Yoga is a meditative practice that has roots in India thousands of years old. Across the centuries and around the world, yoga has evolved from a philosophy in search of religious liberation to an exercise routine with improved health as a goal. Today, one of the most respected living yoga gurus is Bikram Choudhury. He was born in Calcutta in 1946 and began practicing yoga at the age of four. At seventeen, a weight-lifting accident caused a knee injury that doctors predicted would never allow him to walk again. Bikram returned to yoga and within six months he was healed completely. His instructor, Bishnu Ghosh, was the first to scientifically document yoga’s ability to cure chronic physical ailments and heal the body.
Bikram went on to perfect a yoga method that systematically works every part of the body – muscles, ligaments, veins and organs – in order to maintain optimal function and health benefits. Millions world wide, regardless of age, have experienced the physical healing and mental wellbeing by practicing Bikram’s yoga.
Medical doctor, Richard Laughter, is one of these people. Several years ago, following a back injury, he turned to this form of yoga. After six months, his pain was gone and his back perfectly realigned. Laughter encouraged his wife Brandy, who had just had their third child, to give it a try.
Bikram’s yoga is unique for several reasons. First, the workout takes place in a studio heated to 105° at 45% humidity. These conditions allow the body to warm up and become more pliable. It also enhances the body’s purification process by flushing out impurities through sweat. Second, the layout of the studio is very specific: mirrors along the entire front wall and carpeted flooring. And third, the workout routine is always the same, 90 minutes consisting of 26 asanas (poses) in a specific sequence.
Brandy Laughter recalls her first session of Bikram’s yoga as being awkward and painful. She was in the back of the class, sweating and shaking while she attempted to hold each pose. Her decision to attend a second class was a direct result of the elderly couple in front of her, who effortlessly and with smiles on their faces performed the entire 90-mintue routine. After some more classes, Brandy began to see changes in her body: muscles and flexibility that she had never possessed. Before long, she was hooked. Then, four years ago, right around the time she and Richard moved their family to Gallup, Brandy traveled to Los Angeles to attend the nine-week Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, after which she was certified to instruct the Bikram method.
Last fall, Haley Laughter, Richard’s sister, moved to Gallup, as well, after also having completed the Bikram teacher training program. Now, Brandy and Haley are opening Four Corners Bikram’s Yoga in order to share the benefits that they have been convinced of with the Gallup community. Their studio, located at 601 W. Coal Avenue, has been completely remodeled, with the wonderful help of their contractor, John Hren. The main entrance is now located in the back of the building and ushers visitors into a reception area where mats, towels, water bottles and yoga gear will be available for purchase. The dark wood flooring continues in the men’s and women’s changing rooms, then gives way to soothing blue carpet and cheerful yellow walls in the main yoga room. With space for 20 to 30 students, the two women plan to offer classes seven days a week.
The excitement is palpable in the studio as Haley and Brandy anticipate opening their doors in early May. They realize that Bikram’s yoga may be unfamiliar to many people in the community, but are eager to bring a completely new form of exercise to Gallup. They are offering a great Beginner’s Special – $29 for 30 days of yoga – in order to draw newcomers. They acknowledge the difficulty and awkwardness of an initial class. “Everything is weird the first time, but do it anyway,” says Brandy whose goal for first-timers is that they simply stay in the room. “If you try your best, you will get the benefits.”
Bikram’s yoga teaches discipline and uses the body’s natural movements to increase balance, strength and flexibility, providing healing from the inside out. There is a sense of predictability and comfort in that the routine is always the same. Yet, according to Haley, there’s always room for improvement, new ways to push one’s body. “There’s always somewhere else to go – a deeper posture – it’s never ending.” Haley felt as odd and out-of-place as Brandy did when she first began, but has since discovered a part of herself that she never knew was there – the “Bengal Tiger Strength” – as Bikram calls it. He also says, “It’s never too late, it’s never too bad, and you’re never too old or too sick to start from scratch once again.”
Classes are offered Monday through Friday at 6:00AM, 4:30PM and 6:30PM, Saturdays at 9:30AM and 3:00PM, and Sundays at 9:30AM. A free Karma yoga class is also being offered, Thursdays at 4:30PM and all donations will be given to local charity. For more information, call 726-8081 or visit www.fourcornersyoga.com.