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.

Yogi of the Month: Meet Nate!

NateNate Speight, 36

Attorney and commercial real estate broker

First Bikram Yoga Richmond class: May 2009

“When I come to yoga, I am namaste, but outside you can find me laughing a lot.”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

Nate grew up in Spotsylvania County. His mother was an assistant school principal, and his father was a computer scientist who worked for the federal government and commuted daily to Washington. Nate’s father grew up on a farm, the son of a sharecropper and one of eight children. He was first person in Nate’s family to go to college. He also instilled the values of hard work and self-discipline. A mischievous kid, Nate found himself in trouble, usually on Sundays. “When that happened, I had to go outside and pick a switch or get the belt,” Nate says.

During his years at Courtland High School, Nate was co-captain of the football team and lettered in basketball. He also played soccer and tennis and studied classical piano growing up. “If there’s one thing I was good at, it was playing the piano. I played from when I was 6 to 18 and practiced at least an hour every day as I got older and more competitive,” Nate says. His grandmother was the original piano player of the family. She played by ear. “If you started singing, she would start playing,” Nate says.

Nate completed four years of undergraduate work at UVA, majoring in English. He then went on to law school at The Appalachian School of Law. Since 2004 he has worked in commercial real estate. He moved from Northern Virginia to Richmond in 2010. He and his wife, Bella, who is originally from Houston, are expecting their first baby in January. Bella just finished her residency program in anesthesiology at MCV.

Nate loves to have a good time and describes himself as honest, perhaps a little too honest. “I say what others wouldn’t say,” he says. “I’m that person!” But mostly he loves to laugh. “I am a joker. I love to play pranks and talk trash with my friends. I’m blessed to have great friends and family who have great senses of humor and know the value of play.”

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

“I was reading a book by Russell Simmons called ‘Do You!’ Since rap was the music of my generation, I was fascinated that Russell did yoga and wanted to try it. A friend took me to my first yoga class at Bikram Yoga Falls Church, where I was living.” An avid boxing fan, Nate would often take a yoga class and then go across the street to box. “That was a perfect workout day for me.”

Coincidentally, Karla Stoll was one of Nate’s first Bikram yoga teachers in Falls Church. “I loved Karla’s class because she was really tough and gave helpful tips on how to improve. She would say something simple like, ‘relax your face, Nate,’ but often the little things make the biggest difference.” Nate says he thinks Karla has grown as a teacher and BYR is lucky to have her. He also says she’s mellowed out some and “no longer lets the temperature get past 132 degrees.” “Maybe playing the guitar and singing have given an added dimension to her style.” (Maybe Karla would say that Nate has mellowed and grown as a student.)

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

In addition to music, Nate loves playing chess (he and his brother played competitively growing up), reading and being outdoors. “I love to travel, and I am learning to cook,” Nate says. “And I love watching and playing sports, especially boxing, football and basketball.”

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

“Learning to breathe has changed my life,” Nate says. “I am learning to recognize that often in tough situations, I am holding my breath. My anxiety creeps in, and I feel it. Now I breathe through it, deal with it, and it passes.”

Nate says the yoga has also helped him become more patient with himself and with others. “A lot of the time, I can be quick tempered and peevish,” he says. “I’m still working on my road rage, but yoga has helped me to stay calmer.”

Supta-Vajrasana

IMG_0763Hello legs! Fixed Firm Posture is great for helping to bring circulation to the legs, hips, and spine. It’s great for prevention and improvement of spider and varicose veins and good for the lymphatic system, as you stretch your glands and lymph nodes.

As a beginner, you may find it difficult to sit kneeling or to go all the way back to the floor. The trick to this posture is to go to your own personal edge but no further. Go slowly and listen carefully to the teacher’s instruction. When you start to feel the stretching, hold still and breath in to it. Let the body parts open naturally. Make sure you keep the top of your feet on the floor and don’t let them turn out. Notice that the tension in your body is self-created, and therefore, can be undone by your self. Over time, with patience and frequency, you will be going all the way back to the floor. Once you learn the correct form, you can practice this posture on your own as well!