Bikram is a controversial name – naming both the yoga and the man who created it. The yoga lineage, also recently called Hot Yoga or Hot 26 or 26 +2, is a relatively strict and precise practice. There is no “take whatever expression feels good today” or “this is your practice, go where you want to go.” It is a style that is very specific about the postures and the way they’re done, as well as exact stillness in between the postures. While there is ample time to rest built into the class including an official water break and the option to take a knee or sit if you feel overexerted, you are not welcome to take any old expression or variation of a posture that pleases you, nor are you allowed to fidget during or between the postures or wipe away your sweat, drink water during the first 3 postures, or leave the room (unless you are absolutely going to be sick). It’s not what you might think of based on Instagram yoga or feel-good yoga quotes. It’s a discipline.

And that’s just the yoga part. Bikram Choudhury, the man, has always been controversial in his style of teaching the yoga – both his call to “kill yourself” and his knack for seeing your weakest point physically, mentally, or emotionally and poking at that point until you grow stronger. If you have a knee injury, Bikram will see it. “Bad knee? Don’t worry Honey, I will fix it.” If you have insecurities that are expressed by seeking positive or negative attention, he will see it instantly. He will give you attention alright, but it won’t be necessarily positive or negative. It will be unlike any other forms of attention. More like a cold, completely unimpressed, exacting knife exposing your masks until you realize that you were never hiding anything from anyone and you might as well start back at the base, the only stable foundation – the real you. You eventually learn and build a new kind of confidence from honest work, baby steps, and submitting to the structure. You’re not special. But you are pretty damn strong. “Don’t let anyone steal your peace. If you do, then you’re the loser.” Bikram’s famous quote sums it all up. He develops in everyone the ability to stay composed and choose not to suffer – both through the essence of the yoga and the way it is taught. Through his direct or indirect (trained Bikram teachers) presence and influence. But he’s not going to say it gently. He’s going to say the thing that no one else will say. “You’re the loser.”

I had not experienced these characteristics of the man firsthand until I visited his Teacher Training at the end of November. For years (at least the last 8 years) I had always dreamed of going to his Teacher Training but I could never find a way to leave work and life for the required 9 weeks of intensive training – previously held in Los Angeles, now held in Mexico and Thailand. But in recent years, it was not just the time commitment that kept me away. A slew of allegations had come to light over the past few years with 6 women accusing Bikram of sexual assault and harassment. These allegations hit hard, especially during the #MeToo movement. Exposed most recently in the ESPN podcast 30 for 30, the picture is first painted of the profound value and impact of Bikram’s yoga, followed by his financial success / rise to fame and finally, the power he wielded and the eventual corruption and heartbreak that followed.  Though he was never charged with sexual assault during the court proceedings, there is a warrant for his arrest for not upholding contractual payment of past employees, and he has since left the US.

With these facts heavy on our minds, when Savannah and I received an acceptance letter to visit the 2018 Fall Bikram Teacher Training in Acapulco, we had a difficult decision to make. We had applied to attend one week of the training as Guests about 3 months prior (also prior to the airing of / listening to the 30 for 30 podcast). We had applied on a whim or a “let’s just see??” idea. This decision was made during one of our weekly runs, which are traditionally our mental- and emotional-unloading, brainstorming, pep-talking, secret-sharing, story-telling, girl-talking sessions. We each had a dream that was deep in our hearts to meet and learn from Bikram. When we received our acceptance emails, we came back together, on another run of course, to discuss. Over the course of many more runs, we went back-and-forth, back-and-forth over the decision. It seemed crazy. Hadn’t the Bikram ship sailed? Shouldn’t we write him off like everyone else and turn our focus to other teachers or just to the practice? How could we go and look him in the eye? But outweighing these questions, we couldn’t shake the feeling, could this be our last or only chance to go to the source, to see and experience for ourselves, Bikram?

We decided to go. With open eyes and guarded hearts. No expectations. We were going to take his class. Nothing more. The required expense was really only the cost of room and meals at the resort hosting the training, so it didn’t feel like we were supporting him financially. This was for us. No one else.

We set out on the journey to Acapulco quietly. We didn’t tell anyone at first. Well, besides the family members who needed to know our whereabouts. JOtherwise, we were on our own adventure that others might not understand. And boy did we get the adventure we were looking for! After our first day of classes – 4 hours sweating and dying and breaking down – we were in disbelief. How does anyone do this? We had completed one day. The other trainees were here for 9 weeks (8 weeks prior to our arrival) and they had done this each and every day plus the added time they had to spend in lectures between yoga classes, which kept them up until midnight on a good day, or 2 am if Bikram was feeling chatty or wanted everyone to watch movies with him after lecture. But the yoga was the part that visitors like us could attend, and that was more than enough! After Savannah helping me out of the room that night and both of us doing our best to regroup physically and mentally, we really couldn’t imagine doing it all over again the next morning!

The following 24 hours was Savannah’s turn to struggle, while I brought 5 glasses of ice plus a large water bottle to each class and ate every meal like it was my last! Savy caught up on the eating and drinking of protein and electrolytes, respectively, just in time to rock it on Day 3. Finally, we were finding our ground but it never got easier. Bikram’s classes are indescribably difficult. It’s the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises of a normal class but you’re standing in front of him, you’re holding yourself to a standard higher than you’ve ever held yourself to before. He asks, “are you going to kill yourself today?” and you decide, “Yes. Yes, I will.” Later he asks the yogis, “What do I hate?” “LAZY PEOPLE!” everyone shouts in unison. “I will not be lazy in front of Bikram” we repeat in our heads over and over. By the end of the week, our postures were better than when we’d arrived. Not by way of new knowledge but by way of someone pushing us to further limits than we previously knew. By way of us calling our own bodies and minds to give more. By Bikram calling us into our full potential.

