Curiosity. I started my journey in 2008 when I lived in Lake Tahoe working as an Executive Pastry Chef and part-time server. In the walkway at our beautiful restaurant, we had a flyer from Bikram Yoga Truckee that said, “30 dollars for 30 days; get your summer body ready this winter,” and under that read Bikram’s famous motto, “Never too late, never too old, never too sick to start from scratch.”
I looked at that flyer for about a month and kept saying to myself, “I’ll go tomorrow.” Meanwhile, I was close to 275lbs and still trying to lose weight with dieting (which didn’t work for me), and going to the gym (which didn’t work either). I felt good from my workouts, but by the time I got home, everything hurt. I felt that no matter how much I tried, the struggle was real, so I felt defeated.
One day, I came into work and the flyer was gone. I was in shock. After my workout that day, I realized the yoga studio was less than 100 feet away from my gym. I went over and talked to the teacher. She let me see the room and as soon as she opened the door, my face almost melted: it was so hot. She said, “The last class was really packed. It normally doesn’t smell like that, and it’s not that hot.” She gave me the rundown and said to come back tomorrow, hydrated, and with a mat and towel.
So I woke up, tossing and turning, debating if I should go to this class. First of all, I knew very little about yoga, and even less about hot yoga. I said forget it, so I slept in some more. I then woke back up 20 minutes before the class and before I knew it I was there. It was packed full of people: old, young, skinny, fit, fluffy, and all of life’s shapes.
I was smack in the middle of class because I was late, and the teacher (who was the studio owner) was like, “stay in the room, do what you can, and if you need to take a break, sit down.” The class was torture, and it was the temperature of the sun—I’m sure of it—and I had no idea what the hell she was saying. All I kept saying was, “it’s almost over.”
After class, she said the usual, “come back tomorrow,” and I said the usual, “will do.” I left, and when I got into my car, I said to myself, “she can keep the 30 dollars; I ain’t coming back.” Funny thing is, when I got home, nothing hurt. Normally, I would pass out after the gym. In the 5 minutes it took me to get home, I had more energy and felt great. Needless to say, I went back like she said and never looked back!
Again, curiosity. I was reading online about it and was chatting with one of my senior teachers from my home studio in Truckee, and she said to me, “I think you would be a great teacher,” and that’s all that I needed! I moved back home to Rosemead, California, and worked in South Pasadena as a work-study student, cleaning studio and working with some of the best LA teachers until I finally had the chance to go to training in 2011.
Up and down, but always moving! In 2015, I decided to take my yoga journey deeper and completed my 200-hour teacher training in Vinyasa. In 2016, I completed a few different Pilates certifications, and with that, my yoga practice has become stronger—but with some setbacks—as I learn to use my body in a different way using all of my body!
The craziest thing that happened to me was when I took class on Thanksgiving, 2009, at the old headquarters. Bikram was teaching, and it was packed with over 100 people. I had not yet gone to teacher training, so I was trying to get noticed by Bikram with the hope that he would remember me when I applied for the scholarship. I pushed myself so hard that class that, when I got home, I slept all the way into the next morning, completely missing Thanksgiving dinner.
Standing bow-pulling pose is my favorite posture! It’s very elegant and a perfect balance between strength and flexibility. My least favorite posture is its counterpart, the standing head to knee. For 9 years, that posture has been my nemesis. I don’t know what it is, but it gets me every time.
Before becoming a full-time Bikram teacher, I was a pastry chef. I graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts Le Cordon Blue in 2004 and cooked full time until 2013.
My Hydro Flask. I have 10 of them! It keeps my water ice cold. I hate to say it, but I love drinking ice-cold water in class. I think of it as a treat when I’m working really hard in class.
Well, physically, I’ve lost 100 pounds during my full-time Bikram practice. Mentally, it changed me and made me a stronger person. As a young gay boy, I had a lot of issues with being accepted, fitting in with what Society expects, and fitting into my own skin (like many young LGBT members). I had not found who I was until I started practicing Bikram yoga. For 90 minutes, I had to look at myself in the mirror, and when I cleared the haze and the fog of what was in that mirror, I was able to see who Jesse was. Even now, when I’m practicing, I’m still clearing away the fog and haze and finding out more and more about who I am, what makes me tick, what makes me . . . me!