Interview Brandy Lyn on Bikram Yoga

by admin on August 23, 2013

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Interview Brandy Lyn on Iyengar Yoga


Last Feburary, Las Vegas resident Brandy Lyn Winfield won the Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup 2010 in the International Yoga Asana Championship held in Los Angeles, California.

Brandy and her fellow contestants  performed seven postures each, five compulsory and two optional, worth up to ten points each. They were judged on balance, strength, flexibility, timing and appropriate breathing in postures, Winfield scored 73.4, the highest of both the men’s and women’s division.  You can watch the video of Brandy’s performance below.

While in the States for the competition (the tall, thin 29-year-old has been in India since last November teaching yoga and managing a studio in Mumbai), Winfield spent time with family in Las Vegas. Just six hours before flying back to Mumbai, she took the time answer a few questions about her yoga journey, winning the competition and teaching in India. The conversation took place at Bikram Yoga Summerlin where Winfield was taking one last sweaty and invigorating class with her mother before making her passage to India.


How did you discover yoga?

My mother called me and told me I must go to a Bikram yoga class in Arizona, where I was living at the time. The first time I went, I rang her back and told her she was crazy. I was used to being pretty good at physical activity, so I was having a hard time with the fact that the lady next to me had been twice my age, twice my size, and had kicked my butt. And looking at myself in the mirror for 90 minutes was tough. I spent the next few years banging my head against a wall, negotiating with my mind and my ego, trying to convince myself I didn’t need this yoga. The recording in my head was something like: ‘Why does it have to be so damn hot and hard, why do I have to look in the mirror, surely 90 minutes is too much; why can’t they turn down the heat a few notches, turn the fans on, and make it 60 minutes’. The problem was that I felt so good after practicing and the results were something I could not deny. Then I woke up one morning and knew that the only way I was going to make this a lifelong practice was if I became a teacher. So, I sold my house and went to Bikram’s intensive teacher training in Los Angeles. I struggled through teacher training and spent a significant amount of time wondering what I had gotten myself into. At times, I doubted that I even wanted to teach. All that changed after I taught my first class’ I knew I had discovered what my life’s work was. I have never looked back.

brandy lyn

What keeps you inspired and motivated?

All of the studios that I visit inspire me. So do the students and their love for yoga, and all the energy generated in a yoga room.
Bikram; his wife Rajashree; and especially our most senior teacher, Emmy Cleaves, all inspire me continuously on personal and professional levels. My daily practice also keeps me motivated, mostly because of how great I always feel and just knowing that
this yoga works!


What does winning the 2010 Yoga Asana Championship in Los Angeles mean to you?

First of all, I knew it meant an obligation – not just as a champion, but also to the yoga community – to promote yoga to youth and
continue our goal to have yoga accepted into the Olympics. We were able to promote USA yoga and got many new members.
And all the many studios, countries, lessons, and especially the public demos have been highlights for me. My overall goal has
been to get more people doing more yoga.

brandy lyn

Tell us about the Championship?

The competition is held once a year and I am the seventh female international champion. There are regional qualifiers and country
qualifiers, and then the top two from each country compete on an international level. It’s judged much like gymnastics or
figure skating.
There are five compulsory postures: standing head to knee, standing bow, bow, rabbit, and stretching. These have been chosen because they demonstrate concentration, self control, balance, strength, flexibility and the condition of the spine. Then there are two optional postures, picked by the competitor from the 84 classic yoga asanas. The routine must be completed on stage in front of a panel of judges. Each posture is worth 10 technical points and there are also up to 10 points awarded for grace. The person with the highest score wins.


What impact does does teaching have on your life, physically and mentally?

Teaching is the most inspiring and rewarding job I can imagine. I can’t even call it a job, I love it so much. I truly understand the whole
concept of finding something you love to do and never working a day in your life. Teaching sustains my energy, both physically and
mentally. It is the only place and the only time that I can completely get out of my own way; the only place that all my ‘stuff’ does not matter so much any more. I get so inspired by students and their stories, and am able to translate that inspiration into energy.


What do you find is the most challenging aspect of Bikram yoga?

The raw honesty of it. Spending 90 minutes every day facing the decisions that I have made, 90 minutes with nothing but myself, 90
minutes of presence.

brandy lyn iyengar yoga

How did you find living and teaching in India? Was it a culture shock?

I had been to Pakistan with my mother when I was 10, and before India, I taught Bikram yoga in South Korea. Still, India was
something different. Due simply to the sheer number of people, the energy generated causes the whole country to literally vibrate on a
different level. The best and the worst of everything exists in India – it’s all one and the same.

India’s also the birthplace of yoga, and to be asked by Bikram to manage and teach at his studio in Mumbai was a privilege, an
honor and a responsibility. The intensity was high, and the lessons were hard and fast.


How do you keep your classes fresh for both you and your students?

I try to spend as much time with seasoned teachers as possible. Bikram holds a teacher training course twice a year and I go back to
help with that. Continuing education is essential.

I also try to go into each class, every day, with no expectations. It’s a new moment, new class, new students every single time. I
accept the class as is. And the amazing thing about teaching and practicing is that they are both constantly changing and evolving


“Teaching is the most inspiring and rewarding job I can imagine. I can’t even call it a job, I love it so much. I truly understand the whole concept of finding something you love to do and never working a day in your life.”


What is it about the yoga philosophy that resonates most with you?

Breath and balance. I had no idea how to breathe until I found yoga. I had no idea that if I want to change the way I feel, all I need to do
is change the way I breathe. By learning to breathe, I learnt to think before speaking or acting.

And by balance, I don’t mean the physical sense of standing on one leg and seeing if I can bite my toes. I mean balance as in the medium point between two polar opposites – between strength and flexibility, left and right, good and bad.

brandy lyn iyengar yoga

Yoga obviously means union and revolves around the idea of balance. How do you maintain that balance, given the demands of your job and your role in the yoga community?

It comes back to balance itself. This year has been tough in regards to finding balance. It has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for
me and I jumped in with both feet, fully dedicated and very aware of what I was signing up for. I try to decompress when I have some down-time, make healthy food choices, and rest as much as possible. I have learned to know my limits and also to set boundaries. Honestly, my daily Bikram practice is what keeps me balanced right now. It is like hitting the reset button every day. Find out more about other yoga teachers true stories in the main page.

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