The truth is an increasingly rare thing to find these days. “I’m the ONLY one who will tell you the truth!” Bikram shouts from the podium. “You’re too skinny! Look at him – he looks like a chicken bone! You gotta eat, Man, get some muscles! (from the little I had gathered about this young man, and perhaps drawing a bit from my own assumptions, he did seem like he was unnecessarily fixated on his body and was careful not to overeat, even after burning thousands of calories). The point is, Bikram held up the mirror, as he always does. He did it out of kindness.  These and other shocking statements were normal dialogue from Bikram throughout each class. Some were absurd. Others rang of truth. Whatever they were, they were unique, especially in the context of a yoga class!

Bikram was mostly in good moods with us. Joking and putting on his usual shows (i.e. alternately flexing his pectoralis muscles to a tune or singing to us throughout and at the end of class). By the end of the week, which was also the end of the entire training, we could see how excited and proud he was of his students. “Nowhere in the world do you see 100 people in one room doing Fixed Firm pose exactly PERFECT!” I think to myself, he’s right. Though it’s not the most complicated posture, many people, many bodies cannot do it correctly. Probably 25% to 50% of students in a normal class of students will modify this posture. While this was a group of seasoned practitioners, statistically, there would still be a handful who could not get their bodies into the shape. Here in Acapulco, 100 people were doing it exactly to the fullest expression. To me, that said more than a group of people blindly following the leader. It meant that bodies were changed, and along the way minds and lives were changed as well. A group of people in one room who were strong enough to go out and do something impactful.

Savy and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time visiting with the trainees, but when we did talk to folks, they were all very positive about their experience at the training, even gushing about their love for Boss, the affectionate name for Bikram. The teachers who were there to recertify (who hadn’t seen Bikram in a year or several years) would say that just to hug him again was like coming home, like their cups were filled, and they felt his fatherly love for them and theirs for him. Every time we talked to one of the trainees, they asked, “when are you going to come to training?” Seemed like a crazy question but to them, we were the oddballs. Why wouldn’t you change your entire life to be there? No matter what he said or what the news said about Bikram, they knew him only as Boss, and they adored him.

From the moment our plane took off in the direction of Nashville, we were ready to go back to Acapulco, to Bikram’s training. As crazy as it sounds. We had truly loved every minute of it – the hard moments, the funny moments, and the moments of self-pride. The energy, the intensity, the call to rise up, the new places we found in our minds – the strength therein to control the body, finding we were capable of more, capable of almost anything. It’s an incredible feeling. It’s an addictive feeling. You can’t buy it or get it by repeating a mantra or affirmation, or by “manifesting” it. It has to be earned, and there’s no short cuts. I think that’s exactly why Bikram Yoga works. And has always worked. Why Bikram is Bikram. I don’t condone the deviations he’s taken in his personal life or the way he used his power to exploit other people, willingly or unwillingly. I hope his heart bears a heavy burden and that justice and truth prevail. But, I still believe in the yoga, and to summarize my trip to meet Bikram, my pilgrimage to the source, I am very glad I went.



by Brooke Allison, edited by Leslie Hinson


Perhaps it’s time to confront a rumor.

“I stopped coming to your studio because you displaced a Co-Op that used to provide the homeless community with free food…”

This is an uncommon, but not completely isolated, comment that I received.  As a business owner, these occurrences make me stop dead in my tracks, in the middle of whatever I am doing.  To reflect and try to understand. To defend myself in my own mind. Even to reconsider my purpose. And, of course, to wonder how many others are thinking this.

Thankfully, this quoted statement isn’t true.  Yes, we do reside in a building that formerly housed the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry that provides food and clothing to those in need. But no, we didn’t ‘displace’ them.  The ministry moved a mile up Gallatin, and the building had been empty for about a year before we moved in. The building did change hands, but I am not aware of the Cooperative Ministry undergoing any hardship, and it remains open today providing health and wellness services to the Nashville community.

I heard a similar misrepresentation reported in an NPR article that proclaimed – where once a black church stood, now a fancy hot yoga studio has moved in. We are saddened that people want to blame the yoga studio for these displacements and we take some comfort in the fact that those statements  aren’t exactly true. However, we are obviously part of the new wave of niche businesses to open in East Nashville, and would like to examine how we fit into the problem that these statements are alluding to– gentrification.

East Nashville has been through its fair share of changes over the past 150 years.  Once the neighborhood was home to some of the affluent of Nashville like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nashville.  In 1916, 500 homes southeast of 5th and Woodland were destroyed in a fire. Thousands more homes sustained damage in the 1933 tornado.  Since then, many of the historic homes and log house “vacation homes” to the Nashville elite had fallen into disrepair. In 1998, another tornado tore through East Nashville, badly damaging nearly 300 homes and enough trees in Lockeland Springs and Eastwood to fill several football fields.  Ironically, this event is what led the charge of the East Nashville revitalization. Historic homes were restored with insurance money, and the area finally became more prominent on the rest of the city’s radar.

