On September 29th, roughly 250 yogis, teachers, studio owners and competitors traveled from all over the East Coast to spend a day learning from Rajashree Choudhury, wife of Bikram and a leader in her own right.
Rajashree knows her yoga. She started her yoga training at the urging of her parents at age four. Choudhury went on to become a five-time winner of the All-India Yoga Championship (1979 to 1983). After studying at Mahila Yoga Byam Kendra, Gosh’s College of Physical Education and Yoga Training Institute, Rajashree received her Certification in Hatha Yoga Therapy for chronic diseases and disorders.
With over 15 years of experience in the East and 25 years in the West, Rajashree focuses on the emotional side of yoga. She believes that yoga balances the energy of the human body to create vibrant health–and a lasting connection between mind, body and soul.
Choudhury opened the day by talking about yoga’s universal appeal. During the month of September, she taught the same yoga—Bikram’s Beginning Series—to children, elite athletes, pregnant women, prison inmates and veterans. She emphasized that we all share the human condition—and that we can all benefit from a regular yoga practice.
“It was a great day,” says BYCF yogi Michelle Ballard. “I have spent my whole career in science, and it is unlikely that I will participate in a major breakthrough in the healthcare field. Yet, I am personally involved in this practice that changes people’s lives very dramatically and quickly.”
“The room was amazing. There were so many teachers, people who had been practicing this healing art form for a long time. There were students of absolutely every level there, people who clearly had major health problems. So many people had a story about their bodies being junk. The benefits were clear. It validated that this yoga is not for an elitist group. It is yoga for your life,“ says Claudia Eisenmann.”
Rajashree led the packed room through class, providing lots of individual corrections. We practiced mat-to-mat, without mirrors. The crowded (and occasionally chaotic) conditions made teachers nostalgic for their training days.
We spent the afternoon in Posture Clinic, going through each and every posture in detail, while yoga champion Joseph Encinia demonstrated the postures (as well as common mistakes). Says Claudia, “the word ‘lecture’ sounds so boring. This was more like show and tell. Seeing and hearing about the intricacies of each posture was invaluable, especially since the information was coming right from the source. In a regular class, you are trying so hard to control your body that you miss a lot.”
Senior teacher Carolyn Jensen particularly noticed that Joseph was careful to complete each posture properly, no matter how long he had held it. Studio owner Heather Dunghe reflected on how much her breathing has changed over the past five years. Corrinne Tendo simply wished that the room was hotter, and Rajashree teased her kindly. Many students took away details on alignment. For Megan, the day was a family reunion of sorts, providing a chance to catch up with former students from different studios, yoga friends and colleagues from all over the country.
On this particular day, Rajashree created a mind-body-soul connection for each of us, as well as a powerful sense of serenity and community between students of different ages, backgrounds and levels of practice.
It was perfect. After all, the word ‘yoga’ means bliss, oneness, union.