In this episode you’ll learn
– How Ellen was in a terrible way with her RA when she first started Bikram Yoga
– Her remarkable recovery through the Paddison Program and Bikram Yoga
– How tiny improvements each day add up to massive success
– How Ellen’s knees took 90 classes to exhibit zero swelling
– Bikram vs other forms of hot yoga
– Why Bikram yoga is medicine, rehab and therapy all in one
– Common objections, concerns and actions to take
This podcast does not constitute medical advice. All changes surrounding medications, diet and exercise should be made in consultation with a professional who can assist your unique health circumstances.
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Clint: Well, thanks for joining me today. I’ve got two guests with me today. On the last episode, you may have recalled that Ellen told us about her impressive progress so far with her journey with reversing rheumatoid arthritis. She was on a lot of Prednisone and high dose Methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and using a combination of the Paddison Program and Bikram Yoga. She’s now feeling the best that she’s felt in years, throwing her grandkids around like potatoes, and she’s only on 15 milligrams now of Methotrexate and working with her rheumatologist to lower that even further.
So today we’ve brought her yoga teacher into this call, so I’ve got Ellen and John on the call. How are you guys today?
John: Good, good.
Ellen: Just fine.
Clint: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on, John. We spent a lot of time with Ellen on the last podcast and she went into a lot of detail about how Bikram Yoga was so helpful for her. Now, perhaps you might want to start by telling us where is your studio and then go on to explain the first time you saw Ellen coming into class and the kind of condition she was in.
John: Oh, well, our school is about 50 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We’re in Cotati, California. And I think the first time she took class, she took one class. Sunday evening, I usually don’t teach that class and stuff, but I think my partner was there, taking class, and she mentioned about this lady coming, and I think I probably said that, when she took Laura’s class, I probably would have thrown her out and stuff like that, I said, because she had so many problems and stuff like that. “Oh my gosh. What can we do for her?” So that’s how it started.
Clint: Ellen had suffering from a lot of problems with her knees. The first time when you led the class with Ellen in it, what did you notice? There’s a lot going on with her body, so could you describe what you remember, the state that she was in when she took your class?
John: Well, she was very hesitant about…very cautious about doing a lot of the poses and didn’t really want much help or any assistance. And so I said, “That’s fine. Do the best you can,” and stuff like that, “and we’ll see how it goes.” I was kind of concerned myself also.
And so she was just very hesitant. I guess she had a long history of the arthritis and stuff like that and pain and everything, and so we just went along with it slowly.
Clint: Do you get a lot of people coming to your studio in the sort of condition that Ellen was in, with a lot of pain, a lot of joint problems?
John: We have one nurse lady that’s been coming for a long time, Indian lady’s been coming. And she’s been coming for probably 13-14 years and stuff like that and really you have to keep moving and stuff like that. You’ve got pain and the stiffness and the arthritis and the medications and stuff like that. And she has had the surgery on her hands and stuff to contract some of her fingers and stuff like that. So she just has to come and move and stuff.
Clint: Yeah, absolutely. Now, when Ellen started making progress, she got really excited and she was motivated by the progress that she made, but it is quite slow, isn’t it? You’ve got to go a lot of times to get the results. But what were your observations with Ellen’s progress? Was it clear to you that she was doing well or were you concerned she might drop out?
John: It’s true with almost everyone that if you do it, you see little improvements. It’s like [inaudible 00:03:59] said, if you’re willing to accept one-sixteenth of an inch movement every time you come, he goes, it’ll add up after you come. She’s been maybe 170 times now.
Ellen: Yeah, 174.
John: Yeah. And even if it’s a sixteenth of an inch, the range of motion increased and stuff like that. But it’s hard to get people to keep coming, though, when they have complications like what she had originally and stuff.
Clint: Well, John, my experience with Bikram is similar to Ellen’s. When I first started going to Bikram Yoga, I couldn’t put any weight on my left knee. It was swollen up like a big cantaloupe. I couldn’t straighten it, so it was in a permanent bend like that. So I spent 50-odd classes without being able to do anything of any note during the standing series which required weight on my left leg. So I just kept going and going and going because I would get the relief from each class and it would then see me through that night. And then by 24 hours later, I’d start to feel the symptoms coming back and I would go again.
And in my studio, one of the owners of the studio, his name is Scott and he has really, really bad back problems. So I don’t remember if it was from an injury or something went wrong, but anyway, his back is such that he has to go every day just to avoid having to have all sorts of bad surgery and everything. Anyway, he just said to me, “Man, you’ve just got to go every day. And if you go every day, you can avoid all the problems that are associated with inactivity. You can improve all of the range of motion of your joints and improve the quality of the joints.”
