Ustrasana: Camel Pose

camelCamel is the posture you don’t want to skip. This is an excellent posture for realigning the spine and alleviating back pain. The posture helps to strengthen muscles around the spine allowing you to create space between each vertebra. As you create more space you get more circulation to the spine. It also helps with bulging discs, because as you create space and bend backwards, the discs are able to realign in many cases.

To do Camel Pose, start with your knees a feet about six inches apart. If you find the posture very challenging or you are a beginner, then open your knees wider. Put your hands on your back, lift your chest up, and slowly drop your head back. If you can see half way down the back wall, then grab your heals. You can always keep your hands on your back for support.

As you backward bend you also stretch all the muscles, glands, and internal organs in the front side of the body, including the intestines and the vagus nerve. This is excellent for regulating digestion, removing flatulence from the body, and strengthening your core. Not to mention defining your abdominal and thigh muscles (some vanity with your divinity!).

This is a great posture to practice outside of the class as well to help with back pain, bloating, or constipation. The practical applications of yoga!

Please ask your teachers if you need help with this pose. We are happy to assist you!

Yogi of the Month–Meet Carter!

carterCarter Burcham, 12, seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School

“After yoga class, I don’t worry. It calms my mind.”

Carter was born in Richmond on Sept. 20, 2002, and has lived in Hanover County his whole life (so far). In a couple of years, Carter will attend Patrick Henry High School. His favorite subject is Latin, and when he is older he would like to work in the farming industry. 
In addition to practicing yoga regularly, Carter swims (breaststroke is his favorite), runs, plays golf, fishes and has a knack for archery. He particularly loves fishing in the pond near his house with his neighbors. His first Bikram yoga class was Sept. 29, 2011 (before the kids’ classes were even offered!).

Asked why he came to his first class, Carter says, “My mom made me.” (Carter’s mother is Jennie Burcham, a regular West End practitioner.) Nowadays, Carter attends the kids’ class nearly every week and sometimes practices both Saturday and Sunday. He enjoys the kids’ class, he says, because “I get to practice with kids my own age, it is shorter, and there is no heat. But someday, I will take the 90-minute class again.” 

Around the time Carter started practicing Bikram yoga, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. He and his mother agree that his yoga practice has had a tremendous beneficial effect on his attention span.  Carter says he not only notices increased flexibility but also his mind is calmer. “I can use what I learn in class outside the room,” he says. “Yoga reminds me to breathe outside the room.” Carter hopes to inspire other kids who have ADD to try yoga because he “feels so good after class.”

Like every Bikram yoga practitioner (whether we want to admit it or not), Carter has a favorite posture and a least favorite posture. He also finds himself not wanting to go to class sometimes, but he says he “always feels better after practicing.” Carter’s favorite posture is Rabbit Pose. “For some reason, it just feels easy to me.” His least favorite posture is Half Moon – “It is really hard for me to keep my elbows locked.” Carter also admits that he works harder in Garland’s class because he knows she is one of the owners. “I like having different teachers and hearing new things.”

Ultimately, Carter says he will continue to practice. “My yoga practice keeps me loose, relaxed, and keeps my mom happy.”

Yogi of the Month: Meet Andy!

andy pAndy Penland, 51, Latin teacher

First Bikram yoga class: June 25, 2005

“Nothing can challenge me more than I have challenged myself in the torture chamber.”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

“It all got started for me ex utero on Jan. 18, 1963, in Hampton, Va.,” Andy says. “I was raised in Chesterfield for the most part, although I graduated from New Trier East High School in Winnetka, Ill.,where I lived during my senior year. I earned a BA in French and Classics from Randolph-Macon College in 1985 and a MA in Classics from the University of Virginia in 2002.”

Andy is an educator, a teacher of Latin, French and Greek, currently working with Henrico County Public Schools. He is also an adjunct instructor of Latin at VCU. He has two children from his first marriage, Liam, 16, a junior at Patrick Henry High School in Hanover, and Katie, 19, a sophomore at UVA.

Last year, when a few Deep Run High School students, led by BYR practitioner Carley Whitt, asked Andy to sponsor a yoga club, he accepted. Andy invited Garland to bring a group of yoga students and teachers to the school for a presentation, and the Deep Run Yoga Club was born.

Andy’s wife, April, also a Latin teacher, is well known at Bikram Yoga Richmond. This year she competed in the national asana championship in San Antonio. Brought together by their shared interests, Andy says he and April enjoy collaborating in their work and practicing yoga together regularly.

