Yogi of the Month–Meet Robert!

RobertRobert Henderson, 53
Software engineer
First Bikram yoga class: Feb. 17, 2013

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

“I was born and grew up on a small, wonderful farm in southeast Oklahoma, 15 miles outside Idabel, in a community named Harris. I had the typical farm-boy chores and for recreation rode horses every day, fished and even participated in the local junior rodeo.” And, yes, Robert says, he wondered about life in the city.
“I had the wonderful experience of hanging out with my grandfather, my mother’s father, named Robert. He was born in 1889, the same year Oklahoma was made a state.” Robert was 12 years old when his grandfather died.
“His age and connection to another century allowed me the privilege of reaching back in time. Being the youngest of five children, with all these family members before me, allowed me to absorb so much. You learn from others’ experiences.”
In school, Robert says, his three older sisters set the family academic standard. His older brother was a high school and collegiate superstar, both academically and athletically.
From elementary school on, Robert competed in track and field and football. Track and field became his passion, and in high school he was part of a team that won three straight championships. Later, he studied computer science and economics at the University of Central Oklahoma and participated in track and field for two seasons. “As a sophomore,” Robert says, “my interests were quickly redirected when I was offered a job, effectively starting my professional career in information technology at age 19.”

Robert and his wife, Gracie, have been married 26 years and have one daughter, Saxon Rae Henderson, who just graduated from George Mason and lives in Fairfax. She works in global public health.

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

After Robert’s third knee surgery, his physical therapist recommended that he stop running and take up golf or yoga. “Having been a passionate, 25-plus miles per week runner for more than 20 years, I was bummed about her recommendation and proceeded to do nothing for two years,” Robert says. But eventually he wound up at Bikram yoga. “It took me six months to consistently get through all the postures,” Robert says. But he stuck with it. “I was driven by the realization of just how bad my fitness and overall flexibility had become in just two short years. That was a hard lesson, but I learned that as I age, the more I should be focused on my fitness. It simply improves the quality of my life at so many levels.”

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

Robert confesses that he is a workaholic. “Lucky for me, I love my work,” he says. When he is not busy growing his company–an IT consulting firm–he can be found on the golf course or expanding his extensive music collection.

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

“For me, nothing can replace the exhilaration of a ‘runner’s high,’ and only a runner knows that to be true,” Robert says. “But because of the stress on the joints, I could not continue long-term.”
Robert says he finds parallels to running in yoga. “Running is a solitary sport,” he says. “It’s not about pushing other people down to win. Yoga is also a solitary sport. I like that a lot. It doesn’t require that you damage anyone else or stop someone else in order to win.”
He also finds similarities in technology. “You have to turn off the computer now and then, and then turn it back on. If you don’t, there is a strain on the computer, all those programs lining up in the background. Yoga allows you to turn off your brain, refresh. It allows you to reboot yourself. After 15 minutes of yoga, I shut down and focus on what I’m doing. I can be totally present. This restores me.”

Sasangasana or Rabbit Pose

carter rabbitThis is no silly posture!!! Rabbit Pose helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles, organs, tissues, and glands along the back of the spine and hips while compressing the front. The posture helps to balance the endocrine system. It requires strength in the legs and flexibility in the spine.

A few things to note….

1.Keep your hands on your heels and don’t let your grip slide. To deepen the posture, hold the arches of your feet.
2.Imagine you are doing this posture with your knees on the edge of a 10 story building. Sounds dramatic? The idea is that you keep very little weight on your head. Use your stomach muscles instead!
3.Make sure you have the top of your head on the floor and that you are not rolling to the back of your head.

Please let the teachers know if you have any questions at all on how to improve your postures.

Yogi of the Month–Meet Beverly!

BeverlyBeverly Cochran, 53, antiques dealer

First Bikram yoga class: Oct. 12, 2007

“I took my first class and never looked back!”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

“I was born in Richmond, grew up and have lived here most of my life,” Beverly says. “As a child, I spent most of my summers at my grandparents’ cottage on the Rappahannock River. My grandfather, who was a botanist, instilled in me the love of nature.”

Beverly graduated from Henrico High School and then attended Braxton Business School in Richmond. She went on to work at Hunton & Williams as a legal secretary for 10 years. She and her husband, Tim, were married in 1985. That year Tim began a career at Altria that has lasted for almost 30 years.

Their first son, Logan, was born in 1989. A year later, Beverly left Hunton & Williams to focus more on family. In 1991, the family moved to Westport, Conn., as Tim’s job took him to New York City. Their second son, Preston, was born in Connecticut in 1994. After a couple of additional moves–to Plano, Tex., and then back to Connecticut–the Cochrans returned to to Richmond in 1999.

Logan is now in law school in Texas. Preston, a songwriter, is in Nashville, studying music and making albums. In 2000, Beverly started her antique business, Camellia & Co., which is located at the West End Antiques Mall.

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

“I just saw it at the West End Studio and decided to try it,” says Beverly. “I remember thinking that it was truly the hardest thing that I had ever done – right up there with childbirth! However, I also remember specifically feeling afterward that my eyesight seemed clearer and colors appeared much brighter. I felt more tuned in to my surroundings. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked.”

Not long after joining BYR, Beverly’s mother and husband were diagnosed with cancer. Both underwent surgeries and treatment. “Yoga became my place to come and clear my mind” during those difficult times, Beverly says. Thankfully, both mother and husband are cancer free and doing well.

Beverly describes herself as a “creature of habit.” “I love that the Bikram yoga poses are always the same,” she says. “I continue to find them extremely challenging and feel there is always something to learn in every class.”

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

After relocating back to Richmond, Beverly and Tim “stumbled upon a little cottage of our own on the Rappahannock River.” They love spending as much time as possible there. “I always wanted our boys to have the same wonderful experience that I did as a child,” Beverly says.

Camellia and Co. is a labor of love for Beverly. Collecting antiques has been a lifelong hobby, a passion she shares with her mother. “Hunting for treasures keeps me busy,” she says.

Beverly also loves flowers and gardening. She says she inherited her passion from her grandfather, who was a seed analyst for the state of Virginia and grew over 500 varieties of daffodils.

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

Recently Beverly was diagnosed with frozen shoulder, a condition she attributes to changes in body chemistry. “The worst thing I did was to lay off yoga for a few weeks!” she says. “My body is not happy if I do not attend on a regular basis.” Even if you are injured, she says, it helps to come in and do the yoga. You have to learn where your threshold of pain is.

“Yoga is something that I love, not just for the physical aspect of it, but what it has done for me mentally and emotionally,” Beverly says. “I consider myself a very happy and grounded person, but Bikram makes me even more so. As crazy as it sounds, some how it reaches your soul and changes your life. Eventually, layers peel away and nothing but the ‘true you’ appears.”

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.”