And because the actual owner of the studio was such a real person and suffering himself and he’d started the studio to help others because of his own experience with his back and the benefits of Bikram, I thought, “Well, if he has to go every day and he’s the owner, then I can go every day as well.” And I did. I used to take some days off just because I would get tired. But I would go five or six days a week, and without it, I couldn’t walk, so it was phenomenal for me.
John: Well, I had knee surgery myself in 1975. And so I started yoga in ’94 and it was 19 years, and so my leg, it wasn’t as strong. It was weaker and numb and inflexible and lacked the range of motion and stuff like that. And I just assumed that that’s how it was gonna be also because it was 19 years since my surgery. And then slowly I started to see the progress with mine, wrapping around like an eagle pose and stuff, getting your toes around, and going down for toe stand and doing fixed firm, I couldn’t do all of those poses. Like I told my students, I couldn’t do neither.
But then after five or six years almost, so that knee is fine now, I do toe stand, and now four years after knee surgery and stuff like that and eagle pose and stuff like that. And the numbness is all going away and the range of motion is returning, and also the mental part where you don’t really think of it as your bad knee anymore and stuff like that. It’s not my gimp leg or my injured leg or my surgery leg or, “Oh, it’s my bad leg. Be careful.” And it’s not how I used to feel before, after 20 years of surgery. So that’s how Bikram got into the yoga, too, also, was he injured his leg also, and yoga healed him also.
Clint: Yeah, now you got to train with him personally, didn’t you?
John: Yes, yeah.
Clint: I’ve been curious about…I’ve read, and I don’t know where I read this or the quality of the source, but that his original introduction into yoga was because he dropped some weights on his knees. Was that correct or is that just some kind of fable?
John: Yeah, that’s correct. He did yoga and then he went from yoga into more professional weight lifting sports and stuff like that, running and everything. And he was doing some sort of Olympic lift with the weights over his head and the weight came down and crashed his leg and the doctor said, “Oh, you’ll have leg problems the rest of your life,” and stuff like that. So somehow he went back to his original teacher and his teacher goes, “We’ll fix you up.” Like I said, you’ve got to go every day, though, for four hours a day,” or whatever it was. And so in six months, he said, he was brand-new almost.
Clint: Yeah. Some people may not be familiar with what we’re all talking about here and may have started listening to these podcasts late in the series. What we’re talking about here is a set of repeated postures, the same class that you can take anywhere in the world, at every studio around the world that’s a Bikram Yoga and what it enables you to do is just move through this sequence of postures. Some of them are breathing exercises. And at the end of the postures, someone with rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory joint conditions just tremendously feels better. I don’t know an exception to this. I’ve never met someone who hasn’t done the 90-minute Bikram class and not felt tremendously better afterwards.
So what we’re talking about is a hot yoga sequence that’s repeated every time that’s 90 minutes long. Now John, let’s talk about Ellen again. Or maybe I might ask this question of Ellen. Ellen, how have your knees transformed from doing this class? Do a before and after, a description of your knees now.
Ellen: Well, before, both knees were swollen when I started and I was so stiff. I mean, you heard them say they wanted to kick me out. I was so stiff, really, like an old lady, like his grammy, his grandmother. Or maybe your grandmother is pretty good. I was that bad. I think it was class 53 or 54, the knee swelling went away, just disappeared. And then up until that, it took 7 to 9 classes before the knee swelling in the right knee started to go down after class and I think I dragged him or I told John outside, “Look at my knee. It’s down. The swelling’s down.” He goes, “Oh, okay,” or something like that. And then it kept happening. And then it would last maybe two hours at first, then it would last all night, and then in the morning the swelling would come back. But it took 53-54 classes before it disappeared, the swelling disappeared.
And plus, I couldn’t grab my leg for the standing bow. That took a long time before I got to that. A lot of classes, and I was afraid to do the backward bend. Everything was related to my knees. I was so chicken about that one pose and John helped with that one and I finally was able to get into that backward bend. That took really a long time.
John: The camel pose, you mean?
Ellen: Yeah, the camel pose. It took me forever to do that one.
Clint: Yeah, absolutely. I remember.
Ellen: My knees were so connected…they’re connected to a lot of the postures, especially when you’re trying to grab your leg. I still can’t quite…I don’t look like the other people when I grab my leg.
John: But she’s even tried to kick out and standing bow is really unbelievable and stuff like that.
Ellen: Well, I’ve been doing that for quite a while. These young people, they hold their knee, I think.
John: She’s made miraculous improvements.
John: Going down to starting in toe stand, slowly she would use a chair to help her balance and stuff and everything, and she slowly worked her way down to the seated chair. Then she worked her way onto one hand on the floor. And it’s unbelievable how that little progress, that little quarter of an inch, it’s miraculous.
