Winston Churchill said, “Don’t waste a good crisis.” 9/11 was that defining moment for me in 2001. Shortly after that tragic event, I quit my job in New York City and pursued yoga teacher training with Bikram in LA. Running was my obsession for years, and then I found hot yoga. It gave me the physical high and relief from my anxiety and depression. In the process, hot yoga reversed my chronic thyroid condition.
Experiencing my own physical and mental healing through this system of hot yoga and witnessing that of others, I realized that my purpose was to share it with the world. Little did I know or expect that Jeff would join me in 2008, and together we would grow our one studio in Davenport Village in Austin, Texas, into a multi-city, five-studio operation. Our vision is to “HEAL THE WORLD WITH YOGA!”
Yoga transforms lives. “How is this a beginner’s yoga class?” All you have to do is breathe. “I am not flexible enough to ‘do those poses’” Just try 1% and you receive the therapeutic benefit. “Why is it so hot?” Heat has been a healing modality for centuries; it improves circulation to heal the body. Without exception, people who try the “Original Hot Yoga” feel a change after class. 99.9% feel the best that they have ever felt! You might even feel that you have been transported to a new place. Sweating it out with a diverse group of people of all ages, sizes, and conditions builds a community of like-minded people like no other. Our student community is, in fact, the “real story” behind PURE Yoga Texas.
Everyone remembers their first hot yoga teacher. Mine was Nelson “Viraj” Santini in New York City on April 8th, 2000 for an 8:00am class. I was the only guy in the yoga room except for Viraj, a middle-aged man in a light blue speedo.
Everything was “wrong” in my first class. It was too hot. I was breathing loudly through my mouth. I couldn’t do all of the poses. I had to sit down. I left the room in the middle of class. I gutted my way through what I could do, and when it was over I felt euphoric like never before. The ankle injury I walked in with was miraculously gone!
Viraj made me come back the next week. After a few months of weekly practice on a Friday night, he told me to come back the next day on Saturday. I came back for class the next morning and had my best class to that point. I finally started listening to the teacher rather than clenching to my own notions of fitness, exercise, and yoga.
As a “kid from Queens” growing up in the 70’s, I was always the underdog. Small in stature and a year younger than my grade, I had to be tougher and grittier than the bigger kids on the playground. If I grew up today, I’d probably be diagnosed with ADHD, with the boundless energy I had to play from dawn to dusk and my constant daydreaming during grade school.
I dealt with my father’s death at the young age of eight and watched a good amount of family turmoil during my first 25 years. I had seen it all, but I had a loving mom and three great big sisters. Although I was on a good path professionally in banking and finance, I struggled to find purpose outside of the NYC bars and was headed down a self-destructive path.
I met Mardy when I was 30 years old, and she changed my life. She held the highest standards for integrity and became my conscience and guide for decision-making when faced with temptation. Early in our relationship, she was a runner, so I started running to try to impress her, even though I didn’t really like it. I ran the 1999 New York City Marathon as a lottery entrant and gutted my way through the most exhilarating 4.5 hours of my life up to that time.
Naturally, for many first-time marathoners who don’t train properly, I ended up with a nagging ankle injury that I couldn’t shake. Mardy planted the seed soon after that I should try a hot yoga class with her at “Bikram Yoga NYC,” now known as BodeNYC. And there my journey with yoga began with some of my most influential teachers in NYC, like Georgia Balligian, who has been practicing yoga consistently for over 40 years!
I was active and competitive in sports and martial arts since the age of 13, so I was drawn in by the challenging nature of hot yoga. It complemented my kendo training (Japanese “way of the sword”) in its discipline, repetition of basic techniques, and cultivation of body, mind, and spirit. My Japanese kendo sensei today is a major influence on my etiquette, manners, and attitude towards others.
Fortunately for me, the 2008 financial crisis made my company “quit me.” Cutting me loose gave me the freedom to start a new chapter in my life; one devoted to promoting the magical health benefits of Bikram Yoga. Teacher training with Bikram was 9-weeks of intense physical breakdown in Acapulco with daily doubles in the hottest and most humid yoga room in the world. “Surrender” was the operative word.
Taking one studio location in 2003, to two in 2009, then three, four, then five over the next several years was a labor of love. I thrived off the high of “closing the deal,” a remnant from my investment and finance work experience. It fulfilled a sense of purpose to spread the miraculous benefits of yoga to so many students in Central Texas and to Dallas (in 2016), but was it the best thing for Mardy and I? When would we reinvest in ourselves? When would we get to slow down?
March 16th, 2020 was the day we closed our doors because of the pandemic. Faced with huge uncertainty for our studios and employees, we had 24 hours to rethink and retool. The rest of 2020 was a blur after we reopened in June. We moved fast and in many directions with the amazing team that was organically grown over the years. We relied on our 20 years of yoga practice that instilled the concentration, determination, discipline, patience, and faith to work harder than we ever had before.
In June 2020, we took a leap of faith with the dynamic duo of Albina and Roger Rippy to reinvest in ourselves with their Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training. What did we have to lose? We witnessed their amazing ability to bring out the best in people and facilitate personal growth and transformation. We felt it ourselves and are now much more open to new methods, styles, and ideas that you will see in 2021. The future for the PURE Yoga Community is shining bright!
For all students and those “yoga-curious,” I encourage you to embark on your own personal journey. Hot yoga works for everyone; NO flexibility is required! For all experienced practitioners, I look forward to growing together with you all in 2021 and together we will explore new possibilities. However, just like what my first yoga teacher, the late-Viraj, did for me, all I can do is my best to encourage you to come back to class again tomorrow. To start all over again.
See you on the mat!
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What classes do we offer at our studios? Original Hot Yoga, Heated Ashtanga, Hot Power Vinyasa, Hot Yoga HIIT Fusion, and Inferno Hot Pilates. They’re ALL HOT!
PURE Yoga Texas has brought Original Hot Yoga to Austin, Cedar Park and Dallas in its purest form since 2003, introducing its physical and mental health benefits to over 75,000 people. At our core over the last 20 years is “Original Hot Yoga,” a set sequence of 26-postures (aka Bikram Yoga) that is the foundation for most all hot yoga practices today. Our diligence and commitment to this series enables our teachers to understand each posture as they relate to a wide range of students for unparalleled expertise.
“Original Hot Yoga” has been researched and studied extensively and found to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, diabetes, depression and anxiety, to help lose weight, recover from injuries (back, neck, shoulder, knee), and boost athletic performance. In fact, you’ll see professional athletes practicing side by side with mothers, grandfathers, corporate execs and college students; everyone doing their personal best!
Locally owned and locally loved in Austin, Cedar Park and Dallas, we were voted First Place Yoga Studio in the 2020 Best of the Best Austin American-Statesman and Austin360’s Official Choice Awards. Come in and see how our #PUREcommunity supports one another to feel better each day, each class, each posture, and each breath!