“They wanted to give me back surgery,” Dray Gardner recalls. Instead, “I walked into a Bikram yoga center and it changed my life forever.”
A yoga studio was about the last place you’d expect to see someone like him.
“I was not a yoga guy,” he says. “I was a fighter, I was a bodybuilder, I was a football player. Yoga was the furthest thing from my mind and my life.”
The lean and muscular 42-year-old was never a fan of meditation. “I never sat still. That wasn’t part of my philosophy. … I figured the busier I was, the better off I would be.”
But, three years ago, he was desperate. “When I first started doing yoga, my body was broken,” he says. “I walked in limping, on a cane.”
He credits Bikram—a distinct brand of yoga with 26 postures that are performed in a humid room heated to 105 degrees—as what saved him from the operating table. Today, instead of patient he is practitioner.
He and fellow yogi Sumach Valentine opened Bikram Red Rock on Hualapai Way in November. “We’re trying to change the game with yoga facilities,” Gardner says, noting the 4,000-square-foot operation was designed to have “a spa feel,” with a spacious studio and comfortable changing rooms.
Bikram is an extreme school of yoga.
“If you come in here expecting it to be easy, you need to go to Gold’s Gym or go to 24 Hour [Fitness],” Gardner says flatly. “Yoga is a struggle. … I call it the ‘beautiful struggle.’ You laugh, you cry, you struggle, you moan, you scream, you go through all of your emotions, but you deal with it.”
It may not seem beautiful when you’re in a hot room surrounded by sweaty, scantily clad strangers and are desperately trying not to fall out of dandayamana. But Gardner insists the trick to getting through any of his challenging 90-minute classes is simple.
“As long as you breathe,” he assures, “you’ll get through it.”
- The guy: Dray Gardner, 42.
- His deal: Former real estate agent, bartender, food server, valet attendant and executive for Station Casinos; now co-owner, co-founder and instructor at Bikram Red Rock and a part-time DJ.
- You didn’t know, but… He played football for Cal State-Fullerton and Chico State before graduating from UNLV with a double major in criminal justice and sociology.
- His very Vegas yoga philosophy: “Detoxify to retoxify.”
YOU CAN DO THIS
“Sometimes doing nothing is really doing something,” Gardner says, noting the “dead body pose” is something all people can work into their day, no matter how busy they are.
“I call it a savasana,” he explains. “Just your body being still for 30 minutes, 15 minutes, whatever it is.”
The best part is, it’s pretty simple.
Here’s how you do it:
1) Lie on your back, eyes open, arms at your sides, heels together, letting your toes fall to the side. “Kind of like you were put in a coffin,” Gardner suggests, alluding to the posture’s morbid name.
2) Do nothing. “Get on your back and stay still,” Gardner instructs. “Don’t go to sleep … just stay absolutely still. Feel your heartbeat, feel your chest expand, feel your chest sink, just feel your body [and] get in tune with what’s goin’ on.”
And yes, you do get something from doing nothing: “It brings you focus; you can focus on what you have planned for your day,” Gardner says. “It gives you energy and vitality.”
DRAY’S TOP THREE BIKRAM POSTURES
1: Standing head to knee
“It looks like the easiest pose; it’s one of the beginning poses toward the earlier part of class, but I’ve been doing yoga for four years and I’m still in the first part of
the posture, so it’s really humbling
for me. … That’s my favorite
because I want to conquer it.”
2: Camel pose
“It’s one of the few times in your day that your heart is above your head, so your body really gets this euphoric feeling. You tingle and your body gets chills. … A lot of people get scared of it but it’s just part of the process.”
3: Eagle pose
“Eagle pose is like Viagra for men and women. It stimulates the sexual vitality, so yeah, you squeeze everything nice and tight and get a nice flush. No more Viagra, no more ExtenZe—just eagle pose.”