Clint: It is. It’s just a phenomenal class. People ask, what about hot yoga, just various forms of hot yoga versus Bikram Yoga? And there’s a couple of reasons that’s a little bit more problematic. One is that the postures are different every time. Now, that’s a positive if you don’t have something like RA and you’re interested in getting variety and you’re interested in learning from different teachers and doing different things. But it’s bad if you have a chronic condition because you want to know which postures you can push yourself in and which postures you need to conserve your energy and just be cautious in because your body has all these strange idiosyncrasies that need to be catered for.
And in that sense, the same postures every time allow you to develop that confidence in yourself and what your body can do. And it’s not frightening that you’re gonna go in there and have someone ask you to do a downward dog when your wrists are inflamed, your elbows can’t support your body weight, your shoulders hurt. Yeah, you end up sitting out half of the class sometimes, but in the Bikram, you know that at least if you’re attempting the posture 100% correctly, then you’re getting the benefit. That’s true, isn’t it, John?
John: Yeah. Well, when he devised a sequence of poses, almost 45 years ago, he was really a yoga therapist before then and he would see people in Japan on a private basis individually, would see like 200 people a day, did it for almost a year. He was working 20 hours a day to try to prove that the yoga worked. But then he said there’s got to be a way to work with 200 people at one time, no matter what the problem is, whether you bring them in in a stretcher or a wheelchair, they’re old or young. And we had a girl come for about a year in a wheelchair and she did phenomenal, too. We used to help her in all the poses. We’d move her because she’s paralyzed from the waist down. But she did phenomenal.
It’s really yoga therapy, and so when he first devised a sequence of poses about 45 years ago, there wasn’t really a specifically beginner-level class. He said it was always the same way. And it’s really yoga therapy. It’s not a jazzercise thing or just an aerobic thing or just an exercise. It’s a therapy and stuff like that, for whatever’s wrong because you’re working the whole body and stuff. So the whole thing is really thought out specifically for…because most people, even myself, I’ve been coming for 22 years. He goes, “You’re still a beginner. You want to think you’re…you’ve gotten better and everything and you’re more flexible and your pain is going…” Even my pain, too, just pain from running and riding a bike and going to the gym and a couple of surgeries and a couple accidents and stuff like that. I tell classes all the time that 95% of the pain that I felt 22 years ago as a student, it’s gone today at 60 years old.
So when I do class now, he goes, “We’re gonna make the pain go away”. That’s part of the therapy is to get the pain out of your body and stuff.
Clint: That’s very effective and I liked that therapy phrase because I’ve often said to my wife I’ve got to go to rehab. I talk about it like it’s a rehabilitation class or it’s some kind of…we had Joseph Encinia on the podcast some time ago. Joseph, I see you nodding your head there. He was a champion yoga student with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis all throughout his teenage years, got into yoga, was very, very in a bad state with his juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and became world champion. So he describes Bikram Yoga as medicine because he doesn’t need to take any medications. He just goes and takes his medicine every day in the hot room. So he calls it medicine, you call it therapy, I call it rehab. Whatever it is, it’s very effective at removing pain. And one of the things that Ellen was so good at doing with her progress was the discipline of going every day.
So Ellen, what got you there every day? Because this isn’t easy. This isn’t an easy class. It’s a very difficult class and the body just doesn’t want to go and do it every day, but when it does, it benefits. So how do you have that mind over body? How did you do that?
Ellen: Well, I go four times a week is pretty much what I do. If it’s a day that I’m good and I just get all my gear together and all my water bottles in my bag, I do the mindset of, “I’m gonna go,” and I just go. I try to get there so I can get my spot, of course, which [inaudible 00:17:08].
John: She shows early, yeah.
Ellen: I’ve tried to go in the back again and again, but I don’t get to go in the back of the room until the second half. But anyway, I know it’s gonna help me. From the first class, it’s been such a significant improvement in my arthritis, my confidence, my strength. I could pick the grandkids up now. I can pick one of them up. The other two, I can lift them up, I think, to waistline.
And just I’m standing up straighter. I hear people saying, “You look good. I can’t believe how far you’ve come.” I’m getting that now from the people at the yoga [inaudible 00:17:53]. They cannot believe it. And I’m just thinking I’m just doing…I feel good. It is the inferno, though. That’s for sure.
