Sharon Michalson is the owner and studio director at Bikram Hot Yoga of Ashland on 2455 Siskiyou Blvd. in Ashland, OR. Sharon began practicing hot yoga in the mid 1980’s when the studio was located on Bridge Street. At that time, Margaret Iris owned the studio, and it was one of a handful of Bikram studios in the world. Now hot yoga is very popular, and there are hundreds of studios throughout the world.
Sharon, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today, and to talk about hot yoga. Can you start by giving us a little introduction to Bikram yoga? What makes it unique, and how is it practiced?
You’re welcome; it is my pleasure. First, I want to say that I respect all kinds of yoga practices. Hot yoga is a type of hatha yoga sometimes referred to as “Bikram Yoga” because Bikram Choudhury helped to develop the specific sequence of postures that make up traditional hot yoga. Bikram is largely responsible for bringing hot yoga to the United States. Classes last for ninety minutes in a room heated to a temperature of 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity. During the class, students complete 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, each twice. The sequence methodically warms, stretches and strengthens the body. Practicing the poses in their specific order is necessary to warm the body properly and to prevent injury.
Wow! That’s hot! What are some of the benefits of sweating and such high heat?
Practicing yoga in the heat helps to melt away tension and to facilitate release. Think of a blacksmith. How do they get metal to bend? They warm the metal so that it is malleable, right? The same is true of our bodies; heating up our bodies allows for deeper stretching. It opens pores to let toxins out, and helps to increase circulation while strengthening the heart for a better cardiovascular workout. The skin is the largest eliminative organ in the body, so the more you sweat, the more you cleanse your body inside and out.
If I’ve never done yoga before, can I do this?
Anyone of any age and physical condition can do this yoga. This is a beginning yoga class. All students work to their personal “edge” , and beginners work right alongside more experienced students. More advanced students must still strive to approach each pose with a beginner’s mind. Students are men and women of all ages and levels of ability. Some people come to class with more strength, and some have more flexibility; a major goal of this class is to balance your body’s strength and flexibility. Many people come to yoga not only to heal, balance and rehabilitate their bodies, but also to transform their minds through developing a deeper inner connection.
How many times a week do you practice?
I practice five or six times a week, and I teach three or four times a week. As a beginner, it takes at least three classes for your body to understand the proper approach to the posture, and approximately ten classes for your body to begin to work with the postures. After that, it is my experience that practicing three times a week will provide you with good results, and practicing five or six times a week is optimal for growth and healing in the practice.
Who teaches at the studio?
I feel very fortunate to have a caring and knowledgeable staff of teachers at Bikram Yoga of Ashland. Each teacher encourages students to learn and grow at their own pace. Our hope is to provide a nurturing, safe space for students to integrate their experiences deeply into their lives and to cultivate a sense of strength, balance and grace in their physical, mental and emotional bodies. In addition to myself, the staff includes: Anna Antic, Alex Newport-Berra, Angie Todd, Cynthia LoRe, and Aimee Davis. Each of the teachers’ unique style, energy, and level of experience contributes positively to the diversity of the classes we offer.
It sounds like you have the ideal profession. You get in shape while doing your job.
I am so happy and grateful to have the work I do. Yoga has helped me to slow down, to take care of myself, and to find a way to help others to do the same. I have received so many physical benefits from the yoga, but the mental and spiritual benefits far outweigh the physical. I believe that a consistent practice with attention to breath can positively transform your life. I feel joyful to be able share this practice with others, and I am inspired as I see them benefit, as well.
What local business do you find yourself continually recommending to friends?
Well, I’m a huge fan of the Ashland Co-op! I appreciate their creatively nutritious lunch buffets. After practice, I love to drink freshly squeezed juice.
If you had a magic wand, what change would you like to see in the world or in our community?
I wish people the time to find peace inside, and to cultivate a deep love and respect for themselves.
Are there any last comments you would like to share with our readers?
I want to thank people for taking the time to read this article. I hope you all get a chance to try hot yoga and see if it might be just the right thing to get you centered, energized, and balanced. We offer a $49.00 special introductory rate for students who are new to the practice. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 541-488-9642. You can visit our website, ashlandbikramyoga.com or find us on Facebook.