February 2013 Student of the Month

Gary Guafo

gary Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am an associate professor in developmental biology. I was born in the Philippines, but grew up and attended university and graduate school in the San Francisco-Berkeley Area. The Bay Area was a great place to grow up. Here I was exposed to and grew a passion for jazz and the arts, from contemporary to culinary. In graduate school, I studied the relationship between the nervous and immune systems – essentially, the mind-body connection. However, I wanted to further understand how genes control the development of the mind-body connection. This quest led me to emigrate to Salt Lake City to study under a world-renowned geneticist, Nobel Laureate, and former student of the co-discoverer of DNA. I learned to tinker with genes to find that the molecules that orchestrate the development of our body’s identity, from head to toe, are used throughout the animal kingdom for the same purpose. This conserved phenomenon raises a controversial issue of whether the mind-body connection is strictly a human trait. During this 7-year sojourn, I lived a few thousand feet above Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Mountains. Living in this idyllic environment gave me a profound and deeper appreciation of nature’s beauty in yet another form. The challenge now is to seamlessly integrate meditation with the present, while being mindful of the disparate experiences I have had living in a major metropolis, the mountains, and working at the level of the molecule.
What brought you to the Bikram yoga practice?
Recognizing the need for yoga, a former graduate student in my lab politely suggested that I take classes at BYSA. The reason for the “former” title was because the student brilliantly completed her doctoral thesis, not because she recommended the “torture chamber”.
How often do you practice?
I try to practice 4-6 times a week, whether it is at a BYSA studio, the pool (standing postures only), or at home. When I travel, I now try to seek out Bikram studios in order to incorporate the fun and novelty of traveling with yoga – what a nice blend!
What specific physical issues, if any, did you have before taking your first class?
I resigned to the idea that the global aches and pains in my body were from years of athletics, running up, down, and sideways in the Wasatch Mountains, and simply, the aging process.
What are the greatest benefits of your practice?
I learned that most of my body’s ailments were caused by lifestyle, and not from chronic, congenital, or geriatric issues. Through consistent and mindful yoga practice my aches and pains have either subsided or are now easily manageable.
How has this practice changed your health and life? Any emotional or other benefits?
BYSA has been a nice complement in my effort to re-balance and re-boost some physical, intellectual, and spiritual goals.
What is your favorite part of Bikram yoga?
I especially value the leadership and camaraderie among the teachers and staff. Their unique blend of chemistry permeates to the students, thus making Bikram yoga a pleasant and meaningful experience. Mind you, the members of the BYSA crew are so passionate about their mission that they can easily convince me to deliver newspaper or mow their lawns – thanks! GG