To The Lost Souls

From left to right: The Vennard sisters Sheri, Lori, and Michele

December 14th is my sister Lori’s birthday.  She would have been 51. She passed away at age 7 from Reye’s Syndrome, which thankfully today we mostly prevent now that we know children can be fatally allergic to aspirin, knowledge we didn’t yet have back in the mid ‘70s. I remember hearing my mother screaming in the hospital room as my father told me that Lori was now an angel. Loss is very confusing at any age, but especially when you are young. Sounds weird but being the oldest, I somehow felt responsible. Through the years, our family went through some good but also dark times. My parents divorced when I was 16 and like many divorces, it was drawn out, and came during a time when I had low self-esteem and again, I felt somehow responsible.

Years later, my mother died of early onset Alzhiemer’s. She was diagnosed at age 49 and passed away at age 54.  Statistics tell you that losing a child is THE worst pain any parent can feel. Because my mom was literally built to be a mom, I often think she just couldn’t handle the reality of losing her daughter. The depression lead to the bleakness of dementia.  

I share this with you not because it’s my sister’s birthday, but because you are my family now and because these challenges illustrate another reason why we do this yoga that we so often don’t think about. My teenage, college, and young adult years had so much joy in them. I am blessed to have some of the best people in my life, but I have also gotten myself involved in dysfunction that resulted in abusive relationships and a few #metoo situations. In spite of this, I’ve been able to adopt the same rose-colored view that my mother shared, and I’m grateful for that. This inner optimism has allowed me to never give up on people. Even in today’s landscape.

The Most Efficient 90 Minutes

Years ago, back in the old studio, I held a survey asking members why they liked this yoga so much. What compelled them to come and do 90 minutes?  The top reason we heard was the ability “to get a workout in and meditate at the same time!”  In other words, members didn’t need to go work out and also find time to meditate. It’s true – in shelving your mental chatter for 90 minutes, you do get all the physical fitness and therapy you need. You then get to enjoy this good health and mental clarity for another day!

 I, too, felt that way. Working out was a huge part of my lifestyle and I was also very into my work at the time. Finding Bikram Yoga was so refreshing to me. I got that hard-core workout that I needed and, at the same time, I calmed my overactive mind and alleviated unnecessary stress and anxiety. All in 90 minutes, with one routine, driving to one place, in one outfit! Effective AND efficient!

Bikram Yoga – For the Lost Souls

But, here’s the part we need more today and the real reason why I stuck to THIS practice:

“Never too sick, never too old, never to bad to do yoga and start from scratch once again”

You hear this phrase from our teachers over and over again. In fact, it’s written above our yoga room as a reminder that you don’t need to be anything other than who you are right now to start and practice.  However, we often neglect to mention another wonderful Bikram Yoga aphorism: “This practice will help a junk body, screw-loose mind and a LOST SOUL.”

Junk Body, Screw-Loose Brain, and Lost Soul

There it is.  That was me – a lost soul. 

From the first moments of class with Tony Sanchez on Filbert Street in San Francisco, August 1998, I knew that I needed Bikram Yoga in my life. I felt less confusion, less guilt, more sorted and more put-together. Thanks to Bikram Yoga, I pivoted from dysfunction to empowerment.

I also saw a room full of people with the same struggle- and that surprised and inspired me. It’s been many, many years now, but I can still see this one man’s face struggling to get up in Full Locust, our “airplane pose.”  I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, this guy suffers too!”  I don’t know his story, and I don’t know yours.

Regardless, if you are patient enough, you’ll get a fit body and a sharp compassionate mind. You’ll grow a spirit so loving that you’ll come to share a table with others who contemplate life’s higher meaning. You’ll come to know who you are. The “you” which is far beyond the patterns, judgments, and expectations we use to measure our worth. You’ll realize as a soul that sees more and doesn’t overreact to anything on our internet newsfeed. 

Evolution of Your Spirit

I’ve been in the room nearly everyday for the last 12 years and my mentors taught me that the only way to keep a pulse on the business is by keeping an ear to the ground (taking class). Lucky for me that teaching and taking class for as long as I have, I have gained perspective I would not have otherwise. I’ve found that the more we study yoga, the more we want to study yoga. It becomes addicting! I often see it in you, members, as you become curious about the poses and philosophies surrounding your practice.

