"Beyond the mountains, there are mountains." ~ Haitian proverb
Well, here we are. One hundred days of yoga, plus one more at the end for good measure. We did it!
And who are we, these crazy people who took on this enormous task? We are people from all walks of life. Our youngest participants were in their teens, and our oldest were in their sixties (or older). We are lawyers, dancers, bankers, engineers, artists, and bull riders. We are professional athletes and semi-professional couch potatoes. We live in Canada, New York, Malaysia, Las Vegas, Sweden, California, London, Australia, and many other cities and countries. We practice at busy urban studios, and we practice with CDs and space heaters in rural areas. Some of us have overcome crippling medical conditions, and some of us are just holding our heads a little higher these days. Some of us have been practicing Bikram yoga for many years now, and some of us have been doing practicing for precisely 101 days. Some of us are teachers, but we are all students.
We are yogis.
Imagine if we could all occupy the same space for a while. Imagine if there were more of us. Imagine if we could fill a city. What kind of a place would we create? What would that world look like?
When you started this challenge, it was probably something that you were doing for yourself (or rather your Self). And I'm certain that you've seen changes. You're not the same person you were a few months ago. You are transforming. You may not be at the butterfly stage yet, but at the very least you are spinning your chrysalis. (These things don't happen overnight.) You are taking care of your Self, and it shows. The people around you are starting to see the difference. Maybe they've noticed a glow.
I don't think I've used my favorite yoga class metaphor yet. And it's not "yoga class is a gas station," although that is a very good one. It's "yoga class is an oxygen mask." It's one of those silly yellow oxygen masks that's supposed to drop down from the ceiling of the plane if there is an emergency. You remember the instructions that they give you about those oxygen masks, right? (They go over this at the beginning of every airplane flight, in every country, so it must be important.) They tell you that if there is an emergency, you must secure your own oxygen mask before you can think about helping others. Before you can save the person sitting in the neighboring seat, you must be able to breathe.
So yoga class is your oxygen mask, in every possible sense. And you've finally gotten your oxygen mask on. That fresh, high-speed oxygen is now rushing through your body, waking up the cells that were on the brink of death, bringing life and energy to every part of you. Re-energizing, revitalizing, re-organizing. You've saved yourself. You're starting to breathe again. You're going to be fine.
Now what about that person who is sitting next to you?
It has been a pure joy to watch all of you during the challenge and hear all of your voices. It's been a gift. I hope this little community doesn't disperse too much. All the websites will still exist, and maybe we can come up with some creative ways to keep using them. It's up to all of you! You can take control now, I think.
For me, there's only one thing more powerful than doing this yoga myself: sharing the yoga with others. This can be such a simple thing to do. Say a few encouraging words to a new student after class; let them know how well they did, tell them about your favorite post-class snack, encourage them to come back tomorrow. Sit outside the room for a few minutes and compare notes on postures with another regular. Trick your co-workers into coming to class with you and see if they ever forgive you for it. Smile at someone in the mirror (but not in a creepy way). Be a source of calm in stressful situations, when you're the only person in the room who is still breathing normal(ly). Be a source of support for a friend who's going through a hard time; you developed the strength for this when you stood with your toes on the line every day and looked at your own eyes in the mirror.
The more you give, the more you receive. As it turns out, this is how the world works.
And if you're really nuts, like me, you might one day find yourself living in a hotel room for nine weeks with 300 other yogis and some crazy 60-something year old Indian dude who still thinks that white disco suits are the height of fashion. I'm referring, of course, to the nine week long Bikram yoga teacher training program. I'm going to the next session. It starts in exactly one week. It's something that I've wanted to do for years. For me, this choice was obvious and inevitable. I'm going to teacher training because sharing Bikram yoga with the world feels more right to me than anything I've ever known. There are plenty of other things that I could be doing with my life right now, but this yoga thing trumped them all. At the end of the day, I just couldn't think of anything that was more important or worthwhile.
So that's my journey. It started years ago (or maybe before I was born), and I'm certain that it's only just begun to unfold. Your journey will be different, because we all live different lives. But wherever you path leads you, I hope that yoga will remain in your life as a source of strength, joy, and love.
Juliana Olmstead would like to thank the Academy.... No, but really. "Bikram 101" has been one of her favorite parts of this decade so far. (It would have come out in the number one spot if she hadn't also finished grad school and signed up for teacher training while the challenge was going on.) She promises to blog at least a few times at teacher training (and beyond), so feel free to keep stalking her at her blog. If her posts become incoherent at some point, it's probably just the sleep deprivation talking. She thinks that you are all rock stars!!