Our beloved student, April Penland, takes second place at Nationals. Check out the article in the Richmond Times Dispatch Sunday paper!
Check out BYR wins second place as Richmond’s BEST Yoga studio. That is right, we’ve been holding down the hot yoga scene in RVA for 14 years!!! We love our students!!! Thank you for voting for us each year!
Rob Estes was born in Richmond, VA, went to George Wythe High school and then William and Mary College. He is now CEO of Estes Express (we know you’ve all seen those yellow trucks on the highways).
Carrie Johnstone was born in Charlotte, NC, went to college at UNC Chapel Hill, and then moved back to Richmond to be with family. Carrie is a certified accountant who now stays home with her 3 children (ages 7, 5, and 2).
In addition to yoga, the two stay very active outside the hot room. Rob has been playing softball for a long time, and continues to play on a league today. In fact, a chronic hamstring injury was one of the motivators that brought Rob to yoga. That, and of course, Carrie ☺ Carrie loves to exercise, but admits that she wasn’t hooked on Bikram Yoga immediately.
“I took my first class in December 2007, but I wasn’t hooked. Then I came back in June 2008 and haven’t stopped since then!”
Rob says he came in “after being challenged by Carrie.” 8 softball seasons later, Rob says he hasn’t had a hamstring injury since beginning his practice! Overall, both say that they definitely feel healthier now that they practice Bikram Yoga.
Rob says, “I feel more relaxed , healthier, and my blood work proves it.”
Carrie also states that, “BYR has changed my life by being a constant in my life besides my family and friends over the past 7 years where life has had many ups and downs. I need the weekly check in where my body gets a full diagnostic scan and I have to stare at myself in the mirror for one and a half hours. Nowhere to run! I feel strong and capable and at peace with myself every time I leave the yoga room.”
Carrie even shared with us that she has a dream of going to Teacher Training someday!
When we asked about Rob and Carrie’s goals for the New Year, Rob told us about their common goals for last year. He said,
“You will need to get Carrie’s approval for this one: She and I had related New Year’s resolution this past year. Hers was to be fit enough to be able to wear a sports bra in [yoga] practice. Mine was to be fit enough to look like I didn’t need to wear one.” (We did check in with Carrie before putting this in the story!)
We are happy to report that both Carrie and Rob achieved their resolutions!
One last thing we asked Carrie and Rob to share with us were their favorite quotes.
Carrie’s is, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” , and Rob’s is, “Best is the enemy of better”. In other words if you hold out for best you will never get better. True yogi thinking!
“I was extremely out of shape, overweight and just did not have a good outlook on life at all,” Jessica says. “I was on vacation visiting my aunt in Colorado. She dropped me off at a class and afterwards, I felt absolutely changed.”
For the next nine years, Jessica was able to practice only sporadically.
“There aren’t many studios out where my family lives,” she says. “The closest is the next state over, 90-plus miles. So trying to go regularly was difficult.”
About a year ago, Jessica moved to Richmond, where she works for a local school portrait company. It wasn’t an easy transition.
“I moved here for all the wrong reasons,” Jessica says. With her friends and family 800 miles away, life was difficult. Fortunately, on a visit the previous year she had discovered Bikram Yoga Richmond.
“As soon as I could, I signed up for a monthly unlimited and made it my goal to go 10 to 15 times a month,” Jessica says. “With my schedule, some months are better than others. But I could barely touch my toes when I started in January, and now I can go 75 percent of the way into Toe Stand.”
In addition to her practice, Jessica has become a regular at BYR special events, photographing visits to schools, the pool party, the juice social, Garland’s and Mary Jarvis’s workshops and the Speak Up race. Her collection of portraits of BYR yogis in action will soon be hanging in the West End studio.
Her job takes her to schools all over Virginia, where she photographs students of all ages, including cadets at VMI. She loves children and has four nieces who are very important in her life.
“My never-ending goal is to show them how big the world is and how important it is to travel and get out of the little bubble you grow up in,” Jessica says.
Jessica developed her love of travel in 2011 when she went to work as a photographer for a Hawaiian cruise line for a couple of years. “It was a crazy experience,” she says. “Work hard, play even harder.”
“Having Bikram in my life has enhanced it in so many ways,” Jessica says. “Not only has it helped with maintaining my weight, it has also helped me control my depression.” She is happy to have a “yoga family” at BYR. “I love all the instructors and the wonderful people I have met there, including my new best friend.” She also talked a work friend into coming to yoga.
“I brought my three oldest nieces to class when they came to visit, and they loved it,” Jessica says. “The oldest especially. I think she already wants to become an instructor, which hopefully one day I can become.”
When she’s not working or practicing yoga, Jessica says she is “Jane of all trades.”
“Groupon helps with that,” she says. “I knit, sew, paint, glass blow, do archery. I’ve gone paddle boarding on the James, gone kayaking.”
And her vision for the future is full of adventure: “So many things on my list to try: scuba diving, hot air ballooning, re-certifying for my motorcycle license. The list is ever growing.”
“I am laughing at myself,” says Renee. “It cracks me up how much I wobble! But I look better and feel great.”
She also loves the active meditation aspect of the practice.
“I like having one part of my mind actively thinking and listening and the other disengaged and just doing what it needs to do,” she says. “It is akin to making art.”
Renee and her husband make art for a living. Jim is a filmmaker. Renee is a painter, a printmaker, a department head—and an art school dropout.
