Not any excuse, vacation or other, could stop Johnnie Blanton from completing 365 days of Bikram yoga. The 43-year-old middle school guidance counselor set this goal the day after Thanksgiving in 2014 and attended one class per day for an entire year. She was able to accomplish this with the help of her husband, Alan Blanton, and their 17-year-old son, who gave her permission to miss the occasional family dinner or school function. She also received a lot of support from friends and family, though many didn’t realize what she was doing. She also found motivation from her fellow yoga classmates. “We had two 60-day challenges at the studio during my 365-day challenge which motivated me so much, because people have their own goals and are making sacrifices too. It kept me pumped and gave me a lot of energy,” says Blanton.
Blanton started yoga just six years ago after a car accident that affected her lower back and caused significant pain. Her physician suggested gentle stretches, which evolved into a daily practice of yoga. Starting slowly is recommended with any new type of exercise, and that’s exactly what she did. At first she was in a lot of pain and recalls standing head-to-knee. “I stayed in that first position for almost two years before I had the strength and courage to break out and try more,” Blanton said. Time and patience helped her improve. “Now I can go through the class so quickly. It just flows easily.”
As her back healed, Blanton’s dedication to Bikram Yoga grew stronger. In 2013, the year before her challenge, she attended almost 300 classes, so she knew she could do more with a little extra push. Blanton didn’t see the point in waiting until the
first of the new year to make a resolution. She practiced at the Bikram Yoga studio at the Sanderlin Center in East Memphis, led by Christine Boyer and Isaac Christopher. They were her primary instructors, but she also enjoys studying with others as well. “We’ve had several teachers and guest instructors who’ve come from out of town, which keeps it exciting for me. ”It’s nice to have a new face or a different voice or perspective,” Blanton said. She even found classes while out of town. “It was nice to see different studios and to make it part of the goal.”
Not every day was easy for Blanton. Even getting to class could be a challenge, but the physical and mental effects were worth it. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can set and achieve goals. Going through this, there were times when I could pressure myself, and I just had to say, ‘Today is today, and every day is it’s own challenge.’ You have to accept yourself at that moment and be okay with it.”
“Today is today, and every day is it’s own challenge.
You have to accept yourself at that moment and be okay with it.”
by Robin Beaudoin
Photo by Sarah McAlexander