Negative energy isn’t the only thing leaving your body during a session of Bikram Yoga. Instead, it can often seem as if three pounds of your sweat is also trickling onto the mat as the studio owner, operator and teacher of the Durham location, Brandy Higgins, pushes you to your absolute limits for each pose.
Higgins, who opened up the Durham studio in November 2015, is a spiritual kind of yogi. Not only does she possess such motivating and encouraging attributes, she inspires students to mimic her qualities through her teachings.
The temperature in the Durham yoga studio is set at 105 F, with an additional kick of 40 percent humidity. Each session lasts for 90 minutes and includes 26 different postures that are each repeated twice.
Paired with Higgins’ positive energy, the beachy aesthetic of the studio provides a sense of relief and calmness for students who begin the sessions by rolling out their yoga mats and doing regulated breathing exercises.
Wearing nothing but colorful striped leggings and a trendy sports bra, it can be said that Higgins, who’s been at Bikram since 2008, pulls off the ultimate yogi look.
In 2008, she realized that something was missing in her life. Without being able to pinpoint exactly what that was, she turned to prayer. After her first session at Bikram, the feeling of something missing had disappeared.
“I turned to yoga as a way for me to quiet my mind. For me it wasn’t a physical change I was looking for, it was a mental change,” she said. “After every class I took, I felt better. I knew that was the one stretch of time in my day, those 90 minutes, where my mind had to be quiet.”
Higgins noted that her intentions of opening up this Bikram location sparked from a motivation to inspire people. Whether that inspiration comes from the strength yoga gives to students, or the healing power and confidence that result from it.
The Durham location of Bikram Yoga had an initiative for catering to college students. Although the average yogi is aged 45, UNH students are excelling in the practice. Higgins explained that once students leave campus and graduate, they’ll spread out across the world and potentially spread the practice of Bikram with them.
UNH sophomore Tess Baldino is one student who intends to practice Bikram for years to come.
Baldino noted that her passion for Bikram stemmed through the teaching skills of Higgins.
“The trust I have for [Higgins], I can’t even put into words. She makes every student feel so secure, as she has built relationships with each and every person,” Baldino said. “Her passion and positive energy just radiates throughout the room, which spreads to her students. She makes you feel worthy and loved.”
Higgins makes a point to know each student on a personal level. Throughout every session, she directly speaks to and addresses every student by his or her first name. She said that this personal connection drives students to meet their goals, and pushing them to their absolute limits.
“I benefit the most from classes that [Higgins] teaches,” UNH junior Becky Glaser said. “Even if I have neglected Bikram for a couple months, [she] will remember my strengths and weaknesses as if I never left.”
Higgins said that she firmly believes that Bikram yoga heals mentally, as well as physically. She mentioned that symptoms of anxiety and depression are quieted during and directly after the 90 minute sessions. She pointed to a study completed by Massachusetts General Hospital in 2013 that backs up the claim.
According to that study, intensive exercise and mindfulness has been proven to be an extensive treatment for depression.
“The mental and emotional part of this practice is insane. My whole thought process and views have totally changed and sculpted,” Baldino said. “You slowly find yourself through this practice and figure out who you want to be, whom you are and what you want to change. Life gets simplified to the basics of what really is important, while the rest of the hectic things start to lose importance.”
New yoga students are offered one free class on any Friday of the month at the Durham studio, located at 1 Madbury Road. Additionally, new students are offered an intro, which is $39 for 30 days of unlimited yoga.
Students who have taken classes with Higgins have expressed that they believe she puts 100 percent of her energy into every class she teaches.
“[Higgins] is the type of person I would love to one day be like, and strive to be,” Baldino said. “She has had such an impact on me and my overall life since I met her. I hope one day I can influence people in the way she has for me.”