The Bikram Yoga Chelmsford community is filled with welcoming, dedicated yogis. We all share the same practice, but everyone’s path is a little different, and we have so much to learn from one another. Every month we choose a new BYC student to interview and honor with the title of BYC Hotshot. We hope you enjoy these “behind the scenes” glimpses into the yoga practices of your fellow students!!
Nice and steady. That describes Ryan DeCourcey in and out of the hot room. He’s a dedicated student with a great attitude, and we’re so excited for you to get to know him better this month!
I grew up in Medford. After high school, I went to school in California, where I met my wife. After 3 years of school, I joined the Marines from 1993 to 1997. During that time, my wife and I got married, and we eventually had three kids. I moved back to Somerville and joined the Somerville Fire Department. I built a house in Billerica, where I live with my family, and now I work for the Cambridge Fire Department and I’m the Vice President of my father’s roofing company.
When did you start practicing Bikram yoga?
I happened to be working near a studio. I had tried yoga at another studio and liked it, but the Bikram studio had classes that fit my schedule.
What do you remember about your first Bikram yoga class?
Going in, I wasn’t too concerned about the heat, but about halfway through class it hit me. I learned quickly that you have to pace yourself and back off to a certain extent. You can’t always go 100 percent. Go a little easy on yourself or it’ll backfire.
What keeps you coming to class?
I’m competitive, not necessarily with other people, but with myself. I have a goal, for example, to eventually get my head to my feet in Final Stretching Pose. There are a lot of mini-goals I have for myself. It feeds on itself because you keep accomplishing these mini-goals and you feel good. Sometimes it might not be the best day, but I’ll tell myself just to get to the studio and go through the motions. When you do that, sometimes five or ten minutes into class you feel good.
How often do you practice?
Right now my goal is four times a week. Last year it was three times a week. It started at once a week. I’ve done weightlifting, I’ve run 16 marathons (8 of them ultras). I have done Crossfit. I get bored easily, and was looking for something to add at first, so that’s why I started at one class a week. Now I like to come more often.
You mentioned that you’re easily bored. Do you ever feel bored doing the same 26 postures and two breathing exercises every class?
Bored? No, I don’t get bored. I don’t know why, but the class never really gets boring for me. There’s something in every posture that’s a little workout. You don’t have time to get bored. 30 seconds and you’re on to something else. It constantly changes. Every now and then my mind will drift to work, home, and I notice that when that happens, I have a bad posture. I fall or something like that. I have to stay focused, so I think that’s why I don’t get bored.
What benefits and changes have you seen from your practice?
I have less joint pain, less back pain. I don’t have any big problems, I’ve never been out of work because of work injuries, even though I’ve been working on roofs since I was a teenager. But I had wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee aches and pains. I just don’t have them like I used to. A big reason I come to this class is that I see it as preventative. I want to stay ahead of pain and injury.
How has doing this yoga affected your life outside the hot room?
Being in the fire department, you deal with stressful situations, sick people, getting up out of a deep sleep to go on a call. Commercial construction is high stress too; work has to be done despite the weather, on schedule, and no is rarely a suitable answer. There’s always a cloud of potential stress over my head, but it affects me far less than it used to. I don’t engage as easily as I used to when things get stressful at work, and I think it affected life at home with teens too. I can handle things better.
What has surprised you about your practice?
I’m surprised that there are so few men. In a way it doesn’t really surprise me because I understand men. There are lots of hangups with yoga. When I talk about it with the guys I was in the Marines with, I get lots of ribbing. But you know, if something works…this yoga is one stop shopping. If you go three times a week, you’re covered. That kind of surprised me.
What is your most challenging posture?
Standing Head to Knee Pose. I’m glad when that’s over. It’s painful. I was trying to get my head to my knee, but I wasn’t doing it right; I just wasn’t. So I said to myself, keep that leg locked for the entire posture. Work on that. That’s enough. But it’s hard.
Do you have a favorite posture? What do you like about it?
I do like Triangle Pose. I really didn’t like it at first. Now I can endure it. You get to a point where you endure, and then you get strong enough that you can enjoy it and push through to a new place.
What is one tip you would give to a new student at Bikram Yoga Chelmsford?
Just keep showing up. It’s going to be uncomfortable. Don’t worry about anything else but showing up; don’t give it any more thought. That’s Marine Corps mentality. Take the first step, and get your mind away from the inevitable discomfort you’re going to feel.
What other activities do you enjoy when you’re not in the hot room?
I spend a lot of time going to my kids’ athletic events and being with family.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
All of that candles and incense, peace, love and granola stuff is great, but at the base of it all, this stuff is frigging hard work. There are times I don’t want to walk into that room. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to get in there and grind it all out.
Sometimes I trick myself. In the Marine Corps, at Camp Pendleton, we’d be out there in the rain for a couple of days. It was miserable. My friend would say, “We’re gonna get through this, it’s gonna end, and then we’ll eat chicken wings and drink beer all day.” I hate practicing at the 4:30 classes, so I’ll tell myself, “If I go to class, I’ll get a couple of cheeseburgers after.” I might not need even want the burgers afterward, but it gets me to class.
Focus on the mission at hand. Learn to be able to operate in the face of an imposing task. It’s worth it.
— Ellen Olson-Brown, Bikram Yoga Chelmsford