Student Story: Erica Irala

Why did you start practicing Bikram yoga and how long have you been practicing?

I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga for about 4 years. I began practicing Bikram by accident … a good accident! I used to practice Vinyasa yoga at a studio near my previous job. When I stopped working there, I began to search for a yoga studio closer to home. I couldn’t believe BYPS was here all this time!

How has your practice affected your life?

I’ve noticed that I am able to remember and capture little details that would have escaped my notice in the past. I feel like Bikram yoga has enhanced my memory and revitalized my “underused and overused brain cells.” At work I feel like I am able to solve problems in a quicker and calmer manner. Health wise, I feel stronger now and more agile. I love to practice in evening when I can; At the end of the night, I sleep like a baby.

What keeps you coming back for more?

I keep coming back because I love how I feel once I’m done with class. I feel very revitalized, fresh and energized. Also, I am really mentally cleared. I love when the teachers say at the end of class “just melt into the floor” and “let the floor support you” . I  really feel my problems and worries melt into the floor.

Do you have any advice/insight for new yogis?

I would say, don’t feel discouraged if your first class does not go “as planned” and you are not able to do every posture “the right way”. The most important part of yoga is showing up and trying your best.

Photo by Monica Felix @

Water is your second lifeline, breathing is your first

Photo by Monica Felix @

Photo by Monica Felix @

When you’re practicing yoga in a hundred degree room with forty percent humidity for ninety minutes straight, the natural inclination is to medicate your suffering with water. Because it’s cold and refreshing and hydrating and satisfying.

But as my teacher loves to remind his students, water is your second lifeline, breathing is your first.

Think about it. When a person experiences a health emergency, the first thing the paramedics provide is oxygen. Nobody inserts a water tube up your nose. People need air. Breath is life. It’s the source of all things.

And nothing against water. It’s a close second on the scoreboard of human survival. But you can survive for three days without water. Oxygen is only three minutes.

And so, in yoga class, when the dizziness and the leg cramps and the dark thoughts come crashing in, the smartest response is to breathe, not drink. No matter how much money you spent on that shiny new vacuum insulated double stainless steel water bottle that keeps contents icy cold for up to eighteen hours, the smartest response is to breathe.

Oxygen first, water second.

It’s a perfect metaphor for life outside the yoga studio, too. Because when our suffering becomes intolerable, we’re given that same choice. We can reach for a crutch to soothe our pain, or we can regulate and refresh and rebuild ourselves with lifelines that are healthier.

And don’t make us have to pee every twenty minutes.

What’s your preferred method of medicating?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.


Yulia’s Message to Rebecca Causey After Posture Clinic

Periodically, BYPS offers posture clinics to their students which focus on the finer details of  a particular series of postures. Our student, Yulia, reveals her big “thanks!” to Rebecca.

Dear Rebecca,

First of all, thank you so much for the wonderful posture clinic! It was very interesting, enlightening, and somewhat surprising. I especially loved the opportunity for one-on-one attention, which, I’m sure doesn’t happen too often.

There were a few things I particularly benefited from. In general, I definitely enjoyed picking your brain for little bits and pieces of Bikram technique that I was missing; Those tips truly have made all the difference in my practice, and in the process helped to fix the tunnel vision I seem to shift into during class.

Triangle posture is usually one of my favorites, and so it’s especially exciting to see that mine can be improved; I know that my hip joints will probably thank both of us later as well. I find that I have to dig deeper and deeper during practice as time goes by so posture clinics are very helpful in that regard. I am presented with a different perspective on the things I’ve come to take for granted.

I also loved the detailed instruction on separate leg stretching. Your corrections are already helping me mitigate the neck issues I’ve had in the past. (cue a loud “whew” from my neck!)

But most of all, thank you for helping me understand that sometimes I do certain “helpful” things simply because I think that I’m not physically capable of the right way (such as bending my knees in order to grab my heels during separate leg stretching). That was a welcome reminder that sometimes I just have to try the right way first and see how it goes. I might just get pleasantly surprised… Or I might fall on my face which is still very much ok! Either way, I’m having a lot of fun ;).

Rebecca, thank you,


P. S.: I look forward to the posture clinic on the spine strengthening series; though I suppose there’s still tree, toe, wind removing and savasana.


Student Story: Karen Del Moral


Why did you start practicing Bikram yoga and how long have you been practicing?

