For most people it takes a good friend to bring you to your first Bikram Yoga class. A good friend will also encourage you to stick with it, even if your first class felt like a disaster. Those beginners who come back to a 2nd class often never look back, because life changes for the better in so many ways as their yoga practice evolves. Many of us have so much gratitude for our friends who gave us support and encouragement in the beginning of our yoga journey.
This month our Student Spotlight features good friends Amy Kennedy and Erika Puszczewicz. These ladies are a great example of good friends who encourage and support each other, and their positive energy supports everyone around them at the studio. Amy is a mother of 5 children, Erika is mother of 3 children, AND they find the time to do their 90 minute Bikram Yoga class many times a week, often standing next to each other in class. You will find them at the Troy studio, undoubtably with smiles on their faces, and usually in the hallway chatting and laughing until the last second before class starts.
Thank you Amy and Erika for sharing your yoga stories with us, we love to have your friendly energy at the studio!
Please share some background about yourself.
Amy: I am married and 41. I am an occupational therapist, but chose this year to go back to the more difficult job of being a stay-at-home mom of 5 kids ages 17-7. Teenagers are tough and require more of my attention than I had previously imagined.
Erika: I'm 40 something. Married. Stay at home mom of 3 girls.
How long have you been practicing Bikram Yoga?
Amy: I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga for nearly 4 years now.
Erika: About 6 months.
How often do you practice?
Amy: As often as I can, usually 4-5 times per week.
Erika: It depends on kids schedule...if they are in school, I try to go 2-4 times a week. If they are off school than 1 time a week is hard.
Erika (left) & Amy (right)
What inspired you to start Bikram Yoga?
Amy: My friends Danielle Kyriakoza and Stacy Rosati. Danielle started in March 2011. She would tell Stacy and I about it when our children were in dance and gymnastic classes together. Stacy and I were pretty nervous, but went with Danielle to class for our first time in July 2011. We haven’t stopped since! I am so grateful for both of these girlfriends for bringing me to yoga. I never would have had the courage to try it without them. Now I’m that friend who is always inviting people to come to yoga with me.
Erika: Amy inspired me to start. She was always talking about benefits of yoga and I had tried regular doctors, chiropractor, and physical therapy with no help. So I figured I had nothing to lose.
How were your first few classes?
Amy: Hard!!! I remember sitting down a lot. I was amazed by the endurance and strength of the other students in the room. I cannot say that I liked Bikram yoga in my first couple of weeks, in fact I think that I told people that I hated it. Now I always tell people to try not to judge whether they like Bikram yoga by their first handful of class. Try it at least 10 times and see how you feel after giving it a fair shot.
Erika: Hard physically. I couldn't do a lot of the postures, but I don't exercise. So I knew not to compare myself with anyone else... it took my body a long time to get to be a mess, so I know that I have to be patience.
If it was a struggle in the beginning, why did you stick with it?
Amy: It was so hard and so impossible, the challenge made me feel good and gave me something to laugh at myself about.
Erika: I stick with this because of Amy. She is my accountability person. I know that I have someone to go with, to talk about how the class was, to share my tiny accomplishments with... She helps me push myself.
What changes have you notice in your yoga practice since you started?
Amy: I feel so much calmer now during class. I am able to focus on my breath and postures while giving my mind a 90 minute (mostly uninterrupted) break.
Erika: It has been about 6 months since I started and I have seen a huge change in my yoga practice. I can do most of the postures, not going too deep but for me it is a big difference.
Amy in Separate Leg Stretching Pose
What have you noticed in your life from this yoga?
Amy: I feel good everyday and I laugh a whole lot more! I sleep better, have more energy and focus, less depression and anxiety. I appreciate being present in the moment.
Erika: When I go yoga I feel better. If I can't go, because of life, my pains get stronger.
What is your most memorable experience in a yoga class?
Amy: When Frances (teacher) asked me if I used to be a gymnast.
Erika: When I am able to go farther in a posture then I could before.
Do you have a favorite (or least favorite) posture?
Amy: Least favorite is definitely locust pose. It makes me feel claustrophobic and it takes every bit of energy and determination I can muster to lift my legs up. Even to this day, I have to force myself to do it to strengthen my spine. My favorite postures have changed a lot in the past several years. Right now I’d say I love Fixed Firm Pose because that means the spine-strengthening series is over and I can take a big drink of water.
Erika: No. For me they are all a challenge, but it is a good challenge.
Anything else you want to share about your yoga experience?
Amy: My life is so much richer since I started practicing this yoga, I have gained so much more than I have ever imagined. The studio is a beautiful community full of funny, creative, kind, compassionate like-minded people who practice this yoga to feel better physically and mentally. I’ve been practicing for a while now, and can honestly say that this practice is always a challenge. You learn to not struggle, instead focusing on your breathing and the fine details of each posture. Having your friends practice with you is just fun! You’re in this crazy hot room together, working on the same series of postures together and rooting for each other to succeed. It is a great alternative to meeting at happy hour (although we do like doing that, too).
Erika: Be kind to yourself, don't compare yourself with anyone else in the room, bring water and tissues, celebrate your accomplishments (no matter how small they feel), and stay in the room.
Amy's Family... Hubby and 5 Children