This month, we got Tony Perone who practices at Bikram Yoga Andersonville in Chicago, IL.
MH: Hi there Tony! So very excited to hear about your journey & your 30 day challenge. Let's start with the basics: how did you hear about Bikram Yoga?
TP: I had done other forms of yoga before like Ashtanga and I had heard of Bikram yoga. I had also passed by the Andersonville studio frequently on my walks around my neighborhood, and always said to myself, or whomever was with me at the time, "I wanna try that someday."
Nice! Setting your intention by saying it out loud! So when did that "someday" finally happen? Did you come alone? Or did someone say to you, "Oh yeah? Why someday? Let's go RIGHT NOW!"
My roommate at the time had tried Bikram in his hometown and his experience really got me interested in trying it. I finally decided to try it on my 38th birthday in January 2010. My roommate and I went for the first time together that day.
I totally love that you went on your birthday. What an extraordinary thing to gift yourself. Tell me a bit about your first class.
I was expecting it to be like a sauna, with steam coming out of radiators. While it was hot, I instantly felt comfortable. Well, until the class started, that is! I don't recall too much of what or how well I did but I do remember my teacher being supportive and calm. And I just did the best I could and stayed in the room.
Oh really, no steam? That's odd because not only do we have steam coming out of radiators but also flames. Tee-hee just kidding. It sounds like you had a good experience if you stayed. That's really the main goal on your first day. But why did you come back?
As soon as my roommate and I left the studio, I said to him, "That was great. I feel awesome. I'm going back."
Yay. Oh, that post-class kick-ass-conquer-the-world feeling is so amazing ain't it? Enough to keep you coming back. Tell me, what inspired you to come for 30 days in a row?
It had been something I had been toying with for a few months before committing to it. I was being wishy-washy about it, thinking that I'd just go as many days as I could and see if it turned into 30 days. I knew I wanted to try it and I knew it would improve my practice and overall quality of life but something was holding me back from going for it. I am so grateful that one of my teachers encouraged me to declare the challenge and commit to it. She was so right. Now, I'm planning on going beyond the 30 days!
A big YES to all the teachers out there! So great. By the way, are there any injuries you are working with?
Well, I bring certain conditions to heal in my practice, like: asthma/allergies, tight hips, lower back pain, flat feet, and weak knees. I have improved on all of these conditions and more since starting Bikram yoga.
Wonderful. That's really great to hear. What are the things that you like or dislike about the practice?
I love the focus on myself and the way this practice has encouraged me to choose healthier possibilities for my body, mind, and spirit. Since I live my life doing a lot of thinking, sitting, and talking, it's great to let those inclinations go, and while I am in class, just listen to the dialogue, honor my body for however it is at that moment, and BREATHE. I am so lucky to have found this practice and such a supportive community with whom to share growth and change! I don't really have any dislikes about the practice except that I need to do my laundry more often. And buy more towels.
I hear you loud and clear. Though to be fair, girls have it worse. You guys just need to wash pair of shorts. We gotta wash whole outfits! But a small price to pay indeed. Can you tell me what are your intentions for completing this challenge?
First, I'd like to honor my body each day for what it can do. Second, I'd like to continue to marvel in the growth and changes that come from this practice. Third, I'd like to inspire others to go after a goal, stick to it, and flourish, be it a goal of Bikram yoga or otherwise.
Those are lofty! Very inspiring! And lastly, share with us your favorite and least favorite posture.
It varies. It used to be that my favorite ones were the 2nd part of Awkward and Standing Bow because I was feeling balanced and stronger in my thighs and knees. Now it's Fixed Firm, since my hips finally are all the way on the floor! My least favorite has always been Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose. I guess I really need this one!
You know, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee was also amongst my least favorite. Until I started applying one very important detail: really stretching your arms, shoulders, scapula as you come down. This stretching actually and finally allowed me to touch forehead to knee and balance. Anyway, SO nice meeting you Tony. Good luck and thanks for sharing!
When Bridgette told me that she had begun practicing Bikram, I was ecstatic. I love this practice to the core, and it brings me joy to know that the people in my life practice it too. I interned for Bridgette years ago, when she was a designer and I was a High Schooler enamored with the fashion world. I didn't get too far in the field, but I did meet an incredible mentor. So, oh the joy for her to be practicing!
