Blogger Kathryn E. Livingston tracked down yogi Zeb Homison at his thriving BikramYoga Pittsburgh studio to chat a bit about his exciting upcoming Casa Om retreat, featuring the renowned Bikram yoga teacher Mary Jarvis.
KL: What will be the highlight of your Casa Om retreat?
ZH: Mary Jarvis is going to be there, that is the highlight! She doesn’t really do things like this often so it will be amazing. We’ll have class every day, and then we’ll do what she calls “homework.” The homework sessions are basically competition training that she’s developed over the years, working with previous world champions; they’re designed to help improve and work on postures that maybe you don’t have quite yet, that you set a goal for, developing exercises to achieve that over time.
KL: How and when did you get to know Mary?
ZH: I met her five years ago. The first time was at the Northern California Regional Yoga Competition in which I was competing. She had a couple of competitors herself that she had trained there, and I ended up winning. So the first thing that I ever heard from or about Mary Jarvis was that she was pissed off at me!
KL: For winning?
ZH: Yes! But a year or two later I started training with Esak Garcia, the 2005 world champion, and she is his coach. So through him I reconnected with her and started working with her in 2009 and went out to San Francisco and stayed at her school for two months and trained for the national competition, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
KL: Will you also be teaching at the retreat?
ZH: I may end up teaching a class or two.
KL: How did you decide on Casa Om?
ZH: A friend told me about it months ago and I thought, “How cool would this be to do something down there?” So I had it in the back of my mind. I approached Mary about doing a retreat; she said put something together and we’ll see what happens. I came back with the idea of going to Mexico and she was psyched.
KL: I’ve heard you’re really into juicing.
ZH: Yes, it’s super complementary to the yoga. Having fresh, live juice enzyming action gets fresh oxygen into your system; there are nutrients in there and you actually need much less mundane food throughout your day if you’re juicing. That’s a big part of the way Mary trains people, too; a focus on diet and what you’re putting into your body as well as just what you’re doing with your body.
KL: Tell me a bit about your studio, BikramYoga Pittsburgh. It looks like it’s bubbling with activity, with 40 or more classes a week.
ZH: Yes, it is! I bought it in 2010; we moved to a larger space in 2012, and now we’re actually in the process of opening a fresh juice bar.
KL: So juicing will be a big part of the retreat, too?
ZH: For sure!
KL: What’s your philosophy on back bending?
ZH: It’s the core of what Mary teaches. It comes from the experiences she had when she had a serious car accident and had chronic pain from herniated discs in her spine. Her surgeon said he’d have to fuse everything together. At that point Mary had a ten-year yoga practice and she told him she was going back to yoga and it would fix her.
KL: Guess that wasn’t the response he was looking for.
ZH: He predicted she’d be in a wheelchair in two years. But she went back and did two classes a day and through that process healed herself. Her famous quote is “All backward bending heals the spine.” While doing camel pose during a class she finally felt no pain after eight or nine months of practicing. So she’s developed this routine of backbends and repetitions of backbends. It turns into a whole body holistic kind of thing where all the exercises you do come full circle to improve the competition routines you’re working on. It’s really a pretty amazing process, but you need an excellent teacher just like with anything else. I’m really excited about this retreat and having people come and experience the opportunity to work with Mary.