Not long ago, I had just pulled into a parking space at The Hot Yoga Factory with my teenage sons, when a fellow yogi drove up and parked next to us. Both boys said, in the fondest way, “Hey, it’s Debbie!”
That’s a common reaction to finding yourself in the same place as the lovely Debbie Butts. Positive, funny, and focused, she’s always willing to lend a hand (I’ve caught her a few times mopping the floor between classes!) or a supportive word to members of our community. Her practice is steady and determined in both yoga and Inferno Hot Pilates, and she has a way of blending let’s-get-it-done seriousness with a light sense of perspective and ease.
I was so thrilled when Debbie committed to training with this year’s group of yoga athletes, as her energy has already added so much to the group. She’s a role model through and through – make sure to say hello to her the next time you see her, and keep reading to get to know her better!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a happily retired educator as of July 2017. I live in Littleton and have three grown children…no grandchildren yet! My sweet dog Phoebe is almost 14 and we walk twice a day, hopefully keeping both of us young and engaged with the environment. My 14-year-old cat, Murphy, is a happy indoor cat that has become quite affectionate as he has aged.
When did you start practicing hot yoga?
I first came to The Hot Yoga Factory in 2014, going to a class or two a month. During ski season I sometimes didn’t go at all! I have been consistently practicing yoga since I retired.
What brought you to our studio?
I wanted to improve my balance and increase my flexibility, hopefully defying (or at least slowing) the aging process. From the first class I attended, I felt welcomed and supported by the teachers. That alone made it a place I wanted to return to often.
What do you remember about your first class?
Oh yes…I thought it was the hottest, hardest class I had ever taken. My balance was terrible, and I wondered how so many people in the room could stand on one foot and maintain postures and balance.
How often do you practice?
I go as often as my schedule allows. In the past 15 months I have gone to class four to five times a week.
What physical benefits and changes have you seen from your practice?
Although my balance continues to be a challenge, it has definitely improved. Although I can continue to work on strength, I am definitely stronger.
Has doing this practice affected your life outside the hot room?
Especially on days when I practice, I feel more centered and focused. If I am feeling kind of droopy, yoga definitely makes me more alert and increases my energy! Overall, the effects of the practice are very positive.
What has surprised you about your practice?
I am always surprised by my ability to stay in the hot room. I have learned to embrace the sweat, and that has surprised me!
What is your most challenging posture? Why?
Awkward pose is very challenging for me, especially the second and third parts. Standing on my tiptoes and maintaining my balance is very hard and then pushing up to standing in the third part is difficult. One leg seems stronger than the other. I try like the devil, but gravity is not my friend.
Do you have a favorite posture? What do you like about it?
Savasana is my favorite posture…only kidding! although it is one of the hardest postures for me, from which I usually fall out, I like standing head to knee. When I can hold it for a while, I feel like I am making progress, and that makes me happy.
How did you make the decision to train for competition this year?
Mostly, I wanted to deepen my practice. I don’t think of yoga as a competitive activity. However, the support and encouragement of others helped me make the decision to at least make a video.
What is one tip you would give to a new student at HYF?
Be kind to yourself and be patient. After a while you will actually like sweating and pushing yourself to increase flexibility and strength.
Have you taken Inferno Hot Pilates classes? What has your experience been? How does taking those classes affect your yoga practice?
I’ve taken many Hot Pilates classes, and I love them. My upper body and abdominal strength have improved, and I believe my dynamic balance has improved.
What other activities do you enjoy when you’re not in the hot room?
I love to hike, bike, work in the garden, and take leisurely walks with my dog. I love to read and knit too. I enjoy teaching skiing at Wachusett Mountain in the winter, and have made many great friends over the ten years I have worked there.
Thanks, Debbie! See you in the hot room (and maybe on the snowy mountain too)!!
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford