge is to read one of our recommended books on yoga.  My top recommendation for those who have not read it is How Yoga Works.  On every read through, it takes on more and deeper meaning.  These are available for sale at BYCA, but you can probably find a yoga buddy team member to borrow it from as well.

Team Names

Here are some of our favorite team names from this year:

Shake Your Asana

The Pranayama Mamas Strike Back

Super Sweaty & Spicy Senoritas

Los Tres Yogamigos

Creativity

This year, all of the teams as a whole group get the award for the most diverse and creative expressions I have every seen.  They did their yoga via writing, photography, practice, and even computer programming!!  My jaw dropped more than once as I saw the submissions come in over the 2 months of the challenge!

Over the course of the coming months, you will see our many (very impressive) guest blog posts and creative projects.

In the meantime, a couple of noteworthy highlights:

Instead of a traditional blog post, Jess completed the May Ghosh Yoga Challenge with Scott and Ida Jo Lamps (thanks to the world wide web), practicing and photographing a specific posture DAILY and sharing something she had learned from it.  Here are a selection of her most excellent expressions:

Finally, my eyes popped at the creativity of the team member who wrote a custom computer program to guide him through the Bikram Yoga postures for a home practice!!  If that doesn’t tell you this yoga works, I do not know what does.  🙂

This student describes himself as now being on the “offensive” rather than the “defensive” in terms of his overall health, particularly the curvature of his spine.  Having suffered many years of chronic back pain and having tried many types of yoga and other therapies, these past several months of Bikram Yoga have made a massive difference.  His computer program is open source and free to use.

Check it out his testimonial and the computer program here.

It is amazing how a simple routine of therapeutic postures can do so much.

Deepest and unending appreciation for all of the superheroes of BYCA!  For your inspiring teamwork, dedication to practice, creativity, inclusivity and support of those just beginning, and your smiling, truly happy faces.  The world needs you.

 

 

Ann Chrapkiewicz Representing Michigan at USA Yoga National Championships

yoga national championship standing head to knee USA Yoga Midwest Regional 2017 Chicago

East Lansing, Michigan – July 21, 2017 –

Ann Chrapkiewicz – Lansing-area yoga practitioner and native of Dearborn, Michigan – will represent the state of Michigan in this year’s USA Yoga National Championship.   Ann took 3rd place in the MidWest SuperRegional Championships held in Chicago in May 2017, and 1st in the state of Michigan.

The national event will take place as part of the Meijer State Games of America on August 5 and 6, 2017, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Sixty sports are represented at the State Games – including bocce ball, archery, figure skating, swimming, and more.  Those interested in attending the event may find detailed information here.

What happens at the championship?

Invited athletes each have a maximum of three minutes to demonstrate a routine of six postures.  Each asana must be held in stillness for at least 5 seconds to attain maximum points.  In addition to technical details of posture form, participants score points if they demonstrate a range of strength, flexibility, and balance in their routines.

Video examples of qualifying routines can be found here.

Four of the postures come from compulsory categories (forward bend, backward bend, stretch, and twist).  Participants choose the two additional postures from a list of several dozen of varying difficulty.  For complete rules and championship structure, click HERE.

Who Participates?

Athletes from around the country qualified at one of four Super Regional championships.  Top scorers in each region were invited, as well as representatives from each state.  Links to the list of invitees, scores, and qualifiers can be found here.

In the senior category (50+), 14 men and 15 women will participate in the national championships.

In the Adult Men’s category (18-49), 29 athletes are scheduled.  And in the Adult Women’s category, 50 are scheduled.

There will also be 9 participants from the Youth Category (ages 11-17).

Click here for championship event information from USA Yoga and for links to event tickets.

Click here for the schedule and to see all of the states represented!

**********************************************

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is USA Yoga?

USA Yoga is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and promoting Yoga Asana as a sport.  Rajashree Choudhury founded the organization to inspire youth to cultivate a yoga practice.  USA Yoga is not affiliated with any particular yoga school or tradition and seeks to include practitioners of all hatha yoga backgrounds.

Read more about its purposes and Rules structure here.

Are Asana championships competitive?

In yoga we learn that whatever we bring to a situation determines the nature of how we operate in that situation.  Many people see asana championships as competitive, but this is a limited way of seeing them.   B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most well-known yogis in the past century, supported asana demonstrations and championships as a way to inspire others to take up a hatha yoga practice (read his letter of support here).

For more on Ann’s personal philosophy and the approach of many participants, read here.

Practicing Yoga with Linux!

Setting Up Triangle - Trikonasa - Bikram Yoga

–BYCA Guest Blog Post–

The author is a scientist, musician, and occasional computer programmer based in Lansing, MI.

He is a founding member of “Los Tres Yogamigos”, BYCA’s premiere yoga buddy challenge team.

Kapalbhati Home Practice Bikram Yoga Computer Program

I suffered from chronic back pain for fifteen years. Episodic attempts at cultivating a yoga (or Pilates, or Alexander technique, or self-medication) practice would temporarily ease this pain, but it was not until I moved to Lansing and had the opportunity to practice the 26+2 sequence daily at Bikram Yoga Capital Area (BYCA) that I was able to make the (hopefully somewhat permanent) changes to the structure of my spine that were necessary for me to sit comfortably and live without chronic pain.

Life is taking me away from mid-Michigan however, and I am currently preparing myself for a future of solitary practice punctuated by occasional trips to the nearest Ghosh-lineage yoga studio (which will be many miles away from my future home). Ultimately, I would like to build up the discipline to practice a 26+2 or equivalent routine alone and in total silence. But in the meantime, I have been supplementing my daily 26+2 practice at BYCA by practicing selected asanas at home using customizable audio instructions.

These instructions are generated from a Python script that I wrote, and have recently released with an open source license. The script is admittedly primitive and uses a text-to-speech tool that is not particularly aesthetically pleasing, but it is, after all, only a temporary solution. If you are a Linux user, and you think that you might find this tool to be useful for your home asana practice, then read on!”

Introducing psetcounter: a primitive open source python script for creating customized audio instructions for home yoga practice

Instructions:

First of all, the script has been tested with Python 2.7.13 and Ubuntu 17.04, although it should run on any Linux system with Python and sdf-say libraries installed. The script can be downloaded here:

https://github.com/danielsadowsky/psetcounter

In addition to the script file, psetcounter.py, the github repository also contains a sound file, bell.wav, which may be downloaded as well. If the psetcounter.py script is run from a directory that also contains bell.wav, the script will play a bell sound instead of instructing the user to relax in savasana with a computerized voice. Once the script is downloaded, it would probably be best to take a look at the customizable parameters which are listed in the help message. This can be done by opening a Terminal window, changing the directory to the location of the downloaded script file, and executing the following command:

python psetcounter.py -h

The script can then be used to generate audio instructions for a set of asanas with each of several parameters customized by including the appropriate arguments. For example, to hear audio instructions for a set of 4 asanas, each held for 20 seconds and followed by 10 seconds of savasana, the following command can be executed:

python psetcounter.py -n 4 -l 20 -b 10

Audio instructions for multiple sets with varying parameters can also be executed sequentially at the command line by stringing them together with a semi-colon. In doing this, it is important to suppress the valediction in non-terminal sets of asanas using the “-v” flag. For example, for a set of two asanas, each held for 10 seconds, followed by a second set of two asanas, each held for 20 seconds, the following command can be used:

python psetcounter.py -n 2 -l 10 -b 5 -v; python psetcounter.py -n 2 -l 20 -b 5 -i 3

Good luck, and please send feedback and suggestions directly to the github page above!

Live Asana Demonstrations at the USA Yoga Mid West Super Regional Championships

Ann Half Spine Twist Cropped 2017 Mid West Chicago

East Lansing, Michigan – May 25, 2017 –

Three practitioners at Bikram Yoga Capital Area represented the state of Michigan in this year’s USA Yoga MidWest Super Regional Championships in Chicago, IL, this past weekend.

BYCA students Lauren Anastos, Lindsay Gray, and Ann Chrapkiewicz performed their routines with steadiness, focus, and calm.  They all had a very enjoyable, positive experience!  The best possible outcomes for all.  As a group, the three of them did not pressure themselves to “perform” or compete, nor to train beyond their capabilities.

They demonstrated the natural places in their yoga practice, as well as the emotional control needed to breathe normally, in stillness, on a stage, in yoga postures!

Check out their 3-minute, live, championship demonstrations, here:


Lindsay Gray, 40, of East Lansing – 3rd place Michigan

Click here to watch her live Super Regionals demonstration routine.

And here for her thoughtful blog about why she participated.

Lindsay Gray 2017 USA Yoga MidWest - Half Spine Twist

 


Lauren Anastos, 27, of Farmington Hills – 2nd place Michigan

Click here to watch her live Super Regionals demonstration routine.

And here for her inspiring blog about how yoga helps her long-distance running.