Most of us have heard stories about the neighborhoods we live in and been told – you wouldn’t go to this gas station after dark or you wouldn’t walk down this street, even in the daytime.  O.G. Nashville residents (10 years + status) have passed the story down – how East Nashville has changed – the time that it was down and out and the period in which it began to thrive again.  Indeed, I’ve seen quite a shocking change over the 7 years I’ve been in Nashville – everywhere from Inglewood to Lockeland Springs. I remember when packs of wild dogs would run free in East Nashville. I remember when the very first tall and skinnies went up. I remember when there were no lines at Jeni’s Ice Cream. Ever! I remember being advised not to venture to “the other side of Gallatin” on foot. Right or wrong, it felt a little scarier than my old bohemian, yet family-friendly Seattle neighborhood, and I heeded the warning.

Along with that insurance money following the tornado came the hip bars, coffee shops and restaurants. Yes, even a fancy new hot yoga studio! I remember the grand opening of Barista Parlor and the first month that Bar 308 opened its doors. These young entrepreneurs pioneered the way for the new East Nashville restaurants – moving into old auto shops and abandoned buildings, really anything beyond 5 Points was like the Wild West. Now we have multiple fine dining establishments to choose from, high-end clothing boutiques, and even the mystic legend of a Trader Joe’s moving into the Athlete’s Foot building (Please, please, please, please, please!!).

We don’t hate these amenities. And indeed there are some “upsides” to gentrification.  Crime-ridden neighborhoods are often made safer and cleaner, the tax base is expanded and property values increase.  And the new restaurants, grocery stores, recreation areas that come along with it do provide some improvement to the quality of life for residents – both old and new.  Yet, the problem with this type of neighborhood transformation remains – longtime residents are often forced out of the community due to rising taxes and home values which they can no longer afford….. so what price do we pay for the amenities we want, the houses we want to live in, the yoga studio down the street?  “East Nashville must recognize that its diversity is more than an asset; it lies at the heart of its identity.”

There’s no doubt that it is unfair to longtime residents.  Rather than look the other way while our neighbors are forced to move out of their childhood homes, we ask, “What can we do?”  The answer is definitely not “don’t take the opportunity to relocate to an empty building.”

Since our first year of operation, we’ve supported the Martha O’Bryan Center through donation classes.  The MOB Center (check out this blog post) works to alleviate the causes and consequences of poverty in East Nashville.

Besides investing in nonprofits that strive to help these families, a simple and attainable goal we hold is to celebrate the diversity we still have and to be good neighbors – extending kindness, greeting people we see, building strong relationships, and shopping locally!  Many locally-owned businesses still remain, and we often partner with them or do our best to support them. 

We can also ask and hold accountable our government to intervene and help….. As Peter Byrne of Georgetown Law writes, “the most negative effect of gentrification, the reduction in affordable housing, results primarily not from gentrification itself, but from the persistent failure of government to produce or secure affordable housing more generally.” There are approximately 100 people moving to Nashville every day. There is already a recognized need for more affordable housing to be erected around the city.  Indeed, the former Mayor Barry even admitted that 31,000 affordable housing units will have to be built by 2025 to accommodate the influx of people and had released a plan to invest $10 million for housing for households making around $30,000 a year, about 60 percent of the city’s median income.  A new coalition called “Welcome Home” has surfaced to propose action initiatives and call attention to the Metro Government on behalf of affordable housing.  Welcome Home worries that attention to affordable housing has been diverted due to the transit plan. For more information or to get involved, please visit  

We believe that words certainly matter, but actions speak louder.  Maybe you’ve heard people call it “living your yoga.” In gratitude to the neighborhood that is our home and in respect to people who would like to practice yoga but find it prohibitively expensive, we have unrolled Free Yoga Wednesdays.  (See details in the previous blog post.)



By Brooke Allison (edited by Leslie Hinson)


Hot Yoga of East Nashville has been a sponsor of the Martha O’Bryan Center from our very first year of operation. I remember that October (5 months after opening), I was asked to host a yoga event with Native Magazine, Lululemon and our old neighbors, Fat Bottom Brewing. I recall asking if the event could benefit a charity, and the ladies involved in the planning said yes. I realized I would have to find a charity that I wanted to support, and being new to Nashville at that time, I wasn’t familiar with local nonprofits. Ben Bredesen, the owner of Fat Bottom, mentioned the Martha O’Bryan Center. The name struck me as a mouthful but I looked into it, and soon discovered that I couldn’t think of a better mission to support.

The Martha O’Bryan Center is an anti-poverty nonprofit with deep community roots.  It was founded in the 1890’s to support impoverished North Nashville residents. Since 1948, the Martha O’Bryan Center has operated from the heart of Cayce Place – Nashville’s most distressed community – located just off Shelby Avenue in East Nashville, which is less than a mile from the hub of East Nashville and our yoga studio. The center continues to serve families in this neighborhood – not just to meet their immediate needs but to open doors for possibility and a hopeful future and possibility. Through their education and work-placement programs, they are working to create a culture – a culture of attainment to positively shape future generations.

Martha O’Bryan Center’s Mission echoes this vision:  empowering children, youth and adults in poverty to transform their lives through work, education, employment and fellowship.

