I started practicing at Juice Box Yoga in 2006; I was 12-years-old.
I hardly remember my first class; I remember it was something I could do with my mom.
Going to yoga felt like a chore to me; it was like doing homework.
My relationship with yoga has changed as I’ve matured.
I stopped practicing [when] I was 16 or 17.
I stopped practicing because my mom died.
I just couldn’t keep up with it.
I was still in high school.
I was just trying to survive.
I was trying to get through my days and graduate high school and go to college.
I went to college on Long Island at this little college called Adelphi University. I went for theatre; they gave me a scholarship.
It was right on the train to New York City. I would go to New York City every weekend. I had so much fun, but it wasn’t my home.
It had been less than a year since my mom died.
My community was in Reno, my friends were in Reno, everything that I felt really connected to was in Reno.
I finally moved back to Reno [in 2013] because college just wasn’t working out for me.
There was nothing in school that particularly interested me.
I started [taking classes again at UNR] in 2013.
I would take a class and then I would take a semester off and then I would take two classes and then take a semester off. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I liked the subject matters because I liked learning, but I just I didn’t care to do the homework. It all felt very pointless to me.
I was like yeah, knowledge is cool, but jumping through hoops to please these professors just seems so… like… why am I doing this?
I didn’t have an end goal.
I think if you have an end goal, [if] you know what you want to do, it’s easier to jump through those hoops.
I didn’t have that.
I just felt like I’m going to finish college when I’m 60.
It felt impossible.
People who go to school and are taking 15 credits and are there every single semester and are doing all their homework and are getting good grades… that’s amazing.
Those people are super heroes.
My Mom’s Legacy
I had a lot of things I was passionate about that I wanted to do, but school was always just this big thing in the way. A lot of the things I wanted to do were very academic so you had to have a bachelor’s degree.
I’m really passionate about sex ed; I would love to be a sex educator.
I love animals; I would love to do almost any job where I get to work with animals.
Ever since I was a kid, I thought I was going to go off and live in the wilderness and be a wildlife biologist.
If I ever decide to go back to school it’s going to be for biology.
[The Bikram Method Teacher Training] was such a spur of the moment decision for me.
It was a way to keep my mom’s legacy alive.
It was inevitable.
It really changed my entire relationship with yoga.
It no longer was this juvenile thing where I was like, ugh, it’s homework, I’ve just got to suck it up and do it.
It was more like I [wanted] to be there.
I’m really passionate about [yoga]; it changes people’s lives.
It was so interesting to me when I was younger because I wasn’t necessarily enjoying being there every day, but I still believed in it. My friends would have aches and pains and I was like, ‘You should do yoga,’ but I was hardly doing yoga because I didn’t want to do it.
I’ve always had this [mentality that yoga] is something I truly believe in, something I know works.
Suddenly, it just sort of clicked: this is important. What I’m doing is important.
This Teacher Training allowed me to be connected to my mom.
It’s for me, but it’s also for her.
[My mom] was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2008.
I think the yoga gave her hope.
I think the thing that kept her going, the thing that helped her the most, was she had [a] community at Juice Box Yoga.
It was something consistent she did, something she loved.
It kept her going mentally.
It was just me and my mom.
She was a single mom; she raised me.
We were very close.
I would say my mom was more of a friend than a mom.
Have you ever seen Gilmore Girls? My mom and I both love Gilmore Girls; we liked it because we saw ourselves.
She was not close in age to me like Lorelai and Rory are, but we had that kind of friendship.
It didn’t even really feel like she was my mom; she was my best friend more than anything.
My dad does live in Reno, but he and I are not that close.
I don’t feel like it’s a father child relationship; I feel like [he’s] more like someone I have breakfast with once a month.
Ever since I was maybe 5 or 6 we would go see plays at the Pioneer Center.
My mom would get season passes and we would go see all the plays.
I was raised around theatre; my mom had an appreciation for theatre.
I remember the first [play I saw].
It’s such an odd choice, but you know the play Rent?
It’s kind of edgy; it’s not super child appropriate.
It centers around the AIDS epidemic. It’s about all these people who are dying from AIDS, but there’s a line in the play that says they’re living with, not dying from, the disease.
To you, and you, and you, you, and you! To people living with, living with, living with- not dying from disease!
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer that’s the mentality we had.
She’s living with the disease.
She’s still doing yoga.
She’s not dying from it.
She’s living with it.
I think the biggest thing [I dealt with after my mom died] was depression and suicidal thoughts.
Mostly just depression and feeling like I just didn’t have a purpose or that I mattered at all, that my life… that I was doing anything important or that anyone needed me or cared about me.
Just feeling worthless.
Self-esteem is your own sense of self-worth. Am I worthy of this? Do I deserve this?
Self-confidence is how you are outwardly to people. I could be a very confident person and be very sure of myself on the outside, to other people, but inside I don’t really think that I’m worthy of those things.
Looking back, [when I was 12] I had no self-confidence.
I didn’t know how to talk to people; I was so quiet.
I was selectively mute.
My mom did all the talking and I’d hide behind her.
I had no confidence.
People [would] talk to me and if people [asked] me anything beyond the basics [I was] like, oh no, I don’t know how to handle this.
I just don’t have those social tools.
I’d just smile and nod until the interaction [was] over.
I’m a lot happier now.
I was not a very happy kid.
I didn’t understand how human relationships worked; I didn’t really have a lot of friends.