2017 Lauren Anastos USA Yoga MidWest Cow Face

 


Ann Chrapkiewicz, 38, of Dearborn and Okemos – 1st place Michigan

Click here to watch her live demonstration routine from the Super Regional event.

2017 Ann Chrapkiewicz USA Yoga MidWest Standing Bow Pulling

Ann received the 3rd highest score in the “Super Region”, and as the 1st place scorer from Michigan, Ann will proceed to the USA Yoga National Championships.

Stay tuned for more information on that event….coming soon!


View the full scoring results for the MidWest Super Regional event here.


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is USA Yoga?

USA Yoga is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and promoting Yoga Asana as a sport.  Rajashree Choudhury founded the organization to inspire youth to cultivate a yoga practice.  USA Yoga is not affiliated with any particular yoga school or tradition and seeks to include practitioners of all hatha yoga backgrounds.

Read more about its purposes and Rules structure here.

Are Asana championships competitive?

In yoga we learn that whatever we bring to a situation determines the nature of how we operate in that situation.  Many people see asana championships as competitive, but this is a limited way of seeing them.   B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most well-known yogis in the past century, supported asana demonstrations and championships as a way to inspire others to take up a hatha yoga practice (read his letter of support here).  For more on my personal philosophy and the approach of many participants, read here.

BYCA Students Representing Michigan at USA Yoga MidWest Super Regional Championship

BYCA students backward bending their spines at a posture workshop

East Lansing, Michigan – May 18, 2017 –

Three practitioners at Bikram Yoga Capital Area will represent the state of Michigan in this year’s USA Yoga MidWest Super Regional Championship.  The event will take place at the Latin School of Chicago in Chicago, IL, on Sunday, May 21, 2017.  Those interested in attending may find detailed information here.

The participants were invited via USA Yoga’s official qualifying procedures.  They will join 16 other invitees in the Adult Women category from Illinois, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, and Idaho.

What happens at the championship?

Invited athletes each have a maximum of three minutes to demonstrate a routine of six postures.  Each asana must be held in stillness for at least 5 seconds to attain maximum points.  In addition to technical details of posture form, participants score points if they demonstrate a range of strength, flexibility, and balance in their routines.

Four of the postures come from compulsory categories (forward bend, backward bend, stretch, and twist).  Participants choose the two additional postures from a list of several dozen of varying difficulty.  For complete rules and championship structure, click HERE.

Top scoring representatives from each participating state and region will be invited to participate in the National Championship in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this August.

Participating Athletes from Michigan

Please congratulate and support our participating athletes:

Lindsay Gray, 40, of East Lansing

Lauren Anastos, 27, of Farmington Hills

Ann Chrapkiewicz, 38, of Dearborn and Okemos

Lindsay Gray

Lindsay Gray is a recovering Native Texan and trained as an Architect/Planner.  She completed her degrees in Architecture (B.Arch. ’06) and English (B.A. ’99) from The University of Texas at Austin.  She and her husband, Steven, are the loving parents of a 6-year-old.  Read about Lindsay’s motivation for participation in her participant bio here.

Lauren Anastos

Lauren is a native of Farmington Hills, Michigan, and is currently Resident Physician at Sparrow Hospital – Michigan State University.  She graduated from Adrian College in 2011 and in 2016 graduated from MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.   Read more about her success with Bikram Yoga and marathons here.

Ann Chrapkiewicz

Ann is a native of Dearborn, Michigan, and a lover of the mitten state.  After attending college at Duke University (B.A. 2000) and living in rural Japan for two years, she returned to Michigan for more education (M.A. UM-Ann Arbor 2006), and in the process, discovered Bikram Yoga.  Her 10-year-old son, Forrest, has practiced almost 70 classes (floor series only; warm temperature classes) and has even instructed a few postures at BYCA!  More details follow in Ann’s Participant Bio.

**********************************************

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is USA Yoga?

USA Yoga is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and promoting Yoga Asana as a sport.  Rajashree Choudhury founded the organization to inspire youth to cultivate a yoga practice.  USA Yoga is not affiliated with any particular yoga school or tradition and seeks to include practitioners of all hatha yoga backgrounds.

Read more about its purposes and Rules structure here.

Are Asana championships competitive?

In yoga we learn that whatever we bring to a situation determines the nature of how we operate in that situation.  Many people see asana championships as competitive, but this is a limited way of seeing them.   B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most well-known yogis in the past century, supported asana demonstrations and championships as a way to inspire others to take up a hatha yoga practice (read his letter of support here).  For more on my personal philosophy and the approach of many participants, read here.

