Yogi of the Month–Meet Rick!

rickRick Saldivar grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona where he ranched and began riding horses as soon as he could walk. From the beginning, Rick was a bit of a wild child – he would catch wild mustangs and ride them out until they were tamed enough to be sold. He remembers laughing with family members after being bucked off of the horses. As a teenager, Rick moved to Oregon where he worked as a hunting guide and honed his survival skills when he wasn’t in school. With the rest of his free time, he competed in rodeos.

“Being a young man, I would just brush off injuries as most cowboys would.”

Right after high school, Rick joined the military.

“All my life I knew I wanted to be a warrior, a soldier, and serve my country.”

As a young soldier, he attended some of the most mentally and physically demanding schools the military had to offer. Everyday in military school involved endless runs, hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and other physically demanding drills.

“These schools are designed to make you quit. You find out what you are made of, you learn to live with pain.”

Almost two years later, Rick got to his first unit, and began making a living traveling around the world, jumping out of aircrafts carrying almost 100lbs of gear. He carried everything he needed to survive in his backpack (“Ruck”). He carried it up mountains, across deserts, jungles, and some of the deadliest swamps in the world.

“For hours upon days, my “ruck” was my security blanket.”

If you’ve ever seen Rick arrive at the studio, you’ve probably seen him with his backpack on.

While in the army, Rick sustained many injuries to his ankles and he even broke his back jumping out of an aircraft. Sometimes when he was injured, it would be days or even weeks before he could seek medical attention. He became numb to injuries and pain and thrived in extreme and often dangerous situations.
After he was discharged from the Army, Rick felt says he was physically and emotionally a wreck. He felt like the quality of his life had been severely downgraded. He spent a couple of years in and out of the VA hospital recovering from his injuries. Once he was able to get back to the gym, he was at it full force once again – participating in “boot camps”, running, swimming, you name it, Rick was doing it. He even completed the rigorous race “Tough Mudder”, competing against people half his age. At this time, Rick was on pain medication and he was drinking almost every day to help him deal with his pain. Finally, one day he decided he’d had enough.

“ I was sitting at a bar and I told myself ‘I can’t do this anymore’. My days of doing boot camp and competition were over.”

He then saw people coming out of the yoga studio all sweaty and looking like “they had a beat down.” So Rick went over to investigate and talked to the teacher about the benefits of Bikram Yoga. At this time, Rick was under the impression that yoga was for wimps and said “no thanks”. A year later and still in pain, Rick decided to give Bikram yoga a try. Rick took his first class from Garland in November 2008.

“I was in for a rude awakening. Halfway through the class, the room started closing in on me, the heat was unbearable, I couldn’t breathe…“. Rick tried to leave the room, but Garland convinced him to stay.

“After I recovered and was walking out the door, not believing I just got my a$$ kicked at yoga, I heard a voice say ‘See you tomorrow!’” Rick’s immediate response was, “Like hell you will.” (Whether or not this was said out loud is debatable.)

Rick couldn’t believe that he found something that he couldn’t do – and that that something was yoga. Rick ended up coming back the next day and he eventually began a regular practice.

“I was always destined to be here, the way I’ve lived my life.”

By his 3rd year of practicing, Rick was off pain medication and had stopped drinking. He could run and swim much better, and he was started to gain more flexibility. He also says that his interactions with people have vastly improved as well.

“For the first 2 years I talked to no one, I was just in and out of the studio. Now, I’m a regular chatter box and have many yogi friends that I socialize with.”

Rick strongly encourages other veterans to practice yoga to help with injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I still have a long way to go, but my quality of life has improved. I only wish that I had started practicing much sooner. It’s a lifelong process, and I’m proud to say that I’m a yogi.”

While You Were Sleeping…..10 Reasons Why You Absolutely Should Practice Yoga at 5:30AM!

By: Garland Hume
snowga byrYesterday I was talking with a studio owner and friend who said he was considering cancelling his early morning classes at his studio because of low attendance. It got me thinking of all the reasons why not to cancel the class and why people absolutely can and should practice yoga at 5:30 in the morning.

1. Early morning practitioners have the BEST practices. Why? Because of the biochemical changes happening to the brain when they are attempting the yoga postures while half asleep. When you get right out of bed and take class, your body is not warmed up. You have to connect your mind to your body more so than usual to get your body to do the postures. Even though it can feel more challenging at first, your postures and mind-body connection are improving at a faster rate.

2. Sunrise is the BEST time to practice for your internal organs and systems. Yogis have been saying this since the beginning of yoga. Sunset is the second best time. When you get out of bed and immediately in to your yoga practice you kick-start all your internal organs and systems so they function better throughout the day.

3. Enjoy an increase in metabolism. As stated in reason number two, your internal systems are kick-started when you take class first thing in the morning. You’ll find you have a better appetite and yet you’re still losing weight. I don’t know about anyone else, but this alone sells me on the 5:30am class.

