Andy 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.”