1) Why do you like it hot?
In my opinion, the accumulation and release of sweat during the 90 minutes, represents so much more than just the scientific, moisture exuded through the skin as a result of physical exertion and heat. Instead, the perspiration, represents an esoteric release of all toxic particles in my body, mind and spirit. After I’ve extensively poured out, my negative particles, in copious amounts, I leave the studio feeling like a newly charged person, w/ a fresh opportunity to approach life w/ a more focused, positive, calm and more importantly, balanced perspective.
2) What are your personal tips to Bikram Yoga Lower East Side students?
LES students, please cultivate and maintain a positive mental awareness while you are practicing. Your thoughts affect every cell of your being and what’s more, also generates a strong energy that permeates throughout the entire class.
3) As a child, what did you want to be “when you grew up?”
A Fashion Designer. I used to watch Style w/ Elsa Klensch on CNN every Saturday. I was mesmerized by the beautiful haute couture creations walking down the runways of New York, Paris, Milan, London and Tokyo. When the designer was being interviewed by Elsa, I was most intrigued by their explanations on how a particular collection was formed; their formulation of an idea and from where they drew their inspiration. To me high fashion is artistry.
4) Tell us about your first kiss: who, when, where?
Ha! Ok. However, in clearing away the cobwebs of my mind from this specific moment, bc, it was that good, my first kiss was in middle school. I was in the seventh grade. It was a cool kids party on an evening close to graduation. We were huddled around my friends pool deck playing Truth or Dare, which mischievously, turned into a game of only, Dare’s.
So, the boy whom I had been crushing all year, was coincidentally summoned, on a dare, of course, to kiss me. I’m not sure that this fateful match was quite the work of the love gods, (unless they were drunk), but, more so, a very awkward coincidence. Anyhow, when my crush looked up to find me, I can only imagine the look which was sprawled across my face and which met his gaze when our eyes locked. I am positive that my expression was the equivalent to that of a frightened deer caught in between headlights, right in the very split second before the clash. The boy managed to appear handsome, cool and unperturbed as he started to make his way towards me. I was beyond mortified. My heart, was running a marathon in my chest.
He quickly planted a kiss on my lips and w/ the same swagger with which he came over, he walked away to sit in between his friends again. As soon as his mission was accomplished, I wanted to run away and hide. Totally awkward and uber embarrassing. My first kiss transpired in front of twenty other pimply teens who were giggling quite hysterically before, during and after the affair. Not quite the romantic encounter that I had hoped for, but, a fond and priceless memory, in retrospect, nonetheless.
5) What’s your most prized possession?
My mother gave me this beautiful diamond ring a few years ago. I wear it every day, as it serves as a reminder that she is always close to me.
6) What’s your guilty pleasure?
Truffle Mac & Cheese.
Taking a day off from my yoga practice. I feel super guilty, but, I know I need to do it, sometimes.
7) What is your most embarrassing moment on the teacher’s box?
My first year as a teacher was super humbling. As I approach year two, I still feel like there are many more wrinkles to iron out before I can say, I am embarrassing moment free. Actually, I think any moment, on the podium, has the potential to become, embarrassing, no matter how seasoned an instructor you have become.
8) What were you doing the day you decided you were going to be a Bikram Yoga Teacher?
The moment I decided that I was going to go to TT, I was at my parents home in MD, trying to figure out the next chapter of my life. I had just left my corporate job in the fashion industry and was there to collect my thoughts. That was in January, 2011.
9) What’s the best/worst thing about being a Bikram Yoga teacher?
The worst part of being a Bikram yoga instructor, in my opinion, is the periodical, mountainous accumulation of yoga clothes hanging to dry in the bathroom. Between, practicing and teaching, sometimes, my clothes don’t dry quickly enough in between washings, therefore, turning my bathroom into a temporary laundromat.
I’m not sure if the following is attributed to Bikram’s yoga, but, I also tend to sweat abundantly, even if I am not in the hot room or feel cold, when the temperature is comfortable for others. I’ve started to loathe air conditioning as a result, on most days, bc, it’s just too artificially cool for me. After a while, I need a parka to sustain my warmth.