There are a lot of folks who depend on the Martha O’Bryan Ministry; in fact, The Cayce Project alone houses 2,800 residents, most of whom are children. In these families:

    • the average income for the entire household in a year is $8,000,
    • 90% of the households are headed by a single female,
    • and the majority of these children are the second and third generations to grow up in poverty.

There is often significant trauma experienced by many of these children, including domestic violence, hunger, and lack of opportunity.  To serve these children, the Martha O’Bryan Center has defined 5 core investments: early learning, K-8 education, high school education, college and career programs, and family support services.  Just to name a few, Martha O’Bryan offers:

    • Family and child counseling and parental trainings
    • Employment placement, as well as childcare and preschool while parents are at work
    • Stronger education opportunities at the East End Preparatory School (a Charter Public School) in East Nashville
    • Tutoring and mentoring programs for middle school and high school students
      • Graduation rates at Stratford STEM Magnet have increased 30% – the highest improvement of all Metro Nashville Public Schools

Since that first event at the old Hot Yoga East location 5 years ago, we have supported the Martha O’Bryan Center with 100% of our donation classes, offered private classes for MOB staff, and hosted an annual food drive. We are looking to take our support of the MOB Center and the greater Nashville community to the next level with Free Yoga Wednesdays. See our Free Yoga Wednesdays Blog for details!

For more information on the Martha O’Bryan Center and the Cayce Project, please watch this short video:



Free Yoga Wednesdays is how we at Hot Yoga of East Nashville provide a space for every Body to find strength and healing through yoga.  Located in a historic East Nashville building, (formerly the East Nashville Cooperative – a food bank, health and welfare ministry that relocated to another space in East Nashville 3 years ago)  this yoga community is home to artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, students, moms, dads, and everyone in between.  The studio is a place where everyone can find movement, stillness, and strength inside of their minds and bodies.  The yoga we teach can truly restore a person’s sense of well-being and broaden their possibilities through both physical and mental stretching.

While yogis of all ages, shapes, and sizes will find similar benefits by coming to their mats, there is one glaring obstacle that many people face:  financial difficulty. We know there are folks who could benefit from yoga and can’t afford it.  We wish to remove that obstacle.

To this end, we are offering free yoga to any and all on Wednesdays.  (Yes, every Wednesday.) This includes all of the 15 class offerings from 6 am to 9 pm. A person need only show up at the studio to join a class.  Please remember that our classrooms do fill up, and a first-come-first-serve policy will be in place.

Donations are accepted for these classes, and 100% of the proceeds will be given to the Martha O’Bryan Center to support their education programs and their fight to end the cycle of poverty experienced by 1 in 5 people in Nashville today.

We invite you to come practice with us for free on Wednesdays!  Yoga, at its essence, means “union,” and we are committed to deepen our service to the community that has been our home since day one.  We appreciate you.


By Mary Margaret Randall

“What do you do besides teach yoga?”

I get this question a lot.

Probably because I carry around a massive backpack with my laptop in it all the time, have a floating office around town, and have a biiiiit of a crazy schedule.

In a nutshell, I help youth tell their story. This is done through a nonprofit organization I created in 2016 called One Voice Nashville ( We teach storytelling and narrative journalism skills to middle and high school students in order to build bridges and close gaps in our community.

I have always been drawn to a good story, but like most good things, college was when it all came alive for me. During my time studying at the University of Alabama, I founded the Black Warrior Storytelling Festival, a local event focused on sharing stories from across the state of Alabama, and for my Senior Project, I collected and recorded stories from local veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. It was this project that revealed the power of community storytelling.

I made the move to Nashville eight years ago and I am beyond grateful for the city’s commitment to the arts. I have worked with youth in programming at schools all around Nashville and I am passionate about the crossroads between education and creativity.

One of our program sites this semester for One Voice Nashville is the Juvenile Detention Center, and a group of incredible students I have worked with there have created a series of real-life, personal stories shaped around these 3 themes: Past, Present, & Future. I have paired each young person with a local mentor and performer who will be sharing these stories onstage at a live event called UnLocked, (May 19th 6:30PM at 4th Story Theater- 2200 West End Avenue). Following the event, One Voice Nashville will produce an educational podcast about the history of the Juvenile Justice system and the leaders involved in making key decisions that affect the facility and the community as a whole.

Here’s the thing: It is easy to get lost in our social bubbles and get comfortable. But if I have learned anything from community work as well as practicing and teaching yoga, it is that we all need to get uncomfortable every once in a while. Otherwise, we would never learn, and that, my friends, is a tragedy.

Come support! Doors open at 6PM. Free & open to the public! Find us on Facebook under “UnLocked” and if you have any questions or want to learn more about this work, email me at



A Slow-Burn Story

As I’ve grown into learning to recognize and trust my intuition, I’ve noticed that she usually appears as a gentle nudging before growing into a flame. This is how I came to the decision to dive into the Hot 26 Teacher Training.

I’ve been practicing Hot 26 for five years now, and part of the HYEN community since the beginning of 2017.  I discovered the Hot 26 series while living in Texas in 2013, dipping my toes in for one of those 30-day deals. I was on a journey of discovering what my body connected and responded to when it came to exercise, and there was something about the Hot 26 series that was both challenging and calming all at once. I was drawn to that. Life changes moved me out to California, and while living beneath the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, I found a Bikram studio in a nearby beach town that became a haven to me. Weaving a consistent Hot 26 practice into my routine opened up a portal to feeling more connected, centered, and calm in my body than I had ever been. I knew then that I had stumbled into a life-long love and practice—a ritual I could integrate into my life to help me stay attentive to and manage my depression in a holistic way. I had found something that both calmed my mind and pushed my body simultaneously. Showing up to my mat day-in and day-out was grounding and sacred; knowing that while there were so many things in life outside my control, I had the power to cultivate an inner calm that would be untouchable.