USA Yoga Participant Bio – Lauren Anastos

by Lauren Anastos

Running and Bikram Yoga

Almost four years ago, while long-distance training, I pulled a hamstring.  I continued to run on it and completed a marathon in Charlevoix in June 2013.

I struggled throughout the race due to the pain in my hamstring.  Also, despite my training, around mile 14 I had trouble breathing and needed to use an inhaler.  At the end of the race, the pain in my hamstring was so bad that I couldn’t bend my knee.  I had trouble walking over the next week both due to my leg as well as generalized soreness.

Six weeks after the race, my hamstring still hadn’t healed.  I still couldn’t flex my leg despite taking time to rest.  I also tried spinning, walking, stretching, and strength training, without any luck.  …

That’s when I found Bikram Yoga.

Within one week of practicing Bikram Yoga, the pain from my training and racing was 100% gone, and within one month, my mobility was completely restored!

Lauren in Bow Posture Variation – preparation for full backbending – BYCA – May 2017

I maintained a regular Bikram Yoga practice from 2013-2015. I felt so good that in July 2015 I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

I did the same race training as I had in 2013, but this time I made sure I practiced Bikram Yoga 2-3 times per week.  The results were amazing!!

I didn’t even feel tired until mile 25, and my breathing was smooth the entire time.  When I was done running, I didn’t feel any pain.

I walked two miles after the marathon to catch a cab, and I was fine.  The next day, I woke up and was amazed by the quick recovery – I could walk around just fine.

I was back for my yoga practice 3 days after the race, with a smile on my face!

USA Yoga Participant Bio – Ann Chrapkiewicz

Ann Half Spine Twist Cropped 2017 Mid West Chicago

by Ann Chrapkiewicz

My practice history

I started practicing Bikram Yoga in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2003 – shortly after returning to the United States after 2 years of living in rural Japan.  I was working in the kitchen of the People’s Food Coop at the time and attended on the invitation of one of my coworkers.  I do not think that either of us “liked” the first class – she did not ever return for a second class (that was hard!).  But there were reasons I had to return.  Day after day, almost every day of the week.  For that first couple of years, I hated how it felt if I missed a day.

Ever since childhood, I had struggled on a daily basis to get a good, satisfying, deep breath.  I was never diagnosed with asthma or any other pathologies, but it was noticeable in my daily life.

After that first class, I remember doing some grocery shopping and feeling like every breath was deep, wonderful, heavenly.  I felt like I was floating through the aisles, light as a feather.  Even though that first class was the hardest thing I had ever done – and I sat down five times before triangle posture! – I knew I had to go back.

Dramatic healing

Within two weeks, my chronic blood sugar imbalances disappeared.  I didn’t crave sugars so desperately, and I naturally started to eat better foods.

Within one month, the carpal tunnel syndrome that had been developing was gone.  And my chronic sluggish digestion was changing for the better.

Within two months, my bulimic mindset of nearly 10 years almost completely vanished, and after the immersive practice of teacher training the following year, it stayed away permanently.  I gained so much time and freedom in my life after living in a sort of obsessive prison of dieting, compulsively overeating, and body-loathing since high school.

The 30+ pounds of excess weight came off later, but by that time I truly didn’t even care about the appearance of my body.

I just felt so stupidly good on the inside.

Eight months into practicing, I slipped and fractured two vertebrae.  The first part of the story of that injury can be found HERE.  Thanks to Bikram Yoga, my pain was gone in 20 days.

Only a few months after my back healed, I attended and completed Bikram Yoga Teacher Training at La Cienega HQ, Los Angeles, in August of 2004.  I loved it.  There is nothing like a 15-hour-a-day, 5+-day-a-week, 9-consecutive-week immersion in a yoga practice.  People say it is hard to leave their lives and homes and families and jobs for 2+ months.  That it is hard to do two 90 -minute+ Bikram Yoga classes every day.

But in my experience, living for a decade in a mental prison – of body-loathing, what we call “OCD”, dieting, eating uncontrollably, counting calories, desiring external validation – was much, much harder.

Half Spine Twisting – La Cienega HQ, Los Angeles, CA – Bikram Yoga Teacher Training Summer 2004

Supporting more than one life

Throughout 2006 – and until the day my labor started – I practiced Rajashree’s Pregnancy Yoga at least 4 days a week.  It took away all of my morning sickness, relieved my back pain, and kept my blood sugar steady in each trimester.