In 2006 I was going through a divorce, and one day I was walking on Flatbush Avenue on my way from court and stumbled upon my life saver. I had never practiced yoga before but I knew I needed to do something, I was always so angry and sad during that period, and most of all tired from not sleeping at night.I noticed some happy sweaty people in that studio on Flatbush Avenue and a guy (ChiChi) gave me a flyer. The next morning I took the 10:00 am class; As soon as we began the standing series, I kept thinking, “What the hell did I get my self into? All these people are surely CRAZY and out of their freaking mind!!!” I grabbed my mat and tried to exit the room but the teacher, Namjin, talked me into staying and just laying on my mat. I think I finished the first breathing exercise and then I really did grab my mat as soon as I could and exited the class, however that night, for the first time in 2 1/2 years I slept thru the night and woke up feeling like a different person. Strangely enough I wanted more, and I showed up for class for the next 6 days of my intro offer. Nine years later BIkram Yoga has become a part of my life, and I am not the same if I don’t get in that hot room. I’ve become one of those crazy happy people!

How has your practice affected your life?

Bikram Yoga has helped me to be a nicer, stronger, and happier person.

What keeps you coming back for more?

I cannot live without it. My practice is my medication, my therapist, my drug … its an essential part of my life.

Do you have any advice/insight for new yogis?

The class you don’t feel like going to is always your best class – mind over matter!


Student Story: Soji

Seven years ago, I stepped into my first hot room.  Back then, if someone had told me my future, I might have responded with an eye roll.  Dear inquirer, one day you will greatly enjoy walking half-naked into an obscenely hot room to spend 90 minutes twisting, bending and dripping with sweat among strangers.  And one day, you will teach others to do the same.  An eye roll and some choice words.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to explain the appeal of Bikram yoga.  I gave her the usual reasons: a great work out, an increase in strength and flexibility, an awesome form of stress relief, and so on.  And then, after a beat, I came clean.  I told her that the real reason that I keep coming back is that the lessons that I learn in class have made life better outside the studio.  In the hot room, lessons, like sweat, have a way of sneaking up on you and sticking.  Here are my favorite three:

1) You can do anything in the world if you learn to master your breath…

My first few yoga classes were humbling in part because they showed me that I didn’t know the first thing about breathing.  My lungs were the lazy guy at the office that does just enough work to not be fired.  They got enough oxygen into my body to keep me among the living but they were hardly standout performers.  Eventually though, I learned to use my breath during class for extra endurance in a posture, to steady my heart beat, or to access muscle flexibility.  Then one day I found my breath coming to my aid when I needed it.  I could use it to diffuse road rage on the BQE, rub out stage fright before a speaking engagement, steady my nerves during a difficult conversation, or focus my mind before the planning phase of a new project.  All due respect to the folks at Red Bull, but it’s breath mastery that really gives you wings.

2) Being a warrior isn’t about force but about balance…

Once I laid my mat down behind a trio of yogis that taught me something in the most beautiful way.  One of these yogis was a young guy with the build of a professional athlete.  In a past career, he might have been a football player or body builder.  We’ll call him “Ahnold”. Next to Ahnold was a petite woman who looked like she walked into the studio directly off the set of Cirque du Soleil.  Before class I watched her warm up by twisting her body into shapes that made me nauseous to behold.  We’ll call her “The Contortionist”.  The last of the trio was a middle aged woman with a lean but unremarkable build.

As class went on, I watched Ahnold go in and out of the poses that require a lot of muscle strength, e.g. Awkward Pose, with ease but grow frustrated and angry during the asanas that develop flexibility like Standing Bow.  The Contortionist’s standing back bend was the most beautiful that I had ever seen but her legs wobbled during the second part of Awkward like a baby giraffe first learning to walk.  The last yogi, however, was inspiring to watch from start to finish.  She came in and out of the most difficult of postures like a pro.  When she landed a full split in Standing Bow, she looked at herself in the mirror and winked.  She was kicking ass and having fun.  And it was because unlike Ahnold or The Contortionist she had equal parts strength and flexibility.  She was a warrior.

I left class that day thinking about all the places in my life where I might be favoring one thing at the expense of another—work vs play, wake vs sleep, etc.—and how the unbalance was preventing me from being a warrior.

3) The things that are the most uncomfortable are exactly what you need…

An early yoga instructor once noticed an unhealthy and uncourageous habit of mine during class.  He called me out immediately and said something that I’ve never forgotten: You can chase the pain in your life or you can let it chase you. We all have an instinctive reaction to retreat from discomfort.  That instinct keeps us protected in the short term but it also lets that discomfort live to fight us another day.  Showing up to class every day and coming face to face with the points of resistance in my body has slowly built up a skill and a tolerance that I find myself able to tap into outside the studio.  Crossing paths with challenges or difficult situations is now a much different experience for me.  I’m better able to welcome the challenge in, offer it a cup of tea and listen to what it wants to say.  Nine times out of ten once it is heard, it lets itself be dealt with and quietly exits stage left.

In a few weeks, I head out to Bikram’s “torture chamber” for the spring 2015 Bikram Yoga Teacher Training.  I can’t wait for all the new lessons to stick.

By the way, that friend of mine—she now has a membership at her local studio.