Author: Jenn /

sur⋅ren⋅der1. to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.

During any Bikram Yoga Challenge, we have expectations of our practice and ourselves. We hope for dynamic results and incredible change! Sometimes they come, and (sorry to say…) sometimes, they don’t. At teacher training we heard again and again about letting go of our attachments – that being open is what allows change to happen. About...surrendering. The best chance of getting the results you want from doing 101 classes of Bikram Yoga in 101 days lies in your willingness to be open, to let go, and to surrender yourself to what comes.

People tend to force all kinds of things in our lives. We think things should line up with what we want them to be, what someone tells us they should be, or what we think they ought to be. But change is a process that requires openness and patience – you can’t always just make it happen.

We want to kick out before our knee is locked – why? Because of ego, or because we are comparing ourselves to our neighbor, or we want to impress the teacher, or often, because of self-judgment, ‘I should be able to by now.’ Unfortunately, our practice unfolds on its schedule, not ours. Typically, our mind gets in the way, making it take longer than we'd like. It’s often not our bodies holding us back, though that is were we place the blame (i.e., my hamstrings are tight, I’m not flexible, etc.) It’s when we surrender to the process that progress is made.

My ultimate understanding of the value of surrender became clear in a way I did not expect – on my yoga mat. Intrinsically, I always understood the concept of letting go – I understood it on paper, thanks to an array of therapists explaining it to me throughout my 20s and 30s. I grasped how it could benefit me in many aspects of life…not caring or reacting to being cut off in traffic, for example, or not getting upset when dinner didn't come out just right. But when teachers said things in class about it, I heard them but had no idea how to execute on their commands, things like:

  • Let it go…
  • Get out of your own way.
  • Don’t react.
  • Just let it be…
  • Don’t push the feelings away; instead, just let them come...and go…

(And, before I go on, I’ll admit to saying all of the above now as a teacher).

One of the largest shifts in my practice cam on a day when I found myself taking a new approach. I was in a sweltering, drippy hot class savasana and instead of my usual diatribe that involved “50 ways I could justify leaving the room” or “10 reasons I hate the teacher right now” or, my personal favorite, “this is the last time I do this flippin’ yoga…ever” my mind went to this, instead: "It’s so hot I'm going to die..." (Aside: Not many of us can avoid that thought on occasion, but it’s what came next surprised me) "...and there is nothing you can do about the heat. It is not yours to control; you can only control your reaction to it. Count your breaths. Stare at that spot on the ceiling. Let it go. There is nothing to be done. Just do your best. Relax."

My reaction was simply to not react. Though I still felt like my skin might ignite at any moment, I'd finally grasped what it meant to get out of the way, and peacefully let uninvited discomfort permeate me and trust that I would be ok. My past response entangled me emotionally, while this new one freed me! I was, indeed, ok!

My experience as a student is that most practices follow the 80/20 rule – 80% of classes are solid, good classes. The next 10% are classes that make you feel as if you just saw God! The final 10% are the rough ones; those that you’d happily send back…that make you hesitate to go again so soon...and that often yield the greatest strides, progress and rewards (even if they're brutal at the time). So as you muddle through those “lesser moments” in your 101 days of Bikram Yoga – a grand feat, I might add, you'll notice I'm not doing it :) – keep your intentions focused and true to what you want for yourself – even if (especially if) what you hope for is change. Tiny little shifts and changes will stack up into big ones - expected and unexpected, on or off your preferred time line...eventually, in the future, it will come. Whatever “it” is for you.

Try to relax in the posture. Trust yourself. Know you will be ok. Breathe. See what happens when you get out of your own way. Surrender.

Jenn practices and teaches Bikram Yoga in Seattle. She graduated from Bikram Teacher Training in Acapulco, Spring 2008. Her favorite posture right now is floor bow, her least favorite is…a secret. She blogged her TT experience at: and now keeps a more general (but heavily yoga-weighted) blog at:


Johan said...

Thanks Jenn both for weighting in and for your TT blog. I spent days around xmas reading non-stop (well when I could push the family out of the way). Brilliant stuff. I think I'm far down the road on the letting go path, so I won't dwell. But the 80/20 is a really nice summary of it. I agree but needed the point driven home (so thanks again) about the painful lessons often being the most beneficial. I've also noticed that the bad (for lack of a better word) and great class often comes in pairs. I assume it because if you have a bad class the body get some rest and if you have a good one you push the body to areas it's not used to. The short story, it's always worth it to go back the day after a bad class.

Jenn said...

Johan, I tend to agree. Usually a super challenging class is followed up by one that just feels like...mmm...butter. As for your "lack of a better word" comment - I stopped saying "bad class" long ago, though for a long time, I didn't know a better descriptor, either. One of my favorite teachers once said to me, "That class was especially challenging for me" and I've since picked that up. My good friend and fellow teacher Christian reminds me often that words are powerful - and he's right. It's amazing how different verbiage can change the meaning of something in a significant way. So no more bad classes. Challenging. Rough. Unexpected. Not fun. But not bad. No bad yoga. FWIW, I try to do the same with "good" - no good classes either. Energizing. Surprising. Open. Receptive. Same concept! :)

Bikram Yoga Rockstar said...

I love this! Your words are so inspiring!

thedancingj said...

Thanks for writing, Jenn! What a great summary of a powerful idea. I love that replay of your thoughts on the mat, when you realize that you can't change anything, and the only thing left to do is get comfortable with the discomfort. Your thoughts sound so... familiar. ;-)

bikramyogachick said...

Jenn~ Thanks for writing on our blog! Your teacher training blog was the first one I ever read. I didn't know what a blog was until I stumbled upon yours while googling all things bikram and teacher training. This post is so spot on. Some people believe surrender means to "give up" or "to lose". I like to think of it as joining the winning side!

Anonymous said...

Nice Jenn!

Words are indeed SO powerful - I love "surrender" - nice juicy word that for me means relax into it; let go and let "it" go.

Along with no "good" or "bad" classes, there are also no "good" or "bad" postures. They are what they are each and everytime we step into the room; nothing more, nothing less.

a. said...

Wanted to say that I'm impressed that you were able to apply the 80/20 rule to yoga :) My work colleague are able to apply it to everything all the time at work, but I've never heard it in a Bikram context :)

lz said...

Jenn, thank you so much for the thought-provoking post. Your last paragraph strongly resonated with me--you're right: we truly do get in our own way with our expectations; the only way to reach breakthroughs is by trusting ourselves and accepting what happens.

By having expectations, we draw our attention to wanting to reach the goal that we set for ourselves, which subconsciously takes the focus off of the action itself. Thus, often without wanting to, we trip over ourselves by worrying about results and consequences. To reach our goals, we have to focus on the action itself and not get distracted by our own expectations and worries.

aHappyYogi said...

Thanks Jenn for this nice post that is really thoughtful and needs a lot of contemplation.

I have read all your blogs and think that they all have lots to give!

ActionJoJo said...

Thank you Jenn for your very thoughtful post. I absolutely love the word "surrender" and your explanation of it is precisely why. I have now deleted the words "good" and "bad" from my vocabulary when describing my classes. You remind me that I should, at the very least, feel gratitude for my practice. Thank you again!

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