August 8, 2009

Yoga Teacher Interview: Kelly Stern of Bikram Yoga Hawaii

Name: Kelly Stern   
Age: 25   
Hometown: Haiku, Maui
Studios: Bikram Yoga Hawaii
Style: Bikram
Training Background/Lineage: Bikram Yoga College of India Teacher Training Fall 2007, Honolulu, HI

How long have you studied yoga? 8 years practicing Vinyasa Flow, Hatha, and Bikram Method.
What is yoga? Everything would be my instant response. You can put yoga to work throughout your life all day, every day. Yoga is a combination of your asana practice as well as your mental awareness.
Why do you practice yoga? Its part of who I am. It’s my daily life. I don’t feel complete without yoga. Its a way to bring me into my normal state, my happiness, my chi. I like to move my body and stretch and challenge myself mentally and physically…and get to know my body better.
Do you have a regular practice? Everyday, whether it’s in a class or on my own. It doesn’t have to be a physical thing either. It can be how I work my mind everyday, a meditation, how I find a connection with myself.
Yogini diet? Raw vegan organic foods, baby. That’s where its at. Indulging myself in the abundance and goodness this world has to offer. Vegan for my health, for the animals, for the environment, for my mental clarity (I’m not attached to the negativity and stress that animals undergo when they are raised for food). I feel best when I’m eating all raw, especially in Hawaii. Raw tastes better and I’m full of energy when I eat raw.

“Lock your knee.”


Favorite asana? Handstands.
Strongest asana? Balancing stick pose in the Bikram method, Tuladandasana.
Weakest asana? It changes everyday. Rabbit pose – Sasangasana.
Is there a focus in your teaching style? Yes. Doing what I can to help others achieve their maximum capabilities in their postures and in their mental focus. I like assisting others grow in their yoga practice.
Nude yoga? Why not?
Any religious affiliation? Not any one thing specific.
How does yoga work with the ego? I think it can help you let go of your ego as well as build it up. Yoga can assist you in breaking down a macho ego…be humbling…but if you are lacking self-respect, it can help give you confidence and help you grow in yourself.

What else do you do? Prepare raw food, swim in the ocean, enjoy the sun, enjoy the islands, connect with loved ones, and play with animals as much as possible.
Favorite yogic philosophy? Ahimsa, non-violence.
What is the last thing you did to make the world a better place? Pick up trash and express my belief system on eating the way I do and how it supports the environment, the body, and peace everywhere.
Any thank yous? Thank yous to my friends and family for their love and support, to Bikram Choudury, to all the yogis and yoginis.

Bikram yoga is a base for my practice, daily maintanence for my body, and what I teach, but I’m stoked on anusara, ashtanga, vinyasa, jivamukti… Yoga is a practice, not a perfection. I’m always learning, meeting new teachers and new styles. I’m open to all forms of yoga.”

Why do you practice Bikram-method yoga? Bikram yoga was the first yoga that grabbed ahold of me because it was challenging and inspired me to work hard. It has always appealed to me and was easily accessible.
What is unique about the Bikram-method? Bikram yoga is set up for beginners, so anyone can come to class and do what they can. It works every muscle, ligament, tendon, joint, and system of the body. It’s great for people who are unfamiliar with yoga, who may be uncomfortable with the spirituality that goes along with yoga…to bring them into a room and have them focus on themselves, deepening their practice at their own pace.
What do you think about Bikram Choudury? Bikram Choudury is my guru. He chose to take what was passed down to him by his guru, Bishnu Gosh, and create this set of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises to bring to the west. Bikram is a character. He is a funny man. He has a lot of negative press in the yoga community because he has patented his yoga, but realistically, he knows what he is doing, and he has created this amazing sequence that heals bodies and people, and he doesn’t want other people ripping off his sequence and injuring people because they haven’t been trained properly.
What do you want to say to Bikram-critics? Let go of your judgement. Bikram is just another person. It doesn’t matter that he’s into his fancy cars, it matters that he has brought yoga to so many people in the world, healed so many people, and inspired people to grow. All yoga is yoga. There’s no need to pass judgement on any style. Find what works for you.
What about the little-known Bikram Advanced Series? It’s not open to the public. There is no training for people to be certified to teach it. However, it is practiced by experienced Bikram teachers and yogis. It comes from the original 84 asanas Bikram learned as a child in India.

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