Thinking back on it now, when I would witness a thoughtful and skilled teacher leading a class, I remember having the passing thought that I could see myself doing that someday. I admired the sense of inner power that it took to confidently, and yet naturally recite the Dialogue to a packed room of dedicated practitioners. The idea of leading others through a practice that had given me so much was appealing; but, timing is everything–and I knew I had more work to do in becoming more at home in my own body. I kept the thought in my pocket, trusting that if the desire was still there when opportunity arose, I would consider pursuing becoming a teacher someday.

The Decision

You know those rare, magical moments when intuition and opportunity align— as if the universe is confirming your path, nudging you in the right direction? That’s exactly what happened when I decided to enroll in the Teacher Training this past December. I had asked Cindy (one of the badass women leading the training) in passing one day if she knew of any upcoming Hot 26 teacher trainings, and she just smiled. Literally the next day, Brooke announced the upcoming training via Instagram. I simply couldn’t ignore the synchronicity of it all. But being a songwriter pursuing a career in music, I was hesitant about diving into the training since I wasn’t looking for yoga to be my sole focus. But I had enough friends who know me well assuring me that pursuing a teacher certification would only enhance and strengthen my other passions in life. They had witnessed firsthand how my yoga practice helped me stay present and awake to my life. So I took the financial leap to gain a skill I could carry with me throughout the rest of my life.

Electrolytes, Electrolytes!

Over the course of the nine week training, we logged a total of 54 hot yoga classes. Six classes per week–and on training weekends, two 90-minute classes on Saturdays. While finding and carving out windows in my schedule to practice yoga took over my world for a few months, I noticed that I was sleeping better and more deeply. I could feel my muscles growing stronger. While my body didn’t change dramatically, there were enough subtle shifts that reminded me how being in the flow of multiple classes per week made me feel more in touch with a sense of possibility, agency, and a hopeful outlook. I found myself looking forward to how I knew I would feel at the end of class, and craving whole foods for replenishment. One of the most challenging weekends of training was when Esak Garcia came to town. We had been required to read Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr (highly recommend if you’re curious about Bikram culture and history), and discovered just how influential and revered Esak was within the international yoga community. We sat through posture clinics where he thoroughly unpacked each posture and demonstrated correct alignment. He gave us thoughtful suggestions for deepening our own practice. His knowledge and insights were invaluable. But I was honestly terrified by the words “Backbending Workshop”  on the schedule. We had read about his intensive workshops held all over the country, and knew it would be stretching (pun very much intended). We paired up in groups of two, and lined up along the wall. I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) by how methodical and focused he approached each backbending attempt. We weren’t freestyling here. Rather, we were learning from a master who challenged us to push beyond where our minds believed we could go. Yes, his flexibility was impressive and truly mind-blowing; but what left an impression on me was the way he led from a place of humble and conscious awareness rather than ego. It made total sense to me now why they call it the “Jedi Fight Club.”

Dear Dialogue…

I participated in Speech and Debate competitions throughout high school, so I’m no stranger to memorization. But there’s honestly no way around it: the Bikram Dialogue is downright daunting. Memorizing an hour and a half’s work of Dialogue is a metaphorical Mt. Kilimanjaro—and our teacher training group a small band of mountaineers huddled at the base, swapping stories around the campfire. The steep climb ahead bonded us quickly–there’s nothing quite like a seemingly insurmountable task to ignite a sense of solidarity. If you ever decide to embark on your own Hot 26 training journey, the best advice I can give is to find a study partner to help you pace out the memorization and keep you accountable. That truly became my lifeline, the “secret sauce” to getting through it. And whenever I would start to feel overwhelmed by the memorization, I would change things up: talking to myself while walking through Shelby Park with my London Fog latte in-hand became a weekly ritual. I made up my mind early on that my best bet for learning the Dialogue was to be proactive in creating a memorization plan and sticking to it as closely as possible. Brooke’s words became our group mantra: “If you keep up, you’ll be kept up.” I found this to be very true.

The First Class

March 30th, 4:30am, the morning of my teaching evaluation:

I had spent time journaling a few intentions the night before—how I wanted people to feel when they left my class, what I wanted to remember, how I wanted to inhabit my body. I set my alarm for 4:30am so I could have time to make tea and warm-up my voice before leading my first ever 6am class, the one that would determine if I passed my certification test. The butterflies started fluttering in my chest, but I also heard my soul whispering louder than my quickening pulse: You’ve worked too hard to crumble now. Trust what you know. You’ve been preparing for this moment. Now all that’s left is to show up for it. In the midst of my nerves, I leaned into that place of inner confidence– trusting my body and mind to remember all that I had been steadily feeding her throughout the past nine weeks. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, then opened the door… walking past the threshold into a new chapter of becoming myself.

