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Interview with A Modern Girl: Rachel Blackman yoga instructor

Posted Aug 16 2011 12:00am
Rach is a dear friend of mine and lives a life many of us would surely envy.  She is gorgeous with such an open, warm personality and I have great pleasure in introducing her today for this month's Interview with A Modern Girl.  Rachel is a Bikram Yoga Instructor who gets to travel to all corners of the globe teaching what she loves.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally went to a class at Rachel's studio in Brisbane and I felt incredible.  I tend to freak out if I feel too hot and bothered so I wasn't sure if I would enjoy Bikram, as it is practiced in a heated room (about 40 degrees celsius).  While I did have to sit down a couple of times during the class (and I wasn't the only one!), I left feeling light, energetic and cleansed.  I can see how you could easily get addicted!  So, without any further ado, let me introduce you to Rachel and her love of Bikram...

What made you want to be a yoga teacher?
Midway through 2005, my sister suggested I should take my first Bikram Yoga class. The first class was heinous, as was the second and third, but for some reason I kept going back. While I had always been physically active, I found Bikram yoga’s combination of strength, flexibility, balance, endurance and focus to be uniquely challenging. It quickly become a hobby of mine – something that made me feel good, introduced me to new friends, and inspired an interest in me to study physiology and anatomy. I was fascinated by how each and every part of the human body worked together to create the 26 postures in the Bikram yoga series.

I moved to London in 2008 and started working in a Bikram yoga studio. It was there I made the decision to become a Bikram yoga instructor. I wanted to help other people achieve longevity and vitality in their health and wellbeing. I wanted each and every person to feel good, like I did!

What do you think are the benefits of Bikram compared with other types of yoga?
I cannot make a comparison between different styles of Hatha Yoga as I have not studied another besides Bikram individually or with much depth. However, I can speak proudly of the benefits Bikram Yoga can bring you.

What makes Bikram unique is the heated environment classes are practiced in. There are many benefits of the heat. Fascia and connective tissue surrounding the joints, muscles, ligaments and other supporting structures of the body become more elastic with the heat, permitting greater movement and stretch. This allows for greater flexibility and ease getting into the postures. The heat also creates a challenging cardiovascular workout. Your heart will beat faster creating the same effect as any aerobic exercise. Your body begins to burn fat more effectively, redistributing any excess fat and burning it as energy during class.

Your pores and capillaries dilate in the heat, allowing toxins and waste products to be flushed out as you sweat. Your skin really does glow after class! Your metabolism speeds up, helping to breakdown glucose and fatty acids, and improve your digestive system. Your nervous system functions better, blood becomes thinner, clearing the circulatory system, and willpower, self control, concentration and determination are strengthened in this challenging environment. Endurance is boosted through consistent practice.

With regular practice, discipline and honest effort you will:
Reshape your body
Restore flexibility and strength throughout the whole body
Improve circulation, leading to a clearer complexion and brighter eyes
Achieve relief from pain and injury
Reduce your weight by balancing your metabolism
Raise energy levels
Reduce stress and normalise sleep patterns
Increase balance, coordination, focus and discipline
Develop faith, self-belief, will power, determination and patience
Balance blood sugar and blood pressure
Strengthen all the internal systems of the body
Slow the aging process

I know you also get to travel around the world with your profession as a yoga instructor - what are some of the places you've been to and what do you get to do on these journeys?
I am very lucky to have a job allowing me to travel and teach internationally! The Yoga community is very special, with yogi’s all around the world opening their doors and welcoming you to their studio and homes as if you were family. They take great honour in showing you the best of their culture. 

I feel very fulfilled to have tried local cuisine, watched and joined in traditional performances and festivals, admired artefacts, buildings and nature, and made some wonderful friends in countries such as Morocco, Sweden, Hong Kong and Spain. Experiencing a lifestyle previously completely unbeknown to you is mind-opening, humbling, and very rewarding. 

In all the destinations I travel to, I try to maintain my daily yoga practice. This daily practice stretches my body, calms my mind and allows me to continuously learn from different teachers. My karma is to give back to the teachers I am learning from and the studio’s I am practicing in, by teaching a class myself.

You are always so vibrant and just gorgeous - do you think yoga has had a hand in making you the girl that you are today?
Thank you very much! That is very kind of you to say!

Yoga definitely is a lifestyle for me, and I feel much happier and healthier than I did four years ago. Of course, some of this is due to life experience and maturity, but I truly believe the yoga is helping me turn into a confident, non-judgemental, and compassionate woman. The physical fitness, mental clarity, spiritual realisations, and emotional stability I achieve through my daily practice, as well as the aforementioned travel opportunities I have experienced, has opened my whole life up and brought me a lot of happiness. I think if you are happy on the inside, it shows on the outside.

Is it safe to try yoga by yourself if you haven't done it before?
If it is possible, I would recommend you practice under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher for your first class.

All of the 84 traditional hatha yoga postures are within your natural range of motion; however they must be performed with proper alignment to avoid injury. Through listening to the teacher’s dialogue and visibly watching them practice the posture, it is easier to understand and practice the posture for yourself. The teacher can also give you immediate feedback and correction if needed.

It is easier to listen, watch and move with the series as the teacher gives the instructions, rather than to read a website or magazine article detailing a yoga pose and then try to do it on your own.

It is especially important to have guidance in your yoga practice if you have any injuries, diseases, or if you are pregnant.

At the least, I would recommend as a beginner you purchase a Yoga DVD to use at home, if you cannot make it to a studio.

Do you have some tips on how to get the most out of your yoga practice?
- No big meals within three hours of practice.
- Wear light, comfortable, exercise clothing. Take off shoes, socks and all ornaments such as watches and rings.
- Prepare for class by organising a yoga mat, large towel, water bottle and an open mind.
- If you are pregnant, taking prescribed medication or have any illnesses, injuries or had recent surgery, then see your doctor before beginning a yoga class or any practice at home.
- Breathe in and out through your nose when you practice. Do not hold your breath.
- Keep your eyes open.
- Sip on your water, only when you need it.
- Hold stillness at your maximum depth for each posture for 10 seconds.
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Thank you so much Rach for joining us and sharing a bit about your world of Bikram!

If you'd like to give Bikram Yoga a go and live in Brisbane, QLD, Australia, you can take a class with Rachel at Bikram Yoga The Gabba.    Or if you live abroad, you may just be lucky enough to meet Rachel in your local studio one day.  
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