Yogi of the Month: Meet Jonathan!

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Having a scientific mind, Jonathan Moore expected the health benefits of Bikram yoga—“weight loss, increased muscle tone and stamina.” But other aspects surprised him.
 
 “The lessons that yoga teaches through the practice are invaluable,” he says.  “Being uncomfortable, and being okay with it.  Figuring out what you can do today, and being okay with it.” 
 
An instructor in the Biology Department at VCU, Jonathan was born in Houston, the exact middle child of five: one older brother, one older sister and two younger sisters. The family moved from Texas to Virginia when Jon was very young. He spent most of his childhood in Prince George County. 
 
“We moved to Chesterfield my freshman year of high school, when my father became the president of Virginia State University.”
 
Jonathan graduated from Matoaca High School in 1997 and went on to VCU with “pre-med intentions.” 
 
“My sophomore year I took ecology, and that led to the switch away from medicine,” Jon says. He  graduated in spring 2001 with a major in avian ecology and a minor in musical performance (he plays classical clarinet).
 
That fall he entered the graduate program at VCU to study stream ecology, earning a master’s in environmental studies in 2004. 
 
He first came across Bikram yoga in 2005 and was surprised by the amount of athleticism it required.
 
“I feel so much better afterward, and I feel less than stellar when I have not been practicing with regularity,” Jonathan says.
 
Nevertheless he took a break from yoga in 2006, when he returned to his post-graduate studies, this time at Virginia Tech. His focus was again on avian ecology and climate change. He returned to Richmond in 2010 and now teaches a variety of biology courses at VCU. 


“I’m an ornithologist by training, so I love to bird watch,” Jonathan says. A project dear to his heart is a long-term VCU study of the Prothonotary Warbler along the James River. Outside of work he enjoys movies, cooking, being with friends and  reading.
 
And of course, he resumed his regular yoga practice upon his return to Richmond.


Jonathan is drawn to the yoga because of  “a general peace that persists.” He’s also been moved by the various walks of life brought together by the practice.  “I love the people associated with this community,” Jonathan says. “They are truly amazing, supportive, beautiful, kind, compassionate, gracious people.”
 
Jonathan’s husband, Joel, is also a familiar face at Bikram yoga. The two were married in December on their anniversary, having found each other 10 years earlier on Match.com.
 
“Yoga has carried Joel and me through some tough times, allowing us to bond and work though challenges together.”

 

Kapalbhati Breathing

IMG_0619Final Kapalbhati breathing is thoughtfully positioned as the last breathing exercise we do at the very end of class. This breathing comes before final Savasana.
Have you ever wondered what happens to your fat when you burn it off?  When you lose 20 pounds or even just take a Bikram class?  Studies show that you actually breathe out almost all of your fat.  That is right.  Through your breath you lose fat (and toxins).  Check out this quick article from the NPR Blog on this topic.
The point in mentioning the study from the NPR article is to highlight, not only another tremendous health benefit of breathing, but also to emphasize the importance of Kapalbhati breath and it’s placement at the end of class.
To do this breathing exercise, sit in a kneeling position ideally, with your spine straight.  Put your hands on your knees with straight elbows.  Relax your stomach and exhale the breath quickly and a little forcefully with your abdominal wall.  It may be described to feel like you are blowing out a candle over and over again.  Only focus on the exhale, the inhale will happen automatically.  Repeat two sets of 60 breaths.
This posture is excellent for digestion and will strengthen your abdominal wall.  If you feel cramping this is very normal.  This is also called breath of fire, as is creates internal heat in the body.  It helps to center you energetically and slow your heart rate and breathing at the end of class.

List of Richmond City Recycling Items

Here is a list of items to recycle at the studios.
Plastic bottles (remove and discard lids)
Paper
Plastic trays and covers labeled 1 and 2
Laundry detergent
Cleaning chemical bottles
Mercury CFL bulbs (put in separate small bag to guard against breakage)
Here is a list of items to discard in the trash.
Caps from bottles
Straws
Plastic compostable cups and tops for juice
Wax coated cartons (coconut water)
Detergent caps
Caps and spray triggers
Plastic bags
Styrofoam

BYR is Going GREENER!

Bikram Yoga Richmond is going GREENER, in honor of our beautiful planet.  Once we use our current supply, we will no longer be selling bottled watered or providing plastic wet clothing bags.  We will continue to provide FREE Kangen (filtered, anti-oxident, alkaline) water for all of our students.  Next to drinking fresh glacier water, this is some of the highest quality water that you can drink. Recyclable, compostable cups are available for purchase if you happen to forget your bottle.  We will continue to use compostable and recyclable cups for our organic juices and smoothies.
We are encouraging all of our students to look closely on the impact you personally are having on the environment. Many of you are already taking big steps to cut down on your waste and recycle whenever possible.  Thank you! The truth is, WE CAN ALL DO MORE.
We believe that the pollution to our planet is directly affecting our health and the lives of future generations. Here are some things you can do to make the world a safer and healthier place.
  1. 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.
  2. Recycle and reuse whenever possible.  Investigate your local recycling center and find out what items they accept.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. Use less water, electricity, energy, fuel whenever possible.
  6. Purchase local products that don’t have to travel far to get to you.
  7. Eat organic foods.  Pesticides can be extremely harmful to people’s health as well as plants and animals.
  8. Stop buying so much stuff.  Every item you purchase eventually becomes trash.  Choose your purchases wisely.
  9. Be picky about your meat.  Say NO to factory farming.
  10. Grow stuff.  Plant a tree.  Grow a garden.
  11. Spread the word.  Ask others to do the same. Encourage your local restaurants and businesses to recycle.

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Yogi of the Month–Meet Chris

Chris D.

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.”

 

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.”