Coming Into My Power

Looking back through my journal entries from the end of last year, two themes surfaced from the pages: a curiosity about cultivating a sense of inner authority, and growing into my feminine power. Reflecting on the teacher training experience, I can honestly say that I feel like I’ve uncovered a sense of empowerment that translates into every area of my life. Standing in front of a room and owning what I have to offer is a muscle I’m still building, and the training experience has been a powerful catalyst. The heart behind why I practice yoga–showing up and cultivating a sense of inner calm even in the midst of difficult situations–has become a centering mantra for how I hope to keep moving through life. There’s something about dancing along the edge of what you thought you were capable of and coming out the other side that deeply marks you. The support and camaraderie I found throughout the training experience—from the teachers, guest facilitators, other trainees, to the entire HYEN community–has helped me feel more tethered and at home when I walk into the studio. Rather than my coming and going to classes feeling transactional, solely focused on what I’m receiving–I’ve started viewing each class as a gift and exchange of energy. It’s a gift to take a class led by someone who has put in the work to offer a well-honed dialogue, thoughtful presence, and clear directions. And every time I walk into a room to bring my unique voice and person to a Dialogue that’s been handed down and refined for years, I dip my feet into a river that nourishes. I’m slowly but surely inching my way closer to my core and inner power, and I’m grateful for the ways this training has brightened my path along the way.

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From: Allison Fallon
I started going to yoga about six weeks before everything fell apart. My husband-at-the-time and I had been trying to have a baby for almost two years at that point, and I was starting to lose hope that it would ever happen for us. But I heard a story about a woman who struggled with fertility for years, and when she started a regular yoga practice, she became pregnant within six months.
That was enough to convince me.
I walked down the street and signed up.
It had been a few years since I’d been in a regular routine of moving my body, but it didn’t seem like all that long since I’d been a distance runner. I had completed several half-marathons and a full marathon. So when the instructor suggested that for my first few classes I should focus on simply staying in the room, I balked a little.
I mean, how hard could it be to stay in a room?
That was before the class started and the heat pressed in and I realized how far you can get from yourself without even knowing it; how long you can go without paying any attention to the fact that you have been barely breathing.
Those first few classes were miserable.
I felt like I might be dying—and I was barely doing anything. Just sitting there on my mat. The only reason I kept coming back was that the instructor said yoga would help us to get three things, and I wanted each of those three things:
1. More love
2. Less fear
3. More of what we want in our lives.
I hoped she was right. I hoped yoga would help me get what I wanted.
Six weeks later, everything fell apart.
It was a normal Thursday afternoon when I uncovered the truth of my marriage, and suddenly the fact that we hadn’t been able to become pregnant wasn’t the problem anymore. The day I found what I found, a friend asked me if I was surprised, and I told a her to imagine she had been in a fist fight for years with a blindfold on.
Then today, someone took the blindfold off.
No, I was not surprised.
We hold truths in our bodies that are too big for our minds.
The irony is not lost on me that I went to yoga to get pregnant and instead ended up getting a divorce. But I am learning the hard and beautiful truth that sometimes what we think we want is not what we actually want, and that the process of getting what we want usually involves several things we did not want at all.
 So I kept going to yoga.
One of the things I have loved most about yoga is that there is nowhere to hide.
In life we hide behind make-up or name brands or job titles or relationship statuses. In yoga, in that hot room with all those smelly, sweaty not-so-covered-up bodies, there is nowhere to go except… right there.
In the truth.
The fleshy, terrible, magical, beautiful truth of you.
It’s a terrifying and beautiful thing to to see yourself so completely.
To look at where you are weak or soft or grieving or heartbroken and let love go there.
What a strange and petrifying feeling to find that all the pieces of the puzzle you had been fighting to hold together weren’t even your puzzle pieces in the first place, and that all that love you were dying to have had always been right there in front of you.
All you have to do is get soft enough to receive it.
All you had to do was stop trying so hard, and relax enough to let it in. That winter, I filed for divorce.
I walked into the attorney’s office and did the thing I swore to myself I would never do, the thing I had judged others for doing, the thing I had wanted to do for longer than I could even allow myself to admit. The truth does this to you, I guess. Humbles you. Makes you human again. Gets you back into alignment with yourself.
Yoga does this to you.
More love.
Less fear.
More of what you want in your life.
And after signing all of those terrible, beautiful, life-altering papers, I went to yoga again. I fought and cried and melted into my mat again, and again and again.
It was all I had. My offering. It was all it took.
What I’m learning from yoga is the same thing I’m learning from the rest of my life—which is that we are entitled to our efforts, but not to our outcomes; that we can either be in control, or be in love, but not both.
I’m learning to be in love. I’m choosing to be in love.
 Several things have changed in my life since those early days of yoga—beyond the fact that I am finally breathing again. I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I sleep better. I have better tools to calm my own anxiety. I’m more focused and productive. I feel more confident, more capable.
I’m stronger and also softer. I’ve even fallen in love.
And although in those early days yoga seemed like the hardest thing I had ever done, I’m learning now that it is also the easiest—the easiest and the best and the most life-changing thing you could ever do, showing up. Getting on your mat. Starting where you are.
Giving it all you have.
Slowly, without even knowing it, we are all getting where we’re trying to go.


