Gorgeous, funny Tanya Chernov tells us how practising Bikram Yoga makes her feel like a rebel, and what it was like rubbing shoulders with celebrities during Teacher Training …

When did you take your first Bikram Yoga class, and why?

I was living in Whistler, and feeling complacent. At the time there was a lot of buzz about a yoga studio opening up in Function Junction. This was in 2001. A friend of mine “warned” me about Bikram Yoga, and her criticism made me feel like it was some sort of cult or something. Naturally, I was intrigued and decided I wanted to try it. I phoned the studio and asked all the questions one usually asks. I called my friends, but nobody wanted to come with me. I felt almost rebellious in a way because nobody I knew was practising Bikram Yoga – and the people who did know about the yoga, didn’t like it. Before I had even tried my first class, I had made up my mind: it was going to be my “new thing.” When I walked into the studio, it was overflowing with energy! The guy behind the desk asked me, “Is this your first time?” I thought to myself, “Geez is it that obvious?” I remember a whole lotta beautiful, half-naked, sweaty men and women packed into a VERY hot, carpeted room. It was overwhelming but exciting! My mat was next to Patrick Creelman, who – I didn’t know at the time – was going to be the biggest influence on my practice and basically change the direction of my life.

How long did it take you to get into a regular practice?

I signed up for a month after my first class. I enjoyed the yoga and the people so much I just went all the time. Now I practice regularly and have been since 2001, which is crazy when I think about it. It’s 2012 … how did that happen?

When did you decide to make the transition from student to teacher?

Living in a small town like Whistler, we had visiting teachers from all over come and teach. I have been influenced by some amazing people. I never thought about training until one day a teacher – I think it was Karen Matthews – suggested it to me. I was about six months into my practice. It definitely gave me something to think about, but the more I thought about it, the more freaked out I got. I made a deal with myself: I wanted to see how I felt after a year of practice and then decide. I went to Teacher Training in the fall of 2002. I was still freaked out, but I went anyway! Why? Why not?

What was Teacher Training like for you?

I drove from Vancouver to Los Angeles, so I had the luxury of having my own car. Back in the day you could choose where you wanted to stay for the nine weeks. Some people stayed in the housing provided in Marina Del Rey; I opted to stay with my friend at her most amazing apartment in Santa Monica. I had a lot of freedom. I met some really incredible people, some of whom are still my friends today. My most surreal experience in training was during week 9. It was Monday morning; I was delirious from lack of sleep but strangely giddy at the same time. All the teachers in training were shoulder to shoulder, standing in the narrow La Cienega hallway waiting to go into the hot room. It wasn’t unusual to have regular students take class with us, and on this particular morning Robert Downey Jr. was there. Next thing you know, I blurted out, “GOOD MORNING ROBERT!” I just said it before I had time to think about what I was doing; it was excellent. I actually had a few funny exchanges with him, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

What do you love most about teaching Bikram Yoga?

Students that show up and want to make a change in themselves. I like helping people get to where they want to go.

What are your top tips for students?

Awaken your mind. Use the power of the mind to control and influence the body. Your attitude is really important; our attitude will determine how we will get through (or over, or around) life’s obstacles. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. As Bikram would say: “It’s mind over matter.”

Are you still working on improving any aspects of your practice?

Always. I’m working on being fully present; it’s a big one!

What do you do outside the hot room?

It’s kind of a weird question … I’m a yoga teacher by day and a super hero by night!

Do you have any resolutions for 2012?

Meditation every day and learning not to “sweat” the small stuff …

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