In memoriam: Thom Birch 1954 – 2006

I was extremely saddened last night to hear of the passing of Thom Birch, pioneering athlete and Yoga teacher. According to this obit from his alma mater, The University of Houston, he died on Thursday, November 9th after suffering a heart attack. Thom and his wife Beryl were the first to introduce the practice of Astanga yoga to thousands of people, through their programs “The Hard and the Soft” and “Power Yoga.”
Please feel free to use the comments feature of this blog to post any remembrances of Thom you’d like to share, and I’ll be sure to pass them along to Beryl.

5 thoughts on “In memoriam: Thom Birch 1954 – 2006”

  1. Tom and I were friends from UH. He would be proud of my work. I lead the development of new diagnostic tests for malaria, AIDS, and neglected tropical diseases.

    My legs are older and I don’t run anymore. However, I still walk four to six miles a day. I used to buy my running shoes from Thom when he worked at Phidippedes. Back then, I was running marathons. I needed new shoes all the time. He would smile when i came in to see him to by shoes. He liked earning his commissions!

    Thom loved singing Neal Young songs! He loved talking about New York City. He loved it there!

  2. Matthew Ishkanian

    So very sorry and shocked to hear of the passing of Thom! I had a great experience learning Yoga from him and his wife, Beryl on a retreat in Montserrat in 1988. He and Beryl were gracious hosts. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  3. I came across this site while browsing . I know it’s been over a dozen years since his passing but I felt I needed to post something regarding my acquaintance with one of North Salem high schools greatest runners. I was several years after Thom but his name still resonated with the schools running program. He was somewhat of a phenom as a frosh. He placed in the top 10 as a soph at the 1969 New York state cross country championships. Coach John Osborne had a knack for spotting talent in their early teens. And Thom led some pretty good kids from the under class men ! Ken Murphy(who broke 2:00 @880 yds in 8th grade-won the state x-c meet and runner up as a junior and senior respectively) and George Vogel( a 4:39 as a frosh. Went on to go 4:11.4 in the Mile. Then 4:02 in college) But it was only Thom who continued his torrid running beyond college. Thom , Ken n Gerorge were quite the party guys throughout all this but who wasn’t in their teens n 20’s ?? I ran against Thom in only one race back in ‘82 .. and by the time I reached the first mile, he was gone! I was shocked to learn about passing and I sometimes talk to one of his sisters from time to time…

  4. Thom was just an awesome guy on so many levels. Before I was even in high school I was actually in awe of him – on the basketball court. Just another of his many talents. He had his own style at everything he did. When I was a freshman on the cross country team and he was a senior he became my friend and a mentor. The age difference didn’t mater, we were just on the same plane. Actually it was not so much a friendship as much as it was a brotherly bond. That was Thom. He was real. He was genuine. He had wisdom beyond his years. He’d take me on long runs and I’d struggle to keep up but it was always worth it. He taught me a lot. He would give me his unique perspective and it always hit me as “wow, I never thought of it that way. It makes sense”. He actually had a very solemn and serious side to him. The other side was that coy and cool side that everybody loved about him. He had that grin. We didn’t cross paths much after high school but I felt the bond was always there. Through our running, part of Thom’s persona had rubbed off on me and I’ve always appreciated it. It’s more like a world view. I’ve had a lot of friendship’s over the years and throughout my experiences but I think the year I had with Thom may have left the biggest impression. I did get to meet Beryl once and it was such a pleasure. It’s also a comfort to know how Thom touched so many others in his way. He will always be a part of me and in that sense perhaps he lives on. The world however is at a loss without his presence. I would give anything to go on one more run together.

  5. Jacqueline Jeffrey

    Like Doug Miller, I came across this site while browsing. I was both stunned and saddened to learn of Thom’s death. I met Thom and his wife Beryl when they were teaching Ashtanga Yoga classes at the New York Road Runners Club in the 80’s and 90’s. I was on the Board of Directors of the Club back then, so I thought I would try it. I remember both Beryl and Thom gently pushing my body into the correct postures, and after attending for several weeks, Thom helped me get my heel to my ear—something that I certainly cannot do today. After being on the Board for a number of years, I moved on to other commitments, including a career that required lots of traveling, and lost track of Beryl and Thom and yoga. But I remember them with warmth. My condolences to Beryl.

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