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

Andy found Bikram yoga in a quest for general stress reduction and has been a regular ever since. “It is addictive, isn’t it?” says Andy. But not in a negative way. “Something vital would be missing if I went without a regular yoga practice. … My job can prove rather stressful at times, and yoga provides me with a 90-minute period when I can just release whatever is going on. How refreshing!”

Andy says he is inspired by his teachers and fellow yogis, “from the fresh beginner to the amazing advanced practitioners.” And his study of yoga extends beyond the 90-minute class. “I am certain that my own practice has been enhanced by related philosophical and spiritual readings, in Buddhism, in Kriya Yoga, such as “The Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda, and even Master Patanjali himself.” In addition, Andy says books on Hatha Yoga have proven helpful. “I have read both of Bikram’s books, Iyengar’s ‘Light on Yoga’ and some others.”

What do you do when you’re not doing yoga?

“My greatest avocation is exploring, composing and performing music,” Andy says. “All kinds of music interest me. I am a great fan of world music and collect instruments from the world over. I also devote a good deal of my time to the study of other languages. I have investigated at least 16 other languages, both ancient and modern, to varying degrees. I am an exotic grammar nerd.”

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

“It is impossible for me to narrow it down to one thing in particular,” Andy says. “There are far too many benefits. For one, I have experienced increased body connection.”

Andy says he has learned to monitor and gauge his breathing and his level of hydration. “I can tell by listening to my body when my blood pressure is elevated and can lower it again with the proper asanas.” Other benefits include improved concentration and focus overall. “Greater patience has manifest itself, both for others and for myself.”

Finally, Andy says a regular yoga practice has boosted his awareness. “Originally Hatha Yoga was intended to prepare the body for meditation. This phenomenon effectively enhances my enjoyment of life.”

Ardha-Kurmasana

IMG_0770Half Tortoise is a great posture for stretching the spine and, while getting circulation to many joints, glands, muscles, and organs. With your head elevation below your heart, you get lots of fresh blood flow to the brain. If you have tight hips or shoulders, this is a great posture for you.

Here are some tips for the pose!

•Keep your hands in prayer (palms touching) and elbows straight. That way you increase stretching to the spine while opening the shoulders.
•Keep your hips touching your heels, or as close as possible (to increase stretching in the lower spine).
•Keep your arms and head together and eye direction forward when entering and exiting the posture. That way you both strengthen and stretch your spine at the same time
•Continuously press your knees, thighs, and ankle bones together through out the pose to increase intensity and fix alignment issues.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Be persistent with your practice and patient with your progress!

Female International Yoga Champion, Gloria Suen

GloriaShotGloria is the current (2014), as well as 2012-2013, Women’s International Yoga Asana Champion.
As a former high school track and cross-country runner, dedicated road racer and two-time marathon finisher, mileage had caught up to her body and Gloria decided to look for a lower impact physical activity that would not sacrifice in
intensity. Yoga seemed like a good idea! Upon moving to Singapore in 2008 for work, a former colleague connected Gloria with her champion cousin, Ky Ha, who had also just moved there to teach Bikram Yoga. About three weeks after
she started practicing, Ky convinced her to sign up for a “yoga championship” taking place six months later. Thus, the championship has been an integral part to her yoga journey – from both physical and spiritual aspects. She is forever
grateful to all the teachers she has cross paths with – especially Ky Ha, Dev Kapil, Mary Jarvis and Maty Ezraty.
Gloria Suen is a certified Hatha Yoga instructor:
• Tatva Yoga (200 hr advanced teacher training with Dev Kapil)
• Pure Yoga (100 hr advanced teacher training with Maty Ezraty)

Male International Yoga Champion, Zeb Homison

zebZeb has studied yoga all over the world. After his intensive, nine week teacher training with Bikram Choudhury in Honolulu, Hawaii, Zeb set out to travel and bring the gift of yoga, of health, to as many people and places as possible. From the beaches of Mexico, all throughout the United States, Australia, and Southeast Asia, each new place has put him in touch with wonderful new cultures, new students, and new teachers. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he now owns a studio in his home town and focuses on sharing the benefits of yoga with as many students as possible.
2014 International Champion, and 2014 US National Champion, Zeb has placed in the top four of the USA Yoga National Finals from 2008 to 2014. Held in India for many years, this international ‘yoga competition’ is founded on the ideal of spreading interest in yoga throughout the world and focuses on the individual improving themselves and their own practice, not competition against opponents.
Bringing with him a deep knowledge of yoga technique, Zeb also has an extensive background in dance, physical theater, mask work, and the performing arts, holding a BFA in Theater Arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.