On Wednesday evenings, the weather at The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford is 100% Sunny! If you haven’t made it to Sunny’s weekly 4:30 or 6:30 classes, make sure and give one a try – you’re in for a treat! Sunny combines warm, compassionate energy with tons of experience teaching and practicing the 26/2 series. Her love for the practice and all the students in our community is palpable and a gift to all of us.
My first class was kind of a blur. It went by really fast, and I had a great time trying to keep up with all of the very experienced students in the room that made it look so easy! I thought I was doing the postures the right way.
What kept you coming back?
I loved my first class. When I left my first class I felt incredible. Nothing I’d done before even came close to making me feel as great as I felt.
What were you like as a beginning student?
I have always been very enthusiastic about my practice. I give it my all each time I’m in the room. The heat and humidity were very challenging for me. I was frequently instructed to breathe through my nose, and I tried, but it took me several months to be able to breathe that way for 90 minutes.
When did you know you were “hooked”?
I knew I was hooked when I was getting up at 5am to attend the 6am class on Thursday because it was the only class I could make it to that day. I used to laugh on the way to the studio because I couldn’t believe I loved the yoga enough to get up early to practice.
When did you go to Teacher Training? What made you want to be a teacher?
I went to Teacher Training in Acapulco in the fall of 2008. I stayed at the Fairmont Princess Hotel for nine incredibly intense weeks. I wanted to share this yoga with anyone and everyone who would listen. I ate, drank, and slept yoga from day one, and I went to Teacher Training exactly six months after my first class. My mentor, Linda Hewins, and I practiced daily and went to lunch frequently, where we talked Bikram Yoga nonstop.
What do you love about teaching?
I can’t tell you how much I love teaching! Teaching has changed my life as much as my practice has, but in a different way. I am more compassionate, loving, and confident. I love watching a newbie fall in love with the yoga and improve with their balance, flexibility, focus, determination. I love the light bulb moments when someone understands their body better or what the pose is asking of them. The moment when someone is contemplating sitting out second set and I tell them, “You can do this,” and they do it. There’s something very special about the experience of a “first time” student. Some days a student will share with me that they’ve had a horrible day or they’re feeling down, and after class they feel totally different. Or maybe there’s a student with a particular health challenge and the yoga helps them feel better. It’s amazing to be part of this community; words just don’t begin to say enough about my love of teaching.
What do you still love about the yoga?
I still love that every class is unique. Even though it’s the same 26+2, every time I’m in the room is different because I’m always changing. I love the challenge of improving. I love the peacefulness it brings when the 90 minutes is finished. Even when I teach, I feel that afterglow from the students. There’s nothing like it.
Even after all these years, what do you still struggle with in class?
Nine years later, I’m challenged to accept my practice where it is. The yoga helped me realize I had scoliosis, which has changed my practice quite a bit. I’ve had to learn to back off and sometimes sit out poses while my body becomes stronger and my spine becomes more aligned with my hips, ribs, and shoulders. I was used to pushing, pushing, pushing, so it’s a big change and humbling.
What do you know now that you couldn’t have known without so many years of dedicated practice?
I had no idea what I was capable of physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Every idea I thought I had of myself has been shattered. I never thought I’d get used to the conditions of the hot room, but I have. I realized this last winter during Johnny Salvatore’s master class. The mirrors were steamed up from top to bottom before Standing Bow Pulling, and we were all dripping with sweat. It took some focus to do the poses without being able to see myself, and hearing the symphony of sweat dropping onto mats as that packed room practiced to the enthusiastic encouragement of an experienced teacher. I had been going through some physical challenges as well, and Johnny was inspirational as he shared his story. You never know who you’ll touch by sharing your experiences.
Do you have a favorite posture?
My favorite asana changes all the time. Recently, my favorite is Cobra because of its therapeutic effect on the lumbar spine. One thing I like the most that hasn’t changed is Pranayama Breathing. It’s the most important part of class for me, and I love it. It seems to be one of the most difficult things to learn when new, but has great rewards and room to improve each time.
Do you ever take Hot Pilates or Yoga Sculpt classes?
I haven’t tried Hot Pilates or Yoga Sculpt yet. I can’t wait to get the okay from my doctor to try them!
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
NEVER GIVE UP! Keep practicing. Always try to do as much as you can the right way with the body you have at the moment. Be grateful for what you can do on any given day.
Thanks so much, Sunny! Can’t wait to take your class!
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford