Going Out of Their Way to Bend Over Backward
Words by Jess Hagemann Photos by Ashley Haguewood
Gabriel Tavera was 24 years old when he took his first yoga class. An ambitious young man with a successful career in advertising, Gabriel thought he was in “really good” shape. “I ran, and went to the gym, and did the whole men’s health thing,” he says, but that yoga class was “the most physically and mentally demanding thing I’d ever done.”
Gabriel admits he was “amazed” at the 55-year-old women in class with him that day who not only made the workout look easy, but smiled through the whole ninety minutes. “Everyone was happy and I could tell everyone felt great. Even though I had no clue what yoga was, or what I was doing, or what yoga was going to do to me, I knew immediately that I wanted to own a studio.”
Today Gabriel and his best friend Martin Tolliver own Bikram Yoga East Austin. It’s a long, skinny space lined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one side, and matching windows on the other. All that natural light makes the studio feel airy, even when it’s artificially heated to 100 degrees (Bikram is the original ‘hot yoga’). Martin is a mechanical engineer by trade, and he specially designed the room’s unique HVAC system. CO2 monitors track how hard the students are breathing, and if the CO2 levels rise too high, fresh air gets pumped into the room. After visiting many different yoga studios and noting that hot yoga rooms were notoriously stuffy, Gabriel was determined to create a more “breezy,” comfortable space.
What Gabriel created at Bikram Yoga East Austin, he fondly calls his “home.” Between the bright green house plants at the entry, the colorful assortment of mats, towels, and hot yoga clothes available for sale from local brand “We Are Yoga,” and the community challenge board (where students keep track of their progress and challenge themselves to do more yoga), Bikram Yoga East Austin feels both inspired and inspiring. “I love that I can stroll in here with my dogs and do whatever I want whenever I want,” he says—just like the owner of the very first studio Gabriel attended. Watching that first instructor-owner “do her thing” reminded Gabriel of his father, who immigrated from Mexico City in the 1980s as a merchant. “Dad sold socks, Walkmans, and deodorant on the El Paso border … and people gravitated to him, and went to the store because he was there. His work made him happy.” Now Gabriel gets to “do his thing,” too!
It was after completing a yoga teacher training program in Hawaii and starting to teach yoga that Gabriel feels his own practice “went through the roof.” When you’re teaching, Gabriel says, “you all of a sudden see people—what they’re made of. Everyone is a lesson … and they’re teaching you about yourself.” In the 2.5 years that Bikram Yoga East Austin has been open, Gabriel has only become more convinced that “there’s nothing more interesting in life than people. That’s where anything in the world starts: with people.” Because “you find what makes you ‘you’ in the yoga room,” yoga “brings you closer to your truth. Then you’re able to navigate the world more easily, connecting with people and sharing the compassion, empathy, and love that you’ve created for yourself by practicing self-awareness.”
Native Knowledge: Bikram Yoga East Austin offers discounts for anyone under 25 and over 55 years of age, as well as any teachers, government employees, and students. “We try to give the yoga away,” Gabriel laughs. Try a week of unlimited yoga for $20, or a month for $50.
What is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram is a “beginner’s yoga” that combines 26 asanas (isolated poses) and 2 pranayamas (breathing techniques) in a traditional sequence. “Anyone can do it,” affirms Gabriel, because unlike some types of yoga Bikram yoga doesn’t demand that you enter the class already flexible. Rather, the heated room helps your muscles to stretch safely, and the practice “teaches you to use the strength you have, that you were born with, and how to turn it into flexibility and balance.” Most people will see results within a week’s time!
Be on the Lookout
Gabriel and his team of instructors continue to add new classes to the schedule all the time. In addition to Bikram, the studio offers vinyasa and yin yoga, and now they’re experimenting with Qigong: a class suitable for all ages and bodies including the wheelchair-bound!
3801 Berkman Dr. #B