I tried Bikram yoga for the first time in my life last month, and found the process both challenging and intriguing. It certainly tested my emotional and physical fortitude at times, but involved the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Rebeckh Burns of Bikram Yoga Britomart.
After stints in Europe, the United States and Australia she headed back to New Zealand and started studying holistic health. She soon left the snow industry and enrolled full time at Naturopathy school, after having an interest in the area - as well as in meditation, spiritual practices and the like - her whole life.
“I soon came to the conclusion that people were choosing to incorporate natural health into their lives which was great,” she says, “but they often start a health regime and then fall back into old habits after a few weeks. The real change needs to take place in the mind, and that lead me to delve further into the effect of the mind on the body and Psychoneuroimmunology, which is that science.”
She emphasises the importance of recognising the changes you need in your life and actually keeping to them, which is the hard part for all of us.
This in turn lead Rebeckh to the study of metaphysics, meditation and yoga at the age of 25, an age where many young women have barely entered the workforce proper let alone pursued further study. “I wanted to get the word out that you can incorporate meditation, mindfulness and positive thinking into your life without needing to go and be a monk,” she says with a smile. “It’s all about things you can do in your daily life now, rather than having to leave your daily life to change it.”
Soon she was sharing her knowledge via a series of CDs sold across big chains like Whitcoulls, as well as writing columns in magazines and appearing regularly on radio and TV. She looked into the Australian market and saw it was too big to take on alone, so approached some publishing companies and not longer after had a successful book and meditation series published by Harper Collins. “I was only 27 at the time and my publishing career was starting to take on its own entity, which wasn’t resonating with me,” she explains. “So I pulled the plug. I kept writing and my website is still up but it was time to take back control.” That involved taking a break to devote herself to bringing up her two beautiful kids, both at school in Herne Bay and very happy Cox’s Bay locals.
She had always been a fan of yoga - her dissertation was on the positives effects that a Hatha practice has on the brain - but as her children grew she began Bikram yoga classes and soon realised “that is brings you present more quickly than any other style. I also loved the fact that it is very broad and can be practiced by all sorts of people, you don’t need to have a certain degree of flexibility or strength to enter your first class.”
She was inspired to become a Bikram Method Teacher herself and soon left for San Diego to embark on the nine-week course required to do just that. “The hardest thing was leaving my children for that long,” she admits, eventually returning to teach part-time, “which I was really happy with. It was the perfect situation for a mum with young kids.”
Then the opportunity came up to open her own studio in Britomart - the now buzzing and very successful Bikram Yoga Britomart. Opened 2012, the studio has become
a thriving yoga community as well as a sanctuary in the inner city, and Rebeckh has never looked back.
“It was such an amazing, seamless operation,” she says with a smile, “and from the very beginning I knew that I was doing the right thing. It is such a busy, thriving area and it seemed that people were really looking for a place like we had created, and new arrivals start class almost every day.”
We talk about the attitude of many people that I have encountered when you mention Bikram, which is mainly that its incredibly hard and full of rules, and thus terribly difficult for a beginner. “Well, some people forget that yoga is a discipline,” says Rebeckh, “and that it requires a real commitment. We support people the whole way though, and I love hearing their tales of how it changes their life.”
When we met, the studio had just experienced its busiest week ever, with an amazing 1000 plus people coming to do yoga under its beautiful roof. “I just think about how much light is going out into the world with that many people doing yoga in one week,” says the author-turned-teacher with a smile, and I see that I’m in the presence of one extremely happy woman. (HELENE RAVLICH)