I’m on the autism spectrum; that makes it hard to connect with people.
I had my mom. [She] was the one constant thing.
When I was a kid, my mom was a part of the [Juice Box] community, but I wasn’t; I was just there because she was there.
Now it’s not just my mom’s thing, it’s also my thing.
Everyone is super supportive and super accepting.
When I first started getting back into yoga, especially after my surgery, I was really nervous that people would say things.
A lot of people I’ve been practicing with have known me since I was 12, so it was like, what’s going to happen? What are they going to say?
I clearly look different.
People see me and I’m not necessarily like everyone else, but I don’t feel any discrimination.
Everyone is just so nice; I never leave in a bad mood.
Everyone is happy to be there.
I get to work with people who aren’t doing something against their will; they’re doing something they want to do.
It would have been so easy to just bully me or not be very nice to me.
I found a lot of really good people who believed in me and wanted me to succeed.
Finding the right people, who [were] just there to support me, is what changed everything.
I had my little group of friends. We were all trans and queer.
That was [the] community I was from.
I was a queer person and that was my identity.
If you venture outside that community you get a lot of issues with people not getting your pronouns right, people misgendering you and people just not getting it.
So, I was like, you know what, this is MY community. I’m going to stay here.
When I started my Teacher Training at Juice Box I had this mentality, it was like, okay, I’m going to have to deal with this. I’m going to have to deal with the real world… with people who are not queer… most of them are straight.
I’m going to have to explain things to a lot of people and justify why I am the way I am.
I was not looking forward to it, but I really cared about the yoga, so I made that sacrifice.
I ventured out of my little queer circle, which I didn’t think I would ever do.
I remember, I met up with Tanya the week before [the] Teacher Training started.
I was like, okay, well, I’m going to ask to see if the gender thing is going to be an issue.
I [had] already had my surgery at that point.
It was going to be very obvious.
I asked her, ‘Would it be possible for you to use different pronouns? My pronouns are they/ them, but I will accept he/ him if you absolutely can’t do that.’
Tanya was like, ‘Yeah, totally!’
I was so shocked.
Tanya and Brandon advocated for me in a way that I was not expecting. [That’s] really what has given me the self-confidence to be myself at Juice Box.
I thought people [were] going to just assume that I’m a woman. I’m just going to have to live in this space where I’m not comfortable because I’m not being treated like the gender I feel I am.
That was my mentality back then: I didn’t feel like I belonged because I didn’t belong in spaces that were not queer spaces.
I had a very cynical view of the world.
I didn’t think that people were ready for a trans person.
People who are non-binary usually don’t have this kind of luck.
If I worked somewhere else I don’t think I would have had this kind of luck; I think Juice Box is special.
At a different yoga studio, I don’t think I would have gotten the same respect.
I am so unbelievably grateful.
It makes me so emotional.
I never thought I would find this outside of the queer community.
I was coming [to yoga] before I had my surgery and that was really hard to do because I felt like my body was just wrong.
It’s really hard to stare at yourself in the mirror for 90 minutes when you have gender dysphoria.
I’ve always felt this way; I just didn’t have words for it when I was a kid.
The only choice they give you is boy or girl and I didn’t feel like I could say I was a boy because I was taught that boys have this type of body and I didn’t have that.
I [was] like, I guess I’m a girl… because what else is there.
When I was 19 or 20, I was on the internet and I started reading about gender and reading about trans things and I realized that there are trans people who are not binary, they’re non-binary.
The idea [that] there’s only 2 genders just seems unrealistic to me.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s as many genders as there are people.
I’m not a binary trans person.
Gender binary is the idea that there is man and woman and they’re opposites of each other.
That’s not what I am; I am trans, but I am non-binary.
I don’t identify as either a man or a woman; I’m neither of those things.
I’m a demiboy; I lean to the masculine side.
Demiboy is my label.
Gender queer is a more general label I use.
I have a sense that my mom is the one who orchestrates everything in my life.
That might sound weird to say, but… the house that I bought…
I love my house so much.
I found the most perfect house and it was on her birthday.
I felt like, this is my mom’s gift to me; she’s giving me a house.
It was everything I was looking for.
Then, Tanya offered [the Bikram Method Teacher Training] and I was like, this is the next thing.
My mom is making sure… my mom made sure that I have a place to live and [now] my mom’s making sure that I have a job.
Not just any job, a good job.
A job where people will respect me.
I wish my mom could know who I [am] now.
It’s really disappointing to me that I don’t get to have that relationship with her.
My mom didn’t know I was trans. She also didn’t know I was gay.
She didn’t [know] because I didn’t know those things [when she was alive]. It wasn’t like I was keeping it from her; I don’t think I would have kept it from her.
I’m sure she knows.
I’m sure she accepts me.
I know she does.
I was just a server.
Just a regular dude.
[A] former boxer that just wanted to get a good workout in.
I’d been working at a restaurant in a casino for so long; I didn’t even know the rest of the world actually existed.
I was definitely close minded.
[I] didn’t understand yoga.
[I was] kind of naive to it.
I was fit.
My core had never been so strong… My six pack…
I worked out! That was my shit! I worked out just to have a six pack.
I did millions and millions of sit ups and crunchies and medicine balls to the stomach.
So, to come into that workout for 45 minutes and [for] my core to just be done after the first set of freaking tabata, I was like what is this!
To walk out of there and be like damn, that made me feel out of shape, it was crazy.