4. You have more time in the day. When you opt for the early morning versus the later morning, all the sudden you have MORE TIME in the day. Several hours more. Everyone is always saying they wish they had more hours in the day. Well, here you have it folks…we have discovered a time warp! See, yoga really does make anything possible.

5. You make better choices for yourself throughout the day. This reason was actually a submission from a student. She said (and I strongly agree) that when she takes class in the morning, she makes better choices for her health and diet throughout the rest of the day. “I feel so good, I try to make choices to help me maintain that feeling as long as possible.”

6. The views! When you come in to class it is still so dark and quiet you can really appreciate nature and the beauty of the moon and stars. When you leave class, the sun is rising. I just love that feeling of the sun rising when I’m driving home from class. Ironically (I think not!), the sun and moon are representatives of Hatha Yoga. < Side note: anytime you do a series of postures, you are practicing Hatha Yoga.> “Ha” represents the sun and masculine/explosive energy. “Tha” represents the moon and feminine/passive energy. So when you are taking class, it is on the cusp of these two powerful energies. Yin and Yan. Does practicing yoga while the sun/moon transition is happening make you more balanced? I say YES!

7. Faster travel time! No one is on the road at 5am. Your trip is faster!

8. You feel awesome all day. You show up for work totally rejuvenated. Suddenly, you love your job, your boss, and all the people you work with. No task is too challenging. At first you get on everyone’s nerves because you’re in such a good mood. But soon enough, everyone else gets wise too. They want what you have!

9. You become bullet proof. You realize that you can function on less sleep when you have a regular practice. You’re more energized than the people sleeping 8-10 hours a night. You don’t need that much to function.

10. The last and BEST reason to take yoga at 5:30am. The PEOPLE! I’m convinced those that take the 5:30am class are the most productive people in the city. They are truly exceptional. In fact, my new year’s resolution this year was to take and teach more early morning classes so that I can be around and observe these extraordinary beings.

Yogi of the Month: Meet Briana!

BriannaBriana Bracamonte, 21

College student

First Bikram yoga class: Jan. 18, 2014

“Yoga is the best natural medicine.”

In a nutshell, what is your life story?

Briana was born in Arlington, VA, on Jan. 6, 1993. She measures her words carefully. When asked about her best quality, Briana answers: “I am reliable.” Her mother told her that when Briana was a baby she was very good and never cried.

When she was 2 years old, her family settled in Gloucester, where she grew up. An only child, Briana is very close to her parents. Her mother, who is five-foot-two and very energetic, works in the medical field and lives in Richmond. Her father, who is originally from Bolivia, lives in California.

When she was a youngster, dancing was a passion for Briana. In high school she became more of an athlete, playing on the volleyball team and going to spin classes. She also worked part-time at a gym and in a restaurant.

LIke her mother, Briana is petite. She says the hardest thing about being only five feet tall is she can’t reach a lot of things. Nevertheless, Briana is quietly reaching for the stars. A part-time student at John Tyler Community College, she is studying biology, psychology and nutrition. Her goal is to get her bachelor’s degree at VCU. She is interested in a career that would involve nutrition and helping people with eating disorders.

How did you first learn about Bikram yoga?

Briana discovered yoga in 2013 and soon after became certified as a Level I yoga fitness teacher. About a year ago, a friend brought her to Bikram Yoga Richmond for the first time. Visiting teacher Jay Larkin taught her class, and Briana was instantly hooked.

Having always been a bit of a homebody, Briana was especially attracted to the spirit of community she feels at Bikram yoga.

“Each body can relate to every body,” Briana says. “Underneath those systems, those bones and muscles, is energy. Energy is a spirit, the essence of the person. If we can get past the the heat, what everyone looks like, then we can share the energy.”

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

Briana has a part-time job at Bellgrade Dry Cleaners and says her life consists of homework, shopping, groceries, juicing, cleaning, seeing her parents, running, her boyfriend and Bikram yoga–not necessarily in that order. She says a perfect day is to spend time outdoors at the beach. She would love to learn to surf one day.

Briana likes to read and enjoys books about yoga, meditation, spirituality, the chakras, human anatomy and breathing. She also enjoys creative writing, including poetry, and writes in her journal to relieve stress.

How has Bikram yoga changed your life?

“I’m very spiritual now, but before yoga I was not,” Briana says. “I grew up not believing in anything. We didn’t go to church or have any religion. Yoga has helped me surrender to something bigger than myself. I don’t know what happened. … It was like a great weight came off my shoulders. Something just clicked. I am learning not to try to control so much. I used to put too much pressure on myself to be in control. Now I try to breathe in yoga and stay present in that posture. I accept my pose, try to be happy with what I can do–especially when I look back and say, look what I can do now!”

“Yoga is like a puzzle,” Briana says. “All the puzzle pieces fell out of the box, and everything’s everywhere. Then you go to class, and everything’s back together, where it belongs. Everything’s whole again.”

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.”