I totally loooove that the Bikram community keeps growing, strengthening relationships that once existed and creating new, powerful ones. How did you hear about Bikram?
I heard about Bikram yoga years ago. I’ve been practicing other forms of yoga on and off since 1994, yet never did Bikram until March of this year. I never thought I would enter a Bikram class, it seemed like a horrible way to exercise. Nothing about it seemed appealing whatsoever.
Technically speaking, it doesn't sound too appealing. All that sweating doesn't sound too sexy (but its oh so sexy!). What changed your mind?
I asked someone to bring me. My friend, who is also a client of mine, had been practicing for a few months. What drew me to the practice was watching her, over time, transform before my eyes. Since my job is to dress her, I was very aware of the changes her body was going through from practicing Bikram regularly. She was losing weight and just looked more graceful. In addition, she was calmer and more focused.
And I'm sure she looked super smokin'. Bikram yogis are so damn sexy. So you equated horrible-sweaty room with amazing results. Not a bad incentive.
At that particular time, my life was completely opposite to hers. Not only had I put on a few pounds that I wasn’t happy about, I was also dealing with a pretty bad chronic lower back/ gluteal injury from, ironically, doing another style of yoga several years ago. The pain had resurfaced with no relief which was very taxing to deal with. In addition, on an emotional level, I was going through a time where I felt like I needed to center myself. Basically, I was experiencing some sort of pain on a mental, emotional and physical level, all at the same time. I felt cornered, like I just couldn’t run and hide from myself anymore. Seeing my friend healing all aspects of herself through her Bikram practice, I asked if I could go to a class with her.
Nice. She must have been thrilled to bring you. Do you remember your first class?
I will never forget my first class. I was really nervous. I’m not really a fan of heat and I had no idea how I would hold up through the practice. I remember walking into the studio prior to class feeling like I had walked into an oven, sweating before class even started. I mean, I knew I would sweat, but I had no idea it was humanly possible to sweat as much as I did. My teacher Troy over at Bikram Yoga Downtown in Manhattan was so kind and sat down and explained, as best he could, what was going to happen. From there, I just remember his loud claps interrupting his voice. He sounded like an auctioneer at Sotheby’s announcing things like “Go back, lean back, more back, way back, push, push, push, change.” The rest of the class is a blur.
That's totally my favorite line from the dialogue. It's so amazing how efficient it is. You really do go back, lean back, fall back, waaaay back. What motivated you to come back?
The simple answer to that question is because I never felt better in my life. But the longer, and slightly funnier story, is that about 3/4 of the way through my first class, I was surprised to hear myself think “How soon can I get back here?” I just couldn’t wrap my brain around this response because, logically, it made absolutely no sense to me. Here I was, torturing myself, yet I wanted to come back. That first week, I went to class five times. I really don’t recognize this part of myself since starting to practice. I’ve never been the person who voluntarily physically pushes themselves harder than they have to, if you know what I mean. I have no desire to run a marathon, and I’ve never considered exercising as a happy way to spend my free time. Heck, I don’t think I can run around the block. When it comes to working out, I’ve always preferred the easy way out. I like being fit, I just always saw the process of working out being a huge cross to bear. Yet, with Bikram, I make time to practice. It’s like an addiction, and when I come, I want to do my best.
Although, I have to say, when I’m having a hard class, I sometimes jokingly think to myself, “Why did it have to be Bikram yoga that I got hooked on??”
Honey, we all have "bad classes". For me, those are generally the ones where I still feel my lunch in my belly. But even those classes totally serve their purpose. It teaches you more about yourself and what you need to do to prepare efficiently for practice. You mentioned some lower-back issues. Are you working through any other injuries?
Well, aside from the fact that I have little cartilage in my right knee, which strangely doesn’t seem to give me much of a problem, my back is a real problem. It’s more of a tight soas, quadratus lumborum, gluteal issue that extends down my IT band. My upper back also gives me problems. Before starting Bikram, I really couldn’t bend without pain. Acupuncture and Bikram yoga have really helped. Bikram, in particular, has helped me tighten my core, which has taken the pressure off my back.
Bikram would say "Piece of cake!" Yoga is the medicine for the body. And like any medicine, you have to keep taking it to get better. But I'm sure you've already noticed that. What do you like about the practice.... and what do you dislike about it?
