Bikram Yoga LES Bits
REMEMBER TO HYDRATE!
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE.
Water, coconut water, electrolyte mix, green juice, you know the drill.
That is all. Thank you.
Tricia recently chatted with Well + Good NYC about the difficult issue of sexual harassment, as it affects yogis and all of us in the world. Tricia’s clear, powerful response should make us all proud to be her students. Here is the piece in its entirety:
How the scandal is affecting the Bikram community: Tricia Donegan responds
from Well + Good NYC (March 29), written by Lisa Elaine Held
Tricia Donegan is the owner of Bikram Yoga Lower East Side, and also happens to be Lady Gaga’s yoga teacher.
The lawsuit against Bikram Choudhury, which alleges the hot-yoga pioneer sexually harassed and abused a former student, has been heavily reported on in the press.
But the massive, passionate community of teachers and students who practice Bikram, whom Choudhury’s fall from grace affects the most, has largely been ignored.
We checked in with Tricia Donegan, one of New York’s top Bikram instructors, and the owner of Bikram Yoga Lower East Side, and asked her to weigh in on how the scandal has affected her studio—and how she sees this impacting the larger Bikram community. Here’s what she had to say:
How has the lawsuit affected the day-to-day at your studio? Are students upset and asking you about it? Nothing has changed in my studio on a day-to-day basis. We have always been grateful for this series Bikram has brought to us while we practice for ourselves. We practice confidence within vulnerability. We practice so that we can do more than we think we can. In the Lower East Side, we own ourselves, our bodies, and we have taken ownership of the yoga we practice. I’m sure people are upset, though I have fielded many more questions from the press and from non-practitioners than I have from my students.
How do you respond to the questions and concerns people do have? These are my thoughts: Men continue to wield power over women in every realm of our society and in every workplace. There is somewhat more outcry when harassment is egregious, but on a day-to-day basis, there still exists pervasive sexual harassment in workplaces throughout this country. There is no reason to think that the yoga business, the yoga world, doesn’t have these same problems. This is an important opportunity for our community to recognize, reveal, and discuss this issue and hopefully create change.
Do you feel like you need to distance yourself from Bikram Choudhury or stand behind him as a community? We need to be able to separate the practice we believe in—a practice we believe improves health and well-being—from the issue of sexual harassment. Stopping the yoga will not change the power dynamics that allow sexual harassment to exist.
Going forward, how do you see this affecting your studio and the larger Bikram community? I am a woman and I own a Bikram Yoga business where I ensure an environment free of sexual harassment. It’s an issue I have had to address within my business, and I have.
The Bikram Yoga community very much believes in this yoga because it is healing and that will go unchanged. Yoga is spread by gurus and led by instructors, but gurus and instructors do not own the yoga. I teach my students the importance of making their yoga their own. I want my students to own their yoga and own their achievements and their failures.
In terms of community and reputation, it is important to remember how terribly difficult, expensive, and isolating it is to speak out against sexual harassment. It is potentially devastating in a workplace. It takes a community to ensure resources and support are in place for women to challenge sexual harassment without fearing for their livelihood. Right now, I think the Bikram Yoga community recognizes that. We are invested in this yoga and in wellness. This is an opportunity for our community to look within itself, and to become healthier and stronger.
Anyone who meets Bikram LES instructor Pamela Herron is immediately touched by her sunny disposition. So you might be surprised to learn that Pamela is skilled in what is commonly referred to as the “dance of darkness.”
Pamela dances with The Vangeline Theater, a dance company dedicated to Butoh, a form of modern dance that originated in Japan following World War II. Early practitioners of Butoh were concerned with creating movement that was distinct and different from Western influences. It is characterized by slow, controlled movement and images that are sometimes whimsical, sometimes grotesque, and Butoh dancers typically wear dramatic white makeup.
- photo by Michael Blase
How did you find Butoh, and how long have you been studying/dancing?
I found Butoh, funny enough, the same exact year I found yoga back in 1998. I was acting and a couple of friends and myself would explore ways to open our emotional selves through our body. We would teach each other techniques and one friend, Justin, brought butoh exercises. Each one blew my mind because it felt like time and space were transcended or connected deeply. Which led to a curiosity to discover more. So I started seeking out different group & solo artists performing, starting with Sankai Juku (amazing and inspirational!) and left it there. Until the summer of 2006 after I graduated from Bikram Yoga Teacher Training for me to begin performing in the art form. I found a class offered by Vangeline in a studio I taught in. I took it and the very same night she asked me to perform in her company, Vangeline Theater. The rest as they say is history! I have been dancing Butoh ever since.
