On September the 8th, Bikram Yoga’s Craig Villani taught a Masterclass in Haarlem. Bikram Yoga Haarlem took the opportunity to interview Craig after class and ask him about himself as well as the yoga.
Who is Craig Villani and what does he do?
I grew up in New Jersey, and currently live in Los Angeles. I’ve been practicing yoga for fourteen years and served as Director of Education and Teacher Training for Bikram Yoga from 2000 to 2008. My job is to travel the world and teach yoga at retreats in Maui, the South of France and Australia, conduct comprehensive classes, seminars and workshops, and lecture on yoga and wellness for charity organizations, schools and corporations. Much of my work lately deals with progressive secondary education and leadership training for teachers. I feel blessed being able to visit so many extraordinary places and meet such amazing people. Most of all, I am thankful that I get to teach yoga, which is what I love to do.
In your travels around the world, in what way have you seen Bikram yoga develop over time?
When I started practicing, I would guess that there were about 30 Bikram Method studios worldwide. Now, I believe there’s at least 700, as well as many non-official studios who base their method on the work that Bikram and our community has done. What I find most appealing about the 26 posture Bikram sequence is that it is both highly accessible and completely therapeutic. Every intelligent method of exercise promotes fitness and can help you balance your life, but the health benefits associated with this method, as far as I have witnessed and experienced, are unparalleled.
I have seen vast growth in the number of people who practice and teach this yoga in the short time that I have been involved, and am honored to have contributed in some small way. When I completed my teacher training, there were 49 graduates from my class- now there’s 400 or more participating in each class. Our community is growing at what appears to be an exponential rate, and I will continue to do whatever I can to assist my friends, peers and students in any way possible as our promising future unfolds.
What are the biggest benefits from practicing Bikram yoga?
The practice develops greater strength and flexibility, which yields balance and enables positive transformation in everything from cardiovascular health and metabolic function to greater mental stability and focus. The beauty of this method of yoga is that both its philosophy and application are holistically integrative, meaning that it treats the body and mind as one. Instead of segregating and isolating individual systems, organs and glands, we discover how they exist and function in relation and as a whole, or as a bodymind.
So practicing traditional, therapeutic yoga not only helps to restructure and fortify the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems, but also positively affects all organs, systems and glands at their energetic roots. A sound practice consisting of frequency, intensity and precision yields a more balanced, connected bodymind. We connect our bodies and minds via the bridge of our breath, which is the most essential element in any practice, whether we call it yoga or life. By connecting with ourselves- with our own bodymind through this process of holistic integration- we enable ourselves to connect more effectively with each other and with the Earth. This is what a lot of people in the world, especially the powers that be, seem to be forgetting.
We are all alive as a part of this beautiful planet sustaining a community of beings that exist in relation to the health, the balance- let’s call it the yoga of our world. The practice of yoga, like any proper key to ascension, heightens our awareness and illuminates our responsibility to the lives we have chosen to live, and I believe it makes us better people. So at the end of the day, what the ancient yogis promoted as Self-realization, we just call happiness. We all aspire to enjoy the profound adventure of being alive, and to feel confident that whatever we choose to do in our lives, we do well.