Clint: Well, it takes the thinking out of working out your exercise, doesn’t it? Each day we think we all know, everyone knows that exercise is good for us. But a lot of us think what should we do each day and, “Should I go for a walk, should I do that?” But if you schedule this four times a week, it’s part of your routine, like having breakfast, having lunch, and on a Wednesday and Thursday and whatever day, you go to yoga and that’s what you do, as soon as it’s scheduled and it becomes part of your habit and part of your routine, it takes the thinking out of it. And when you’re not consuming energy about wondering what you’re gonna do and when you’re gonna do it, then it becomes easy and you mechanically go to the class without debating every time, “Should I be going? and, “How does my body feel? Am I tired enough?” Because the brain doesn’t want to go half the time because it feels like too much work. So it’s that discipline of scheduling it and following through with it.
Ellen: Yeah, I think I schedule it in my head. I don’t really write it down.
Clint: It is really one of the most ultimate forms of exercise because it also has the cardiovascular component. I think that it’s just so important to get that heart rate up. John, I think they’ve done some studies about that. I think that it consumes something like 800 or 900 calories per class. It’s a very exhaustive class, isn’t it? It’s like doing a long run or something.
John: Yeah. I think some of the funky door schools…the one in Berkeley, I think they have a really nice chart. It’s a big chart. And someone said a study that I think depending on the intensity of how hard you work out, how healthy you are, how hard you push, it’s somewhere between maybe 300-600 calories, but they’re talking about the water loss and the body temperature. And they show a graph of the poses and the heartbeat going up and the heartbeat coming down and the body temperature going up a little bit. It’s a surprise that the body temperature really doesn’t go up very much, maybe a degree, degree and a half. But then you have the little pause in between poses. My partner, we have three little kids now, one’s one, and one’s four, and one’s five and a half now. We have three children now too, the old guy that I am and stuff.
And my partner, she also teaches the yoga, too, and she’s done the yoga till the day before her babies. They were all home births, too, and stuff like that. Most doctors, “Oh, you better watch out for the heat and stuff like that.” We never had any problem. There is a pregnancy series, too, which is slight modification, so really you don’t push as hard as the normal people do and stuff like that. And the whole thing about going a little slower and taking your time and breathing, because everyone goes at their own pace and you’re supposed to monitor yourself and not push too hard, even for the different conditions, different age groups and stuff like that. And they encourage you to stop and take a little break. So that’s how you pace yourself.
Clint: I’m just going to throw some yes/no questions at you that you can answer a little bit in more of a longer form if you want. And I haven’t written these down, but I’m just gonna try and play devil’s advocate for people who have got maybe some objections or last concerns. What if someone’s in a really, really bad way and they’ve never done yoga, they’re scared, they might be either elderly or frail or in so much pain they need someone to drive them to the class. Should they come?
John: Sure, yeah. We have a gentleman in the class, he’s 79 years old and he just started doing the yoga. He’s going a little slower. At our school, we give people a chair to hold onto, too, to help him balance and stuff like that. And we’ve always done that. I think we’re the only school probably in the world that does it, but we let people use a chair to hold onto to balance and stuff like that. And so John, he’s 79, he’s been now coming for almost four months and he’s a miracle, too, the guy, just for being stiff and tight and in flexible, and the cardiovascular part, and just getting used to the sweat and everything like that.
It’s like what Bikram said, the people that need the yoga the most are the hardest ones to get to come and do it. I asked him one time, down in Beverly Hills one time when I was taking a training class, 20 years [inaudible 00:22:42], and we were doing class there. There was only about 12 people in class. And so I raised my hand and I said, “You tell me how good the yoga is,” I said, “but where is everybody? If it’s so good for you, where is everybody?” And he said, “John, the people that need the yoga the most, they’re the hardest ones to…”
It’s like with Ellen. I tell my class I don’t know what turned her on. I don’t know what got her going. Because some people you talk to and you explain things to them and you show them and they come one time and you never see them again. And then Ellen, for some reason, she just comes and comes and comes and again and tomorrow and next week and so I said, “I don’t really know what it is that you can say or do.” It has to be in the person almost.
Ellen: Total desire to get well. It accelerated my healing so much that I wasn’t gonna stop, no way. It’s too good of a thing for me to be doing.
Clint: Yeah. John…
Ellen: I’d be totally a big dope if I didn’t do it. I just keep going. I’m going to keep going, keep going until I’m an old lady.
Clint: We also put a lot of social pressure on Ellen. She’s become the Bikram champion at the moment within our community forum, coaching [inaudible 00:24:11]. And so right now there’s that social expectation that’s placed on her that she’s got to keep doing it because she’s got to keep inspiring and leading from that point of view. I feel that’s powerful, too, because it’s good to feel that positive pressure and expectation placed on you on an area of your life that really supports you, because then everything’s aligned, isn’t it? We’re expecting her to do it. She’s getting results from it, as she said she’d feel like a big goose if she stopped going. Everything is supporting more, more yoga. And the more yoga is supporting a better life and a better health, so everything’s lined up real nice.