I could go to the gym and lift and come in and do Tanya’s class at 10 on Sundays and feel like, holy shit; that is the ultimate workout.
That kept me coming back.
Everything Happens For A Reason
My ex-wife and I have been divorced for about 14 years, since [our daughter] Haley was 3. I had some relationships in between there, but I’m single, been single for 4-5 years now, just trying to find me I guess… Trying to figure me out.
When I lost my job a couple years ago it really rocked my world.
I didn’t even come to the studio for 2 or 3 months for whatever reason, I guess because I couldn’t afford it.
Tanya [lent] her hand out and she kept me in there.
To tell you the truth, it saved my life. I was pretty much going to go crazy.
Listening to those words and knowing that they had a meaning to what I was going through really meant a lot.
“You did the best that you could, with the best that you’ve got and your best is always good enough. No matter who you are, no matter where you come from and no matter what you do, it’s enough. It’s always enough.”
[There’s] so much energy [in that room] it just refueled me to learn that everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t understand it at the beginning and maybe even if we don’t understand it at the end.
There’s always a reason.
I was blown away when that moment came.
Last September when I became an instructor, I was just like, holy crap, damn. This is why I was fired from my job. Okay, I’ll take it.
For [Tanya] to need somebody to step in and for me to be that person… Then for it to just take off like that… I owe her the world.
That’s why I’m in it now; I’m in it to win it for her.
I [had] worked there [for] 19 years when I was let go.
I was physically abused [at] my job.
During a shift, I was injured and I lost my job because of certain [company policies] that came with that injury.
Because I was injured as he put his hands on me, company policy [said] that I must be drug tested. I failed the drug test so I was let go.
It was amazing to me to think that people can put their hands on you in the work place and get away with it.
It’s all because it comes down to finances.
I have an ex-wife and kids; I’ve got to pay bills.
I was so used to living my life a certain way for T-W-E-N-T-Y years.
When your world is turned upside down you’re just like, what the hell.
December 2016, I cancelled my membership.
They didn’t see me for 2 months.
I started working at Feast and a friend of mine had been going to the Sierra Rose [studio] and I told her, ‘Oh, well next time you go in there tell Tanya I say what’s up.’
Kristina told her my story.
She was all like, ‘Yeah, yeah he had a little f*** up at work and so he…’ and Tanya was like, ‘Well tell his ass to get back in here because we need him in here because where the hell has he been!’
Man, I mean, I felt embarrassed, but definitely grateful… Thankful.
I never would of expected that from her.
Sugar Coat It
I left it on the mat.
Each drop of sweat [meant] something.
It was ugly.
I cried many times, you know, just why? How did I let him get away with that?
I’m not going to sugar coat it; the feelings are still there, they’re not going to go away.
I’m never going to forget that moment in my life.
Yoga is what kept me grounded.
Bikram and Pilates were the only things that would calm me down [and] make me feel like I [had] to make peace with it or I [was] going to go crazy.
It was that room.
It was that room that would just make it go away.
When a former coworker from the Silver Legacy walked into class…
Carlos looked the past dead in the eye.
He confronted the tears.
Oh my god, my mind just went crazy.
I was like, oh my god, not only did I get fired from there, but I come [to Juice Box Yoga] for peace and then I’m reminded of it… it’s not his fault or anything, I don’t even know if he knew what had happened, but just the fact that something would remind me of that…
That day when [he] came in, I totally just cried in that corner [of the room].
What. The. Heck. Man.
It was a tough road.
It really took Tanya’s love and strength… I don’t know… I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but that’s who she is.
Fat Little Six-Year-Old
I’ve always wanted my life to go [in this direction I] just wasn’t sure how and when.
Since I was a young teenager, since I was like 18 [and] boxing for the Boys and Girls Club, I’d always have little kids I would help [teach] from the beginning, you know, boom, boom.
One of [those little kids] is one of the best fighters in Reno right now, he fights for the Mighty Mites.
I’ve known him since he was 6-years-old. He’s 20 now, he’s a grown man and he is a great fighter.
I’ll never forget [when] my manager said, ‘You see that fat little six-year-old kid over there, he’s going to make it.’
14 years later he’s one of the best fighters in Reno.
I never [had] time to be a fitness instructor.
Working in the food industry, it would just take my time.
I didn’t want to do it during the day because that would mean going to work for the gym.
Every time I would go to the gym, I’d see a personal trainer, one on one, [and they] definitely never looked like they were the happiest people in the world.
I knew a personal trainer like that wasn’t me.
I didn’t know what my calling was.
I knew I wanted to teach boxing but the restaurant industry was there. It’s a casino, I made consistent money, I’d worked there forever, I had regulars.
My money was always the same.
I don’t like change. I hate change.
It’s taught me how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The Six Pack
I’m in a perfect spot right now when it comes to my employment.
Helping other people get healthier is a big goal of mine.
I tell my kids, ‘You don’t want to wait too long to start exercising because then it’s too late.’
I use Juice Box as a way to get people to start coming in so then they keep coming back and they find their happiness within being healthy.
I’m a teacher; I love to teach.
We can all learn something new, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can always learn something new.
I can teach you something new.
My thing [is] to teach you to want it more than the next person. That’s going to make him want it more so you’re going to have to keep pushing more and more. That’s what it’s about.
It’s pushing ‘til your six pack gets like [this].
I keep telling them, ‘Suck it in a little bit more.’
