June 5, 2012

100 Classes in 45 Days for this Rebel Yogi with a Cause.

Trevor Westerlund is not your average Lululemon-wearing yogi.

Last Thursday, for example, he celebrated the end of his 45 days yoga challenge by teaching a PUNKundalini class at Karma Teachers in Vancouver.

I met Trevor during our Yoga Teacher Training in Vancouver last year. He dresses mostly in black, he’s a bit of a punk, has loads of big tattoos, and sometimes wears some very funny hats. Like me, he lived his late teenage years hooked to the distorted guitar sound of the Pixies. Trevor brought levity to our teacher trainees class with his joyful energy and his deadpan and whimsical sense of humour.

Over the last few weeks, it has been thrilling to follow his latest exploits on his “StageDivingYogi” Facebook page, and to see how he wowed the Vancouver yoga community with his hardcore yoga challenge: 100 classes in 45 days. He’s raising money for a cause close to his heart: Crohn and colitis disease research. I wanted to find out more about his motives and his experience through this incredibly ambitious challenge.

You’re currently fundraising for Crohn and colitis disease research, can you explain why this cause in particular is so important to you?

I was diagnosed as having Ulcerative Colitis in my early 20s, and was immediately given medications to alleviate the symptoms. At 32, I found out I was allergic to all the medications my specialist was giving me. I ended up in the hospital and was told I had run out of blood and could have died.

Can you explain how Crohn and colitis affects people who suffer from it?

Colitis is inflammation of the large intestine. Abdominal pain, bloating and it lowers the flow of blood in the body due to blood loss. Crohn disease is more severe.

How and when did you start yoga? How did it help with the disease?

I started Yoga 10 years ago. When I found I was allergic to the medications and had put on considerable weight. I needed to do something as I was an easy candidate for colon cancer. I took a local school annex style class, liked it and moved onto signing up at a studio. Compressing and stretching the GI track and working the organs had a positive effect on the illness almost immediately. I changed my diet, not dramatically, but started to figure out what foods worked best for me. I like my Yoga to be pretty holistic, people who do sequences based on meridian lines and working the organs; the muscles will get the work out anyways. I like to think of the bigger picture in the postures.

Now that I teach yoga, I am working on full sequences aimed at helping Crohn’s and colitis sufferers.

What’s the challenge consisting of?

The challenge consists of signing up for two concurrent yoga challenges at Semperviva (40 days) and Kushala Yoga (30-day challenge) doing 100 classes across the two challenges in the allotted time. I teach Yoga as well—but those would not count against the total. I took some days off for work and social functions (including a flight to Anaheim for the day), so my day was anywhere from three to six classes.

How many classes so far?

I aimed at 100 in 35 days and finished with 120.

When did you finish?

Just finished Thursday, and celebrated with teaching a new Kundalini class at Karma Teachers.

Any particular styles of yoga?

Nope, I hit every type offered at the two studios. I stopped with restorative classes as I would lose pep after them. I loved discovering new teachers and their flows, always the best part of any challenge—you always pick up some new favourites.

Photo: Courtesy of Pure Souls Photography

How do you get organized to cram in all those yoga classes?

First was to cut cable. It is odd that people say they have no time to get some exercise but they have all the time in the world for bad TV. I would hit early classes at 6:00 a.m., then head to the later classes. On the weekends, I would do three classes, take a break (usually a nap on the studio floor) and then do three more. I would try to stay at the same studio for all of them—luckily the two studios have multiple locations. I work from nine to five at a software company and deal with Major League Sports teams, during playoffs, I was pretty busy.

Then, I would teach my classes twice a week at my own studio (didn’t count against total) and three classes at Kushala (which didn’t count against total—someone else would need to lead class for me to count it).

I have a pretty full social life as well, concerts were scheduled, friends coming into town, dating—all included and I still found time.

Any injuries?

My knees started to ache after 100. I am 39, so I’ll chalk it up to age.

What has it taught you?

Everyone should be able to find at least 60 minutes a day for themselves—doesn’t need to be a Yoga class, just breathing and movement of some sort, just checking in and seeing how you are. When dealing with a broken heart, opening it up to something good really is better than wallowing.

Any regrets?

On the days I took off from the challenge, I went to other studios and practiced (they didn’t count against the total). I think I am addicted or something. Should have iced up my knees a little more. Some arm balances turned into face plants because I was tired—I guess listening to myself started a little late in the challenge. I should have added some sort of massage therapy in there too.

Also, I should have started the campaign a little earlier, I pretty much decided to do it a few days before the Semperviva challenge started, and I would have liked to have raised more donations.

Would you do it again?

Yup, in a heartbeat. Already planning the next one.

How would you encourage other yogis to take a similar initiative?

It was incredibly easy to create my page on the charity site.

It handles social posting, taxes, everything. On the next challenge, find something you would like to support—medical, social, environmental, charitable groups or even little league team—and connect it to your great work on the mat.

~ Like elephant yoga on facebook. ~

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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