Wow, what do I like? Where do I begin? I just like the way the world looks from this vantage point. I’ve never slept better, I’m calmer, more accepting of myself, situations, others, etc. Things move slower. I look at life with greater objectivity and the small stuff just has way less meaning. I don’t get hung up on things like I used to and, most importantly, that anxious whirring in my mind has dissipated greatly. I’m also much more aware of my breath and am more present to life. Bottom line, practicing Bikram regularly makes life better.
As far as what I dislike, well, it depends when you ask me that. For example, two days before I started my 30DC, I remember being in the middle of class thinking, “Not only do I not want to do my 30DC, I don’t think I ever want to come back to Bikram again!” That was a hard class. However, I’ve found that the harder the class, the better I feel afterwards. Other than that, I really hate getting dressed back into my regular clothes after class is over and I’ve showered. Even after showering, my body still seems to be trying to regulate itself from practice. So, not only am I damp from my shower, but I’m sweating again. I’ve learned that putting on jeans after class is not a good idea. It sort of feels like I’m trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube when I do that. I’m definitely looking for easy summer dresses to just pop on after class is over and I’ve taken my shower.
Please, have you ever tried putting on leggings or stockings after class! I remember once after a strong particularly hot class, I kept sweating... in the subway. Someone asked me if it was raining out. Ummm... not quite. I just came back from the torture chamber... So despite these untidy somewhat unappealing side-effects, what is motivating you to do your 30DC?
Well, I remember when I started practicing, clearly saying to myself that I’d never do the 30DC. I figured my four day a week schedule was ambitious enough. Well, within a week of starting to practice, I was shocked when I changed my mind. I would have done it sooner but June was the first month, since starting my practice, that I was home for an entire month. So, I’m doing the 30DC because something inside me told me it was important that I did it. That’s enough of a reason for me.
Awesome. That's so great. I can't wait to sit down with you when your challenge is over. But you'll be so hooked that you'll probably keep going. Curtin Dixon, one of the yogis in this site, was so on that he's on like a 300DC. How's that for awesome! And you should see him, he's a new man. What are your intentions for your challenge?
My greatest intention in the 30DC is to experience the satisfaction found in setting a challenging goal and reaching it. To me, the 30DC is a great expression of what it truly means to honor and love yourself.
Yes! This is an incredible way to honor your body, your temple. The best thing you can do for yourself! What sort of changes would you like to see?
Well, I’d like to lose weight, get more toned and in shape. I’m also excited to see what is staring back at me in the mirror after 30 days are over, physically as well as mentally. Lastly I’d like to have a stronger core and see my back injury be less sensitive.
Piece of cake. Wink. What about your favorite/least favorite postures?
Oh, I could take a nap in rabbit pose. I like getting into the posture, and there is something really comforting about curling up in a little ball-shape like that, especially at the end of class when I’m feeling ready to be done. I also like half-tortoise, probably for the same reason that I like Rabbit Posture. Plus, I happen to be good at the pose itself, which is a rewarding thing to do right after all the cobra poses and my feeble attempt at Fixed Firm.
As far as my least favorite posture, well, it used to be Triangle. Like, seriously, if I could have boycotted that pose, I would have. However, I learned quickly that the hardest posture is often the more important one for us to work on. It took a while, and tweaking my back once during it, to fully understand how to do that pose. I still can’t say it is my favorite, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of getting better at it.
That leaves standing head to knee pose as my all-time least favorite pose. I dislike it because I re-hurt my back while doing it, so I always proceed with caution, fearful that my lower back will spasm out on me again. However, I’ve made strides with this pose as well. After injuring my back, I could barely touch the bottom of my foot while holding this posture. Now, less than a month later, I’m grabbing under my foot and locking my leg. So I’m making progress. However, I still am happy when we’re done with it.
You're so right about the hardest postures being the ones we need most. What I noticed in my own practice is that everytime we come to my least favorite postures, I'd always go into it thinking "f*ck, I hate rabbit. stupid posture, I suck at it." And, of course, I'd suck at it. So now I catch myself and my negativity and potty mouth and go into it instead thinking "Yes! Rabbit! I am so damn good at this one!" And even though I still struggle, at least I smile at myself. And it works! So keep up your awesome work darling. You're so on it, you're hot! On fire! Yes! More for you, please!