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.”


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!

Yogi of the Month–Meet Terry!

Terry M.Terry Miffleton, 63, emergency room nurse, MCV Hospital, currently working in bed management
First Bikram yoga class: April 2011
“Yoga is the only thing I do that makes me feel like I’ve run 10 miles.”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

Terry was born in Richmond, went to Lakeside Elementary School and graduated in 1969 from Hermitage High School. She says she wasn’t on any teams, didn’t play any sports and wasn’t a cheerleader. “I have the hand-eye coordination of a snail,” she says. But she has always had lots of energy: “As a kid, I was outside all the time playing.” She married her high school sweetheart, Chuck. They have two grown sons and four grandchildren (two boys and two girls).

Right out of high school, Terry decided on a career in nursing and completed her training 1972. In 1988 she received a BS in nursing from George Mason University. Since then she has worked continuously at MCV Hospital, and for the past 12 years she has worked in the emergency room there. “You see a part of the world that most people don’t see,” she says of her experience in the ER. When someone picks up a weapon to solve a problem, “people get hurt really badly,” she says.

When a co-worker asked her to run a mile for the Run for the Heart race in the 1980s, Terry became hooked on running and racing. In 1980 she ran a half-marathon in Richmond’s marathon, when it was unusual for women to compete in races. During the next 30 years she completed 73 marathons.

Her goal is to complete 75 marathons, but she says she may “just have to walk them” because her knees “don’t have much cartilage left.”

How did you first learn about BIkram yoga?

Terry says when her knees began to trouble her, she sought healing at Bikram Yoga Richmond.

“Laurie Miller had to hog-tie me into coming to my first class,” she says. “I knew I wouldn’t be very good in yoga … but I feel so good afterwards. I can see so many improvements. It has really helped loosen my knees, hips and pelvis.”

Surprised by the results, she started doing yoga three times a week.

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

Terry is an avid reader and gardener, and she loves entertaining. But her passion is competition. Through the years she has competed in one Iron Man triathlon (“I never trained so hard!”) and countless sprint triathlons, half-marathons and 10K and 5K races.
Her greatest moment was in 2010 when she competed in a duathlon in Scotland and came in third in the world in her age class (55-59).
“I still love running,” she says. “I just wish I didn’t love it so much!”

In June she underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and is gradually working her way back to her routine of running, biking and swimming–along with yoga, of course.

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

“It’s hard to grasp yoga. So much of it is trust and faith in what you are doing. It takes patience,” Terry says. “Yoga makes you happy and peaceful. It gives you an afterglow. It lifts your spirits.”

Especially following her surgery, Terry says, “yoga has kept me from going insane. I’ve been athletic … training every day, two workouts a day. For me, it’s like brushing your teeth. I swim and run, or bike and run every day. With the knee injuries, I was not able to do too much, and yoga kept me from losing my mind.”

Now she is thinking about how she can get better in yoga.

“With biking and running on the open road there are many dangers. In the yoga, you meditate, you focus on the words and your body. It’s less stressful. If you start doing this yoga once a week and take a day off from other sports, it’s preventive medicine. I wish I had known about it when I was younger. It would have kept me more supple.”

Yogi of the Month: Meet Lisa!

LISA JOLisa Joseph photographed with her husband, Chris (left), and Rajashree Choudhury (middle).

Lisa Joseph, 53, business owner, agent, RE/MAX Commonwealth.

First Bikram yoga class: Feb. 18, 2006

“Yoga keeps an old person from moving into your body!”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

The second of six children, Lisa was born in Cleveland. “My father was from Italy,” she says. “He was a young doctor who had come to New York to spend just a year studying, but he met my mother. She was American, an Irish New Yorker. What a combo!”

Lisa grew up in Norfolk and graduated from Norfolk Catholic High School. She came to Richmond as a freshman at VCU in 1979. She majored in English and then continued her studies, receiving her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

Lisa taught Italian and English at Thomas Jefferson High School for from 1991 to 2002. She married Chris in 1995, when she was 34. “We’ve been married for 19 years this month,” she says. “When I was teaching school, we saw very little of each other with our schedules. So I quit teaching and decided to get my real estate license so I could be with Chris more.”

Lisa and Chris are very involved at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on VCU campus, where they attend church every week together. “When we travel to different cities,” Lisa says, “we always pick a church to visit–and a Bikram yoga studio!”

