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There are two things that I think of immediately when I think of this month’s HYF hotshot, Robin Doucette.

The first is the contrast between her warm and friendly smile at the front desk and the “I’m coming after you, punk!” look of determination in her eyes when she lowers her elbows down in Standing Head to Knee or moves into Standing Bow Pulling. Robin is a kind, fun-loving person and a strong, focused yogi, and always a delight to be around.

The second thing I really notice when I’m around Robin is how impressed and inspired I’ve been watching her practice with a knee injury. It can be incredibly frustrating for an active go-getter to need to modify their practice to take care of injured/healing body parts, and I know that Robin has felt her share of disappointment at not being able to do what she wants to in class. But there she is, sweating it out, working hard, and sharing her beautiful practice with the body and mind she has that day, every single time. She sets an amazing example, and I’m honored to teach and practice with her.

Robin heads in for what we all hope will be a successful knee surgery later this month. We’re so glad her yoga practice will keep her as strong as possible going into the surgery, wish her a speedy recovery, and look forward to her triumphant return to the hot room!

When did you start practicing Bikram yoga? Why did you go to your first class?

I started Bikram yoga at the Burlington studio in March of 2013. I purchased a Groupon for 5 classes. I had a friend who kept telling me I should try yoga and I felt it was time for me to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I needed to expand my horizons. I also have a herniated disc in my neck and after seeing a chiropractor who helped relieve the pain and get some of my mobility back, I needed to find something like pilates (other than running, this was my workout of choice), that I could do that would not aggravate the disc again.

What brought you to the HYF studio?

Nancy Casey. She taught one of the first classes I took in Burlington and I fell in love with her. She was funny and encouraging and entertaining and had such a wonderful attitude. When she told me she also taught at the Chelmsford studio and I discovered the studio was closer to home rather than work, I decided that’s where I needed to go.

What do you remember about your first Bikram yoga class?

My very first Bikram class was with Sara Curry and I remember it well! I thought everyone around me was certainly from another planet (average people would not do this on the regular!!), and I was very intimidated! I remember looking around the room thinking there is no way, EVER, that my body is going to get into THAT position (pick one). And it was sooooooooo hot! I love the heat, but it felt oppressive to me. What I also remember though, is how wonderful I felt after the class. I felt accomplished, relaxed and refreshed and I slept like a baby!

What keeps you coming to class?

I love how I feel after class. No matter how tired I am, or how my mood is when I get there, I always feel better at the end of class. I take 90 minutes and focus on me…find my center…put myself and sometimes life, into perspective. There are days when I literally say out loud, “I need to go to yoga today.”

How often do you practice?

I try to get to class 4 times a week. It doesn’t always happen, but that is my goal every week.

What physical benefits and changes have you seen from your practice?

Physically, my body is stronger, more flexible, more limber, more toned. It took about 6 months before I noticed that my waistline was slimmer and my back and arms became much more toned. I sleep better on days that I practice and wake up feeling more rested, which means more energy to face the day.

How has doing this yoga affected your life outside the hot room?

Yoga helps me stay calmer in life (although I think most of my family and friends would say I’m still pretty high-strung 😊). I have learned how to breathe through things and calm my mind when I get stressed. I still have my moments, but I find myself more patient and more able to slow my mind. I’m a very high-energy person who has a hard time relaxing and slowing down. This type of practice works well for me because it’s very focused, is a constant challenge, and its truly hard work. I walk out of class feeling accomplished and strong and like I worked out hard. When I was running, it also helped my breathing. I found myself more able to control my breathing for longer periods of time and I believe it also increased my stamina.

I also must say that I took the motto, “Do the best you can with the body you have today” one step further. I was going through a lot personally when I started Bikram. I spent many classes with tears running down my face – thank goodness for all the sweat – no one notices such things!!! That motto morphed into, “Do the best you can with the body and MIND you have today.” And no matter how my practice may be from one day to the next, I am always grateful to be in the hot room, practicing with all I have that day.

What has surprised you about your practice?

How much I love it. How much I miss it when I can’t be there. How strong I have become and how much better I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.

What is your most challenging posture? Why?

I think it’s the spine-strengthening series, but not because of the postures; I find it the most challenging to breathe. For me, being on my belly with my heart rate up is difficult for me to keep my breathing normal. I struggle with it and focus on the instructor’s words and breathing out longer and deeper than I breathe in.

Do you have a favorite posture? What do you like about it?

This changes for me, because of the issues I have with my knee and the level of pain I may be in. These days, it’s final head to knee with stretching pose. It’s a posture that I can do without discomfort and I recently accomplished getting my chest on my thighs! I like the way my back and hamstrings feel stretched out and I’m pleasantly surprised how much progress I have made in this posture.

What is one tip you would give to a new student at The Hot Yoga Factory?

Don’t be intimidated and give it a real chance before you decide whether you like it. Realize that everyone around you once was a new student and thought all the things you are thinking. We kept coming and we got better. The more you come, the better it gets.

What other activities do you enjoy when you’re not in the hot room?

Walking and hiking with my dog is probably my most favorite activity. When my knee is fixed, I hope to get back to my other favorite – running. I love the beach and pretty much anything outdoors. I do all sorts of needle work – knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, etc. and crafts in general. And I really enjoy cooking.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I would like to add how grateful I am to all the instructors and fellow students that have encouraged and supported me over the last year while I continue practicing with an ongoing knee issue and a modified practice. Most especially Terri, wo called and convinced me to come back to the studio and practice in a chair she purchased for me – to leave my pride and expectations at the door – to truly work with the body I have today, within its limitations. If not for her and that phone call, I am not sure I would have returned until I was fully recovered. She also worked with my physical therapist to modify the practice so that I could do as much as I possibly could without hurting myself. THAT is going over and above. THAT is truly caring about your students and helping them achieve their goals. THAT is being Terri. And this is the HYF.

Thanks, Robin! See you in the Hot Room!

–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford

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