Radha Garcia will be at Casa Om from August 10th to August 16th. This is a fantastic opportunity to study with a seasoned practitioner who was in Bikram Choudhury’s very first teacher training group. Radha brought hot yoga to Colorado in 1994 and has been a devoted teacher ever since. Her week-long retreat will welcome all levels. Blogger Kathryn E. Livingston caught up with Radha to ask her a few questions about the early years with Bikram and how the practice has changed her life.
Q: What will your retreat be like?
Radha: We’ll do two Bikram Yoga hot classes every day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. We’ll have question and answer sessions, and some individual instruction. Of course, we’ll complement the yoga with gourmet vegetarian meals, activities; traveling to the cenotes-fresh water caves, snorkeling, shopping, and enjoying the beach. We even have a surprise! It will be a wonderful opportunity for students to bump up their practice with daily yoga, and benefit from feedback.
Q: You’ve been practicing for a long time. How did you get started?
Radha: I started in l994 in Bikram’s first teacher training. There were 35 of us in that class. We studied technique with Bikram day and night for three months. We learned what to do, how to do it, and why. My background puts a little extra twist to the experience of studying with a Bikram teacher. It’s one of the things I bring to my students.
Q: How did you get into Bikram yoga?
Radha: I was practicing yoga from the time I was in my early twenties because of health reasons. I discovered Bikram yoga 20 years ago through my daughter Nika. That was it for me. It made such a profound difference on my health, and on the mind/body experience. I couldn’t meditate before Bikram Yoga. Doing the same 26 postures with two breathing exercises in an hour and a half in a hot and humid room brought profound changes. Casa Om offers a beautiful hot yoga room. The heat and humidity are perfectly balanced and it has mirrors so you can self adjust in your postures; the floor is level, the environment is controlled. I know what it feels like when you’re in a perfect room and this is my favorite place so far, to conduct a retreat.
Q: In addition to being in the first Bikram Yoga teacher training, I believe there’s something else about you that’s rather unique.
Radha: Yes, I’m Esak’s Garcia’s mother. We’re doing back to back retreats at Casa Om. Some people might like to participate in both.
Q: I’m curious as a mother; how did you get your kids involved in yoga?
Radha: I have two sons and a daughter. I think they saw me changing, and became interested on their own. My kids are very independent and they don’t particularly want to do what I’m doing. But when I went to my training, I invited them to come and visit; I brought them each out to meet Bikram. Then I just let it be. I might have said, “Hey come to yoga. You should do this.” I left things lying around– the book, and pictures– and they began to ask questions and get interested on their own.
Q: Were you surprised that they went so far with it?
Radha: Yes! With Esak I stepped back. When Esak showed an interest and I still had a young child ten years younger than he at home, I just thought okay, I’m going to back off. He should take the ball and roll with it. I didn’t want it to be “Oh, you’re Radha’s son.” I’d rather that people say, “Oh, you’re Esak’s mom!”
Then, my son JJ said he’d like to train as a Bikram Yoga teacher. I was surprised and thrilled. JJ is a talented athlete and swam competitively from the time he was 4 years old. He represented Colorado at a National level at 12 and swam his way through school. So he turned to Bikram Yoga when his injuries started to catch up with him. He was one of the youngest city recreation center managers until he decided to manage Boulder Bikram Yoga. And the big plus is that he is an extremely talented practitioner and an incredible instructor.
Q: When did you open your studio in Colorado?
Radha: I brought the technique to Colorado in l994. I had a studio in my home for the first five years and in l999 we opened our studio in Boulder, where we are now, and created the first Bikram Yoga studio in Colorado.
Q: Do a lot of people come to Bikram because they have physical issues?
Radha: We do have a lot of people who realize Bikram yoga works, who have had an issue such as back pain, headaches, depression, or a heart condition. Or, they’re practicing a sport and want to do hot yoga to add longevity to their sport and deal with tightness in their bodies. There are all kinds of benefits. I’ve seen so many miracles happen in this hot yoga.
Q: Is there a particular kind of student that would benefit from your retreat?
Radha: It’s really geared to all people, to all ages, to all body types; it’s not just for the young and fit. I love to find ways of helping everyone at their own level. So whether you are young or old, healthy or challenged by health issues, Bikram Yoga can work for you. In Bikram yoga you are working every single cell, pore, and fiber of your body. Every single internal organ and system works to detoxify, purify, balance, and get full range of motion in all capacities. No matter what your issue is you can find ways of addressing it with Bikram Yoga. It never gets boring because there’s always more. You can go to other levels. It’s endless; I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga almost every day for twenty years.
Q: Were you immediately attracted to the practice?
Radha: The first time I practiced Bikram Yoga at age 45 I hated it! I remember that Bikram said the worse you feel about this yoga the more you need it. I felt as if he was talking directly to me. For me, it wasn’t “Wow, what a good fit!” It was more like, “Oh my gosh this is awful!” I had never sweat like that. I’m pretty flexible and I was pretty cocky as well. But he pointed out that “being flexible and being in the heat is not easy; if you’re strong, then you will become flexible; if you’re flexible then you will find strength, but it’s going to be harder.” So in other words, if you’re really strong, you have a benefit over flexibility in this kind of yoga. I thought to myself, I’m so flexible and so bendy, this will be easy. Then I had a total meltdown. I couldn’t even stand up straight! It was really challenging.
Q: But you stuck with it and it changed your life?
Radha: Absolutely. I think all yoga is wonderful, but for me, Bikram Yoga really works!