“I get a lot of inspiration from reading the Bible and praying,” Lisa says. “Yoga class is a great place to pray with no distractions. I pray for the teacher, the studio’s success and prosperity, the other students and their healing and success. I will often focus my prayers on one or two people in the class if they seem to be struggling. I pray they’ll hang in there, be encouraged and come back. I try to say something positive to those people after class. … It’s tough to keep God’s temple in good shape!”

And Lisa is still in love with all things Italian.

“I learned to speak Italian when I studied over in Italy while in college and continue studying and learning even today,” she says. “We have relatives and friends in Italy, and it’s great to connect with them. Many have come to visit us here, and we go to Italy, as well.”

“We have a big family,” Lisa says, “so there are a lot of people to love and support. My father died in 2012 and mom just last year. I miss them both. They were amazing people born in a time when life was so much harder. We have them to thank for so many of our blessings.”

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

“A friend told me she lost 10 pounds doing Bikram yoga, so I decided to try it,” Lisa says, adding, “I wore all the wrong clothes–cotton.” But from the beginning she was hooked and has been a regular at BYR since 2006.

While Lisa is a true believer in the benefits of Bikram yoga, she nevertheless has struggled through the years with intense back and hip pain. Through prayer, she says she was led to the solution.

“I cried out to God and asked him to help to free me from this consistent pain,” Lisa says, and a voice told her, “Why don’t you read the book Chris was reading 20 years ago?” The book was “Healing Back Pain” by John Sarno, MD.

“I read it and studied it,” Lisa says. “Then the change occurred in the six inches between my head and my heart. I no longer had any pain.” The book explains that the body stores unresolved negative emotions.

“Pay attention to your emotions so your tension, anxiety, fear and anger are released daily,” Lisa says. She has been pain free for 17 months. “Even this past year while my mother was in and out of hospitals, nursing homes, hospice and dying, in between fixing up and renting my mother’s house, in between keeping up with my business and traveling to Norfolk where my mother’s house was, during all this stress and her passing in December, I have been pain free.”

The revelation has deepened her yoga practice as well. “I am no longer afraid in yoga of really exerting myself fully or of hurting my back,” Lisa says. “Now I go at yoga with complete abandon and confidence that the spine is designed to be a strong structure, malleable well into our 90s.”

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

Lisa’s hobbies include fitness (she also walks and lifts weights), cooking, traveling and learning about health.

Lisa and Chris sell real estate in high volume. “Our job is physically, emotionally, mentally demanding,” Lisa says. “But because we have our lifestyle of clean diet, yoga, water, walking, family, faith, this makes us more balanced.”

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

“Yoga makes more time,” Lisa says. “The more time I spend in yoga, the more time I have outside because I am more creative.”

She adds, “In a real estate transaction, Chris and I need to be a calming force. People want to be around people who are stable emotionally. The yoga really helps. Bikram is a tight ship. …You can’t be fake or phony when you’ve got no make up, you’re all sweaty. … It’s a serious environment. You can go and retreat from the world.”


IMG_0559Locust Pose is a great posture for strengthening your entire body, particularly the legs and the core. To perform Locust pose properly, make sure yours legs are straight and thigh contracted throughout all three parts of the pose. This will build strength in your knees and tone your muscles of the buttocks, thighs, and calves.

When lifting one leg at a time, simultaneously lift your eyes. This will work to strengthen the muscles of the eyes and the neck. Keep your hips aligned in the pose to prevent twisting.

When lifting both legs, at first you may only be able to lift your legs an inch of the floor, but over time, and your core muscles become stronger, you will go higher!

Yogi(s) of the Month: Jenny and Clementine, Our Current Teacher Trainees

imageJenny Harding, 31, soon-to-be Bikram yoga teacher

First Bikram Yoga RIchmond class: March 25, 2012

“My perfect day: Snowboarding all day and then yoga afterward!”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

“I was always up to something,” says Jenny, who went to Atlee High School and graduated from VCU with a bachelor of fine arts degree in fashion design.

“I did every sport in the book until eighth grade, and then I quit everything for soccer.” She played year-round during high school. At the same time she discovered a passion for artistic expression. “Atlee had an amazing art department. I painted a lot with acrylics.”

Her combined artistic and competitive spirit led her to VCU. “Art at VCU is number one in the country; fashion design is the second hardest school to get into, so I thought I would give it a try!” She became interested in pattern-making—“kind of like blueprints for clothing.” Since graduating, she has worked as a developer of ski and snowboard apparel.

Snowboarding is her other great passion. She loves the scenery. “It’s so picturesque, and the snow is so peaceful,” she says. “I love the speed, the movement. You get a respect for the mountain. It’s vast. It’s a different experience every time you go.” She and her husband, Adam, went snowboarding for their honeymoon.

