Edited from August ***
I’ve been a Netherlands resident since August 2016, and now that I’m a Karma Yogi at Forty Degrees Yoga, I’m officially settling into a daily routine like a local.
Yoga saved my life. I began practicing when I lived in Los Angeles, searching for relief from a particularly heavy bout of depression. Desperate to crawl out of the black hole I was in, I tried everything from Kundalini to Vinyasa before my dear friend Jade dragged me to Bikram Yoga Downtown LA. Doing yoga in a room heated to 104 degrees (40 c) with 30% percent humidity didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. I also wasn’t keen on having jacked up hair for ten days, but she somehow convinced me to do the intro package. That was the start of my love affair with Bikram Yoga. There is something to be said about confronting yourself in the mirror for an hour and a half, focusing on achieving stillness while healing your body.
I remember my first class like it was yesterday. I was so hot and miserable I thought I was going to combust. I just kept telling myself that all I have to accomplish is staying in the room. I did manage to remain in the room, and I pushed myself to come back the next day and the next and the next. Eventually, I started as a Karma Yogi (yoga work/study program). The studio owner, Steph Schestag, and the Bikram Yoga Downtown LA community became like family. It’s one of the things I missed most when I left LA for Spain.
When I moved to Amsterdam with the intention of staying and building a foundation, I began searching for a Bikram style hot yoga studiol that would be a good fit. I tried a few before I ended up at Forty Degrees Yoga. Steph also decided to give it a try to see if she could reduce her stress levels. When we first walked through the doors, I felt immediately at home. The school’s owner and director, Hubb Verheij, demands integrity and focus but it’s clear he cares about his students. Just like my beloved teachers in L.A, he goes the extra mile and addresses his students by name. He also gives both constructive corrections, making sure that you have form over depth, and encouragement to push forward. If you are in Amsterdam area, I highly recommend this school.
I sat down with Huub to find out more about his yoga journey.
Am - Why did you start practicing yoga and how has it changed your life?
Huub - I was a trader in the stock market, it’s intense, it’s heavy for your mind, so I always did kickboxing, almost every day but getting older you get more injuries, and they don’t heal as quick as when you are young. A friend of mine brought me to Bikram, and it was for me devastating. Everybody else around me, young, old, thick, thin, everyone could do everything and I had to sit out every posture. I was like, how is that possible? I was kickboxing, so my ego was like how is that possible? But I couldn’t. I could only do one set then I had to sit down, one set then sit down. That triggerined me, I thought I also want to do that.
My first class was the worst class I ever had, but when I came out, I felt high. I felt light in the head, I felt good in my body and I had the same feeling as if I’d done a really tough kickboxing training. So, I went from kickboxing to yoga, then I started practicing every day, two times a day.
I had a bad childhood so you could say I was also in a depression, I was angry at everybody, the world, and every time I came in I was always angry and after class, I felt angry, but it has to come out. Now as a teacher, I have to laugh because I see the same people come in like how I was, angry on the mat, now I know it was about me and not the others. I recognized that it was my own anger inside of me, and I have to solve that myself. By doing my yoga, it changed. It helped me release all that anger and look inward instead of pointing at others.
Am - What is your yoga philosophy?
Huub - For me yoga is about union, being together, it’s about discipline, you have to come every day, it’s the hardest thing to come, to listen. You want to be in the present, no fear of the future, no regret of the past, it starts with the discipline to listen, come every time. You shut your mind off and focus.
It’s also about the alignment. You only get the benefits if you are in the right alignment, 99% right is still 100% wrong. A lot of people nowadays want to have a quick class, their mind is not focused, they rush ahead, it’s common in Bikram, because we do every time the same thing. People are already jumping into the posture, before everybody else. That is also a philosophy, moving together, creating energy, creating union.
Am - Why hot yoga?
Huub - I started with the hot yoga after kickboxing, then I got interested in other kinds of yoga, but I didn’t have the feeling like I had with kickboxing - I did the workout, I feel good in my mind, in my body, the day after I felt really great, I was more in the present. The other yogas didn’t [give me that feeling] and for me also it was good that every time it was the same sequence.
Am - How did you transition from a practitioner to an instructor and studio owner?
Huub - I liked it so much I did class every day, twice a day, then you want to go further. When our sensei was not in I would fill in when I was kickboxing so I liked already teaching, the next step for me was to teach. I went to the Bikram training. I went to San Francisco, to do a lot of training. I taught all over the world then I came back home and then the next step for me was to have my own studio to do it my way.
Open seven days a week with early bird classes available, Forty Degrees offers Hot and Yin Yoga as well as EMS Training. Classes are taught in both Dutch and English. Download the Forty Degrees Yoga app and find out how to get a free 10 day Introduction.
*Forty Degrees is not affiliated with Bikram Choudhury.
With a heavy heart please note that Forty Degrees Yoga is now closed as Huub Verheij has passed away. Thank you Huub for the opportunity to practice. Rest in peace, you will be missed.