Yoga gives former athlete courage to come out

I stumbled upon this article this morning.  Another testimony to the benefits of yoga.  Freedom to be who you are…. djn

via SF Gate

Yoga gives former athlete courage to come out

Julian Guthrie, Chronicle Staff WriterSunday, June 20, 2010


LaMott Atkins was 40 when he went to his first yoga class. The former track star and running back at Stanford was immediately hooked – he had found something that he couldn’t do.

Ten years later, Atkins is one of the Bay Areas most popular yoga teachers, and he uses his Bikram studio in the Castro to bring improved health and peace of mind to anyone who walks through the door.

“A lot of students who come in have lost their jobs or are facing major life stresses,” said Atkins, who owns the studio on Eureka Street, and lives upstairs. He teaches 23 classes a week in a carpeted room where the temperatures hovers around 93 degrees.

While he has a poster of President Obama on the door to the studio, he readily acknowledges that his activism is not political: “My arena for change is here in the studio. People come to the studio because it is their refuge. They let go of their daily dramas.”

For Atkins, who was an exceptional athlete from a young age, but who also excelled in academics and music – he played the violin – yoga was transformative. Around the same time he was struggling through his first classes, he was finding the courage to come out as gay.

“I had been told as a child that because I was black, I would have a hard journey,” said Atkins, who grew up in Portland and Seattle, graduated from Stanford and lived in Europe for 14 years before returning to the Bay Area. “I think I was always overachieving because of that. And I knew I was gay, but for years, no one else knew. Playing sports like I did, I would have been ridiculed.”

He added, “Yoga helped me get in touch with myself. It is all about inner work. I had to be true to myself, and yoga gave me the courage to take risks and take the steps to make my life happier.”

The Bikram method is defined by its heated room and 26 postures, ranging from a standing deep-breathing pose to a spine-twisting on-the-mat move.”In India, they use the postures as if they were prescriptions,” Atkins noted. “Someone is given a certain pose to perform to heal what is ailing.”

At 50, Atkins says he is in the best shape of his life – physically, spiritually and emotionally. He is happy to be able to pass some of that on. His clients come from the neighborhood, but also from across the Bay Area.”Students share with me their physical issues and their life issues,” he said. “I can see where people are stressed sometimes without talking to them.”