‘You guys got it.’
When Tanya hired me, I looked at every single student as one of my fighters.
I treat them the same way.
They’ve already been training with me for 5 months.
They all feel their strength; they all see the difference in their body.
The challenge is to challenge them to challenge a little bit harder.
That’s what fighters do.
I am this happy, high spirited, super motivated person that is not going to be held back because I don’t want none of them to be held back.
I’m super motivated to motivate everybody.
I’m super happy to motivate everybody.
I definitely take it back to when I was 12-years-old and I started boxing. Those 12 years of fighting, if it wasn’t for those 12 years of discipline, it would be different.
I wouldn’t be the same person that I am right now.
5 days a week Carlos wakes up at 3:45 a.m.
3:45… 10-15 students, 10-15 students that have told me, ‘I wish we had more 5 a.m. classes.’
That was all the motivation I needed.
10-15 people, 5-15 people, that are like, ‘Hey man, if you can be here, we’ll be here.’
They have not disappointed.
That’s my motivation to get up every day.
I didn’t believe in myself in a lot of things because I never really challenged myself outside of the restaurant business, outside of boxing.
When the opportunity came it was super nerve racking.
I’m a shy person, I hate being in the spotlight, I do not like being in front of people, I dislike talking in front of people and that was all of it.
I was really nervous but I did believe at that moment when I taught you guys in that private class, that I could do this, that I could motivate people to be better people.
One of the best things that ever happened to me… I get to teach.
Tanya has done a great job of developing me.
She came [to] me and was like, ‘Uh… maybe just a little too much upper body still for the ladies…’ and it was funny because as soon as she said that, this older lady comes out of the room to get a kettle bell and she’s just got these guns and Tanya looks at her, gives her the kettle bell, turns around, and says, ‘X that. I want arms like that!’
She’s done a great job of keeping me centered, keeping me level, keeping me grounded and not letting me get too crazy, [enabling me] to get the best out of all of [the students].
That’s what it’s about.
I was always up beat.
Self-esteem always high; self-confidence always high.
Out of a job; out of confidence.
It took me down in the dumps man. Especially during Christmas.
There was no confidence or self-esteem going on there.
It’s probably at it’s highest ever.
[I’m] super confident, super excited about whatever is next.
I try to tell my kids, my nephews, my son, my daughter, ‘Walk with your chest up man, be proud of who you are. Besides the fact that it’s good posture it gives you self-confidence.’
Knowing that once you walk in there it’s not going to be a letdown when you walk out; [knowing] you’re not going to be like, f*** that sucked.
Know your body.
The thing that makes a great fighter is your heart; you’ve got to have heart.
If you don’t have heart, don’t get in the ring.
If you’re going to bring it, bring it 100%.
Don’t let anybody get in your way.
I’ve always dug deep.
Dig deep into your heart, into your soul, when you look at yourself in the mirror.
You’ve got to be able to look at you and be like let’s go get it.
Me and you.
Just me and you.
Me and the mirror.
Let’s go right now.
It’s all about you.
I’m a fighter.
Size 18 jeans.
I’ve been, I would consider it, severely overweight, since my fourth child was born which was 17 years ago.
I could tell you so many gym memberships I’ve paid for and never used, how many classes I’ve attended, how many boot camps I joined; I’ve tried everything under the sun. This shake, that drink, this medicine, [that] supplement.
I’d drop 20 pounds but then I’d gain 30 [back].
I think the biggest thing is I never made myself a priority. I never thought I was important enough to take care of myself.
I was in an extremely unhealthy marriage where the effort that it would of taken to explain where I was and what I was doing wasn’t worth the commitment to take care of myself, so I just never did.
I’d felt like I’d spent so many years not being seen, not being important.
I was never one of those women that you look at and you’re like well she’s happy in her own skin. I admire those women; I admire that they can be happy exactly where they’re at. I was [never] happy.
I’d been overweight for 17 years, S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore; I didn’t want to look like that anymore.
I wanted to be healthy.
I wanted to not get annoyed when my boys asked me to come upstairs and pray with them at bedtime. I’d be downstairs sitting on the couch watching television and they’d ask me to come pray with them and I’d be like, ‘Ugh! I gotta go all the way up the stairs.’
I wanted to not feel that way; I wanted to be like, ‘Oh up the stairs? Let me run these stairs twice because I haven’t gotten my steps in yet today!’
That was the mind shift I wanted to change.
I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to get healthy. I wanted to get smaller. I wanted to take care of myself.
I’m not worth it…
365 days later.
In September of 2016, my ex-husband moved out and right away I dropped eleven pounds just because I was so stressed, [not knowing] what life was going to look like.
In January, [my friend] Corie had been hassling me to come with her to yoga, like hassling. We shared an office and she would say, ‘Come on, let’s go!’ all the time and I’d be like, ‘Uhhh that doesn’t even sound appealing to me,’ and it was expensive. In my mind, I’m like how in the world can I afford this because I just went from a two-income family to a one income family and the one income was not nearly what’s required [with] 6 boys at home.
[But] one day, [Corie had just] come back from class and was back at work, sitting there like, ‘You may not be able to defend yourself, you may not be able to talk bad about him but you sure as hell can get a smokin’ hot body that he has to look at for the rest of his life!’ and I thought well, I mean… that could be good motivation.
Literally, the next day I came with her to class.
