Why did you first start practising Bikram Yoga?

A feller and I broke up. I was on a hunt for something that could help me discontinue my evening routine of ruminating over the loss and was tantalized enough by the thought of me in a super-hot room that, on December 25, I found myself hiking through the snow to take my first class. I’ve always been an avid athlete, so I knew that being in my body tends to be the best form of emotional therapy for me. I was curious to find out what this hot-yoga-in-my-hood would do for me, psychologically speaking.

What was that very first class like?

Not only did I rapidly get over the fella, I found my flexibility again. The athlete in me was humbled by how challenging it was and ALL OF ME was seduced by the physical and mental intensity of it. I arrived at my folks’ place after my first class and believe I told them that I’d found my new boyfriend: “Bikram Yoga.”

What made you keep coming to yoga?

It’s hard to admit, but some trained therapists are terrible with practising self-care and that has definitely been a challenge for me. The hot room became my place to meditate on all the barriers I have created for myself, to experience deep self-acceptance. I made a promise to myself early on in my practice that, in and outside of the studio, I would make a focal point of my life journey to really be my own best friend and to put all the knowledge and training I have around kindness toward self into practice.
Also, I love the people at yoga: the fluffy talks about our cute outfits; the more vulnerable dialogues before and after class; the sharing of stories, energy, emotions; the sense of community; and knowing that we’re all on this journey together in life. It means so much to me to be part of it.

As an elementary school teacher, do you ever bring yoga into the classroom?

I’ve been teaching my students yoga ever since I started doing Bikram’s. In the beginning I approached it like an experiment; my hypothesis was that the kids might enjoy it for a few minutes or like a few poses, but doing yoga would be uninteresting to them in the long term. Boy was I wrong! The first time I taught yoga to a class the students ate up the postures and wanted to learn as many as I could teach them. I had parents tell me their child was actually going home and teaching them the yoga! Since then I have continued to teach my students yoga and they always seem to really take to it.
I’ve even brought two of my eight-year-old students to Bikram Yoga Vancouver for class. I was WAY more nervous than the kids were! I overloaded them with tips and then, just before class, told them to experience it like they were watching a movie that they could be part of or just watch. I explained that if they needed to leave the room, they could just let me know. I was so proud of them for having the courage to try it; it was really special for me to share something I love so much with children that I adore.
I think children naturally like to move their bodies and also gain the sense of mindfulness and empowerment that adults do with yoga. I also lead children in guided meditations and often will remark to my students that in the busyness and “stress” of day-to-day life, it’s healthy and helpful to have time to just be quiet and turn inward in both mind and body. I’ve done little surveys with my students to see if they want to continue doing yoga and/or mindfulness meditations and the feedback, overall, has been that they, like adults, hunger for it and benefit from it. It’s not boring to them!

You’re also a writer and spoken-word performer. Does yoga serve as inspiration for this creativity in any way?

Ideas for lines of poems and pictures and music constantly come to me when I’m practising. Instead of responding to these thoughts and images as distractions, I’m fully receptive to them and view them as yet another sign that yoga is bringing so much into my life. If something/someone brings inspiration to me, I feel like I’ve just been gifted tenfold, and it doesn’t surprise me that by performing, engaging in the very intense somatic and emotional experience that is yoga, I am moved creatively.

Here’s one of Niki’s yoga-inspired pieces, “It’s Messy in There”:

I practice, when I’m not sure of myself. This repetition: know, knew, know, knew.
I think the intensity fascinates me. I say, I relish in being part of what
 feels like
this big machine that we’re all working on together in this room.
The machine? The dangerous minds we keep.
I say, proudly, I am part of that—one of the characters in that cage trying
to get out sometimes
 and other times, knowing it’s human to feel stuck inside
 and at least we’re all together.
Hands held. Or in prayer.
Or trying to fly high during ‘airplane posture.’
“Where should we fly?” the teacher asks?
The dramatic alter ego that wants to forego conformity
yearns to yell out
“Let’s get the hell outta here.”
I say nothing and do the posture knowing that’s fear speaking
Faith says
Confront what’s here
What is me.
I say we’re all the same but that isn’t true. Not truly.
Difference is slippery, I say. Equality? Fairness? Get back to me.
I look at my head tilt in the mirror
And see her and him and them and that person who I said “hello” to in the change room
I see
Fragility strength exhaustion elation
All this human stuff.
It’s messy.
It is hot.
I practice when I’m not sure of myself. I’m growing more comfortable with uncertainty as reality.
Know, knew, know, knew.
And all the many unknowns.
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