Jacqueline is one powerful lady. I've been bumping into her around different studios, and I was so thrilled when she told me she was on a challenge. Even more so when she agreed to share her experience. Jacqueline is a Bikram teacher, and she is such an awesome reminder of how important it is to commit to the practice hardcore whenever possible--even as a teacher, or rather, especially as a teacher.
MH: I've stopped doing challenges, or rather, stopped counting my class attendance. It's a given that as teachers, we need to practice to stay connected to our students. But I want to go back to your roots as a student. Tell me about your initial encounter with Bikram.
JM: My friend Nick Potenzieri took me to my first class in April 2002. He was doing workstudy at 48th Street. I was going through a very traumatic period in my life and he recommended I go to class with him. I had been practicing mostly Hatha and a little bit of Jiva at that point. I figured learning another form of yoga could only help my practice.
I LOVE Nick. He is such an amazing teacher with the most beautiful blue eyes and the hottest fanny! I totally love that he brought you in. What about your first class?
That first class was with Johnny Salvatore and it was totally awful. I was nauseous the whole time and vowed never to come back. I recall looking at Nick's legs in Separate leg head to knee and there was this stream, no a river, of sweat pouring down his leg. I sat out most of the class, but finished and stayed in the room. I felt great afterward, but I declared that this yoga was not for me.
Absolutely love rivers of sweat. I'm sure that Johnny made you laugh a couple of times--- doesn't hurt when you're totally dying. What inspired you to return for another class?
It wasn't until eight months later that I took another class. I was walking by BYPS in November of the same year and called Nick right away to tell him that there was a studio in Park Slope. It was open just a few months. I decided to give it another shot and took this amazing class with this woman named Robin and was instantly hooked. I guess I needed her to point out some things that I needed to work on. I still do.
I hear nothing but amazing things about Robin-- I've yet to take her class. As a side note though, aren't we the luckiest here in NY? We have so many great teachers. Do you recall your overall experience during this time?
At that point, I had carpal tunnel so bad, that I couldn't even hold a pen, which is not so great for an artist. I had pain in my arms and hands and could barely move my neck. I was going through a battery of tests at that time as well-I had sprained my back body surfing-only to discover some really crazy stuff about my cervical spine. I was diagnosed with advanced degenerative arthritis from my C1 through my T1 in my neck, with three bulging discs and these weird stalactite-like growths that have fused two vertebra in the front of my cervical spine. I also found out that I had a fused Lumbar spine. The doctors told me that I had the spine of an 80 year old woman. I guessed this was probably why I was having problems with my arms. My whole life I've been used to throwing my body around without consequence-I've been an athlete my whole life, so at some point, injuries were bound to surface and boy have they.
Wow. That's some pretty intense stuff honey. It's really incredible how much we abuse our bodies on a daily basis, and how that stuff adds up over time. I'm pretty sure that you struggled more than most people in the hot room.
I kept practicing, despite the pain. I was able to eventually work out the arm pain in locust pose, but it took a while, and I grew to be patient about the slow changes in my body. I love the healing aspect of the practice and how preventative it is as well. Also, I love the meditation, as I practice Vipassana and Metta meditation, too. I'm not sure if there is anything I dislike about the it, otherwise, after just two years of practice, I would not have gone to training. I figured if I have to deal with this arthritic spine stuff for the rest of my life, I might as well make a commitment to counteracting its degenerative nature for the rest of my days.
That's really inspiring. You're such a perfect example of how nothing is really permanent-- we have control to change our bodies, our minds, our lives. One of my favorite quotes from Bikram is when he asks us what is the easiest thing in the world-- according to him, accomplishing something. And the hardest thing is maintaining it. Which is where the 30DC comes in. I think it gives people an idea of what it takes, the type of commitment required, to create and keep a healthy body.
I first did a 30 day challenge when I began the method. I learned that it was a great way to jump start my practice, heal the body/mind and helped with the cost of coming 5 or 6 times a week. I did a few 30 day challenges before training and did one stretch of 60 days. The strength I attained was enormous and the quiet mind I acquired was/is brilliant.
Exactly. It's funny though because I remember thinking about it in economic terms as well.... like, "I'm paying for a monthly unlimited, might as well get my money's worth," only to realize its the best investment ever. So fastforwarding a bit... you went to training, did your thing, became a teacher, and now where are you in your practice?
At the moment, I am doing another challenge. I just finished day 31 and will be practicing everyday until I leave for vacation in a few weeks. I have a avery stressful job, teaching art in a high poverty and violent neighborhood. So, needless to say, all that stress has affected my body and I decided to get rid of it the best way I know how-through Bikram. Throughout the school year, I have only been able to practice 3 times a week at best, so this is a great way for me give myself focus and get that stressful junk out of my body. I decided to put myself first and make the commitment no matter what was going on at school or otherwise.
Yeah! YOU are the most important thing in your life (another one of my fav Bikram mottos). Are there any specific goals or desires from this challenge?
The only changes I would like to see happen are the opening of my neck and shoulders and my hips. This is starting to happen, but as far as my shoulders are concerned, this is my biggest challenge because of the arthritis.
Yeah, but its great to know that you are so in the right track to healing. I'd love to know how your body progresses over time. Tell me about your current fav/least fav postures.
My favorite posture: Camel for it's chakra opening abilities and that wonderful feeling I get every time I come out of the pose. Even though there are some days that it's really hard to open the front side of my body, I always have that same yummy feeling after the posture is over.
My least favorite posture: Standing head to knee. Any posture where I have to round my spine is the most challenging. It not only hurts, but I feel so crunchy and can barely come out of the posture. So, I kind dislike Rabbit as well...but also love it at the same time. You catch my drift?
I've been resisting Rabbit for the longest. I'm always blaming my short arms. But then when I decide to stop being lazy and actually try harder, then yeah, its pretty awesome. I love how this practice never gets easier, but it always gets better. I want to buy a cheerleader outfit and cheer you on this journey, my dear. You are amazing! Can't wait to chat when this challenge is done.