“I can, I will.”
That phrase, called out during Balancing Stick or before the final Triangle Pose is just one of the tools that Terri Fry, the owner of Bikram Yoga Chelmsford, uses to bring out the best in students.
Whether she is greeting students at the front desk, helping yogis choose colorful new outfits, teaching from the podium, basking in the glory of her 1st place finish in the 2016 New England Regional Yoga Asana Championships, or rocking Standing Head to Knee during class, Terri is an impressive woman who inspires us every day with her intelligence, strength, and belief that every person who walks into the studio is capable of healing and growth.
This week marks the 14th anniversary of Terri’s first Bikram-style yoga class. Happy Yogaversary, Terri!
It’s the perfect moment to ask her a few questions about her journey as a yoga student and teacher.
Tell us what you remember about your first ever Bikram yoga class.
Not much, it was a blur. I do remember being very hot and uncomfortable. I was wearing long, cotton sweat pants and a t-shirt. The only thing I remember about the standing series was watching this woman go down into toe stand. She just floated down, it was amazing to watch. Me, I was in the back row shooting daggers at my sister who brought me and just trying to balance on one leg. I do remember thinking to myself, “I want to do that!” Once we hit the floor, I remember being irritated by all this turning around and lying down in what, Savasana? I was thinking, “Why can’t we just keep moving, this is so silly, what is the purpose of this, why do I have to be still, why, why, why!?” I was very irritated by the floor series. Looking back I realize just how much of a negative place I was in in my life. I didn’t like my first class overly much.
What kept you coming back?
It was simple, I felt better after class. In the beginning, it was about the mental/emotional benefits of the series. I was in a bad place emotionally and dealing with some difficult personal issues. What I remember most vividly about those 90 minutes was I didn’t have time to think about my problems, my heart ache, and my sense of failure. For months I had been carrying a 1000 pound gorilla on my back. During class, the gorilla disappeared; I was too busy trying to breathe and balance to worry about my life’s problems. For a brief few minutes after class I experienced a feeling of calmness in both mind and body that made all the hard work of class worth it. As the months progressed, this feeling of calmness and tranquility lasted longer and longer until one day, the gorilla disappeared!
What were you like as a beginning student?
I’d like to say I was an excellent example of listening and trying the right way! The reality: I was stubborn. I looked for every way to do an end run around what the teacher was saying. I liked certain postures better than others. I made excuses as to why I couldn’t do a posture I didn’t like and focused on the ones I did. I realize now just how patient my initial instructors were with me and just how angry I was with life. It took a bit of time to come to the realization that there are no “short cuts” to the postures and you just have to allow the yoga time to work its way into your body.
When did you know you were “hooked?”
About eight months into practicing I began going to class 5-6 times a week and saw a huge shift in my practice. It impacted every aspect of my life. It became something more than just a yoga class. What I now see is it was the beginning of my journey to where I am today.
When did you go to Teacher Training? What made you want to be a teacher?
I went to teacher training in spring 2005. I was in my early 40’s and had become dissatisfied with the corporate life. I wanted change; I needed change. Perhaps it was a “mid-life” crisis as my family thought. Perhaps I was becoming bored with my job. Perhaps I was completely nuts. Perhaps I wanted to share with others this yoga practice which had enriched my life. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it was a combination of all of these things? All I know is once the decision was made, I quit the job, rented my house, put all my worldly goods in storage, took my dogs to my parents and took off for L.A. with no regrets and no looking in the rear view mirror!
What do you love about teaching?
That’s easy – the people! Seeing all the students in class, watching how hard they work, their struggles, learning about themselves and what they’re capable of doing. Hopefully giving them something of what I was given in the beginning of my practice.
What do you love most about the yoga?
The feeling of calmness, peace and sheer physicality I experience during class. The profound feeling of connection I feel in the hot room to a group of people from diverse backgrounds, experiences and ideologies. The hot room is a place where “everyone knows your name.” It’s a feeling I haven’t experienced anywhere else.
Even after all these years, what do you still struggle with in class?
Anything which requires backward bending! I have always been stronger than flexible and that remains true today! Improving my flexibility is my life’s mission and one which I work on during every class.
What do you know now that you couldn’t have known without 14 years of practice?
That I am a complete and whole person unto myself that I’m never “by myself” but “with myself” and my life is not defined by anything other than me. That getting older is less about aging and more about attitude and outlook on life.
Do you have a favorite posture?
Care to take a guess? It’s all about Standing Head to Knee! There is something about this posture which has captivated me from the very beginning. The feeling I have when I get my head to my knee (or shin, depending on the time of day) and hold it there, in stillness and breathe, the rest of the world fades to black.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Often times the hardest decisions one makes can yield the greatest results!
Thanks, Terri! Here’s to the next 14 years!
—Ellen Olson-Brown, Bikram Yoga Chelmsford