I was extremely intimidated to go. I felt like everybody’s going to be looking at me; everybody’s going to be judging me; I’m twice the size of most of the girls in here.
Corie was so funny because she’s like, ‘Trust me, nobodies paying attention to you. Nobody cares what you’re doing. Everybody’s focused on themselves and what they’re doing.’
[So] I said, ‘Well show me something that they do.’ I’m not even joking, she got up and she showed me breathing.
So, I came.
[The yoga instructor] took time out to welcome me, to talk to me and just to tell me, ‘Don’t push yourself, don’t judge yourself off of the person standing next to you. This is your practice, you’re just going to be better the next time.’
That initial intro, just knowing that, is probably what kept me coming.
Don’t judge myself off the person next to me, just focus on myself in the mirror and judge myself off of that: what I did last time compared to what I did this time.
[The instructor] said, ‘Just stay in the class; stay in the room. Don’t leave. If you get to a point [where] you can’t do something, just sit down.’
That was my goal; my goal was to stay in the room, and I did.
I was so freakin’ proud of myself that I stayed and I did it.
I remember at the end of the class I laid down and I put the lavender hand towel over my face and I literally sobbed, I just cried.
‘Give it your best, your best is always enough.’
That whole thing just settled in…
Maria was noticed for the first time in seventeen years.
I did one of those intro things: 2 weeks for $40 or something like that. I’m cheap and so I thought I’m going to get as many classes in for this $40 because I can’t keep going after this. So, I went to probably 10 classes in 2 weeks, maybe even more I don’t know. I went like every day.
I remember always noticing in the mirror how much better I was getting.
Marie tried every single class on the schedule in 20 days.
I felt like I can do this.
I. Can. Do. This.
Before my last day, I just took a step of faith and I didn’t know where the money was going to come from… my brother helped me the first month and he helped me the second month and he helped me the third month.
I just made that commitment that I’m worth $100 a month; I’m worth the time to come here and take care of my body.
My eating habits were horrible.
I would starve myself.
I would eventually eat; I would binge eat.
I would get to the end of the day and I would be starving and all my babies would finally be in bed so I’d eat this huge dinner and a big ole’ bowl of ice cream because I finally got to eat today. I would excuse it in my head [as] well, I haven’t eaten anything all day so if I put down these 3,000 calories right now it’s really not THAT bad because I didn’t eat at all today.
That’s how I would justify it.
Because I was working so hard in the studio, it made me make better food choices I [was] like, ‘I’m not about to eat this burrito and waste 2, 2 classes worth of calories, that’s not about to happen right now because I just sweat my ass off in there. I’m not about to eat this burrito and cancel it out.’
Just One More Step
Marie got in her car and drove 3,000 miles.
Next stop: self-discovery.
I remember in March which was three months, no two and a half months after I started yoga, I went on this epic road trip, this self-discovery. My job [at Grace Church] told me I needed to take time off, not as a discipline but as a we love you; go take care of yourself.
Just me by myself… like, just go get in your car and be alone with Jesus and wherever my car took me is where I went.
I stopped at the Grand Canyon.
I had a very emotional moment. [I had climbed] to the highest point I could find and [in] that moment I was remembering something in therapy that my counselor told me: ‘You might not know what it looks like 10 steps ahead but just take the next right step.’
When I got to the top I cried because the whole way up I was like, ‘The next right step.’
‘Just one more step.’
‘You can get to the top.’
‘Just one more step.’
‘Just keep going.’
I got to the top and I literally felt myself fall to my knees. I sat up there and I just cried.
But before that, there were these girls up there that were visiting from Europe and I asked if they would take a picture of me doing yoga while I was up there. I don’t know why, it wasn’t like I went there with that plan… I just got up there and I felt like I had just reached this pinnacle of believing in myself, like I can do this.
I had them take a picture of me in my Standing Bow, which I was so proud of, and that’s what’s so important to me about the transformation is that two and a half months in I could hold a Standing Bow. My form was ridiculous, it was not anywhere near correct, I wasn’t even really doing it, but I was, I was doing it.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was as perfect as I could be in that moment.
Size 5 jeans.
Level 8 self-esteem.
Level 10 self-confidence.
Every single day something in my practice is better. It’s not always the same thing, it’s not always the same pose, but every day I can notice a difference in something.
High School Jeans
I set goals for myself through this process but even every goal that I set, it was out of fear that I wouldn’t reach it. I would set a goal of what size I wanted to wear because I never wanted my focus to be on the scale; my body’s just not built like someone who can focus on the scale, I have to focus on other things. So, my focus, my goals, were always my jean size.
I would get to that jean size and I would be like, ‘Psshhh! I’m not done here!’
Right now, I wear the same jean size I wore in high school.
Now I’m at the spot where I’m going to take the teacher training. I haven’t even told Brandon that yet; he was the one trying to talk me into it.
I’ve been thinking about it and praying about it and at first I’m like how in the world do I pay for this? I don’t even know how much it is, but I know it’s a lot. Like what am I going to do? How am I going to do this?
And I’m like, well God is like, ‘You ended up with the money the whole last year. Somehow you made it every month. Every month you paid that $100 and every month you were just fine. You trusted me in that, trust me in this.’
So, I’m going to do it.
I’m going to take the class in April, which seems insane to me, because you know what’s so funny is, on my blog I have a bucket list that I keep up with and after I started yoga, like way back in January, I went and edited it and added that I wanted to teach one, at least one, yoga class, to my bucket list.