The best part of being a Bikram yoga instructor, is the students! I could be having the worst day ever, and as soon I start teaching and see the enthusiasm and eagerness to achieve greatness, I immediately, turn my attitude around and realize that I am there for them. To ultimately, inspire them! The students put a smile on my face and lighten my heart.
10) What was the first concert you went to?
Julio Iglesias. I went w/ my parents. I must have been seven or eight. He is definitely, a charmer w/ a very suave voice. I still remember his swagger.
11) Who was your childhood celebrity crush?
Crush, as in only one?! No, no. I had several. Let’s see:
1. From around ages 2-4: Boy George. I knew all of the lyrics to Karma Chameleon before I could even understand what the song was about or articulate complete sentences for that matter.
2. Then, I remember crushing on Leonardo DiCaprio, in my early teens. From Growing Pains to Romeo and Juliet, I was definitely, his biggest fan!
3. In my late teens I fell for Argentinian soccer star, Gabriel Batistuta. I think this is when my fascination w/ soccer players started. I mean, as it turns out David Beckham is my crush, now!
12) Describe your perfect yoga shorts.
Maybe something quick drying, designed by Stella McCartney.
13) What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Honestly, three fold: 1. Ugh, do I have to get up now?! What time is it?! 2. Bathroom 3. Food. I am ravenous from the moment I awake.
14) What’s your sign and birthday?
My horoscope sign is a Capricorn. My birthday is December, 26th.
15) Have you ever been in love?
16) Say one nice thing about the person who first told you about Bikram Yoga.
Really, I decided to try Bikram yoga on my own. I used to walk by a studio on my way home everyday and I was curious to know what “Bikram’s Yoga College of India” was all about. So, I did some online research and voluntarily walked up the steps to the studio, one fateful day in 2003. However, by and large, it was Madonna who inspired me to try yoga in general. She launched a yoga craze and interest in the US in the mid nineties. I wanted to re create her arms on my own two lanky limbs.
17) Words or phrases you overuse:
18) What song(s) best describe you?
I am still trying to figure this one out…
Juicy, by Biggie Smalls, maybe, bc I know all of the lyrics, so, I let loose my inner gangsta when the song plays. Werd.
19) Do you remember what your first Bikram class was like?
Of course!!! I can never forget it!
I took my first class in Washington, DC. Before this studio is what it is today, a beautiful, expansive space w/ floor to ceiling windows, it was a tiny box, w/ no ventilation, about the size of my LES studio apartment, approximately 400 square feet in size.
After having read about Bikram yoga on the Internet and what it entailed, having drunk an exorbitant amount of water, purchased my first yoga mat at Whole Foods and having arrived at the studio thirty minutes prior to class, NONE of my pre class exercises could have prepared me for what was to happen next.
Despite the fact that I knew it was going to be 105 degrees in the room, I still, brought with me, Adidas track pants and an oversized T-shirt to wear to class. I am not sure why I thought, that this would even be okay, but, I wanted to cover up a few of my bodily flaws that I was embarrassed by at the time.
I walked into the super tiny space that was the “studio” and was immediately, slapped in the face by the overpowering smell. I was barely holding down this powerful urge to vomit as I stepped over a sea of mats to find an open area large enough to unroll my bright teal mat. Finally, I placed my mat down next to a large dude arranging his towels on his mat just as I claimed my spot. The room smelled of rancid sweat, dirty feet, arm pits and just dirty bodies that have not be cleaned in years, a smell, that I was definitely not used to at the time. I situated myself in the back corner. As I arranged my towels over my mat, I started noticing the scene: half naked bodies glistening in sweat as a result of the heat and their pre class stretching. The majority of the students ready to take class were very athletic and slim. The dude next to me and I were quite easily, the largest pair in the room. He was also wearing a T-shirt and baggy shorts. I also noticed that the windows were shut and made a mental note of the one and only exit door. I waited for the class to start as I watched the tiny space fill to beyond maximum capacity.
When the instructor walked in, a very tall, lanky and beautiful woman, who seemed to glow and float simultaneously, she made no question of asking if anyone was new to the practice she just calmly asked us to stand and started w/ the Pranayama deep breathing instruction. I had no idea what to do. I watched a few rounds of this strange exercise which produced even stranger sound. I thought it weird that people were making such loud noises while breathing. I kept an open mind and tried my best, despite the fact that I kept smelling “breath” all around me and that sweat was pouring down my body. I already was feeling suffocated, trapped in this cage of horrific body odor and claustrophobic.
