Channing Burt

Teacher of the month: Channing Burt

BYPS teacher Channing Burt shares about her practice…

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

I took my first class in May 2005 looking for some grounding at a time of change in my life soon after moving to Brooklyn and finishing graduate school. That first class was at Troy and Aiko’s studio in Brooklyn Heights and I never looked back. Not long after I moved closer to the BYPS Flatbush studio and practised there 2-5 times a week for almost 10 years including the final New Year’s Eve class in December. I’ve had the chance to travel and practice at studios farther away including Berlin, Glasgow, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Shanghai and Melbourne.

How has your practice affected your life (this can include, health, work/career, relationships, etc.)

Bikram yoga has helped me develop and maintain discipline, focus and courage along with physical strength and flexibility. It is an investment in my health and those around me. It’s been so wonderful sharing this experience with fellow BYPS practitioners and instructors over the years.  

What keeps you coming back for more?

It is always and never the same. Bikram yoga is an essential part of my life. It is like breathing; it is breathing.

Do you have any advice for new yogis?

Don’t underestimate yourself.


Cultivating A Home Practice

As a busy New Yorker, it can be challenging to make it to the studio as frequently as you might like. We asked Karli, one of our Bikram Yoga Park Slope teachers, for some tips on how to bring your yoga experience into a home setting so that you can realize the benefits you’ve grown to enjoy. Here is what she has to say: 

Like most worthwhile disciplines, a home practice is a tough thing to cultivate. In theory, it is the most convenient way to fit your yoga into your day without the commute to the studio, or the cost of a class. This theory is similar to the one we tell ourselves about hemming our own jeans, or painting our own walls and making our dream DIY Pinterest projects. To some, these things come easily, to others, actually getting around to it is a pipe dream.

It is worth the reminder that the most important part of your home practice is steadiness. Not your designer yoga clothes, not your essential oils, not even your favorite playlist. You showing up consistently for even two minutes to sit with your breathing is the most important part of your home practice.

Consider this quote from Sri Dharma Mittra:

In dealing with meditation, it is always worth mentioning that you don’t have to be sitting to practice, but you have to be steady in one thing. For example, I have a student who came to my class every Saturday for over ten years, but every Saturday without fail. That is the very definition of steadiness. So, to meditate is more about steadiness than it is about how you sit or the quality of your concentration, or anything else. Let’s say you remember G-d once a day even for just one second, but every day. That is concentration. This steadiness in concentration brings fruits (results). It’s not that you concentrate on G-d for one whole day, and then you forget about Him – no, that’s not concentration. The secret is to have firm regular concentration on one thing.

The same can be applied to your yoga practice (considered by some to be a “moving meditation”). Steadiness is key. You do not have to put unreasonable pressure on yourself to practice seven days per week. Choose a consistent routine that fits easily within your schedule be it five times per week, once per week, once per month. What matters is the regularity of practice, whatever “regular” is to you.

Whether you are a home practice warrior with beautifully draped tapestries and flowing Zen fountains, or if your mat just barely fits snugly in the space between your bed and your dresser, the practice is the same. You are showing up to be with yourself and to enrich your life mentally and physically, regardless of the setting.

Sometimes we need a little extra motivation; this is where triggers might be helpful. Aromatherapy is a lovely way to settle your mind and your nervous system and prepare you for practice. As an alternative to essential plant oils, try infused herbal oils. According to internationally renowned herbalist, Susun Weed, “Infused herbal oils use a small amount of plant material; essential oils require tons of plant material [read: unsustainable]. Infused herbal oils are safe to use internally or externally; essential oils are poisonous internally, and problematic externally.” Best to embrace natural scent therapies such as growing live aromatic plants, or using dried aromatic herbs.

Music or soothing sounds from nature could be another way to create a vibe of focus and being present. If you have a go-to favorite playlist or Pandora station, or a favorite recording from nature, save them! Listen to them only during your home practice so that you’re excited for your next time spent on your mat. This habit will also train your mind that when your specific sound current begins, it is time for focus and mindful breathing or movement. I find that I end up dancing to the music instead of moving with my breath, so keep an eye on your pace to make sure it is yours, not your favorite band’s.

If you have one space dedicated to your practice, plants are a nice addition because they work symbiotically with your own breath as they purify the air. Also, the soft green tones are relaxing to the eyes all too often strained by back-lit computer screens.

Running late? A five-minute meditative breathing break or a quick asana warm-up can reset you as effectively as turning off your phone for a few minutes will reboot the operating system. The quality of your practice will change day to day, and it’s the days when it seems least likely to get on your mat that you probably need it the most.


Teacher of the month: Peter Finlon

BYPS teacher Peter Finlon shares about his practice and why he keeps coming back for more.

