Monday, February 27, 2012

Elaine the Inspiration!

Here's a little bit of inspiration for your week.

This is a picture of me and Elaine, before yoga class on Friday evening:

Elaine is a student at my friend Teri's studio, Bikram Yoga Merrimack Valley, up in North Andover, MA. She is also something of a legend in the Bikram yoga world. She is 75 years old and practices Bikram yoga "every day and twice on Sundays." She hasn't always been active - she started yoga when she was 72 and her kids talked her into it. In her early days, she would stand in the back of the room, do a little bit of pranayama breathing, lie down and have a rest, and then they would prop her up against the back wall so that she could do the final breathing. (She couldn't even sit on her own knees.) Now she practices in the front row (in the far left corner) every day, does all of the postures, and puts all the young folks to shame with her rocking practice. I'm pretty sure her locust pose is better than mine. And she does it all with a smile!

Here is a great article about Elaine that was in the local paper a couple years ago. After her first year, she lost a lot of weight, her cholesterol went down, and her type 2 diabetes basically vanished.

Student Profile: Elaine, 73-year-old Yogi

At the time of that article, Elaine has just finished a 30 day challenge which turned into a 60 day challenge, and she planned to keep going up to 73 days, to match her age.

She ended up going a little bit further than that.

My fellow teacher Allison and I drove up to Teri's studio on Friday night because it was a special occasion. The studio was having a big potluck to celebrate Elaine's achievement: she did over 1,000 classes in 1,000 days.

Here is a picture I took with Elaine after Friday's class - number 1,005 for Elaine in 1,001 days:

"Yoga maintains youth long, keeps the body full of vitality, immune to diseases, even at old old old old age." - Bishnu Ghosh

Check out that happy smiling face!!

Everybody just loves Elaine to pieces. Don't blush, Elaine, you know this is true! (I asked her if she'd mind if I embarrassed her on my blog, and she said I can do whatever I want.) But here's the really great thing about her - she has inspired so many people who would have been scared to do this yoga. She is a one-woman welcoming committee for the studio. (Teri has actually made her an official "studio ambassador" banner.) Every time a new student shows up for class and is looking a little nervous or uncomfortable, Elaine marches right up to them and makes them feel welcome. She tells them, just relax, don't try to do everything on the first day, just stay in the room and take it easy and keep coming back. She can make anybody feel comfortable, because she's old enough to be their mom (or maybe their grandma) and she's got this bright smile and she makes people believe that everything is going to be okay.

It's awesome. If we could have an Elaine placed at every Bikram yoga studio in the world, it would make Bikram yoga the most successful wellness enterprise on the planet.

Because honestly, the best way to inspire is to lead by example. That's why it's so important for us teachers to love the practice and believe in it ourselves. And that's why word of mouth is our most powerful form of advertising. I suspect that the students who come to yoga because of a friend or family member have a higher success rate than the ones who just drop in randomly. And that's why the studio community is so important. I get such a kick out of listening to the conversations that spring up in the lobby. I could talk until my face is blue trying to convince the newbies to come back for another class, but it's infinitely better when another sweaty student tells them, "Oh, you did great - the first one is the hardest. Today was my third class and it was already a lot better." I love seeing the variety of students who show up for class - old and young, men and women, stiff and bendy, fat and slim - because then the newbies look around and think, "Well, if they can do it, then I can do it!"

I think that's a big part of why we love Elaine so much. She inspires that thought - "Well if she can do it, maybe I can do it." That's hope - one of the most positive emotions in the world.

Hope and love. Pass them on.