For local vet, teaching yoga is no sweat


Behind a brick building at the back of an industrial park off Eisenhower Avenue, trains click and clack along the tracks. It seems like an odd place to find peace and wellbeing, but thats what Jim Ambrogi offers his students at his Bikram Yoga Studio.
A former Army Ranger and veteran of the Vietnam and Desert Storm conflicts, Ambrogi appreciates the discipline and order he learned in the military. It prepared him for Bikram, a form of hot yoga, in which a series of 26 postures are practiced in a room with temperatures up to 110 degrees.
Ambrogis studio, at 5416 Eisenhower Ave., is among 22 Bikram Yoga studios nationwide participating in the Bikram Salutes Military Families campaign, a fundraiser for ThankUSA, a McLean-based charity that provides scholarships to the children of military families.  
When I was a commander it was my responsibility to take care of the soldiers and that included taking care of their families, Ambrogi said. A soldier goes off to war and leaves the family behind. Its hard for him or her to focus on the job if they are worried about family back here. So the more organizations back here that do things to help the family, that makes it much easier for the soldier to do his or her job. 
Ambrogi, 61, discovered yoga nearly 20 years ago, after he retired from the Army. 
I had done weight lifting and running and stuff. But with the wear and tear on my body, the injuries and surgeries, I couldnt do that anymore, he said.
A college buddy invited him to attend a class in Fort Lauderdale and Ambrogi was hooked. Enthralled by this newly acquired discipline, Ambrogi immersed himself in yoga.  In Saudi Arabia, where he worked for a defense contractor, he studied the discipline. Within a year he was teaching yoga at the Indian Embassy there.
Now Ambrogi teaches it to veterans and servicemen and women almost daily. His active duty and retired military students appreciate the regimen. 
I love it. He gives us tough love, said Traci Payne, a tech in the Air Force.  
After his stint in Saudi Arabia Abmrogi traveled to Beverly Hills where he trained under Bikram Choudhury, the founder of the exercise. I used to stand next to Raquel Welch every day, he said, beaming. Thats because I saved a spot next to me and wouldnt let anyone else stand there so when she came in shed always end up next to me.
Ambrogi opened the first Bikram studio in the Mid-Atlantic region in Tenleytown in 2001. 
Now I think we have 14 and just about everybody who has a studio used to be one of my students, he said. 
Ambrogi said he teaches the same 26 postures in the same sequence every time. 
By doing the same thing every time, you get to see your progress. When you first start you cant touch your toes. In a month you can touch your toes, he said.  You can practice your whole life and still see improvement.
He takes the time to explain how to do the poses, said Katie Leiva, whose husband once served in the Coast Guard.  Hes the best instructor Ive ever had.