December Student of the Month: Katie VanderVelde


Katie has just celebrated her 10-year anniversary of practicing Bikram yoga! She started her practice at a small studio in Lawrence, KS (the only studio in the whole state!) and it has traveled with her to all of the cities she has lived in since - San Francisco, Aspen, Kansas City, and now Phoenix for the past two years. Katie found Bikram Yoga when she was looking for an exercise where she could sweat and get a good workout in. She has since stuck with the practice because “I found something that taught me how to breathe, to cultivate peace of mind, and to let go just enough to unveil my own physical, mental, and spiritual potential,” she says.

Although she does enjoy other types of yoga and exercise classes, she has not found one that has made her feel quite like Bikram Yoga does. “The ‘feeling’ is hard to describe,” she says. She goes on to say, “I enjoy the sweat and the challenge, but I also love the hour and a half of silence. It's my meditation, exercise, detoxification, and therapy session all rolled into one - and there is no other way to get that all in 90 minutes!”

Katie has just recently given birth to a beautiful baby girl, Anna, on September 26th and practiced Bikram Yoga regularly (at least three times a week) throughout her entire pregnancy! She says, “Yoga helped me through all the aches and pains (both musculoskeletal and mental) from hormonal changes and a growing baby.”

Katie recently returned to Bikram yoga after taking two months off following the birth of her daughter. She says that her first class back after her birth was more challenging than her first ever Bikram yoga class stating, “my legs shook in every posture and my mind was racing the entire time... but as always, I left feeling better then I did before I got there!”

When asked what advice she would give to a new student, Katie says, “Follow the words. The words are designed for everyone. If you ever fall out of a posture or your mind falls off track, just listen and try to follow the words! You never know what your body is capable of.”

5 Benefits of Bikram Yoga:

5) You learn to love water - you will have a moment when you think "this water is the best tasting water I have ever had in my life!"

4) You don't get bothered by a little sweat (great benefit when you live in the desert)

3) Your muscles and joints are more mobile... and you can do more of the other things you love like hiking, running, biking, etc.

2) You learn to love yourself... when you spend 90 minutes staring at yourself in a mirror.

1) People want to be around you (after class). You always leave the room a better person, calmer with a clearer mind.

3 Reasons Why Yoga Is Great For Your Heart: A Cardiologist Explains

By Dr. Joel Kahn

The practice of yoga is growing in popularity but it is still rare to see yoga classes incorporated into hospital programming or office based clinics. There are obvious mental and physical benefits to the combination of physical exercises, breathing and meditation.
Recent scientific studies have documented benefits of a yoga practice on important heart functions and a wider use of yoga in therapy of heart patients should follow.
1. Yoga reduces the frequency of atrial fibrillation (AF).  
Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac rhythm disturbance and leads to frequent office and hospital visits, costing millions (if not billions) of health care dollars.
It's an unpredictable disorder of the heart rhythm and can interfere with work, vacations and family gatherings when out of control.
Recently patients with intermittent AF were studied for three months as a baseline and then followed for three more months while practicing yoga twice a week for 60 minutes.
During the three months of yoga practice, episodes of AF dropped in frequency and patients rated their quality of life as better.  There were also decreases in blood pressure and resting heart rate. Patients up to age 80 were studied.
2. Yoga is good for people with high blood pressure. 
High blood pressure or hypertension (HTN) effects millions of people worldwide and can result in heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. The usual therapy is medication and dietary.  Recently 50 patients with HTN participated in a yoga practice for 15 days lasting 2 hours each session. Cardiac function was assessed before and after this training.
After practicing yoga for two weeks the resting heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly reduced.  A comparison group that did not do the training did not experience these beneficial trends.
3. It reduces stress. 
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls silently controls the function of the heart rate and blood pressure. A heart that is healthy demonstrates a wide swing in heart rate and blood pressure during inspiration and expiration and a disease heart shows little of this variability, a measurement called heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is influenced by the two parts of the ANS: the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system.
Scientists compared HRV in long term practitioners of yoga compared to matched controls who did not practice yoga. The HRV was increased in the yoga practitioners and they showed less sympathetic tone (stress, adrenaline) and more parasympathetic tone (relaxation, vagal) of their ANS. Their cardiac response to day-to-day stress was improved with yoga.
Yoga should be considered by patients and practitioners as another "tool" in the tool box of controlling stress, HTN, and heart rhythm disorders. As many cardiac patients are elderly, modifications such as chair yoga and predominantly pranayama breathing exercises may be necessary, but are still beneficial.

Photo Credit:

About Dr. Joel KahnDr. Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Medical Director of Preventive Cardiology at the Detroit Medical Center. He is a graduate Summa Cum Laude of the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He lectures widely on the cardiac benefits of vegan nutrition and mind body practices.Connect with Dr. Joel Kahn: drjkahn.comMore from Dr. Joel Kahn on MindBodyGreen

Breath: The Essence of Life & the Foundation of Yoga

By NikkiStarr Yoga is the union between the body and the mind, connected through the breath. Breathing is the most fundamental technique of Yoga. It is the essence of life. Without breath, neither exists. The first thing we do when we enter into this planet is to take our first independent breath. The last thing we do when we leave our physical bodies is to exhale out our entire existence in that one final breath. Deepak Chopra explains that:


“You inhale for the first time shortly after your umbilical cord is cut. From that moment on youtake approximately seventeen thousand breaths each day, which over a lifetime totals about500 million breaths. In your final moments on this planet, you exhale for the last time; thatbreath defines the end of your life. Your breathing supports every experience you have from thetime of your first inhalation to that of your last exhalation. Breath is life” (Chopra, Deepak TheSeven Spiritual Laws of Yoga: A Practical Guide to Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit, 99).

