How I Got Here
In the Spring of 2013, I was living in Singapore. I was about to enter my seventh year as a full-time Bikram Yoga teacher. I’d been managing studios for five consecutive years and had earned a reputation as someone new teachers could go to for mentorship. While I loved teaching, I felt that my real talent lay in teacher development. I thought that when the time came to move on from Singapore, I would join the staff of the Bikram Teacher Training. I was more than optimistic about my career trajectory.
Then news broke that a high profile teacher, someone I knew personally, who had been one of my teachers at my home studio in Berkeley, California, was suing Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, for sexual harassment and attempted rape. Soon after, another lawsuit was filed, by a different teacher, with similar allegations. And then another, and another, and then Bikram’s lawyer filed a suit claiming that Bikram had ordered her to participate in a cover-up. The lawsuits came tumbling down through the associated press in a landslide of disturbing news, sending tumult and dissension through the world-wide community of Bikram teachers.
I had a closer relationship to Bikram Choudhury than most teachers, having worked directly for him as director of his San Francisco studio. I knew he was no saint, but I felt he brought integrity to his teaching, and so I gave him the benefit of the doubt in most matters. He treated me extremely well, in any case. And when I left San Francisco to accept a job offer in Singapore, he thanked me for my service and wished me well. I took pride in being an ambassador of his yoga lineage.
Now, all of a sudden, my entire relationship to Bikram Yoga came into question. I knew in my gut that the allegations were true. The signs were there all along — I’d just neglected to connect the dots — and a year later, when my contract in Singapore reached its expiration date, I decided to take a step back from teaching and reflect.
Not wanting to go back to the States just yet, I went to Thailand, completed a CELTA course at International House, and got a job as an EFL teacher at a language school in Bangkok. Teaching English was okay, living in Thailand was awesome, but as one year bled into three years my longing for the glory days, the prestige of the Bikram podium, grew stronger. I started looking around at teaching opportunities for traveling yoga teachers, and what I found was that the landscape had changed. Many studios had taken the Bikram name off of their signage and were incorporating other styles of yoga into their schedule. Many studios had gone out of business. A few countries that had previously been attractive destinations had tightened their visa requirements, putting them out of reach. And my own needs had changed — I was now married to a woman I had met during my last year in Singapore. I needed a more stable situation than most studios could offer.
Finally, an opportunity did present itself when a studio came up for sale in Bellingham, Washington, in a part of the Pacific Northwest that my wife adores. I entered discussions with the owners. The asking price was reasonable. But when we broke down the numbers with a friend and former studio owner, and took all things into consideration, we decided that investing in a dying brand was not the wisest thing to do. Could we have made it work? Probably, with fierce commitment and a little luck. But what I had to admit was that I just didn’t have the stomach for teaching yoga anymore. Everything had changed when I found out what kind of person Bikram Choudhury actually was.
With the ship having sailed on my Bikram career, I found myself stranded on the docks, at the age of 52, wondering what my next move could possibly be.
When I heard that Chris Kresser was offering a health coaching program, my interest was immediately piqued. My wife and I had begun eating a paleo style diet together during my last year in Singapore and the study of nutrition and ancestral principles had become a passion of mine. Since then, I’ve listened to hours and hours of podcasts on the subject, read the best books I could get my hands on, devoured scores of articles and blog posts. Of all the experts I’ve turned to for information, Chris Kresser has long stood out as the most knowledgable, the most nuanced in his positions, the person I trust the most. I figured if he were putting together a health coaching program, it would most likely be good, and as I did my due diligence I became convinced that was the case.
One of the things I loved most about being a Bikram teacher was the feeling that I was bringing better health — both physical and mental health — to my students, and I see health coaching being rewarding in a similar way. Equally rewarding was the work I did in teacher development. And though health coaching is a different process than mentoring, both involve identifying and bringing forth the hidden strengths in people — a process that strongly appeals to me.
Since learning to use a nutrient-dense diet to create optimal health, I’ve become saddened by the numerous people I encounter who want to take care of their health, who make efforts to be healthy, but inevitably fail due to lack of knowledge and guidance. Many people want to take steps to improve their health, but really have no idea what to do. Or they have some knowledge of what to do, but don’t know how to go about doing it. Acquiring the knowledge and tools to help these kinds of people feels like a deeply satisfying thing to do.
Long before I started practicing yoga, I studied with a meditation master and have maintained a daily practice for the past thirty-one years. In fact, my ventures into yoga began as a way to counter the leg pain I was experiencing during long sessions of sitting. In researching Kresser’s ADAPT program, I was intrigued and pleased to find that mindfulness training is a significant part of the program. Before learning that Kresser had put together a health coaching program, I was actually considering pursuing a career as a meditation instructor. Nifty piece of synchronicity there.
I’m confident that my background as a Bikram teacher and experience with meditation gives me a foundational skill set that will be directly applicable to health coaching. The ADAPT program seems like an excellent fit for me. I think I’m a good fit for it. I can’t wait to get started.