“I grew up in Alexandria and came down here to go to VCU,” Renee says. She had planned to major in art but in 1992 left for Spokane to learn to repair cameras. She came back and did that for 11 years in Richmond. Then, when she feared she was “becoming obsolete,” she took classes in landscape design at Lewis GInter.
“I got my certificate, but ended up taking a job with this little company called Old World Prints at the corner of Floyd and Robinson,” Renee says. “I started off hand-coloring antique prints.”
Then everything “morphed.”
Now known as World Art Group, the company sells artwork globally to interior design firms, furniture manufacturers and the hospitality industry. Renee heads the Embellishment Department, where she and her highly trained staff create artwork on paper and canvas according to specification.
“I work with some really amazing and talented people that constantly inspire me,” Renee says. “We pump out anywhere from 300 to 600 pieces of art a week with an average of 200 different designs. That is just our department. It is an art factory for sure.”
On the boutique level, Renee sells her artwork at Orange Richmond in Carytown. And she enjoys collaborating with her filmmaker husband. Jim’s most recent project is a zombie series called “Reviled.” Episode One is on YouTube. Renee and Jim just celebrated their 20th anniversary.
Renee began practicing Bikram yoga about six months ago. Like many, she says, “I had let my job take over and wasn’t taking care of myself.”
“It’s that mindfulness that really translates,” Renee says. “I am so much more aware of my body through out the whole day. I realize my jaw is clenched or I am hunched over, or I am not really breathing deeply.”
As in art, Renee loves the process of yoga. “Every little detail adds up in a posture.”
And she also finds inspiration: “After six months, I still get dizzy doing camel pose, but each time I try, I can hold for that millisecond longer. So I keep going.”
So what was Stage 1?
“Between the ages of 17 and 20, I was a professional ballet dancer with the Nashville Ballet,” Lucy says.
In 1997, she went from dancing to Randolph Macon Women’s College and then on to UVa Law School, where she graduated in 2004. She practiced law, first at McGuire Woods and then at a small family firm, until George was 18 months old.
This year, Lucy placed 18th in the country in the National Yoga Asana Competition in Binghamton, N.Y., three years after beginning her practice at Bikram Yoga Richmond.
Could this be Stage 4?
Lucy has been a competitor all her life, which she says grew out of the fact that as a child she was diagnosed with asthma (both allergy and exercise induced).
“I was lucky enough to have a very progressive asthma doctor who encouraged my mother to put me in exercise programs instead of keeping me inside in a bubble,” Lucy says. She started swimming competitively when she was 8.
“My doctor’s theory was that the more I exercised my lungs, the stronger they would be—and he was 100 percent correct,” Lucy says. “I still have asthma and still take a daily preventative inhaler, but it is much better than it would have been had I not had a lifetime of physical activity.”
She began ballet at 10, which Lucy says “was very old to start such an intense program.” But she took to dance quickly. As a teenager, she attended summer ballet programs at professional companies including Pennsylvania, Houston, Boston and Pittsburgh. She joined the Nashville Ballet after high school graduation.
When she decided to go back to school she again took up competitive swimming. She was Randolph-Macon’s swim-team captain her senior year and set a school record in breaststroke.
“I also started running in college and loved it,” Lucy says.
Fast forward through five marathons, numerous half-marathons and 10-milers to August 2012 and her first class at Bikram Yoga Richmond.
“After my knee swelled to the size of a small cantaloupe for the fourth time, my doctor finally told me I needed to try something other than running,” Lucy says.
A friend from her former ballet days recommended Bikram yoga, knowing Lucy would like it because of the intensity of the classes.
“So I found my way into my first yoga class with the great Noel Swenson as my first teacher,” Lucy says. “It was hard. It was hot. It was intense. But I left the studio that day knowing that I would be back.”
Eventually, Lucy says, she realized she was drawn more to yoga classes than to running. “My body was simply happier in the hot room than it had ever been out on the pavement. My knees were a thousand times better, yes, and I was still running races—with zero injuries—but yoga was giving me something that running never could.”
In February 2013, Lucy did her first advanced class with Garland and the gang.
“I was completely floored,” Lucy says. “I thought I was fairly flexible until I looked around and saw the advanced group doing these seemingly impossible things with their bodies. I remember telling my husband after that first class, ‘I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.’ But something must have clicked, because I went back the next week and haven’t looked back.”
In her first regional yoga competition—eight months after she took her first advanced class—Lucy placed fourth and qualified for nationals. In 2014 she competed in the nationals in San Antonio and just missed qualifying for the semi-final round.
Her success this year in New York did not come without effort.
“I am always in training for the next competition,” Lucy says. “Now that my youngest is in grade school, I have much more time. During the year, I practice anywhere from seven to 11 classes a week. During the summer months, it’s usually limited to seven or eight, but I am always so grateful for any time I can get in the studio. I do about an hour-and-a half of core work, stretching and strengthening postures before class and another 30 minutes of advanced postures after class.”
She describes competing as her “yoga journey.”
“The format is unlike anything I had ever done,” Lucy says. “Initially I was drawn to it because it reminded me of my ballet days—performing a routine on stage in front of an audience.” But after two years of competing, she says, “it’s more about conquering fears and fine-tuning mental toughness. It is not easy to put on a leotard, walk on to a cold, drafty stage, and ask your muscles, which are usually shaking from nerves, to calm down and perform three minutes of tough yoga postures.”
Of course, when she’s not doing yoga, her full-time job keeps her plenty busy.
“I spend as much time as I can with my family, and we usually try and have one family day a weekend,” Lucy says. “I am adamant that my children spend a lot of time outside and in the beauty of nature, so we do a lot of hiking and exploring.”