The good news is that the more you study yoga, the more you know yourself – the deeper, more hidden things about yourself come to light. And when more becomes clear in you, the clearer you are with other people, situations, and life as a whole, becoming a stronger force of light. Your soul recognizes other souls living out their paths in connection to yours. And, make no mistake, we are ALL connected. We are connected from San Jose to Australia, from prison to classroom, from Muslim to Christian, from 14 to 67, from homeless to 95020. Your ego (separation) diffuses and Oneness starts to take over.

Evolution of the Human Spirit

I recently read this great article depicting a pyramid of our human evolution. It depicts well where we are in the world today. We start by doing good things and from there we acquire knowledge, and from there we gain wisdom. With wisdom, we begin to have broader understanding (which ignites empathy and compassion within us). From there, we move into brotherly affection. Then, ultimately, we reach the highest peak of our evolution – LOVE.  

In my opinion, globally we are stuck in the transition between “understanding” to “brotherly affection.”  Like we’ve done since the beginning of time, we’ll figure it out with both yin and yang conflicts to help us rebalance and RISE! If you, like me, find relief in these concepts, then know this: your Bikram yoga practice is HOW you move out of this “stuck” space.

The world changes when we each decide to change individually. If you are reading this, then I’m hopeful you have a practice. If you reflect on your practice, you know that yoga effects ALL your relationships: people, situations, events, and more.  Your Bikram yoga practice keeps your body healthy, mind clear, and your soul awake and in charge.  

In other words, the keys to a fulfilling realized LIFE come from a REGULAR yoga practice. 

The Ultimate Purpose of Yoga

 I recently reached out to a group of BYSJ newcomers who never practiced after their Intro period. They were super to talk with (we’ll do more of this)! They were each excited to share with me, the owner. It was fascinating as, for the most part, all enjoyed the practice and felt better physically and mentally. BUT– they didn’t connect the dots to the bigger reason why we practice: self-realization. According to Indian Mystic, Sadhguru,

Self-realization is a way of knowing this piece of life in a much better way than the way you currently know it. If you do not know anything about the machine that you are handling, you will handle it by accident. Do not think of self-realization as some weird thing that some yogi does in a Himalayan cave. It is not about that. It is just that if you want to live your life with a certain ease, you have to know this piece of life. If you do not explore and know this, how will you live with ease? When there is no ease, joy is out of the question.  Self-realization is not a choice; it is a must.

My Challenge to YOU

I had no idea that in over a decade of yoga practice, I’d start to feel the way I do in faith and service. Yet, it’s through the monotony of the practice that you’ll climb to those higher, more meaningful summits of your life. I am going to challenge you readers to do something very big.  This “something” will not only improve your overall life satisfaction, your physical health and mental well-being, but will strengthen your inner altruism. My challenge to YOU – Sign up for the 60 Day Challenge!

60 Day Challenge

Our 60-Day Challenge is coming up January 1st with sign-ups through January 14th.  It’s 60 consecutive days of yoga and anyone who has done this will tell you it’s one, if not THE, best thing they’ve ever done for themselves! Many of you just purchased our special 60-class card, so you have all those classes you need to do it. Many more of you are on our autopay plan, so you have unlimited access to all classes.

We do this challenge as a community at the start of a new year, fresh with positive and inspiring energy.  Our teacher, Dawn, creates beautiful tracking boards for you to post your daily star. Keep a journal on your thoughts and feelings each day. Join our special 60 Day Challenge Facebook group to find friends and support. But, most of all, mark your calendar for our 60 Day Challenge Party on Saturday, March 24th to come receive your prize and share your story with so many you’ll inspire.

Then, KEEP GOING. This is why the 60-Day Challenge created over 20 years ago: to help you build a routine practice that you can tap into for every day for the rest of your life (or at least the rest of the year!).   

After the 60 Day Challenge, I challenge you even further: keep it going for one year. Yep, really! Try to practice every day but no less than four times per week. If you do, I guarantee you’ll go beyond surface changes, you’ll experience an everlasting transformation towards freedom. You will grow in ways you’ve never imagined and there will be JOY! Lots of joy, despite the global turmoil, and still you will be able to care so deeply, so open-heartedly, that you will become a beacon of peace. 

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