Ellen: And my doctors are okay with it. My mother and sister, they were so worried. “Are you gonna collapse because of the heat?” But both my rheumatologist and Dr. Klaper are fine with it. So I got their support.
Ellen: And my husband’s support. It’s a wonderful thing. Grandkids love it. “Oh, you’re going to yoga?”
Clint: Yeah. It’s cool, huh?
Ellen: Going. I said, “I gotta keep strong so I can come back and see you guys.”
Clint: Now what about if someone doesn’t have a studio nearby? This is a common question. People are quick to point out, “Hey, I don’t have one near me, so what should I do?” There’s a few options, isn’t there? They could either drive a long way to go to class, which becomes impractical and unsustainable. What are your thoughts on it? Should they attend a local studio that isn’t a Bikram style or do you recommend they download the iTunes recording of Bikram running through his sequence and setting up a hot room or…what are your thoughts on their options? What would you do?
John: I know one guy. I think he comes down from Washington, somewhere up there, Orcas Island or someplace and stuff like that. And I think his wife goes and takes the ferry in town and does some other kind of yoga but he likes the Bikram, and so I think he found one of his neighbors had a walking cooler on the property and so he bought the walking cooler and put a mirror in there and got a couple little heaters. It’s extreme and stuff, but he comes in for the yoga, for the conference once a year and stuff, and they’ll stop at our school and they’ll go record my class and stuff because he just has the Bikram CD downloaded or whatever it is.
Yeah, but it’s nice to have a school and a class and a teacher close by. And I did yoga in Chicago a long time, when the first girl started teaching yoga in Chicago. And she just had a little room, we used to come into her living room and she had a couple of space heaters. And there’s the sliding glass door from her closet and stuff like that. And so it is impractical, and with the cost of gasoline now and driving around, you can’t do it.
But really, the Bikram Yoga, that’s really the sequence of poses. It really is. It’s the best sequence of poses. It’s like Bikram said, “If it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.” And it really was thought out scientifically and medically and anatomically to be therapy. And it’s the real yoga as far as the characteristics of what real yoga is and stuff like that, the timing, the breathing, the timing, the breathing, the Savasana between the poses and stuff, and he said, “This is the best sequence of poses for the body and for the mind.” It is, it is. It’s why I’ve been doing it for 22 years myself now.
Clint: What I often do is, even when I go to the gym, I’ll do the standing series by myself just in the mirror without the heat, without anyone…I know it so well now from having done hundreds of classes, and I enjoy it. And it’s easy to move through on my own. I think that the stage that I’m at now is quite different than the stage a lot of people are at who are listening to this, which have the inflammation and aren’t familiar with the postures. It’s really important, if you have a class nearby, a studio nearby, to go to the studio. There’s no doubt about it.
I’ve even told people, and will continue to tell people, that if they got no other option and they’re in so much pain and the dietary work isn’t getting them to where they need to be for whatever reasons, and they’re just immobile, they’re incapable of doing any other form of exercise, then it’s financially feasible just go somewhere where you can stay fairly cost-affordably near a Bikram studio for one month, and follow the way of eating that I recommend and go to that class every day.
And after a month, when you return home again, you will be able to be at a higher level of flexibility and maybe even be able to do some other form of exercise then that just gets you out of the rut. Just go and put yourself near a Bikram class and treat that as your little one-month rehabilitation session. Just get it done, because if you follow the way of eating and do the Bikram every single day, it’s almost impossible not to get better. You have to improve. You cannot not improve.
John: Yeah, I had a girl in class one time in Walnut Creek about 12 years ago and we were doing fixed firm pose and I looked over and the girl wasn’t doing the fixed firm pose. And so I said, “Well, how come you’re not doing the fixed firm pose?” And she goes, “Oh, my doctor told me not to do that pose.” I said, “How?” She goes, “I had knee surgery.” And I pulled up my pants, “I got knee surgery, too.” I showed her my big scar and stuff. And she said, “Well, my doctor told me not to do that pose.” And I told her, I said, “My doctor told me he would like me to regain…” The surgery is good, you’re young, you’re healthy, you’re gonna heal it. He goes, “Part of the proper healing is to regain your range of motion.” And so he goes, “I would like you to be able to do that pose some day.”
And so she goes to me, she goes, “My doctor did knees for the 49ers.” And I said, “Well, my doctor did knees for the Chicago Bears.” I said, “Some doctors are just more aggressive than other doctors, the therapy, what they’re trying to do, their belief in their art, their skill.” I said, “So your doctor told you not to do it and you can’t do it,” and I said, “My doctor told me someday I would like you to be able to do it and I can do it.” I said, “Now, which doctor do you want? I never saw her again.”