Think about it, approximately seventeen thousand breaths each day!! Incredible! Accordingly, it is appropriate and fundamental that each of our yoga classes begins with Pranayama Deep Breathing and ends with Kapalabhati Breathing.  Pranayama warms up the body from the inside out. It is good for the lungs and the respiratory system. Additionally, Pranayama exercises our nervous and circulatory systems. It is relaxing and grounding. Pranayama roots us in our practice, in our bodies.  Kapalabhati in Vajrasana (Blowing in Firm Pose) is detoxifying and energizing. It is good for the abdominal muscles and internal organs because it improves oxygenation of the body and increases circulation. Kapalabhati is good for the heart, high blood pressure, and respiration.

Breathing connects our minds to our bodies. It is the only autonomic function that we have conscious control over. While we hold our breath in our consciousness, we have the power to change it, to regulate it; thereby, regulating our bodies. Our involuntary nervous system functions resume control when we surrender the conscious control of our breath. The reality that we have the ability to control part of our autonomic nervous system is empowering. Because we can consciously choose to put our attention on our breath, we have the ability to give ourselves widespread health benefits, which is beautiful. We are so lucky! Through conscious breathing, we can relax our bodies and our minds. Additionally, alleviating high blood pressure, irritability, and insomnia. We can detoxify and revitalize our whole body! This humble piece is but a small acknowledgement and reminder that Conscious Breathings is, in line with Chopra, the “key to a healthy, vibrant life” (100).

We each hold our own key! We have the power to unlock our own health, happiness, and vitality. Exhale out what does not serve you and live the life you Love!

Ditching Your ‘Yoga Drama’

By P.J. Stuart

It’s not what you think. But it’s real. And it’s hurting you.

No, this is not Junior High School, and there are no stories after class about who-pushed-whom out of Standing Bow pose. There’s no gossip in the locker room over how poorly someone dressed for class that day; and we’re more than likely to thank the teachers who “picked on us” during class rather than harbor grudges toward them afterwards.

This is a different kind of drama.

The 90 minutes we spend sweating through 26 postures, time after time, can be grueling. Physically as well as mentally, we are pushed to our limits and learn to operate well outside our comfort zone. Some days, the heat and the intensity are so taxing we can hardly bear it. We think we might rather die than persevere.   And yet, in bona fide test of character, we go on.

Here’s where the Yoga Drama kicks in.

For me, on an especially dehydrated or overly-tired kind of day, it usually hits me right around the time of Poorna-Salabhasana (aka Full Locust Pose – “the 747 taking off”).  Substitute whichever posture you prefer, the internal dialogue leading up to Yoga Drama usually goes a little something like this:

Oh no. Not this one. I hate this one. Shouldn’t class be over by now?  Seriously it’s awful today. The room is like 1,000 degrees hotter than usual. I don’t think I can do it. Maybe I should just keep my head on the floor and sit this one out. Ugh. Here goes nothing. Hands up. Legs up. Higher. Higher. Seriously?? Are you #%@& kidding me?? How long are they forcing me to hold this one today. I can’t breathe … this hurts … I’m dying!

And then it happens.  As you release yourself from the posture, it comes out …


The loudest, most deflating sound effect a human can make as they exhale. That’s Yoga Drama.

Maybe sometimes we have the desire to surrender to our own struggles. Or sometimes, we’re just so desperate to let others know we are suffering. Maybe we want the teacher to hear it, as if to say, “Hey! Quit pushing me so hard.”

How it Hurts:

Fair enough.  But Yoga Drama creates a real handicap, not only for you but also for your fellow yogi classmates and the overall energy of the room.

By affirming your inner pain and discomfort in such an extroverted manner, you are giving power to the nasty voices inside your head that say “I can’t.” It pushes you further away from your own strength.  Underlining your discomfort in such a fashion makes it more tangible, adding negative momentum to what is already a punishing battle of the spirit.

Furthermore, once your inner pain is externalized, it moves into the space between you and your neighbors. It serves as an audible reminder to everyone near you of how tough this practice really gets.  Anyone else struggling to keep up may be susceptible to your moans and decide to start commiserating with you.  Suddenly, the whole class is in rough shape.  (Ok - now I’m being dramatic, I know).

“My biggest concern when I hear the gasps is that it signals the student is probably holding their breath,” says BYPV teacher Mark Trinitapoli.

How to Let it Go:

Just as negative emotion is contagious, so is positive emotion.

  1.  Look around you at the amazing will power of those you share the room with. People of all ages and backgrounds are sweating through the yoga with you, enduring their own inner battles of mind over matter. Let them serve as an inspiration to propel you forward with greater strength. Together we thrive.
  2.  Give yourself credit for being in the room and don’t be upset or discouraged.  Fight the good fight. Take rest where you need to.
  3. Remember, the pain and discomforts you experience are temporary, fleeting feelings. Best of all, they can be vanquished with the simple power of your own deep, steady breathing. (As in Bikram Yoga, as in life itself!)

From one “Yoga Drama victim” to another,

Namaste my friends!