Holy Shit Marie Just Got Real
I was worth more than what I had believed my whole life.
[It wasn’t] just yoga practice, but practicing my worth.
Forcing myself to go was telling myself I was worth it; I was practicing believing that I was worth it.
Marie jokes that now her self-esteem might be a little too high.
[On] College Day I was so freaking hot I wanted to take my shirt off; it didn’t even cross my mind that there were so many girls in there that were smaller than me.
That didn’t even cross my mind.
I took my shirt off.
Thinking about that… that in itself shows me how much my self-esteem has changed. I wouldn’t let who else was in the room control my choices.
I was freaking hot; I wanted to take my shirt off.
Corie: “I was behind her and I’m usually not and when she took her shirt off I was like…”
Marie: “Holy shit Marie just got real!”
Corie: “I was like damn girl! You go!”
Marie: “Now I might take my shirt off every time just because I can…”
Corie: “I want you to whip it around your head and run around the room!”
I’d say my self-confidence is a 10.
I just freakin’ committed to doing the teacher training!
I know I can do anything I try… if [it’s] something I want, my body is capable of it.
I have 4 [kids] I gave birth to and they’re 24, 20, 19 and 17; and then the 4 that were adopted are 17, 14 and 9-year-old twins… I was their foster mom for a little over a year and then adopted them.
[They’ve gotten] to watch this develop in me: the self-esteem, the self-confidence and the perseverance.
Remember that road trip… the night I came home from that road trip, I got home kind of late and all my boys came down into the kitchen because I was home. They were messin’ around… they all gave me hugs… and they got up on the counter [and were] doing push-ups.
We had an island and then a kitchen counter, they had their hands on one counter, their feet on the other and they were doing push-ups, and I’m all like, ‘I think I could do that!’
They’re like, ‘No no no no no mom don’t!’ and I’m like, ‘I’m going to try!’
I got up there and my two oldest boys were under me like, ‘Mom you’re going to fall!’
They had no confidence what so ever.
I got up there and I did push-ups.
They were like, ‘Ohhh… You did more than Jakeem!’
They were making a big deal out of it and I’m like, ‘Told you I could do it!’
I would of never tried something like that and it’s not like at that point I had dropped a bunch of weight. I mean I had, but not enough to get my butt up on the counter and do push-ups.
That same exact night Najee, who is the oldest of my 4 adopted ones, came and gave me a hug and said, ‘Mom I’ve never seen you smile so much.’
The only reason I shared is because my hope is that someone who thinks they can’t will see that they can.
Someone who thinks, ‘There’s no way I can do that, there’s no way I can walk in that room, there’s no way I can put those pants on, there’s no way I can stand on one leg. I never want to do that to myself. There’s no way I could sit in a hot room for an hour, let alone do any kind of physical activity in that room.’
I want those people to know that they can.
“I would hold my head down every time I went.”
“I would force myself to go,” Lesley Tamayo said.
“It was hard. It was very competitive. It was a younger crowd; I’m older, I’ve had kids, my body is different.”
She was intimidated; she was afraid.
“I would look around to see if anyone was noticing that I was struggling. I always saw all these skinny girls. They’re skinny, they’re tall; I’m not any of those things.”
She was embarrassed.
Just one year ago Tamayo spent her lunch breaks at the gym surrounded by rows of cold, hard grey equipment she didn’t know how to use. She did her thirty minutes of cardio, puttered around in the weight section and left as quickly as possible.
She was intimidated.
It was a sea of young skinny girls everywhere she looked.
She didn’t feel welcome.
Tamayo turns forty this year.
Ever since high school she has struggled with her body image.
“When I gain weight it’s all up here,” Tamayo said gesturing with her arms. “My upper body has always been a huge insecurity for me. I’m bigger on top; I don’t have any upper body strength. Every time I wear just a regular T-shirt I usually always have to wear a sweater over it. I’m so insecure of my body.”
Today Tamayo takes her lunch break a little earlier than most.
At 10 a.m. she rolls her black and coral mat out in the back of the hot, juicy room beneath the ballet bar. She begins class with a spine twist to the left side and then the right.
She is relaxed; she is at peace.
“Having to look at myself in the mirror to try to keep my form [and] to try to keep my balance has really brought me to like myself again,” Tamayo said. “I can’t remember [the last time] I could look at myself in the mirror.”
Five people have witnessed this transformation, five people who love Tamayo.
Tamayo has four kids: a five year old, an eleven year old, a twelve year old and a seventeen year old. She has a family of six; a family who motivates her and supports her juicy journey on the mat.
“[Juice Box Yoga has] taught me not to be negative,” Tamayo said. “I really try not to say negative things about my image or my body in front of my kids; I don’t want them to ever feel the same way that I do.”
Her kid’s interest in her practice peaked this last fall.
“I did the plank challenge, that was the best thing I have ever done in my entire life,” Tamayo said. “I would tell [my kids], ‘Oh my god! I can hold a plank!’ They were so proud of me. I was like, ‘I have to do a four minute plank!’ So every time I would come here on the weekends they were like, ‘How many minutes did you do today? How long did you do?’ It was just so amazing!”
With each drop of sweat that dripped off the tip of her nose, the minutes ticked by. Four to be exact; 240 seconds.
With the support of her family Tamayo held a four minute plank last October.
“I think it has a very positive [impact on my kids],” Tamayo said. “They see me taking time out of my day for myself; they see me trying to take care of myself.”