By the time we arrived at “party time” I was red in the face, my T-shirt was drenched, my track pants were weighing 30 pounds and heavy around my legs, I was out of breath, dizzy, hot and bothered beyond belief, frustrated that I was not good at what I was doing or even an inkling of its resemblance. My thoughts were anything but, positive. Maybe, the only thing that I was positive about, at the time, was that these people were all insane and that this entire scene was preposterous!
While people people reached for their water, as if truly sipping cocktails at a beautiful resort on the Italian Riviera, I quickly rolled up my mat and towels and clumsily headed straight for the door. High tailing it as fast as I could w/out being too obvious. Too bad I stepped over 1,000 people on my way to the door or just maybe I would have been stealthy enough to not even have been noticed by the instructor. Mind you, on my way to the exit, I received an assortment of looks; mostly odious but also, envious. You see, it was a 6:00pm class in the middle of July, I’m sure I was not the only one, craving fresh oxygen.
I had had enough. There was no way that I was going to survive for another 60 minutes in that environment. I honestly thought that everyone in that studio was crazy! I literally was like, “f&$k this s^*t”. I was out of the studio doors faster than the fat kid in softball.
Epilogue: All was not lost in my yoga career. I continued w/ my non-Bikram yoga practice under the guidance of a very sweet and attentive instructor while also maintaining a regular gym based workout. I continued to work on my bodily flaws, until I felt more comfortable in my own skin to attempt another round of Bikram’s beginning yoga series.
One year later, I returned to the studio where it all began. Teal mat and water bottle in tow. This time however, I had a set of tight fitting capri’s and tank top, as I had learned from my previous mistake. The studio had also undergone a renovation. It was larger than it had been the previous summer. When I walked in, I knew what to expect and I was not overwhelmed by the factors which put me in a state of mental unrest before. I finished my class this time and left the studio feeling beyond amazing and already looking forward to practicing the next day! I knew that I had discovered something that would become as essential to me as food, shelter, oxygen, clothing, love and water, for the rest of my life. And in fact, the rest, is, history.
20) What was the first album you purchased with your own money?
Hmm, I think it was the New Kids on the Block cassette tape! Hanging Tough. OMG!
21) What’s your guilty pleasure?
22) Do you have a “most memorable Bikram moment”?
Yes. At TT, it was perhaps during the first week. Bikram coached me into full floor bow, (bringing my feet to me ears) from his mile high podium. It seems that he spotted my floor bow, amongst the 430 others and then with his piercing eyes and uncanny sense of intuition moved me into the full posture, while everyone else watched. It was as if I was a marionette and he was manipulating my every move. The connection in that instant was intense. I had never even attempted this posture and to be honest, did not even know how to do it. However, under Bikram’s watchful eye and guidance, I easily slid into this posture without difficulty. Totally weird.
23) If you could have any job, what would it be?
I would replace Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel.
24) What’s your more favorite smell?
The smells from an old world Italian kitchen. For example, fresh baking bread, basil infused tomato sauce cooking on the stove, roasting garlic simmering in a pan. Did I mention, I love food?!
25) What’s your favorite place to hang out in the Lower East Side (besides Bikram of course)?
A few places immediately come to mind:
1. Whole Foods, bc I am inspired to create and whip up my next meal by the wide assortment of daily offerings.
2. Pala, Pizzeria Romana. My vegan/vegetarian/ gluten free friends and I often celebrate many occasions there as well as just stop by for dinner after any given sweaty class. We are fans of not only the waitstaff (if you are lucky enough to have Phillip wait upon your table, rest assured that you are in extremely great hands) but also, the spicy olive oil. Ask for it the next time you are dining there. It’s great to drizzle on your pizza.
3. Sauce, best homemade pasta in this neighborhood. Really, it is authentic, made from scratch and the portions are perfectly sized.
4. Barrio Chino, unpretentious Mexican restaurant right around the corner from my apartment. Great music, (they play rap and hip hop), tacos and bartenders. I don’t drink, but, trust me, they are fun to watch and make for really amazing eye candy.
5. Calexico, I just tried this Mexican spot for the first time this past weekend, but, I know that that was only the first of many visits.