Kim’s first Bikram Yoga class left her feeling so challenged, physically and emotionally, that it took nearly a year for her to return to the hot room. Read her incredible student-to-teacher story below!
Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …
My first Bikram Yoga class was in 2009 in Kitsilano, before I had any knowledge of yoga or how unhealthy my body, mind and spirit were during that time. I barely made it through the class and left with conflicting feelings of defeat and success that I made it through the entire 90 minutes. I didn’t go back for almost a year because my ego and emotions had been so challenged in the hot room. When I gathered the courage to finally face myself and truly do the work, I returned. The practice broke down my walls over and over again, and each time I felt angry, frustrated or helpless in the room I just focused on the voice of the instructor, found my breath and kept going. I knew that, by the end of class, I’d be transformed and feel incredible. And then I’d go back the next day and do it all over again!
When and why did you decide to become a Bikram Yoga teacher?
I previously had a very stressful corporate job that truly drained every ounce of my energy. I was always sick, depressed and stressed out. When my health plummeted to a new low I began shifting my experience by going to the gym, eating higher-vibrational food and, eventually, becoming curious about my mental and emotional flexibility. When I found yoga – or, when yoga found me – my entire outlook on life shifted. I felt more clear and in touch with my inner self, and I was forming healthier relationships with those around me. The postures or asanas are a reflection of where we are at in our mental and emotional states. The hot room and the consistent practice truly purifies you from the inside out. Rather than feeling lost, down and unmotivated, I began seeing the beauty in all things – even the moments of suffering. Daily practice brought me back into a space of joy and gratitude. I realized that if I had the power within me to transform myself I absolutely must hold space for others to do the same. Teaching is the most rewarding, inspiring and humbling work of service. I really love what I do. It’s my path to share this knowledge with others, so it was a natural progression for me to immerse myself in it completely and become a teacher (while always remaining a student). To every single teacher who has guided me through some of the toughest moments in my body and mind: thank you.
How often do you practise Bikram Yoga?
As a new student I practised five to six days a week because the discipline was something that I needed. By committing to a routine, it becomes second nature. Some days I felt motivated to get on the mat and other days I would look for every excuse not to show up. One thing was consistent though: I never once regretting the decision to practise after class was over. These days I practise Bikram Yoga between three and four times weekly. I also do vinyasa, yin, meditation and pranayama because I believe in a holistic, well-rounded approach to the science of the practice.
Would you consider your practice perfect, or are there still some aspects you’re working on?
Every practice is perfectly imperfect when done from the heart. Whether you are naturally flexible or stiff as a board, there is always challenge in the process of yoga. Even when the poses look beautiful on the outside, the practitioner may be stuck in his or her mind, testing the ability to be present. Or, someone with stiff hamstrings and a positive attitude can be fully present, breathing into their physical experience and perfectly content with where they are at. Sometimes I feel completely connected, radiant and strong. Other times I feel tired and a little emotional. My practice is simply an opportunity to observe where I’m at today, move any energy that needs to be cleared and come back into myself, always without attachment, because each moment is a little different than the last. My mind needs a daily cleanse and I find this series to be very meditative – there is so much focus on being present and aligning the body in the poses.
Right now, in this series, it’s Ustrasana. I used to have a lot of lower-back discomfort, and my shoulders were always rounding forward. Camel allows me to create so much space, energy and tolerance for what is happening in the present moment. I love the uplifting medicine of this pose!
What do you love most about practising Bikram Yoga?
Moving together as a collective, lifting one another up and being absolutely humbled in the heat. I also love the clarity I receive once I move back into the world – it’s a gift incomparable to anything else. Laser-beam awareness!
What do you love most about teaching Bikram Yoga?
I love to witness total transformation. I observe people making a healthy choice to become strong and flexible in their bodies, to overcome injury and limitations and to show up for themselves so they can better show up for others. I feel so grateful to guide others through a very intense process! Each time I step in the room to teach I learn something new from watching others.
What’s your top tip for first-time students?
This practice is simple, but it’s not easy. Some days, you are going to face intense challenges. Other days, you are going to feel unstoppable. This is the nature of transformation. I feel so inspired looking back on the immense growth I’ve been through, always leaning on yoga to guide me through. Remember to breathe, to celebrate your unique body and to thank yourself each time you practice. And always replenish yourself with healthy foods and liquids so you have proper fuel and recovery to make this lifestyle sustainable.
What’s your top tip for veteran Bikram students?
My advice would be the same as it is for beginning students. To build on that, be good to yourself and be kind to others. If the asana doesn’t challenge you like it used to, notice if your mind could use some stillness. How can you be more still? And finally, start to take your yoga off the mat and practise patience, understanding and gratitude to others.
What do you hope students, at all levels, take away from your class?
You are perfect exactly where you are at. I’m so happy you’ve made this commitment to yourself!
Besides Bikram, do you have any other fitness interests?
When I’m not practising postures I love hiking and swimming in nature. It’s like medicine for my soul. Cycling in the summertime is also one of my favourite things to do. I love being active and I also love the mental workout of being still.