JOSEPH ENCINIA can stretch and twist his agile limbs into all sorts of contorted poses in the name of Bikram yoga, a practice he says changed his life. It’s hard to believe that until a few years ago, Joseph led a fragile existence. Growing up in Oak Cliff, he was in poor health, constant pain and could barely endure exercise in any form. Today Joseph, who seems wise beyond his 23 years, is a competitive yogi and yoga teacher — he’s full of energy, despite a grueling schedule, and is bent on bringing the benefits of Bikram to others.   

How did yoga change your life? It’s been an incredible journey. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 8 years old. I was in and out of the children’s hospitals all the time. I couldn’t exercise. Then, when I was 13, I had a heart attack. The doctors weren’t sure if it was the medicine I was taking for arthritis or if it was a congenital condition I was born with … a cardiologist told me I had the heart of a 40-year old man who had been smoking and drinking all his life. I thought I would spend my life like that. I got into yoga right after high school, and I started noticing changes in my body, some intense. I gradually changed my way of thinking and committed to healthy eating and healthy living, in general. In just three years, I lost 40 pounds, my bones and joints are healthier … I used to barely be able to bend my knee … and I haven’t taken a single pill — no aspirin, no nothing.

Now, as a teacher, you get to share your experience with others. Who do you teach and what’s that like for you? The studio where I teach is Bikram Yoga Dallas [6333 E. Mockingbird]. I have students there as young as 11, and people in their 70s … they come from all over Dallas, and all walks of life. A lot of people come in because they want to lose weight — it’s great to see them as they make that connection between mind, body and spirit and start to not only lose the weight, but also reap all the spiritual and mental benefits of yoga. I am training teenagers for the 6th Annual Texas Yoga Asana Championship. Also as a volunteer, I teach yoga to kids through a program at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center [a nonprofit that serves young victims of physical and sexual abuse].

That competition you just mentioned, you have some personal experience with it already, right? Yes, I won the 2007-2008 Texas Yoga Asana Men’s Championship. I’ve competed in it three years now. The one we are training for now is going to be held at White Rock Lake, Oct. 17. Winners [from the Asana] will proceed to a national competition in February.

For information about Bikram Yoga Dallas, visit