I didn’t grow up in a church that practiced Lent but I’ve always liked the idea of Lenten Season. 1) Because I like a good challenge or maybe I like the opportunity or excuse to try something new or clean up my routine. 2) Because I value the concept of shaking up routine, taking something away that I depend on, making myself a little uncomfortable in order to grow. I believe that one of the original concepts of giving something up for Lent (40 days) or any fasting is that when you miss, crave, or think about that thing you’ve given up (which will probably be many times a day), you use the opportunity to turn your mind to the thing you’re remembering and trying to meditate on more deeply. There are many things we can notice as we give something up that we are used to having or doing, when we simply shake up our routine – our emotional and physical patterns, our reliances, our habits around that thing that may not even be about the thing. Do I need the thing for the thing or to quiet some other desire or unrest that arises during my day?
Let’s be honest, I also like the idea of Lent or Cleanses or Challenges because it gives me a recipe for self-restraint – clear instructions, boundaries. But do I really need more self-restraint, more self-harm in my life, and isn’t that really more of a self-serving motive when look at my intentions? What can I do that will help me to grow and do better as a friend, a wife, a business owner, a dog-mama, a yoga teacher? For this challenge, I’m choosing to give up sugar – yes, because it contains empty calories but also because it is my comfort food, my go-to distraction from stillness and mindfulness, my craving that comes up most often that I actually need the least. I’m adding something to make me a more present, mindful wife and partner – giving positive affirmations each day to Clay… you know, being nicer and all that!  The hardest one, the habit I’m working on is not offering or giving my opinion on things when I’m not asked. You get it. It’s hard. I want to help but am I helping? Let’s try something new. Shake things up. Spring Challenge!
Get ready for your Choose-Your-Own-Challenge if you would like to join me!  You choose 3 ways to challenge yourself over the first 21 days of March:
1) Something you’re giving up
2) Something you’re adding
3) A habit your want to create or cultivate

I’m also providing daily guide for yoga/mindful challenges to keep you motivated and to inspire your sharing on social media (you’ll want to follow the challenge #hyespringchallenge on Instagram and post your challenges and inspirations): 

Day 1) Warrior
– choose your warrior posture, standing firm and ready for whatever comes your way!
Day 2) Breath Work
– demonstrate a breathing exercise that you are practicing, Pranyama – breathwork to still and focus the mind; to improve lungs and respiratory system.
Day 3) Backbend
– choose a backbend to send nourishing blood and oxygen to the vertebrae and cartilage. Healthy spine for a happy life!
Day 4) Nourish
– how are you nourishing yourself differently today and during this challenge? Try a new recipe or new way of cooking or preparing your favorite dish!
Day 5) Twist
– find a twist to squeeze out the internal organs and the spine – detoxify and stimulate the organs and glands.
Day 6) Hydrate
– drink water! Today try drinking – not 64 ounces but 132 ounces (16 glasses) of water. Maybe do it again tomorrow and the next day and for all 21 days.
Day 7) Shoulder Strength
– use a shoulder strengthening exercise to build strength for a stronger practice or maybe building your inversion practice
Day 8) Meditate
– practice a meditation exercise today… We will provide an exercise you can try!
Day 9) Dancer
– find grace and focus in your variation of dancer. Just like in our daily lives, in Dancer Posture, you have to find what to engage and what to soften – where to work and where to relax.
Day 10) Cleanse
– take something out of your routine/your body that isn’t serving you or something you don’t need today.
Day 11) Spiral Movement
– use a spiral movement to move energy, strengthen the inner and outer core, and to awaken your mind and body
Day 12) Balance
– find a balancing posture to develop your concentration – focus your mind on one thing only. You will find that you have no choice but to be present, in the moment, when you are balancing on one leg
Day 13) Inspiration
– Share who or what has been an inspiration lately or throughout your life. What words or example do you come back to as a reminder of what you are working towards or what is important to you.
Day 14) Heart Opener
– Open your heart with physical asana (posture) and follow it with internal reflection – what came up? Use meditation, prayer, intention or journalling to respond to what you saw or noticed
Day 15) Inversion
– Try an inversion today to change your perspective. Need support? No problem! Use a friend, a tree, your dog or another object!
Day 16) Hip Opener
– practice a hip-opening posture AND for extra credit – stay in the posture for 5 minutes (this means 5 minutes on each side if it is a single-sided posture)
Day 17) Free Movement
– find your free movement, dance or flow! Can you step to this? We want to see a video and don’t hold back… extra bonus points for yogis who get creative, have fun and let go of inhibitions!
Day 18) Core Strength
– practice an abdominal strengthening exercise. We strengthen our core so we can support the rest of our body and support the dreams we are building.
Day 19) Chakra Opener
– try a chakra opening movement to move energy through an area in your body that may feel “stuck” … We will give you some examples to try!
Day 20) Spine Lengthener / Back-body Opener
– find a forward fold or a seated stretch to decompress your spine, sending fresh blood flow to the space between the vertebrae. Lengthen the back sides of the legs, even the souls of the feet to allow your body to be at ease – not just to do more yoga postures but to do more life!
Day 21) Salutation
– Practice a salute to the sun, the moon, the gods and goddesses, your choice. Namasakara – means to bow to, to honor, to adore… in closing this challenge, we bow in honor to each of you, in gratitude for the world created around us.
Lastly, we have prizes! Sponsored Prizes include:
~ Aveda Hair + Skin Gift Sets
~ Lululemon – Professional Mat
~ Chelsea Young – Pantry Makeover & Grocery Trip | Meal Prep Class for you + 3 friends!
~ The Raw Deal – Gift Certificate for delivered raw meals!
~ Free Massage from Claire Wallace – Safe Camp Massage
~ Free Tuition for a Buti Yoga Teacher Training ($725 value)
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Submitted by Annie Peterson, currently on her way to Nashville to teach Kundalini paired with an Advanced Bikram Yoga Class.
As this workshop came together, I really thought about how these two practices fit together for me.  The expressive hatha practice feels amazing in my body – the physicality, the process of alchemy that you undergo in the room, the confrontation of self and ego in the mirror.  It still works for me and I’ve been practicing consistently for 10 years.
5 years ago I found Kundalini yoga and added it to my Bikram practice.  As they say “All Roads Lead to Rome” and so the union, energy balance, mental clarity, meditation and awakening of the body’s systems are all present in both, as well as other yogic and non-yogic practices.  Anything humans do with mindfulness and intention can lead to self-realization, self-mastery and growth.
That said, to get to Rome (i.e. the self, potential, realization, to “come home”) you must choose one road, or a few, as the case may be.
The road to Rome for me has been a balancing of the hot and unheated practices of Bikram and Kundalini yoga – Kundalini mirrors the hatha practice: the room isn’t (intentionally) heated, often we close our eyes, and so it invites an experience of the self, body and consciousness from a different, yet equal, angle.
When I’ve stacked these practices back-to-back, the combined effect for me has been profoundly positive — that is, on the rare occasions I can do three hours of yoga in one day!
So, as Bre and I continued talking and brainstorming what we wanted this to be, we continued on our own paths and this concept emerged as an offering to students to experience a deeper hatha practice & learn about another set of tools to compliment whatever practice you already have…
I can only speak for myself, but I find these two lineages to be fascinating, and they’ve each brought so much to my life.  I’m looking forward to serving and engaging with this community this weekend!