What do you love about it?
I love the depth, the ritual, the community of dancers all committed to opening and offering and transformation. It’s as if it choose me.
How does your Bikram practice influence your dance practice and vice-versa?
I really feel they go hand in hand. I wouldn’t be dancing still if it weren’t for yoga! Yoga keeps me balanced overall and physically prepared for the dance. And helps get the kinks out when the butoh is hard on my body.
If you have never seen a Butoh performance before, I highly recommend it. It is gorgeous, challenging, and moving. Lucky for us, Pamela and The Vangeline Theater perform frequently! Pamela has a solo show coming up on April 30th at Dixon Place, here in the Lower East Side, and The Vangeline Theater will be performing at (my favorite night of the year), Night of a Thousand Stevies!
If you’ve been by the studio in the past week, you’ve noticed some pretty cute springtime decorations. Easter eggs are hanging from the ceilings and bunnies are plastered throughout the walls in the lobby and locker rooms. Despite the dreary cold weather March is bringing us, the hot room in combination with some colorful bunnies and eggs definitely makes life a little brighter. When I walked out of the hot room last week and looked out the window to see a bunch of @&%!*ng snow, I just focused on the bunnies! It helped.
We have one lady to thank for that, weekend manager and Bikram LES instructor, Katie Thrasher (and Tricia for giving her the green light!), who has been showcasing her arts and crafts talents with seasonal decorations throughout the studio.
Next time you see her give her a wink and a smile!
This weekend is the 2013 Yoga Asana Championship, and the Lower East side is being represented by six of our resident superstars. Here they are!
Come cheer them on this weekend at the Hudson Theatre. Sven is up first! For tickets and information visit the USA Yoga Federation website.
It may be Valentine’s Day this week, but love is always in the air on the Lower East Side. Two of our resident love-birds, Nick and John, tell us about how sweat err, sweet it is:
How did each of you come to practice Bikram?
Nick: I was living in Chicago preparing to move to NYC when I started experiencing neurological problems (blackouts, extreme migraines, nausea, etc). I called my doctor who admitted me to the hospital for what he believed was an aneurism. I was in the hospital for almost a week. I was drugged up, on machines, and miserable. When I was released I went for a bike ride, and I saw a Bikram studio, so I stopped in and took my first class. That night was the best sleep I had in months! I went back the next day, and then again, and again, and again (against my doctor’s orders), and I stopped taking meds. All the while I was being tested for a myriad of things. But I just practiced Bikram as often as I could, and eventually my symptoms disappeared! When I moved to NYC and met John we bonded over our mutual love of yoga and started practicing together. Now our goal together is to attend teacher training and open our own studio in Brooklyn.
John: I started practicing Hatha Yoga 4 years ago. I was always nervous about doing Bikram because of the strict nature of the practice and from all crazy stories I heard from folks who did not appreciate it. Nick brought me to my first Bikram class in Soho. Pamela Herron taught my first class and I was hooked. Shortly after I started practicing, I found out that I didn’t get accepted to graduate school. But now I want to go to Bikram teacher training! I can’t wait to just do it and help heal the world with this practice.
Do you prefer taking class together/at the same time or do you like practicing individually?
Nick: I like taking class with and without John. When I take class with him it is just something else we get to do together.
John: I love taking class with Nick. We tend to wink and blow kisses every chance we get. I find myself smiling more when he is in the room.
How important is it to you that your partner have a yoga practice?
Nick: It is very important to me, which is something I never realized until asked this question! Yoga is our foundation. Bikram has brought wonderful people into our lives, and it keeps us grounded.
John: It’s important! Our priorities revolve around the practice. But I do have to admit that we have lazy days when we watch TV and just stay in bed all day.
How has being a yogi positively impacted your relationship?
Nick: It has only been a positive experience. We take care of each other through yoga. Our future goals involve yoga. I knew immediately when I met John that he was going to be around in my life until the end . . .so yoga as our common bond is very important to who we are as a couple.
John: It has brought us amazing opportunities and even more amazing people. As soon as we both focused our energy on yoga, it feels like the ball is in our court and only good things have been coming our way!
Finally, do you have any advice for couples that practice yoga together?
Nick: Take care of each other. Practice together and individually. Breathe!
John: Eat right. Don’t take it too seriously. It’s okay to smile.
P.S. from February 14th-February 20th you can bring a date to class for free!