Clint: Yeah, sure.
John: But like I said, it was 20 years after surgery I couldn’t do fixed firm pose, though. But it was five years after yoga I could do it now. And so I told her. I said, “I couldn’t do it either. My knee was all messed up still, too, 20 years after surgery, because I didn’t do enough therapy, enough of the proper therapy to regain the strength, regain the motion to really work to break open the scar tissue, all the adhesions, all the fascia, all the stuff. I didn’t do it.” And that’s what happens with most people with back surgery or arthritis or whatever. Bikram said you have to do it every day almost or four times every other day. You have to do it for a while. And some people have to do the therapy the rest of your life for the different injuries and the different conditions and stuff.
Clint: Yeah. Well, I know my knee, I still cannot sit between my heels in fixed firm pose, however my knee feels amazing. So you don’t have to be able to do the posture in its full expression, do you? You just have to attempt it in its correct manner and you get the full benefit.
John: Right. Yeah, right.
Clint: Yeah. To kind of wrap this up, people, you just got to go to class. You’ve just got to make it happen and find a class. If all else fails, go to Bikram. That is the answer.
John: Even though you’re in Australia, are you?
Clint: Yeah, I’m in Australia. We started this call at 11:00 a.m., so it’s now about 11:30 in the morning.
John: And what school do you go to down there in Australia?
Clint: There’s a couple. There’s one in Bondi Junction, run by Scott and Narelle. That’s the one that I did my first 500 classes.
Clint: And then I’ve done another couple of hundred in Lane Cove that’s owned by a guy called James.
Clint: Yeah. I don’t know if you know the guys…
Clint: Yeah, so…
John: There’s so many now, like I said. I was in the third trained because I was one of the first 90 teachers and I think he’s trained almost 1,100 now or 11,000 now or something like that.
Clint: Yeah. He doesn’t do the training now, does he? Because he has people to do the training for him, I believe.
John: Yeah, he has people run a lot of the program for him.
Clint: One of the guys in our forum, he’s making so much progress through Bikram Yoga, he’s already talking about becoming a teacher maybe down the tracks. We’ll see. Sometimes it just really starts to resonate with people, doesn’t it? And they just think, “This is me, this is definitely what I want to be doing.”
John: I had a girl years ago in a room named Mary Osborne. She was born with crippling arthritis and stuff like that. And when she first came to class, her fingers were like this. And her big toe was under her other toe and her other toes. And she never interlaced her fingers in her life, never grabbed her foot. And I didn’t realize that when she first walked in the room, I didn’t see, but she was breathing like this, doing the breathing like this. I said, “Oh, you’re supposed to interlace your fingers.” And she said, “Well, I can’t. My hands are like this. They’re like this.”
And so she was a student for maybe a couple years in Orinda. And so one day, I said to her, because I was a new teacher back then, I said, “Mary, you need to go see Bikram and go see him.” And she goes, “What do you mean, go see him?” I said, “Go see him and take the training to become a teacher and stuff like that.” And she said to me, “Who will come to my class if I become a teacher?” I said, “Mary, they’ll all come to your class because you kept going. You hung in there for…”
And so I had her make a strap, because she couldn’t hold her foot and stuff like in bow pulling pose or whatever, the double bow on the floor. And so the next day, because I only taught there once a week, and the next day I came, she had a strap that went around the wrist and was about a foot long. And she could catch her foot then, catch her toe. And I had to balance her because she never balanced on one leg ever in her life. She was about 24, 25 years old back then. But she came for a couple years as a student and she became a teacher. But it just made great progress with her, but she was on a lot of medication all of her life, though, lots of Prednisone and stuff like that, and yeah.
Clint: Yeah, that’s a very interesting story.
Ellen: Can I make a request?
Ellen: I was wondering, John, can you talk about fascia, is that how you said it, fascia related to how I’m doing? Does that make sense?
John: Connective tissue?
Ellen: Because there’s people on our forum that are interested in this.
John: Oh, the fascia part?
Ellen: Fascia part.
John: I guess fascia’s connective tissue and it’s invisible and it goes through your muscles and it goes through your blood vessels, goes through your joints, and goes through your organs and glands and stuff. It’s like a cobweb in your body and stuff like that. So it kind of breaks it loose, it kind of softens it, it kind of warms it up and that’s, again, why we had the heat and stuff is to help…Bikram said, he goes, “You’ll open the body more one time in the hot room than six months in cold yoga.” And I’ve tried a couple of cold yoga classes before and they’re not very much fun because of how stiff and tight, the average person, how much pain there is trying to do the yoga poses in a cold room or room temperature or even up to 85 degrees and stuff. Because the Bikram yoga is like about 100 or 105 degrees on the floor. So is that kind of what you wanted me to talk about?
