Justin: Your Yoga with a Smile

He looks mild-mannered, until you get him in class.

He looks mild-mannered, until you get him in class.

His Monday classes are favorites for many of the yogis at Bikram Hot Yoga Vancouver.  Studio owner Erika affectionately describes him as the Mr. Rogers of yoga for a reason.  While he seems pretty mellow at first glance, don’t even think about getting out of triangle until the full time has elapsed.  And before long, you will crack a smile.  And soon after that, you just might learn something.  Meet Justin.  Gentle encouragement.  Firm knowledge.  A bit of whimsy.  But no cardigan or tennis shoes.

Justin came to Bikram yoga through his wife, Hilary and her mother.  They began taking yoga classes in their North Portland neighborhood and came home proclaiming it’s benefits.  Justin can tell you the exact date of his first yoga class.  His mother in law went to teacher training, and six months later, Justin was on his way to Los Angeles as well.  At the time, Justin was in a high stress job in commercial printing, staring down deadlines, long hours and irate customers.  What was it about the yoga that first intrigued him?  He says he has always been a disciplined person and that aspect of the series appealed to him.  From an outsider’s perspective, it’s Justin’s simplicity of task that makes him a great teacher.  He has a way of boiling it down (excuse the heat reference), making it attainable.  And all the while, fun.

Teacher training was exhausting, but it does not seem to have ever broken Justin along the way as has been described in recent books and articles.  His easygoing but committed manner were a good fit during the long days and grueling schedule.  After training, Justin spent time in Florida with his wife as she was earning her certification in acupuncture.  He was teaching lots of classes, up to 15 in a week and trying to squeeze in his practice as well.  It was arduous, but was a huge learning experience for him.  At a certain point, he felt depressed and had a couple “What am I doing?” moments.  And then, at a class his wife Hilary attended, he found his voice.  He remembers feeling juiced during class, remembering the style of one of his mentors, Tony.  He decided to be himself, to bring his inner comic to class.  As students in class smiled and laughed their way through the heat, Justin remembers gaining his footing as a teacher as erasing some of his doubts.  He felt energized, it was a great class.  When class ended, Hilary appreciatively asked, “Where did that come from?”

While Justin was happy to leave the commercial printing world behind, being a yoga teacher presents it’s own set of challenges.  There are students he is committed to teaching, and that often means getting up early (even when your new baby has had a rough night of sleep), putting your own issues aside to be there for the students, finding something new in the dialogue and most notably for finding some humor to get the students through the tough parts of class. The energy that students bring to class gives him a charge that helps him push us through the demanding series.  He finds feedback from the group to be extremely rewarding.   Justin shared that stand-up comedy is appealing to him because he gets a charge out of making jokes and hearing people laugh.  As someone who has enjoyed his humor, the idea of him on stage is very appealing.  Many students of Justin’s would surely enjoy the idea of Justin on stage with a microphone cracking jokes, using his wry sense of humor.  But don’t quit your day job, Justin!

With a 10 month old son at home, Justin continues to find new challenges and rewards in life and in practice.  He maintains a busy teaching schedule while sharing baby duty with his wife, and still trying to squeeze in his own practice.  For those of you who haven’t taken one of Justin’s classes, you can expect personal attention.  At the start of his classes, he makes sure he knows everyone’s name so he can address you in class if the need arises.  He is also known to wordlessly   continue poses during which you question whether he knows how long you have been holding them.  (He knows).  His natural and easy approach makes you as comfortable as possible at 105 degrees.  While Justin teaches at other studios, he finds the people at Bikram Hot Yoga Vancouver to be extremely devoted and dedicated.  He truly enjoys the community.

So, the next time Justin teaches, bring your mat, your towel and your water.  But don’t forget your smile.  You will most definitely use it.


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