The New York Regional Yoga Asana Championships are coming March 1st, and several Lower East Side-ers will be participating. For Sophia Gold, it will be her second time entering the competition, but her first time competing as a woman. Sophia came out as transgender and began transitioning in the last couple of years. “It is like moving from the minor to the major leagues. Sure, there is the social aspect, but every year the MC jokes that when the men are done, then the real competition begins (although in New York the men are pretty strong competitors).” But Sophia is feeling good about her training so far. “I don’t like to think about how I am in comparison to other people, I just think about how I don’t want to fall and to do the best version of my routine.”
Sophia began practicing Bikram two years ago while suffering from chronic myofascial pain syndrome. “It’s a soft tissue thing, so western medicine fails. Body work is great, but expensive. It is better when you can learn to do those things for yourself. I treated the first few months of yoga like I was learning to be my own chiropractor. I started to feel like I was really changing my body.” Sophia was also attracted to Bikram yoga as it attracts many different kinds of practitioners, not just the very holy or very wealthy. And training for competition has taken her practice to another level with her serious mindset, volume of practice, and work to really fine tune the postures. “It’s not about going up on stage, is about the work you do up until that point.” There have been some really valuable lessons. Like the heat, for example. When we begin our Bikram practice, we all struggle with the heat. But competitors must learn to work without the heat. “The reality you learn is that the heat is a tool. To a certain extent the heat will loosen up your body…but there are also all these little things– like how some poses are easier when you’re slippery from sweat, and some poses are easier when you are dryer—that I didn’t expect.”
But Sophia feels strongly that the yoga competition benefits everyone who practices yoga, whether or not they choose to compete. “We are all trying to approximate some perfect version of a pose, and it is important to have that standard—you work to change your body in order to get the pose.”
Visit http://www.usayoga.org/ to purchase tickets for the competition, and we’ll keep you updated about how the Lower East Side-ers do on the big day!
We are one week into 2013! How have you been doing with your New Years Resolutions? Here are a few familiar faces who have shared their goals for the new year with us. Let’s continue to be inspired and grow together!
1. Focus in opening my back, kicking out while pulling back my toes , locking my standing knee, getting my elbows below my knee…and touching my forehead to my knee…for a kick arse standing head to knee
2. Make my new home warm and welcoming.
3. Get a body of paintings together to start showing again come October!
For me this New Year is about being present. I will practice gratitude for the gifts I have and the immeasurable gifts I have yet to receive. And I will strive to lovingly pay more attention to those parts of myself I tend to neglect when I’m busy.
My new years resolution for 2013 is to set better boundaries with loved ones .
And of course , practice bikram yoga every day ! xo
I don’t usually make resolutions, but here’s a couple things I’ve been working on…
- To be on time
- To smile when I’m talking to someone
-To finish the 5 books I started so I can start the next 3 on my list!
To not have a resolution; instead go after general resolutions and goals consistently, with a smile, humility, courage, and integrity, like my Bikram practice. Don’t just think but do; don’t just do but focus; set an intention; be light on your feet, strong in your core; tell you mind to settle down, man! And let your heart respond to it :)
On Wednesday, December 12, Tricia Donegan was awarded with a Downtown OTTY Award. The OTTY awards were started this year by Our Town Downtown newspaper to recognize outstanding members of the downtown community, and Tricia was given an award in the Entrepreneur category!
According to New York Press “The inaugural Downtown OTTY (Our Town Thanks You) Awards honor a diverse group of amazing people from all neighborhoods, professions and backgrounds, but the one thing they have in common is their commitment to making downtown an incredible place. Whether it’s a school chef getting kids excited about kale chips, a longtime block association president dedicated to preserving local history or a yoga instructor who gives back, each of our winners brings their specific brand of vision, passion and talent to their community.”
New York Press published this piece about our Tricia! Check it out.
There’s nowhere hotter to be on New Year’s Eve than Bikram Yoga Lower East Side’s “WATCH THE SWEAT DROP.” Tickets $25 and all proceeds go to STREET YOGA, a non-profit organization that teaches yoga, mindful breathing, and compassionate communication to youth and families and their caregivers struggling with homelessness, poverty, abuse, addiction, trauma and behavioral challenges so they can grow stronger, heal from past traumas, and create for themselves a life that is inspired, safe, and joyful.
Buy them HERE or at the front desk.
Doors 10p, class 10:30p, champagne savasana 12a.
Prizes, sweat, music galore.
Hope to see you there.