What’s better than meeting up with a strong, inspirational person at a beautiful piece of nature on a fresh spring day? Add a cute kid and thoughtful conversation, and it’s just about bliss. JJ and I took a walk recently at Laumeier Sculpture Park, along with her (adorable!) son Max and dog Levon. We chatted as we hiked, me juggling notebook and recorder, and JJ keeping track of a two-year old and dog, neither of whom got the memo that the girls were there to chat. Not surprisingly, JJ was unaffected, taking it all in stride and still managing to wow me with her soulful perspective. I had my list of questions, but just like you’d think JJ’s easy to talk to and our conversation took us, not surprisingly, on another path.
You said the first time you did Bikram you were surprised by the intensity and clarity of mind. What was surprising about that for you?
JJ: Surprising because of the high. Before Bikram I was a runner, and I knew about the runners high. And with Bikram, I just experienced that high more deeply, and more quickly. And maybe even a little more accurately. It was different accessing that piece, but in a different way.
When you teach, you have this natural cantor and rhythm that keeps me, at least, totally entertained and invested. I’m wondering if that’s natural, and intentional, or…something else?
JJ: A little bit of both. There’s a bit of freedom in the dialogue, but there’s a certain level of comfort from being on the podium with the same thing every time. The more you teach, the more comfortable you feel. It’s been 8 years. So yes, partially comfort, because there are certain things that arise in the room that you know and learn to deal with and not freak out about. So just, I really don’t think about it. Sometimes I’ll think of an analogy, like comparing the breath to something, or I’ll hear or read something and I’ll think “Wow that works!” So I’ll try and incorporate an idea that makes sense that I can get across quickly without a long story, but for the most part I’m not thinking. It’s just my natural way, I guess.
What were you doing before you started teaching Bikram?
JJ: I moved down here for music and to go to dental school, which didn’t work out. I did work in a dental office before Max, for a while. Now I stay home with little man and teach at night, but may go back in a while. But I’m not in a hurry. I want to keep my time with him before, you know, the world gets him.
So how has Bikram changed your life?
JJ: It makes you realize you have more control over your body and mind. And your sweat! You don’t realize how strong you are until you’re kind of pushed to that edge. Albeit a little scary and intense, it’s extremely rewarding and freeing, in a sense. There’s so much power in it – it just gave me goose bumps! With Bikram, you’re never going to do damage. With running or other sports, you can hurt your body. But with yoga you can heal your body, and sometimes even your spirit. I guess that’s part of the surprising part too.
You said you became a teacher because you want others to experience the strength and power you felt with Bikram. Where do you get your strength and power?
JJ: As a mom, in patience, or at least in the process of learning patience. As a yoga instructor, patience. I don’t know if I get my strength from that, but I LEARN strength from it, you know? With time comes ease. If you give your body time, and don’t force yourself into the postures, you’ll see change. If I give Max two more minutes at the park, I avoid the meltdown. I would say power and wisdom is patience. And with patience comes wisdom. I also get my power from sleep, and I don’t get much of it!
I’m intrigued by your take on the community mindedness at the studio. What does that mean to you?
JJ: Well, like, from the student’s perspective, I’ll walk into the locker room and just see how folks support each other. Like when there’s a new student, I hear people congratulating them. I even hear it in the men’s locker room – you know, like giving high fives and stuff. Because we all know; it’s like a rite of passage…..you know, we’re all into it. It’s kind of weird and strange, right? I mean, it’s hot and sweaty and kind of hard, and we’re all into it. So, community in a sense that we all share that kind of odd, type A, kick-butt, sweat it out kind of experience. It’s not just yoga; it’s an experience we do as individuals but also as a group.
You’re jewelry, L.I.T. Creations, is pretty awesome. What’s your inspiration for that? Where do you get your ideas? How does that fit into your life?
JJ: I love it. It’s my other form of yoga. If you give me my little workshop, a cup of coffee, my beads and I can just sit for hours and feel so alive. I feel creative, alive, um; it makes me feel good and relaxed. I mean, I get frustrated sometimes, if I’ve spent time on something and it doesn’t work. It’s a creative process; it’s tricky.
Tell me about your band, The High Dives. That sounds really awesome. Tell me about that. Where can we catch up with you playing?
JJ: Well, it’s how I met my husband (Kip Loui). We do everything from Willy Nelson to blues. I play harmonica, the guitar and sing. Right now we have a standing gig at Iron Barley once a month and we play at a little coffee shop called Stone Spiral in Maplewood. We do cover songs. It’s another place I feel alive.
When you look back to where you were when you began with Bikram and this journey, where did you think it was going to lead you?
JJ: I’m not sure I thought it was going to lead me anywhere, but I love where it took me. I loved it so much instantaneously I decided to become an instructor. And in truth, I never thought about it that far out. I’m just happy to teach, and be able to do that while I stay home with Max. Right now I’m a little bit more in the moment. When I started, I didn’t really see. I mean, I wasn’t looking that way.
So what’s your next step?
JJ: I don’t know. I’m 40 and my husband is 50, so age, time, and financially, having more kids may not work. I’d rather have one and be less stressed. So we’re okay with this. Right now, my plate is a little full in a good way. I’d love to be able to take class a little more often, and take different instructors, and I would love to do more seminars. But I’m really happy with the right now. I try to stay here as much as I can.
So has anything surprised you lately?
JJ: Surprised me lately…..hmm. Maybe motherhood – that’s probably the most surprising thing ever. Everything about it is new. Love – you feel so much it’s a little scary. It’s like your heart walking around outside your body. So that’s different, I think. I mean, before, you know it, but you just don’t know. I guess it’s one of those things that you just don’t get until you do it. Everyone in the world can tell you anything they’d like to, but until you do it there’s just nothing like it in the world. So that’s probably my biggest surprise ever.