Ellen: Well, how does it fit into what I’m doing? How are all the poses helping my fascia get better?
John: Well, it’s soft. It softens the body, the blood vessels. It creates what I think would be called a tourniquet effect, the blood flow, the wringing-out effect. You go into a pose and you squeeze the muscle, you create the tourniquet in the joint and stuff, you cut the blood flow off and then you come back out the pose and release it, let the blood flow go in. It’s like a high tide, low tide, that effect. And so he says that’s one of the healing mechanisms of a yoga is the flushing effect on the muscles, the joint, the lymphatic system, the bringing the fluid. It’s like you’re wringing out a towel and you let it get soft, let it absorb some more water, and you squeeze it again even deeper the second time. That’s why you do the poses twice.
The first pose is always the warm-up. And then you’re trying to go a little bit deeper the second pose, if you can a little bit deeper the second time and stuff. But a lot of times, I think it’s more the fascia that blocks the range of motion than the muscles or the ligament or the tendons and stuff like that. It’s the fascia, it’s the connective tissue that’s really hardened or crystallized or lost its range of motion. And you try to break up that and soften it and reconfigure that with a muscle movement.
Clint: Yeah, I can relate to that. That connective, soft tissue around the joint also gets inflamed a lot as a friendly fire of the inflammation in the joint when you’ve got rheumatoid arthritis. And so that area can become weakened and become brittle. And so what you’ve just described with the tourniquet I’ve found very effective.
I don’t think it’s like the quad muscle or the glut muscle that’s really the problem with its flexibility or its integrity for the body. It’s the connective tissue around the joint, the little connective stuff that really needs all of the…
John: Even myself when I first started 22 years ago, I used to run and ride a bike and go to the gym. I couldn’t do these poses. I couldn’t really believe how much range of motion I lost from 18 years old to 38 years old. I couldn’t believe how stiff and tight my body had gotten. I couldn’t believe how much pain and scare and emotion and fear were in my mind about my own body. And for some reason, the mirror told me, said, “John, you might never become good at this yoga, but in the pursuit of trying to do the yoga, you’ll become stronger and healthier than ever.” That’s what my little spirit told me or something, whatever you want to call it. And Bikram said one time, he goes, “John, you’ll never become the strongest yogi or the most flexible yogi, but the most important thing over the lifetime of your yoga is that you get a little better. And that’s what happened.
Clint: That’s it. That’s some really nice words there. And all of us, if we just get a little bit better all the time, one-sixteenth of an inch as you’ve said, John, or whether it be 1% each time you go, which is what I’ve said in the past, all of these tiny little fractions all add up to a big number. And so if we can keep doing it, we will get results. We don’t have to worry about perfect. As they always say, it’s yoga practice, not perfect. We’re always just students. We’re always just practicing. And the end goal is simply just to keep going and keep trying to improve ourselves. That is the end goal, not to achieve anything at the end. It’s just to keep going and keep improving ourselves.
John: Well, it surprised me from teaching yoga for a long time that the healthy comes in different shapes, colors, and sizes and age categories. And there really isn’t one for health. There’s different-aged people, and Ellen right here, for what she’s doing, really compared to younger people and tougher-looking people, it’s unbelievable what she’s doing. And so it does come in different shapes and colors and sizes and age categories. And she’s moving forward again. She’s moving forward.
Ellen: I didn’t think I’d ever get flexible again, never I dreamed that I think I’d get this flexible again. It is a miracle for me.
John: When she first went back in camel point, I said if you ever go back in camel, it’ll be a miracle. It’ll be a miracle, really. And I told her I wanted a little money in an envelope, too. I wanted a little pay back there, too.
Ellen: Yeah, I could just go back there, no sweat.
John: Yeah, right.
Ellen: I’m like back there immediately.
John: It is a miracle.
Clint: It is, it is.
John: Like Bikram says, it’s a miracle of hard work, it’s a miracle of perseverance, it’s a miracle of not giving up. It’s what he said. That’s what he said. Every good student I have in our school, I told my class this morning I’m going through 100 people to find a good one. For the person that wants to work hard, that wants to get better, that wants to spend the time and the money and the effort and has the belief, you go through 100 people. And I still have the names, too. [inaudible 00:42:23] I threw them all in the garbage because all those people, it’s not worth knowing who they are anymore because they’re not coming. They’re not doing it. And so it’s not worth trying to remember who they are. But for every good student you have, you go through 100 people to find one person that wants to get better.
Clint: Yep, it’s true.