Her kids are proud. Her fiancé is proud.
“I think he has noticed that I’m happier about my body; I’m not so ashamed… well I guess embarrassed,” Tamayo said. “He said it has really brought me out of my shell. I’m not so afraid to just be who I am anymore.”
“I have this energy about me that I never used to have; I hold my head up high.”
“I just love this place,” Tamayo said. “I love when I come to pilates and we all give each other high fives! I’ve even had people come up to me and say, ‘You did so good in that class! You really killed it!’ And I’m like, ‘Wow me? You noticed that I…’ It’s just nice that people notice me.”
She is encouraged. She is a yogi warrior.
“[Juice Box Yoga] is very accepting; I see women and men of all ages and all walks of life,” Tamayo said. “I love that there’s all different bodies and body shapes. There’s older women, younger women, older men, younger men; I love that! I love the way I feel when I come here. [Juice Box Yoga] is very positive; it’s all about women power.”
Today Tamayo feels comfortable wearing just a T-shirt.
No sweater. No shame.
Fifteen years ago, Tanya Rose Bordner was thirty six-years-old and forty-five pounds over-weight.
“I didn’t notice it, I didn’t feel like I was depressed,” Bordner said. “It started to come out physiologically. I started to have really bad dizzy spells where I couldn’t lift my head without feeling like my head wasn’t attached to my body. [I had] major bouts of vertigo. My ex was a doctor; super medicating was too easy of a ‘solution’. The dizziness went away and I started getting bigger with the medicine. The headaches were constant. I was taking up to sixteen hundred milligrams of Advil a day. It was four Advil and then four hours later four more Advil. It was horrifying.”
Ever since Bordner was a little girl she had one simple dream, one that was a stark difference from her reality.
“I wanted to be barefoot,” Bordner said. “I’m sure my parents were like, ‘Whoo, you’re going to be something.’ ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘Be barefoot.’ They were like ‘Awesome, you’re going to be successful.’ That’s all I wanted.”
She had lost herself.
“So, I took my first class,” Bordner said.
The answer is in the mirror.
Mirrors reflect the changes being made in the hot, humid room. Colorful yoga mats lay on the floor covered with towels catching one drop of sweat after the next. Juice Box yogis are shaping their futures right before their own eyes.
The room is always one hundred and five degrees; the same twenty-six postures are always performed.
The room is silent; minds are jumbled.
Yet yogis come to peace.
Knees are locked, spines are twisted and minds are focused.
“[In Bikram yoga] we never change the postures so what changes is the person,” Bordner, now the owner and director of Juice Box Yoga, said. “You come in one day and standing head to knee is totally non accessible to you; after twenty classes you come in and you grab your foot for the first time and you know it was you. It wasn’t because you did a different posture or because the sequence was different. It’s you.”
Ninety minutes come and go.
Hot 60 is a spin-off of the Bikram series.
Rather than ninety minutes, it’s sixty.
Rather than two sets of each posture there is often only one.
“Back in the day people didn’t have many options; they carved out that ninety minutes [from] their day,” Bordner said. “That was before text messaging and before Facebook; before what now keeps us so busy and so interactive with a moments’ notice and spontaneity. People didn’t have somebody calling them or somebody text messaging them, ‘Oh let’s go out for a beer,’ or ‘Let’s go to the movies,’ or ‘Hey, my kid is sick,’ or ‘My dog ran away,’ or whatever it is. Technology has changed everything. It has changed our ability to give ourselves the time for ourselves.”
Sixty minutes. One series. One self.
Like Hot 60, Vinyasa Power Fusion has set sequences that yogis will one day feel accomplished in.
Yogis begin class with child’s pose; yogis imagine themselves in the here and now within the four corners of their mat.
Yogis flow. Yogis sweat.
Yogis fall on their faces, a block catching them mid-air as they attempt their first arm balance.
“I love having the playful atmosphere,” Bordner said. “We play music, we crack up, we fall on our faces, we fall on blocks [and] we chat. I say we are going to have a new sequence today and people heckle me. It’s a totally different jam.”
After just a few classes and countless drops of sweat yogis are crow-ing and cow-ing.
The flow changes; new postures and arm balances are added.
Like Vinyasa Power Fusion, Hot Pilates has an ever changing sequence.
Savasana, hip raises, butterfly crunches, kayaks, toe touches, right side plank, hip dips, swimmers, forearm planks, superman, grasshoppers, left side plank, Pilates crunches, frog squats, plie squats, plie squat pulses, burpees, push-ups, mountain climbers, donkey kicks, leg lifts, cat and cow, spine twists, child’s pose and savasana.
“Work, work, work, work, work, work,” blasts from the speakers.
Yogis’ hearts race and their muscles burn.
Hot Pilates is high intensity interval training with low impact. Like Bikram yoga, it is performed in a hot room to prevent pulling or hurting a cold muscle, Bordner explained.
Unlike Bikram yoga, Hot Pilates changes constantly.
“I start changing my sequence at about a week mark,” Bordner said. “By ten to fourteen days it’s totally different. But I like to see everyone seeing that after a week you’ve gotten stronger doing those sequences. I keep some of them in as I introduce the new ones so you can see ‘Oh, these are new muscles; this is harder.’”
Savasana is welcomed after sixty minutes of sweat and determination.
Warm and Mellow is one long savasana; it is unlike any other class at Juice Box Yoga.
