Co-director, HYD/Northville, Certified 1999
“The best thing about our studio is the atmosphere. We’re down to earth and laid back…we don’t enforce discipline. I think the yoga does that on its own.”
Ernie Curnett was first introduced to yoga in a seemingly unlikely setting: Up North at a hunting camp during a weekend getaway with his girlfriend. “The heater was on, my cousin and I had had a few beers…and Melissa [now Ernie’s wife] was like, ‘C’mon, guys. Let’s do yoga!’ She was gung-ho, all about the yoga,” Ernie remembers.
Ernie took a liking to yoga, started doing it once a week, and realized that the more he practiced, the better he felt. Nevertheless, becoming a yoga instructor wasn’t exactly an aspiration. Ernie says it best: “I don’t think there’s a cement finisher in the world who teaches yoga.”
But if there’s one thing Ernie knows for certain is that life is full of surprises. “Ten years ago I thought I would retire a cement mason,” Ernie says, who is also a licensed aircraft mechanic. “There was no question in my mind that I was going to be a union cement finisher and retire at 55.”
Ernie questioned his conviction, however, one afternoon while he was in the midst of a huge paving job. When the sky opened up and it started raining, Ernie couldn’t just run for cover. He had to protect the freshly-poured concrete with large sheets of plastic – and then he had to re-do it all once the rain stopped. Consequently, Ernie was drenched and covered with cement from head to toe by the end. This got him rethinking his career path. “I just thought, What if I did do the teacher training? It would be in the winter time, things were going to be slow… I thought it could be a good opportunity for me to transition or at least have a back-up plan.”
In 1999 Ernie added the role of Bikram Yoga instructor to his list of accomplishments. Today, pouring cement is no longer part of Ernie’s daily routine, but he now helps his students establish a steady foundation through the practice of yoga.
What was initially a business decision for Ernie ended up transcending his expectations and opening his eyes to a whole new world. One of the greatest lessons Ernie learned was acceptance. “I worked with big, burly, strong, rough, scruffy men,” Ernie says flatly. “It [doing yoga] was a huge deal for me: Who I was, what I was doing, the line of work I was in.” To say that Bikram Yoga opened his eyes to a new way of living would be an understatement. Ernie recalls a particular instance of going to a popular health-conscious California eatery for lunch with his fellow students during Bikram Yoga’s teacher trainer. As everyone convened at the table, Ernie looked around and realized that – for the very first time in his life – he was surrounded by vegetarians. “Being out in LA during teacher training was complete culture shock,” he says with a chuckle.
Ernie, who is the proud father of two boys, Miles and Max, ultimately credits the life-altering experience with challenging his pre-conceived notions and beliefs. “Yoga creates body awareness, self awareness, physical and emotional awareness, and it’s really something how that happens. Just by practicing yoga it opens up so many areas of you to other things. I like that about yoga in general.” Ernie says that those particular qualities sustain his daily practice, and the fact that he practices in the relaxed and diverse setting he and his wife have cultivated is an additional reward. Ernie says, “The best thing about our studio is the atmosphere. We’re down to earth and laid back…we don’t enforce discipline. I think the yoga does that on its own.”
Ernie is a firm believer in the gifts that Bikram Yoga bestows upon its students with each practice.