Depending on your source, approximately eighty to ninety percent of American women are unhappy with their bodies. In her TED Talk, “Let’s Get Naked,” Sheila Kelley says that “we are just beginning the 4th wave of the Feminist Movement:  The personal reclamation of the female body and the sexuality within.” I couldn’t agree more, particularly after finding Buti Yoga. I can recall my first experience, that first class (and every class after for that matter), it was the first time in a long or maybe unmeasurable time that I was proud of and celebrated my body, my femaleness. I felt free. Unashamed. Wild. Hopeful!

I think this is what Sheila is talking about when she says that this next wave is about bringing our femininity into our everyday life, awakening and being a sexually-embodied creature. Our bodies are intuitive! Our body knows who she is! But do we know who we are? We may have forgotten long ago… before we had a chance to really get to know her.

The shutting down of our femininity probably began earlier than our earliest memory of someone scolding us for our female bodies. For instance, Sheila recalls her first memory at age 7 of a neighborhood mother yelling “Shame on you!” for being outside playing in the water with the boys next door without her shirt on. A 7-year old girl shamed for doing what she felt was natural. Similarly, I can recall being at the beach around the same age and wanting to jump in the water but not having a bathing suit to wear, so I refused to join in the fun that others were having. Thankfully, my mom didn’t say I couldn’t; in fact, she encouraged me to strip down to my underwear and have at it! But I absolutely would not. Why was I adamant about not taking my shirt off when I was just a child? I may not ever recall exactly what messages I received about my body before I even had the chance to develop my own identity, or what would make me think that I had to be ashamed of my body by age 6 or 7 but I think we can all imagine. The messages were there. Unfortunately the messages get louder and uglier as we get older – “She’s a slut,” or “you look like a whore in that outfit,”or  “those girls are trashy”… etc. These are the messages we hear and unintentionally perpetuate on a daily basis until we don’t know where our own body begins or where it ends. Until we start to believe, it’s not our body at all.

At the 12-Day, 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training I just attended in Hawaii with Sarah, those exact words were spoken by one of the women who had experienced childhood trauma surrounding her sexuality, “my body is not my own” was the message she heard. This body shame and childhood trauma was pervasive among the women in our group – to one degree or another. To women everywhere – our group hailed from all over the US to Canada – Minnesota, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Massachusetts, Quebec City, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, and Tennessee. The damage has clearly been done. The undoing is not going to be easy but at least we have now have the light we need to see the truth. These ladies were there to move! To move through and out of the layers that bound them to move through tribal dance and spiraling movements to unleash their shakti energy; to nourish and heal their bodies. AKA: Buti Yoga.

Now Sheila didn’t have Buti Yoga for inspiration in the 1980’s but she found her inspiration from pole dancing, which she later developed into the first Pole Dancing Fitness Workout in 2001 in her home where she taught other pre-school moms in her neighborhood. Like Sheila and those neighborhood moms, (plus myself and every Buti practitioner I know) found this unleashing of femininity and by it, experienced both immediate and long-term positive effects in their lives – living out more fulfilling marriages, being happier mothers, being more complete women for ourselves.

It is time to open and reset our minds and those of others. Change the message to one of truth and positivity – a message to women and men alike. There’s an opportunity for men here as well. We have all been scarred by the lies. Men can help us into and through this next wave by celebrating femininity and placing equal value on it. By creating and guarding the space for Woman to be feminine. Protecting her. Elevating her.

For us women, it’s time to get to know and celebrate our bodies. Take off our bulky shirts in yoga class, see our glorious bellies. Move our hips. Loosen our tense bodies. Expose and strip away the buried judgements and lies. Find our truth. Expand into our full selves.