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Leslie O’Neil is a lovely person and a beautiful, shining example of the benefits that come from a consistent, dedicated, brave, and open-minded yoga practice. In the two years that she’s been coming to The Hot Yoga Factory, she’s grown remarkably as a yogi, developing not only strength, balance, and flexibility, but a rock solid sense of focus and determination that is truly inspirational. In the beginner’s class and also in the classic 84 class on Thursday afternoons, Leslie absorbs cues and suggestions like a sponge, and transforms them through her hard work into better alignment and better health for her body and mind. You’ll often catch her doing a yoga/pilates double like it’s nothing. She’s amazing.

This year Leslie took on the challenge of competing in the USA Yoga Asana Championships. With encouragement, she agreed to train for the first stage of competition, which involves submitting a video of a six-posture routine. Her coaches and co-trainees kept reminding her, “It’s only a video!” Many drops of sweat later, Leslie ended up making it to the Regional Championship and then all the way to Nationals, where she placed 8th overall in her division! Go, Leslie!

When did you start practicing Bikram yoga?

I started practicing a little over two years ago.

How did you discover our studio?

I was trying out different yoga studios, to see which one would be the right fit for me, and I saw the 30 days for $30 sign in the window and decided to give it a try!  This is how I discovered what Bikram Yoga was, because when I signed up, I didn’t have much knowledge when it came to the different types of yoga, especially the heat aspect of the Bikram practice!

What do you remember about your first class?

I remember being hit by the wall of heat when I first entered the room, and the damp carpet on the floor made me feel a bit uneasy. I made it thru the first class by trying to follow the other students in the room. I had no expectations with my first class,  i entered the hot room not even knowing what Bikram Yoga was!  I just had fun trying the postures and I remember the first class seemed to fly by!

What keeps you coming to class?

So much! The people here are such an important part of my life now!  It is an amazing community, and I feel blessed to be a part of it.  The practice helps me physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It also helps me with focus and discipline. There are so many benefits, it keeps me coming!
How often do you practice?
I try to practice Bikram Yoga every day. It has to be something big in order for me not to enter the studio!
How often do you practice?  
I try to practice Bikram Yoga every day. It has to be something big in order for me not to enter the studio!
What physical benefits and changes have you seen from your practice?  
I have seen my body change in the two years I have been practicing. My flexibility first and foremost!  I entered the studio as an inflexible yogi, and I have seen improvements in my ability to get into the postures.  Also, I had been diagnosed with osteopenia approximately 6 years ago, and since doing the Bikram Yoga my spine is now within the normal range for bone density, and my hips are markedly improved. I cannot stop now!
How has doing this yoga affected your life outside the hot room?
It lifts my entire day when I practice.  It is the practice itself, as well as being able to practice with the wonderful people here. Makes the outside world that much better!
What has surprised you about your practice?
How my practice is different day to day.
What is your most challenging posture? Why?
I find the first part of awkward pose challenging/frustrating because I don’t have much flexion in my ankles so I cannot get my hips low enough for proper execution of the posture.
Do you have a favorite posture? What do you like about it?
Right now I am working on being able to hold Standing Head to Knee more consistently in class.  I haven’t got there yet, but it is one of my goals to be able to hold it more often than not.  It is my favorite posture because it is so challenging and I’m determined to someday be able to fully express it.
What is one tip you’d give a new student at The Hot Yoga Factory?
Keep at it!  If you practice consistently, you will see changes.
Have you taken Hot Pilates classes? How does taking those classes affect your yoga practice?
Hot Pilates!?! I am addicted!! I try to go to 3-4 Hot Pilates classes a week, and I have seen a big change in my strength.  I feel Bikram Yoga and Hot Pilates classes complement one another.
What other activities do you enjoy when you’re not in the hot room?
I enjoy paddle boarding, reading, walking, and lazy days on the lake with my family.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
“It’s only a video!”
LOL! Thanks so much, Leslie! See you in the hot room!
— Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory, Chelmsford
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