By Liza Long
“There is a way between voice and presence where information flows. In disciplined silence it opens. With wandering talk it closes.”—Rumi, 13th century Indian mystic poet
I was a yoga skeptic. An unapologetic Type-A personality, I’ve always loved hard-breathing, hard-driving kickboxing and power lifting. Twisting my body into a human pretzel in a 105 degree room for 90 minutes just did not appeal to me. But as my 40th birthday approached, I started noticing that many of my friends who had already passed that dreaded milestone were looking hot, healthy, and happy.
“So what’s the big secret?” I asked Sallie Herrold one day at lunch. “Botox? Some new fad diet?”
“Yoga!” she replied. Sallie wandered into a hot yoga studio more than a year ago, and the experience changed her life. Now she is training to be a Bikyasa yoga instructor at H3 (Hot, Happy, Healthy) Yoga House, a new studio opening this May in Eagle. Sallie also has started production on her own line of exclusive yoga shorts in a wide array of fun and funky prints.
Bikyasa is a new style of hot yoga with very old roots. Developed by Gabriel Azoulay, an internationally recognized yoga practitioner and instructor, Bikyasa combines cardiovascular ashtanga yoga set to music with silent, meditative traditional hot yoga postures, creating an energy and flow whose power has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
“Exercise is a primary food for the body and mind,” says Azoulay, who developed a lifelong passion for yoga when he was 19. “It has nutritional, psychological, and emotional benefits.”
Azoulay’s practice is grounded in yoga’s philosophy and spirituality. He developed his Bikyasa series over a ten year period. “There are specific health benefits for each pose,” he observes. “Yoga gives you control over your health.”
In fact, yoga’s numerous health benefits have been supported by a slew of medical studies. The practice has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen the immune system, and improve mood in people suffering from anxiety and depression. Best of all, it can be done by people of all ages, abilities, and health levels. The goal is not mere physical exercise, but a holistic union of mind, body, and spirit that heals the body and helps the mind to achieve enlightenment.
Yoga has been practiced in ancient India since prehistoric times. Bikram Choudbury is credited with popularizing hot yoga in the United States in 1973. Hot yoga differs from other kinds of yoga because it is practiced in a warm, humid room.
So what do I think of hot yoga now? Just a week shy of my 40th birthday, I was standing in line at the grocery store when my doctor called with some bad news. I bought a yoga mat and went straight to hot yoga, where I stretched and sweated and did things I never could have imagined (like touching my toes). Now, I practice every day.
In March, I had the opportunity to try Bikyasa in a preview class led by Azoulay. The grace and power of the class astonished me. As I moved through the flow series that connects the floor postures, I felt myself immersed an ancient tradition “between voice and presence,” a tradition designed to help people achieve enlightenment. My friend Sallie was right: if you want to be hot, healthy, and happy, yoga really is the secret.