Lilly Tripp says she’s always been on the lookout for the best exercise routine. “You should see my garage. I’ve spent a small fortune on exercise equipment. Some worked; others are not worth anything.”“I was an infomercial junkie,” she admits. But Bikram yoga cured her.In fact, Lilly first discovered yoga while channel surfing. “I came across a yoga class and decided to do the poses, and within a few minutes I was sweating. The instructor didn’t talk about breathing or the benefits of each pose, but I was intrigued by how easily and quickly I started to sweat. So I Googled hot yoga and came across the Bikram Yoga Richmond website.”Lilly says at first her goal was just to lose some weight, which she accomplished, losing about nine pounds in three months. “But now I want to do more than that. I want to get healthier as I age and lose weight.”Born in Munich in 1957, Lilly was was a year old when the family moved back to Mississippi, where her mother grew up. “My grandfather had a farm, which I loved,” Lilly says. “You couldn’t keep us in the house. I’m the oldest of three girls, and we are close in age, so we were always together. We have a lot of cousins as well. We went fishing in the pond, worked in the family garden, played in sawdust, had rotten apple battles, rode horses, donkeys and pigs. Our imagination was endless.”Her childhood continued to be an adventure. “I relate my years of growth by my years in school,”Lilly says. Fourth grade was spent in St. Louis. “I remember the Golden Arch to the West was just finished.” Her fifth- and sixth-grade years were spent in Memphis, which she recalls was both frightening—she was there when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated—and entertaining: “We went to see Elvis’s mansion.” In seventh grade the family was living in a small town in Pennsylvania, where Lilly’s stepfather was a forest ranger.“We lived at the bottom of a mountain with a creek across the road. We would burn a tire on the iced over creek and ice skate. We had all kinds of wildlife in our yard, bears and deer mostly. Loved that place.”Eighth grade found the family in Richmond, the year that busing was initiated. “I was an honor roll student and had perfect attendance until we moved to Richmond,” Lilly recalls. “It was such a shock be thrown into this situation. But I survived and have had a pretty successful life since then.”Over the years, she’s worked in customer service, marketing, accounting, business administration and sales. “I’m what is called old school in that I have a good work ethic and will do whatever is needed to get the job done, sometimes to a fault. I’ve put my job before my family occasionally, but I realized quickly what I was doing and had to step back. I guess my vocation is to make sure I could support myself and my girls without having to depend on anyone, which I did.”Lilly has two daughters, seven grandchildren, one stepdaughter and one stepson. She and her husband, Mike, have recently decided to purchase bikes and explore the new trail along Route 5 between Richmond and Williamsburg.“I feel really blessed and am so grateful to be so healthy.” For this she adds, “Thank you, yoga family.”“I keep coming back because I realize that my yoga is my release. My mind is free for 90 minutes and for some time afterward. I feel euphoric for hours. I’ve never had that feeling from any other practice.”Best of all, Lilly says, are the yogi friends she’s found. “I love the camaraderie. And it’s more fun to practice yoga with a group than in front of the TV.”
- Say NO to plastic. Stop using and purchasing items and products made with plastic or non biodegradable materials. Your money talks. Purchase products that use eco friendly packaging. Purchase goods that are made from natural materials.
- Recycle and reuse whenever possible. Investigate your local recycling center and find out what items they accept.
- Cut back on your trash. Cut out something each day. Maybe it’s a cup of Starbucks, or a pre-packaged lunch. Make a conscious effort to eliminate trash each day. Think of how much that adds up in one year.
- Eliminate the use of harmful chemicals. If you wouldn’t eat or drink something because it is hazardous to your health, why would you let it in to your water system or air you breathe?
- Use less water, electricity, energy, fuel whenever possible.
- Purchase local products that don’t have to travel far to get to you.
- Eat organic foods. Pesticides can be extremely harmful to people’s health as well as plants and animals.
- Stop buying so much stuff. Every item you purchase eventually becomes trash. Choose your purchases wisely.
- Be picky about your meat. Say NO to factory farming.
- Grow stuff. Plant a tree. Grow a garden.
- Spread the word. Ask others to do the same. Encourage your local restaurants and businesses to recycle.
