To fit yoga more into my life, I started to do yoga at the fire station. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I bought a yoga DVD into the station and started doing that on shift. I had a pretty cool crew of firefighters at the station with me, so a few of them began to do the DVDs with me. They thought it was interesting to see someone like me talking about this weird yoga thing, so they gave it a shot.
Coincidentally, one of the guys, Lothar, had bought the P90X program, and there was a yoga DVD in the program. So, we started to do the yoga program at the fire station because it was simple to follow and designed to be used by people who weren’t yogis. The DVD’s goal was for fitness fanatics to add stretching to their regime; it wasn’t really a traditional practice. However, it was a good challenge, and we did our best to struggle through it.
So for the next 18 months, that is what happened. I would do a high-intensity workout at the fire station in the morning, and then before work ended, I would try to do a yoga DVD. We would do these workouts when we could fit them in. It was always a priority going on a fire call, and there were countless times we would be interrupted mid-session to attend an emergency.
The interesting thing I found was that my co-workers would do the DVDs with me. I even convinced some of them to come and join me at Bikram yoga. Because Bikram yoga was so challenging in the hot room, the firefighters I worked with were curious to try it and come with me. I issued them a challenge to see if they could survive the heat and make it through the class.
If I remember correctly, I had at least 8 different co-workers come and try a Bikram yoga class with me. Some stuck with it, others did it a few times, and it wasn’t really for them. The important thing was that they tried it without worrying about some of the yoga myths that exist out there. I don’t think I ever heard any of these firefighters say “yoga is for women” or “I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes.” It just wasn’t a thing in Canada for men to resist going to yoga. That doesn’t mean that all men did yoga; there just wasn’t the same stereotypes or resistance to yoga that I have experienced in New Zealand (more on that in a future message). I won’t say it didn’t take convincing, but they were willing to try it before making their minds up about it.
I remember one of my best friends, Vince (we were in firefighter recruit training together), coming to a Bikram Yoga class with me. He was swearing a lot and dropping f-bombs throughout the class. Not the typical yoga crowd, some firefighters in the class, but there we were. The teacher that day remarked to Vince “that dropping f-bombs wasn’t going to make it any easier.” In essence, she said, please keep the f-bombs more internal; it’s disrupting the class, haha. I still laugh about that class and how much it blew Vince’s mind. I worked with others who would do yoga with me at the station or come to the studio. They weren’t as committed as I was, but they did it from time to time.
At this time, our family consisted of my three-year-old daughter, Laurel and 18-month old Violet. My wife, Sonya, worked full time also, so it was a delicate balance of careers, life/fitness goals, and being present as much as possible for our family. Eventually, we moved to another part of Edmonton. I was also changing fire stations, so I started looking for a different yoga studio closer to home and easier to drive to. I loved hot yoga. It helped my muscle-bound body work through all these demanding positions. It had to be a heated studio, but otherwise, I was open to trying anything.
After a couple of false starts, I found a new yoga hot studio called Yoga Life Studio. They had classes throughout the day and night that allowed me to practice yoga when it worked for my crazy schedule. I would often go to a yoga class that started at 9:30 pm because I could be at home with my family. Since I have always been a night owl, I would put everyone to bed (Sonya included!) and go to yoga.
During this time, I probably started to do yoga up to 4 times a week because of the studio’s schedule; I could fit in practice whenever convenient. I thrived with this format as I attempted to fit it all in, or at least try.
This studio had power yoga, vinyasa yoga, unheated classes, heated classes, yin yoga, and it became my community. I loved everything about the studio, the teachers, and the other people who went. It wasn’t hard to pick me out as I was the muscle-bound alpha male near the back row, just showing up on my mat and struggling practice after practice. Somehow, I stuck with it because it made all my aches and pains start to disappear. After years of feeling pain and sore and constant visits to the chiropractor, I was finally free in my body.
The process had started with the Bikram Studio I had initially attended. I maintained a consistent practice by going to Yoga Life Studios when I could and doing yoga DVDs at my fire station. The combined effect was making significant changes in my body.
My practice was primarily asana-based. I didn’t meditate; I was doing yoga purely for the physical benefits. I didn’t know that things were changing on a deeper level, and I was preparing myself for some significant life changes.
Our son, Owen, was born in June 2010 and life seemed set. We had a beautiful family with Laurel 4, violet 2, and Owen, a newborn. Sonya and I had worked hard, and we had a lovely home in the suburbs, nice cars, successful careers, and even a cabin at a lake we built ourselves from scratch. Looking from the outside, we were living the Canadian Dream.
However, we were about to embark on a journey that would take us on an adventure we had never expected, more on that in my next message.