I started practicing on New Years Day in 2009, which makes 6.5 years of practice.  I was (poorly) recovering from a surgery and unable to go to the gym, and a coworker recommended that I try Bikram.  I was frustrated and desperate at that point, bought one month unlimited, and honestly had very low expectations for myself. I was surprised to notice a dramatic change in my mobility, stamina, ability to sleep, and mood. I ended up going nearly every day that month, and started a 30 day challange immediately thereafter.  In fall 2010, I completed teacher training.

The biggest changes occured in the muscular adhesions that resulted from improper wound healing, and the emotional issues connected to the places in which I was physically stuck.  I started out barely able to lift my arms over my head for half moon and completely incapable of keeping them straight!  Illness, injury, and immobility can have an immense psychological impact, and I know that first hand.  My body felt broken and alien.  Doing something athletic to address and and even reverse physical limitations in a fun and supportive environment made me feel strong again.  This experience lead me to become a massage therapist, a teacher, and recently, to finish my degree and pursue a career in public health. 

I keep coming back because my body is in constant flux and the practice helps keep me aware of that.  Especially living in New York, it is easy to be overwhelmed with outside stimuli and that can take focus away from what is going on physically, mentally, emotionally with myself.  Bikram yoga guarantees that for 90 minutes, I have no escape, no “out”, no distractions, no choice but to tune in.

My advice to new yogis ties into the above.  Don’t be afraid to tune in!  It is normal to try to create special personal rituals and distractions to avoid being with yourself and the practice for 90 minutes.  We all try to escape at some point.  Go to that scary place in which you don’t have that extra sweat-wiper towel, the cell phone,  that different version of triangle that makes you feel stronger and more capable, or that mental to-do list in savasana that keeps your mind busy.  If we get rid of these road blocks and directly face whatever is scaring us in the room, we’re building useful neural pathways that will allow us to do the same when faced with fears and challenges outside of the hot room.     

Nancy Cuervo

Give it time, keep coming, don’t push too hard all at once, drop your ego.

What inspired you to compete?
In 2010 I met a teacher from Amsterdam who competed and made it seem like a great way to expand my practice. I’d never known about competing before and the concept was strange to me. But her quiet seriousness combined with her beautiful practice made it seem like a mystery to unlock, a potential to tap into through training for competition.

How long have you been practicing bikram…and how long have you been prepping for competition?
I’ve been practicing Bikram exclusively since 2009. My first competition was in January 2011. I went to training in April 2011. My second competition was in 2013.

What is the most important thing you have learned about yourself in the training process?
I can change my mind. Postures that were impossible one day seemed to materialize miraculously the next. Some of these postures happened through consistent grunt work, but many others seemed to happen by just relaxing my brain from its immediate “No, I can’t do that” response and just trying.

That has been the biggest lesson to apply to every aspect of my life. Trying to enter any challenge in my life with fresh eyes, a relaxed state and a willingness to work.

Would you do anything differently if you were to start again?
I consider myself lucky that I started training with strong mentors and examples around me. If I were to do it all over again I would have started meditation or relaxation exercises right away for preparing to get on stage.

I would tell anyone considering competition to really adopt a beginner’s attitude to the intermediate/advanced classes. It will seem “impossible” at first. But just give it time, keep coming, don’t push too hard all at once, drop your ego. The intermediate and advanced classes are a wonderful way to learn more about the beginners series which I still love with all my heart. Just try. It will change you.


I’m stronger than I ever knew…

Meet Claire Barrett, BYPS Instructor, and competitor in this month’s Yoga Regional Championship. She shares her journey towards competition below…

What inspired you to compete?

It’s something I always thought about doing but it was never the right time..until now. My life over the past year and a half has completely changed and I felt the need to really throw myself into my practice in a deeper way. The training process has been a sort of emotional cleanse. I really had no interest in getting up on stage to do yoga in front of people, that is terrifying to me, but the prep for competition was very appealing to me. 

How long have you been practicing bikram…and how long have you been prepping for competition?

I’ve practiced for about 4 1/2 years. I started training in November 2014, which is kind of early but I had only been to a handful of advanced classes before that. I started doing:

  • Advanced once a week
  • Intermediate class at South Slope once a week and
  • Regular class four times a week.

Now I am practicing pretty much every day leading up to the competition. 

What is the most important thing you have learned about yourself in the training process?

I’m much stronger than I ever knew. It has changed my whole mindset about what’s possible, not just in my body but in my heart, in my everyday life. It has changed the way I teach my class. It has changed my body, my practice, everything.

I was talking to a student at the Flatbush studio on New Years Eve and he said “Its so great that you get to get up there and just say what you have to say, without saying anything at all.” That really struck me, and its become my mantra of sorts. I am the only gift I have to give the world, so what do I want to give? What do I want to say through my postures?

I think everyone should try to compete at least once! It has been such a great experience, just do it! Just commit and do it!

Check out our schedule online and get to Claire’s classes. She’s a great teacher–the author personally likes her Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. at the South Slope studio, 555 Fifth Avenue.