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Tonight I considered publishing a post called “I’m itchy, I’m smelly, and I have a preschool song stuck in my head,” but I decided that sounded too whiny, so instead I decided to give some kudos to an amazing Bikram Yoga instructor. Gary Smith, at Sweat Box Yoga on Capitol Hill in Seattle WA.

Sweat Box Yoga, is a cozy, unassuming little studio in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood. The two most recent classes I’ve attended there have both been taught by Gary, and they have been two of the best Bikram’s classes I have ever taken. Anywhere. Period.

Gary is the kind of teacher I would want to be if I taught yoga. As Gary guides his students through the postures, he shares knowledge, tips, mantras, and personal anecdotes. His story tonight about his pride at getting fully into the Fixed Firm posture reminded me that even teachers and skilled practitioners have postures they struggle with. He has the rare gift of being able to at once command the class, and bring lightness and humor to the practice. His high expectations of his students are infectious, making for a rigorous, but extremely rewarding experience.

As Eric Grandy quoted in an article in The Stranger last year, Gary Says “My class, it’s not just word for word, ‘do this, do that,’ I make jokes […] I kind of push the limits a little bit, but I make it fun. ‘Cause the class is freaking hard, man – 90 minutes, 105-degree heat? If it’s not fun, It’s gonna suck. Like, today, I taught the class as myself and as a robot; I quoted Tupac and scarface. Plus I just bought a bunch of little speedos, so that helps” (March 2, 2010).

It isn’t enough, though, that he leads the postures so superbly, and adds humor to make the class more interesting. If you go to his class for no other reason, go for his guided relaxation at the end. He draws attention to every part of the body, from the backs of the knees, to the top of the head, urging his students to relax, let go, and breathe.

Thanks for being great at what you do, Gary!

-C