8 months pregnant – Standing Bow Pulling – October 2006

I had a healthy home-birth largely due to the physical awareness I had developed with this yoga.  After 3 hours of the last “pushing” stage of labor, the baby was still stuck, the contractions were irregular and debiltating, and I could tell something was not right.  Upon communicating this with my midwife, she found that he (although I did not know the sex at the time) was coming out with his hand resting against his temple.  Thanks to her skills and my ability to breathe and relax, I was able to give birth without injury to either of us.  Without question it would have been a cesarean section in any of the best hospitals.

As a toddler and young child, my son had experienced some traumas and was very anxious.  Thanks to this yoga, I was able to physically carry him and support his needs, yet maintain the health of my body and mostly stay out of muscular pain.

Year-by-year, the benefits continue

In the years since then, I have used the Beginners’ class and other Ghosh lineage practices to:

  • relieve the pain from sciatica and plantar fascitis,
  • build strength and maintain more calm when dealing with verbally abusive individuals / pathological narcissists,
  • reduce anxiety and insomnia, and
  • nearly eliminate premenstrual cramps that were previously debilitating.

My environmental allergies occur at only about 10% of their former severity.  I used to have to take something daily in the spring; now I take an allergy pill maybe once a year.  If things are really bad.

I am currently in a sort-of maintenance mode, where my health issues are under relatively good control.  But I know that life can bring challenges at any moment, and I am so appreciative that I have this yoga to use for both healing crises and everyday life.  It is my primary form of health insurance.

And these are only the benefits that have occurred on the most surface layers.  The deeper ones are much harder to describe.

Participation in the USA Yoga Championship

I believe that encouraging younger generations to get interested in a therapeutic hatha yoga practice is of vital importance in our world.  To support this belief, I established weekly (free) Youth classes at BYCA over one year ago.  This past winter I also volunteer-instructed at a Lansing Public Schools 6th-grade classroom.

I am participating in this year’s championship for three main reasons:

  1. to inspire people to start, maintain, or intensify their therapeutic hatha yoga practice,
  2. to continue to build an inspirational healing yoga community in mid-Michigan
  3. to develop more balance in my personal yoga practice

Instead of training in more advanced postures, this year I am happy to demonstrate the “natural” point in my practice.  Sort of like a snapshot in time.  Without pressure or expectation.  Without thoughts of what others are thinking. (What a glorious waste of time and energy, no?!)

Just my best focus in the moment, demonstrating the amazing communication superhighway between the mind and the body.  In every class I practice, and hopefully in the moments when I get up on the stage.

If you did not yet read my philosophy of competition and competitiveness in yoga, here it is.

One of my longer-term goals is to practice sustainably so that I can eventually participate in the Senior Women division (ages 50+) of the Championship.  I am excited to support the USA Yoga organization and events with the hope that they are still around in 12 years!

For our health, for the health of our elders, and for the health of our children…

December 2014

USA Yoga Participant Bio – Lindsay Gray

Lindsay working on Toe Stand

by Lindsay Gray

My practice history

I started practicing Bikram Yoga six years ago and have had the pleasure of practicing in many different places.  Having started in Honolulu, and then in Houston, Austin, Boston, and Berlin before ending up here at my most favorite of studios. (Aren’t we lucky!!)

I am forever indebted to a close friend of mine, a former dancer like myself, who introduced me to Bikram yoga.  I witnessed how she seemed, through her practice, more focused mentally, to physically glow, and to be able to use all the toxic stuff with which the dance world infuses you for a positive means.

Lindsay working on Toe Stand
Lindsay Working on Toe Stand (Padangustasana), 2016

Acceptance and discovery in yoga

Yoga, unlike ballet, focuses on the process and on the acceptance of where you are with a posture, and, ultimately, that’s what’s really spoken to me about this practice.  In dance, I hated racing to the finish line of who could become the best the fastest.  My brain is just not designed for that kind of race; the pressure of that level of competition is soul-crushing for me.

I love how, with yoga, I am constantly tinkering with a posture and working toward minute improvements that may some day add up to some form of relative perfection.  The trusting in that process of discovery, of all the psychic and physical subtleties within me, is the best lesson in self-acceptable and faith.

Participation in USA Yoga Championship

I wanted to participate in the USA Yoga championships for two main reasons.  I have been slowly working to expand my practice through engaging with some of the intermediate postures, and the championships seem like a good opportunity to re-enter the performance realm within a safe and supportive environment.

For the championships this go-round, I chose relatively simple, seated intermediate postures.  This way, I can participate but not make myself crazy with anxiety about sticking a posture on-stage, alone with no mirror, and a bunch of people watching.  I’ll worry about doing that maybe next year or in ten years. It’ll be a process.