John: That’s the group you want to be in. I tell the class, I’m like, “That’s group you want…you want to be in that 1%.” That’s the group. You don’t want to be in the other 99%.
Clint: We can relate to that entirely with what I do, we’re helping people with…it takes a certain small percentage of the general public who want to actually take upon themselves to try and improve their life from all aspects and to adopt a healthier way of eating that isn’t straightforward, it isn’t easy, but it gets results.
John: We had a young girl that started, too, about the same time as Ellen, a young Indian girl and she had the arthritis and stuff. But she didn’t have the diet thing down. She had a terrible diet thing. That’s what she was saying. And she joined it for the 3 months, paid the money and stuff, and I saw her maybe 10 times and all of a sudden she just stopped coming. But you would never know she had all the difficulty, all the problem and stuff like that. But she admitted it to us one time. She goes, “I eat too much chocolate and I don’t have a good diet at all.”
Ellen: Yeah, I tried to help her, but I don’t think she was ready.
John: Yeah, wasn’t ready.
Ellen: Maybe she’ll be back.
Clint: I always say that those people just aren’t in enough pain yet. They just haven’t hit rock bottom because when they hit rock bottom most people will do whatever it takes. To take it to an absolute extreme level, if someone’s on the verge of death, like at the last moment of their life that they have a choice to avoid death, they’ll take that choice. And if you go through enough pain from rheumatoid arthritis and your drugs are so bad it gets to the point where what life meant anymore to me, then you’ll make some good decisions about your health and you’ll go to Bikram yoga and follow the Paddison Program and then you’ll be on the podcast as a guest talking about how good you are.
Look, I’ve really enjoyed this. It was really fun having this chat with both of you. I appreciate it you coming on here. You’re doing some great work, my friend. And it’s been a real privilege to meet you because Ellen’s said such nice things about your studio and yourself. So look, please keep doing what you’re doing and look after our Ellen because she’s one of those…
John: I was just real fortunate when I came…I was working out in Arizona this winter about 22 years ago and I was gonna come visit a friend over here in California. And I’d never done yoga before. And so I thought, well, maybe when I come out to California, I’ll try and find a yoga place and try to see what yoga’s all about and stuff. And I read the Yoga Journal a couple of times and it’s kind of confusing. So I came out here. We were down here [inaudible 00:45:34] having lunch one day and we walked out of the restaurant. And right next door was the yoga school, YogaSource in Palo Alto. And it was Bikram yoga, beginners welcome any time. They had a little sign of “hot yoga.” I like the heat and I like to sweat and stuff like that. And beginners welcome any time, and I came and I did it and stuff.
I knew from the very first time that that was good. And back then, 22 years, all the yoga was free. And I went to the girl’s office and I put the $12 in her little brass bowl in her little office. And she said, “You know, Johnny, your first class is free.” And I told her, I said, “You know what? That was good. That was worth paying money for.” I said, “I’m sure you gave away a lot of free yoga in your time, but I’m gonna pay for it because I learned something today. I did. I told her. I said, “I’ll be back. I’ll get my money’s worth out of you. But I’m gonna pay you because I think you taught me a lesson today and stuff like that.” And that was it. One time I learned.
Clint: That was it. There’s another…have you met or heard of a lady called Rowena Jane from Australia, another Bikram champion?
Clint: Okay. She actually had a similar kind of experience where she saw an advertisement on a wall. It said “Bikram Yoga.” She had again rheumatoid arthritis. She’s walked in there, got her things together and gone back there and started the class and said, “That’s it. This is what I need to be doing. This is instant connection with what I need for my body.” And never looked back. Yoga has been her life ever since. And same sort of story, exactly the same as yourself.
John: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of what Bikram says about the yoga having a strong connection with the cosmic consciousness, to see and do the right thing. He says if you do yoga, he goes, “You’ll change, you’ll improve, and you’ll see and you’ll hear in your mind, you’ll reconnect with your proper alignment.”
Clint: Beautiful. Well, let’s leave on those words. And I want to just also say thanks to Ellen for coming back on this one. You didn’t get as much air time on this one, Ellen. John and I did most of the talking.
Ellen: I’m not worthy to John.
Clint: We got to enjoy a lot of your story and words in the last episode. So thanks to both of you and keep up the good work.
John: You, too, yeah. Because you’re the one who inspired her, right?
Ellen: Yeah, he got me going.
Clint: As I said in the last episode, you can lead the horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink. She’s the one that took action.
John: She did, too, yeah. She did, yeah. Thank you very much, though, for your part.
Clint: Thank you. All right, guys.
Ellen: I’ll see you.
Clint: See you.
John’s yoga studio can be found in California at http://www.yogastoponthe101.com