All of us remember our first Bikram yoga class. For Chris Durand, it was Aug. 7, 2008:
“It must have been about 70 minutes into the class—with sweat dripping into my nose, ears and eyes, and Altin yelling, ‘lock your knees!’ or ‘grab your toes!’ or something else I couldn’t do, such as, ‘breathe through your nose!’ (Yo, dude, I am just trying to breathe!)—I started thinking about the Bataan Death March.”
Many of us also remember Chris’s first instructor, Albanian-born Altin Duka, for whom deprivation was a kind of badge of honor— “You had bicycles,” he liked to say. “We had donkeys!” (Wherever you are, if you’re reading this, Altin, we miss you)!
Fortunately, Chris persevered: “My second, third and fourth classes all made me realize that most of the teachers were absolute sweethearts. And I was also getting used to the heat.”
Chris’s path to Bikram yoga began over Christmas, 2006: “I was playing a simple pickup game of soccer with some friends and our kids, and I slipped and fell. The following morning I woke up with a lower back pain I had not felt before.”
Several months went by with visits to the spine doctor and cortisone shots. Finally, an MRI confirmed that Chris had a herniated disc in his lumbar spine. Months of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory and pain medications ensued, but nothing seemed to be working. Chris’s family has a history of back problems, so he was afraid it was something he was just going to have to live with.
“I asked my doctor what options we had. She said short of surgery and some ‘injection-based’ therapy, the only other thing she has heard works is yoga. In fact, she mentioned hot yoga.”
Fast-forward to 2009. Chris attended a three-day, company-sponsored executive physical at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.
“On the final day, we had the option to see specialists, so I chose to see the spine specialist. I brought a copy of the MRI showing the herniated disc, and the doctor ran me through some tests.
“Afterward the doctor said to me, ‘You certainly did have a herniated L5 disc, because I can see it in that MRI. However you seemed to have cured it. What is it again you have been doing?’
“I said, ‘Bikram yoga, three to five days a week.’ He said, ‘I have heard of yoga healing people’s backs, but you are the first case I have seen.”
“Six-and-a-half years later, I have not had to see my spine doctor, I have not taken an ibuprofen, not even for a headache, and I have not had another debilitating event.”
Chris was born in 1966 in Hartford, Conn., where he lived until ninth grade, when his family to a small town in upstate New York. Despite the culture shock, Chris enjoyed his time there. From jobs on dairy farms he learned to appreciate hard work. He also realized that he definitely had to get to college.
“I always had a sense of service,” Chris says. “I thank my mother for that. She is one of the most selfless people I know. She taught me that giving is the real gift in life.”
So Chris made up his mind to go into the military. After applying to several colleges and ROTC scholarships, Chris says, “I was honored, and am still humbled to this day, to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.” He graduated as a second lieutenant in U.S. Army Infantry and went on to complete training in Jungle Operations and the Airborne and Ranger schools.
In the Army, Chris found more than just a career. One day in 1990, after a grueling “certification” road march—12 miles in less than four hours, in full battle fatigues, combat boots and helmet, carrying an M16 rifle and 40 pounds in a rucksack–he went to the Officer’s Club with some friends to have a few beers.
“It was that night that I fell in love with my wife of 25 years, who was a U.S. Army nurse at the time.” Chris and Jill left the military in 1991 and for several years lived in California, where their son, Nico, was born in 1995. They moved to Richmond in 1997, and a year later daughter Sophia was born.
Since leaving the military Chris has worked in industrial and manufacturing sales, engineering and operations, specifically in semiconductor and biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Jill is a self-employed medical trainer for child development and day-care facilities.
Outside the yoga room, Chris enjoys running and working in his yard. He loves to cook for friends and family. And he continues his dedication to service as a board member for nonprofit organizations. Most recently he has been involved with Sportable (www.sportable.org), which provides adaptive sports training and event programming for athletes with physical and visual handicaps.
Chris says, “There is no doubt that we share something special by doing Bikram yoga together, but I have found that it extends well beyond the walls of the Bikram studio to a larger community that really care about their own health and the welfare of others.”