Teacher Spotlight: Rachael

RachaelWhen was your first Bikram yoga class and why Bikram?

My first class was on February 11th of 2010. I remember the exact date because I felt such a sense of accomplishment after surviving my first Bikram class! My good friend, Tiffany, brought me along to class with her and I was nervous because I had never done yoga before, and the heat intimidated me. I would not say I enjoyed my first class—or even the first 10 classes—but something kept bringing me back.

Awesome. I can totally relate. Any idea of why your body was telling you to come back, even though you weren’t enjoying it?

I think it was the challenge that kept bringing me back. I never knew yoga could be so physically demanding, and I liked that it required me to compete with myself, with my body, in a sense. I think that competitive aspect and physical challenge was what initially brought me back.

What made you want to become a teacher?

I decided to go to teacher training after I had been practicing for almost 5 years. I went for two reasons: first, I wanted to deepen my own practice and test my own strength, physically and mentally; and second, I wanted to obtain a better understanding of this yoga so I could share all of the wonderful benefits it brings with others.

Students often wonder how you just put your work on hold and go to a yoga-teacher training for 9 weeks. What was your experience with that? Did you quit your job, or were you a practicing attorney then?

I was emotionally and spiritually drained from my practice as a criminal defense litigator. I’ve always remained actively licensed as an attorney, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to completely put my litigating days behind me, but I needed a drastic change at that point in my life, so I pursued the path that my spirit was sending me on … which was resigning from my firm then, moving back to Long Beach, and signing up for the next Bikram Yoga Teacher Training! I know, it sounds sooo crazy, but it’s true. Spiritually, I knew I just had to do it, even though I wasn’t sure how it was going to all work out.

How would you describe your practice over the years?

Over the years my practice has remained consistent, yet is always changing. Right from the start, I was practicing consistently, usually 5-6 days/week, which continued up until teacher training. When I first started to practice, I had more strength than flexibility. After training, I gained much more flexibility. I have kept a consistent practice through the years, and I now practice 3 days/week. And my life today is about balancing work, teaching, and being a new mother!

Aaah! We love your adorable baby!
Okay, here’s a big question inquiring minds want to know: what is your practice like after having a child? Do you notice any changes?

I think the biggest change in my practice after having a child is increased hip flexibility. The strength component of my practice was never too difficult to find, but I always struggled with flexibility in my hips and shoulders. The other big change in my practice after having a child is how much more I appreciate the opportunity to practice. Before having my son, I would practice whenever I wanted to without a second thought. Now, my time to practice must be squeezed into my days and planned far ahead of time, which I am okay with. It also keeps me more honest with myself and my practice when I have less opportunity to practice: I now must take full advantage of each and every class.

What’s the craziest or funniest thing you’ve ever experienced in class?

The craziest or funniest thing I’ve ever experienced in class … I invited a friend to take my class once. She and I met after a mutual friend introduced us, due to our shared love for yoga. I was always in awe of her flexibility, especially in her spine. She came and took my class, and she was doing great, just as I had expected. Then it came time for Camel pose. She set up into the posture, which she had done many times before (she teaches vinyasa style yoga), the posture ended, and she didn’t come up right away. When she did, she had a dazed look in her eyes, and she told me she had briefly lost consciousness!

Do you have a favorite posture or not-so-favorite one?

My favorite posture is standing bow. Not because this is my best posture or because it looks pretty. For me, this posture brings to the surface what is happening on the inside on any given day, both physically and mentally. This posture is like my measuring stick: it lets me know what to be more aware and conscious of through the rest of class.

Do you have a tip for balancing in standing bow?

My tip for balancing in standing bow is all about your gaze, or drishti. This posture takes a lot of focus. I look into the mirror at the place right in between my shoulder and my neck, on the top of my collarbone. This seems to keep my head in just the right place and helps me balance.

That’s a good one! It can be so tempting to look at the ground, and also fearful to find your eyes in the mirror!
What’s something we don’t know about you?

Something you don’t know about me … I love to travel, to see the beauty of the world, and to experience new cultures. I have traveled to places like Spain, Japan, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Thailand (where I attended my Bikram teacher training), Cambodia, and Vietnam. Next on my list is Peru!

What’s the one yoga “accessory” you can’t live without?

The one yoga accessory that I absolutely cannot live without is my hydroflask. And this is true not just in the yoga room, but in life in general. I take my beloved hydroflask with me everywhere …literally. If I accidentally leave it at home, I feel like I am missing something and have gone back for it many times.

How has the practice affected your life? Physically and/or emotionally?

My Bikram practice has affected my life in pretty drastic ways. While working as a litigator in a busy courthouse, it served as my stress reliever. It quickly turned into one of my passions, and soon thereafter led me to leave my life as a litigator behind to pursue something more intrinsically rewarding. My practice took me on a spiritual journey which allowed me to find myself and put more of my energy towards pursuing goals that fulfilled me spiritually. My practice keeps me humble and true to myself.


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