How did you first discover Bikram yoga?
It was a low point in my life, and I had some extra time on my hands. My best friend and my massage therapist both told me ‘out of the blue’ to try Bikram Yoga. I had heard that a friend, Michele Vennard, had left her position in a company I did business with to start her own studio. I decided to check it out. Ironically, Michele was teaching that day. Although she about ‘killed’ me, she also inspired me with her bountiful encouragements. It was refreshing to me to be like a child again doing something I knew nothing about and was terrible at doing. That was a nice change from the challenge of driving myself to be an “ultra-achiever”. Also, I immediately loved the staff and the amazing people in the room doing yoga with me. They were a cross section of humanity—which I found very cool.
What have you gained from your yoga practice?
The first benefits I received from BYSJ were 1) community and 2) physical. I found myself connecting more and more to the wonderful people I did yoga with (whom I didn’t know except in the room) as well as making some great friends. I always felt Michele and her loving team really cared about me as a person, not just as a paying client. And I started to see some outstanding physical benefits in my life—the brilliant series of asanas in the hot room have been an amazing complement to what I do in the gym.
Then more benefits came. In the movie “Awake: The Life of Yogananda” a USC expert says: “Yoga was not set up to get flat abs….” After doing Bikram Yoga awhile, I began to see the organic impacts of conscious breathing and asanas on my mind, body and spirit. I started to ask myself, “What is Yoga?” This started a journey into reading super-inspiring books like “The Autobiography of a Yogi” and “A Life Worth Breathing” and delving into the four paths of yoga and, most importantly, meditation. I have found that meditation and the conscious breathing of hatha yoga have had massive impacts on my life and have integrated great with my other spiritual practices of prayer and inner work on my consciousness. You might not be able to tell it from meeting me, but I am a radically more peaceful and happy person because of all of this…and more healthy too.
What has been your greatest struggle and/or greatest accomplishment?
The breathing and heat were huge challenges for me in my first couple of years of yoga. I was trying to breath like an athlete in the gym, even when doing so through my nose. I’m very intense by nature so I was over-challenging myself and breathing so hard that it was just incredibly difficult for me in that hot room. I would endure the sessions for the results. Over time, I learned more about conscious breathing as well as how to keep my breath calm and steady. This radically changed my yoga from a ‘miserable’ experience in the room to something I’ve been able to actually enjoy and look forward to. I also learned to pull back from my intense approach (that works well in the gym) to challenging myself while keeping my breath calm.
What advice would you give to new students or those struggling with their practice?
We’re all on different paths and dealing with and healing different things…give the yoga a chance to be a process for you rather than a quick fix. Everything in life doesn’t have to be immediate. When you’re having a tough go of it, maybe look around and have compassion for others in there too, as it will immediately make you feel a bit less judgmental about yourself or release any belly-aching about how tough it is.
Also, a big one for me is to not listen to people who tell you the yoga is ‘hard’. Yes, it’s challenging, even super-challenging for world-class athletes, but it can become a very joyous experience with time…and very healing and blissful. If you have a mental commitment to it being painful (rather than healing), it probably always will be. I’m shocked that I actually don’t mind the heat anymore (in fact, some days I embrace it), and I am one of those dudes who could barely handle the heat at first – ask Michele!
I’m a big believer (as are most of the truly brilliant scientists, like Robert Lanza) that we are not our bodies, but we are consciousness. In this perspective, the physical manifests from consciousness not the other way around. So if you develop a part of your consciousness that welcomes and looks forward to all forms of yoga that are right for you, including the brilliant Bikram series of hatha yoga, with calm conscious breathing and pranayama, then the experiences will be joyous, not tortuous.
What do you like to do outside of yoga?
Most fortunately I am a very happy father, husband, and friend – which is great to say since I was miserable in my personal life when I started yoga. I do my best to be my best with those life blessings. Work-wise: I co-founded and run Cinequest Inc. which fuses innovation and creativity to empower youth, creators, and audiences. We have three divisions: Cinequest Film Festival, Picture The Possibilities global youth work, and Cinequest Mavericks Studio. I’m continuing with Cinequest, while founding a new start-up called Creatics. I like to write as well. The themes that are most important to me are: love, empowerment, creativity, and spiritual growth (and the health to enjoy the incarnation).
Through experience, I have seen over and over that the processes in my life and work mirror the process of yoga: consciousness leads and creates the physical. In the physically creative realms, we create from vision first with supporting action. The actions (and mental constructs) then influence the consciousness and the evolution of the consciousness, which manifests the creations—either organically via karma or consciously via processes like meditation, prayer, and yoga. It’s a bit of a paradox to the brain, the way this works, but a beautiful one to the inner world.