Becoming a Bikram yoga teacher is not the only new path for Jenny. When she returns from teacher training in June she will begin a new job as fellowship coordinator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Each year the museum holds a juried fellowship contest, in which the winner is awarded at show at the museum, plus financial support. “I will get to see 800 artists come through!” Jenny says.

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

Jenny knew something about Bikram yoga from having taken a class in California before she moved back to Richmond. “I was nursing two very swollen and painfully sore calf muscles after running my third half-marathon,” Jenny says. “I was frustrated; I could barely walk, let alone snowboard. And, at the time I was not only running but also working out six days a week. … I’m not one to sit on the couch and nurse an injury. So I started researching yoga studios.”

Jenny says the heat was a big draw. “I thought it would help me to heal quickly, so that I could get back to all the other stuff”–Kettle bells, road biking, Crossfit. “I never thought it would become my lifestyle.” Now she practices six days a week.

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

“Snowboarding is probably number one for me,” Jenny says, “But the fine arts side of me loves fashion.” She likes to sew but also likes to indulge in “retail therapy.”

“I have to avoid malls,” she says, “but I love consignment and thrift stores.” Her favorite shop was one in California that gave a trade value for items you would bring in. “I’ve run out of room for clothes and shoes, so it’s better if I can trade what I’m not wearing for ‘new’ items.”

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

“Yoga has taught me patience—in and out of the yoga room,” Jenny says. “When I get into a sport, I like to dive in headfirst. But with Bikram, it’s different.” For instance, at first, standing head to knee pose was a big challenge for Jenny. “The first year of my practice, all I did was stand on one leg, she says. “I don’t know when and how it became my best posture, but it has.”

Clementine Rae, 23, soon-to-be Bikram yoga teacher
First Bikram yoga class: May 28, 2012
“You should never go into anything thinking negatively about it. Nothing good will happen then.”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

Born in Manhattan, Clementine grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from high school there. With six years of Latin under her belt, she says, “I love foreign languages.  If I went back to school, I would major in linguistics and minor in English.” She also took piano lessons for 10 years, plays the guitar and has written a few songs. “I learned a lot about music theory at a young age,” she says.

A couple of years after high school she moved to Richmond and began working for Gelati Celesti. She now manages the store in Stony Point Shopping Center, near Bikram Yoga Richmond.

“The best part is that I meet a ton of people every day,” Clementine says. “I have really good conversations with people–complete strangers. I collect names and conversations and the way people touch me, which I jot down in a little book.”

The hardest part of her job, she says, is when people tell her they feel bad about eating ice cream. “Ice cream is definitely not health food,” she says, “but I wish people didn’t feel so guilty about treating themselves. … You shouldn’t feel bad about putting a little skip in your step!”

“Eating is about so much more than food,” says Clementine, who would like to become a nutritionist. Along with her job at Gelati Celesti, she helps out part-time in the juice kitchen at Bikram Yoga Richmond. She likes the balance between the healthful benefits of juicing and the joy in a simple cup of ice cream.

“As they say, everything in moderation. We have so many voices in our heads and from the media that make us feel guilty.”

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

“Four years ago I was extremely depressed,” Clementine says. “I suffered from anxiety and had panic attacks and was totally a wreck.” She says she tried medication but stopped taking it because it made her feel like a “zombie.”

“Then I found Bikram Yoga Richmond, which was right next to the ice cream shop. I started to feel healthier.” She says that practicing yoga also made her more conscious of good nutrition. “I definitely feel more balanced in so many ways.”

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

“I really like to read,” Clementine says. “My Kindle has been a surprise, because on it I love reading even more.” She also loves storytelling and enjoys podcasts of “This American Life” and “The Moth.”

Cooking is another passion. “I love spending less money by not going out,” she says. “I make a vegetable soup–saute onions, green peppers, carrots, celery, garlic, add tomatoes, chick peas, cabbage, water.”

“And I love to dance,” she says, “especially Latin dancing and hip hop. That’s what I do to blow off steam!”

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?
“It has changed my mental health,” Clementine says. “I’ve always had a very high anxiety level.  Now, because of yoga, I am a lot more calm and rational in approaching a new situation.”

And the yoga has opened a world of possibilities. “I can see myself in the next 20 years owning or managing a yoga studio and also being a nutritionist,” she says. “Fifty-fifty would be the perfect ratio of healthy food to yoga–perfect balance.”