It is warm and mellow.
It isn’t hot and sweaty.
It isn’t a jammin’ squat party.
It is a glorified nap.
Yogis stretch and breathe.
Hips are opened and spines are gently twisted.
“We do everything from butterfly to child’s pose to sleeping pigeon to cow face to lizard,” Bordner said. “It’s relaxing.”
Every yogi can find their home at Juice Box Yoga.
WATER, WATER, WATER
The faces of yogis, young and old, scream determination as they reach the cool down. Their bodies glisten in sweat, head to toe. They reach for their lavender towel and drape it over their face.
Sweating keeps yogis young. Detoxing the largest organ in the body, the skin, is the fountain of youth in the yoga world. Bordner said each posture that turns the body upside down gets blood pumping to the face and into the skin encouraging youthfulness.
“Turning upside down and sweating is really amazing for youthfulness,” Bordner said. “We are an upright society because we are human. We don’t turn upside down, we don’t hang upside down; we aren’t possums. However, if we did hang upside down, and when we do, it’s really good.”
With all the toxins dripping out of the pours of the skin, the body craves rehydration.
Hydration is personal: some drink green juices, some drink watermelon juice and some guzzle water. No matter what, yogis are rehydrating.
“The best part about hydration in Bikram yoga is if you’re not a water drinker, you’ll become one,” Bordner said. “I was not a water drinker. Doing Bikram yoga I just can’t get enough water. Doing Hot Pilates, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, water, water, water.’”
The urge to drink is a risk of these hot practices. A thesis from the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse College of Exercise and Sport Science Clinical Exercise Physiology explained that due to the hot environment, beginners may experience dizziness, nausea and passing out.
If yogis push themselves too far in these conditions, results will be disappointing.
“I would say that the negative aspect of [these hot practices] is when people push themselves too hard,” Bordner said. “When you let the ego get involved in your practice or you bring it into the yoga room or onto your mat those are the times when I have seen it. I’ve had a student who did over four hundred classes for Guinness Book of World Records and their body didn’t change at all and it was really sad to me. It was because they came into the room every day and the only thing they cared about was making that number happen.”
SPRINKLING FAIRY DUST
Both hot practices revolve around spinal articulation. The spine is curved and bent in every direction during the sixty or ninety minute class, bringing the spine back into alignment after years of compensation. These movements allow spinal fluid to move through the body positively effecting the brain, Bordner explained.
“I mean everything, EVERYHTING: leg, knee, shoulder, back, head, heart, I’ve seen it all healed in that room,” Bordner said. “It’s not like we are sprinkling fairy dust on them. When people are hurt and they are like, ‘I can’t.’ I’m like, ‘Yes, you can. You really can.’”
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine confirms the beneficial effects Bikram yoga has on chronic health conditions. In the journal’s study, thirty-seven percent of participants reported a reduction in pain.
With decreasing pain levels, sleep comes easier to some yogis.
“The transformation of people who are in chronic pain that come to this practice is unbelievable,” Bordner said. “I’ve had students that have come to me like ‘I sleep one hour a night maximum because I am in so much pain. I have to sleep sitting up, I have to basically stand to get any rest.’ Then they come in and like one class, two classes, and they notice a difference.”
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found fifty-five percent of study participants had a reduction in fatigue and twenty-five percent faced less sleep disturbance.
IF I CAN BREATHE IN CAMEL, I CAN BREATHE IN ANYTHING
“Stress just gets sweat away,” Bordner said. “You can’t be stressed out and do Bikram or you’ll kill yourself. You start to learn that if it’s like that in Bikram, what’s it like when I’m driving through the spaghetti bowl? You start to realize well, if I can breathe in camel, I can breathe in anything.”
As the stress drips away, life comes into focus.
“Without focus you couldn’t do a yoga posture,” Bordner said. “If you’re wobbling, look at one spot, and it’s really hard to fall over, but if you look around you’re going to fall over. What I’ve found is that when you train yourself in [the yoga room] it affects everything else you do: ‘Oh my god, my golf game is so much better.’ Or ‘Oh my god, my cycling is so much better.’ You learn to focus, you go back to your yoga practice, and you look at one spot.”
With ninety minutes to stare into the mirror the truth comes out. There is nowhere to hide.
“Relationships change,” Bordner said. “I’ve seen a lot of divorces through yoga. I’ve seen a lot of people change. You start to realize, ‘That doesn’t work for me. I want to be respected more. I want to have more happier, positive interactions. I don’t like that communication. You’re not going to change. You don’t believe in what I do.’ Those things become very real and apparent in your yoga practice because you really start to believe in yourself.”
Believe in yourself. Love yourself.
Bordner just turned fifty-years-old.
“I started to realize how much of me I had let go.”
“Like for four years I had left my body and traveled around Europe and around the world and then come home,” Bordner said. “I would have pulled up to my house and it would have been an amazingly emotional experience. That’s what it was like for me. It was like I came home and there were weeds growing, the rocks were out of place, and it was a shit storm. The dogs are out and nobody has picked up the poop in three years. It was like, ‘Whoa! I got some shit to handle. But I’m home.’ When you leave your body for so long it’s just like going on a trip and coming home. No matter how much work there is to do it’s still so good to be home. That’s how I felt.”
Fourteen years after “coming home,” Bordner has lost weight, her migraines have dramatically lessened and she is re-married.
Today Bordner walks around her two studios barefoot.