DAY 59: Going for the GOLD...

Author: Unknown /

...Mind, Body and Spirit

by Amber Klahm

As I sit here writing this, it’s a typical rainy day in the outskirts of Vancouver but the energy in our streets is nothing short of a warm rays as we have welcomed the world to our very city for the 2010 Winter Olympics. As we have only a couple days left of the Olympics, I am also coming to an end of a challenge that has giving me life, spirit and a sense of accomplishment- as of March 2nd, I will have completed 150 consecutive days of Bikram Yoga. As with any goal, we have our doubts and we have our anticipations, we have our setbacks and we have our glory moments but as I come to the end, I realize all this has been for something so much more.

Like the Olympics, that has brought the world together in the forms of inspiration, motivation, determination and peace; I have learned how much of a true inspiration my goal has been for so many instructors and students. Students come up to me with excitement in their eyes telling me they are continuing their own challenge, whether it be to start a 30 day or continue with 60 or 100 days. I have had instructors inspired to take on the 30 day challenge (including teaching mixed in with that!) for many reasons; health, emotional, even just to have more of an appreciation for this yoga. These moments alone have made me realize that this challenge has gone beyond me; it has paved a path for those searching for their own challenge.

Like any athlete who walks onto the stage or waits for the gun to go off, the anticipation when we walk into that hot room is the moment we wait for every day we come into our studios; the ability to take that first breath of that heat, to roll out our mats and look ourselves in the mirror and say “I am here because this is exactly where I need to be”.

We sweat liters of water, we even bleed a bit sometimes, we suffer aches and pains, we laugh, cry, mentally tell our instructors off, pray for the fans to come on, pray for the one more ounce of energy to stretch just a little bit higher, and through all of that, we realize that once we leave that room it was all worth it.

When we come out of that room, we should all realize we have given ourselves another chance for a better life, a new appreciation of ourselves and a way to open up our minds and our hearts to those in our lives- for that we all deserve a gold medal.

I would like to add my appreciation and thanks to all those who have been reading my blog- . You have let me release my thoughts and feelings in a harmonious and loving atmosphere.



Amber Klahm lives in a town just outside of Vancouver, BC called Langley. She has been practising Bikram Yoga for over a year and half and has grown such a passion for this amazing healer of the body, mind and soul. Amber is currently a student and part time counsellor for adolescents. Her other interests include swimming, writing, hiking, and spending valuable time with friends and family.

DAY 58: Unplug With Me

Author: bikramyogachick /

I've got to blog. Then read all of the blogs I follow. I must comment on the blogs and then go back in case they replied to my comment. I need to tweet and see if anybody "direct" tweeted me, or perhaps "mentioned" me. Maybe I want to "retweet" some tweets. I better update facebook and catch up on other status' while I'm there. Don't forget to "like" some of those status' or maybe even comment on them. I have some farmville gifts to accept. Guess I better harvest my crops and trees, collect eggs and milk, brush horses, cats and reindeer and collect feathers. Oh, look my neighbors helped me out so I better go and help them out. Now on to checking email and maybe surfing the net to catch up on news....Oh wait, I just got a text message on my phone......

How many minutes/hours/days do we spend plugged into the world of the interwebs? It can get overwhelming. I also have noticed how dependant the teenagers have become on all of this. They don't know what to do without it. They have several text conversations going at once and everything is now now now, instant gratification. They don't know how to slow down. I wonder, is it changing me too? Yes, we get 90 minutes everyday to get away from all of this while in the hot room. But is that enough? Lately I've been thinking about how much time I spend on the computer and on my blackberry. I even check my blackberry at stoplights sometimes. So I've decided to "unplug" for a day. I'm going to pick one day (not a work day, I have to be on the computer/blackberry at work!) and I'm going to "unplug". I'm not going to go on the computer and I'm not going to read email, text or tweet from the blackberry. If I want to communicate with somebody I'm going to do the old fashioned thing....I'm going to see them in person or pick up the phone and talk to them.
Won't you unplug with me for a day?

DAY 57: Electro-what?

Author: thedancingj /

Happy Friday, rock stars!  We are now entering the ninth week of the 101 day challenge, and today is the ninth Friday!  (Wow, nine weeks.  Can anyone think of something else that's nine weeks long?!  Nine weeks can go by fast.)

By this point, I'm sure you've all settled into some sort of food and beverage routine that keeps you from feeling like death warmed over after sweating profusely for 90 minutes every day.  So let's talk about this for a minute...

Everyone's probably heard that you have to "replace your electrolytes."  And I think that everyone also has the vague idea that "electrolytes" are things that come out of your body when you sweat, along with a few toxins and a lot of water.  This is pretty much accurate, but let's get a little more specific.

By definition, an electrolyte is just any substance that dissolves in solution and conducts electricity.  In our bodies, the most important electrolytes include sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca 2+), and magnesium (Mg 2+).  According to this nice Medical News Today article that I found, our muscles and neurons can be thought of as the electric tissues of the body.  A muscle contraction needs the right levels of calcium, sodium, and potassium to be present.  If those electrolytes are out of balance, then the muscles become weak or the contractions become severe (i.e. cramps).  The level of electrolyte in the blood tends to change when the hydration (the level of water in the body) is altered.  After you sweat, you lose a lot of water and a lot of electrolytes.  If you drink a lot of water, but don't consume any electrolytes, then you'll end up with lower electrolyte levels than when you started.  (This is why it can be dangerous to drink a LOT - like many, many liters - in one sitting.  It dilutes your electrolyte levels so quickly that your kidneys can't keep up, and it can cause the same symptoms as severe dehydration, up to and including death!)

Now in our case, under normal conditions, we're just worried about preventing mild imbalances.  If you keep your water and electrolytes at a good level, then you can sweat for hours a day and never have a problem.  So how do we do this?

Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Vitamin water are an obvious source of electrolytes.  They're fast, convenient, and effective.  You can grab one from the 7-11 and drink it on your way home.  Easy!  Coconut water is a great natural alternative which has less sugar and no artificial ingredients.  (I like Zico best.)  However, these are still all pretty sugary, and there are plenty of reasons why a person might not want to add more sugar to her diet.  So what else can you do?

How about eating some leafy greens?  Eating some fruit?  Adding some sea salt to your food?  Eating beefy jerky?!  (Apparently beef jerky is a great source of electrolytes, but is not recommended as a health food due to some of its other contents.  Who knew?)  Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all minerals that occur naturally in tons of foods.  (What did you think sweat people did before the invention of Gatorade?)  This solution is easy to overlook, but in my opinion it's the best one, because it has so many positive side effects.  When you eat well and include plenty of high-water fruit and veggies in your diet, then you don't need to rely so heavily on supplements.

Here's a quick list of some natural sources for various electrolytes (taken from various online medical sources).

Potassium:  Avocado, tomatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, kiwi, lima beans, milk, winter squash, oranges, fish, poultry, and of course bananas.

Calcium:  Broccoli, kale (and other leafy greens), milk, yogurt, tofu, almonds, chickpeas, oats, sardines (ew!) and cheese

Sodium:  It's easy to get too much sodium from highly processed foods.  But if you're eating lots of natural foods, it's usually a good idea to add some sea salt to your meal to keep the sodium up.  My other favorite sources of sodium are salt and vinegar Kettle Chips, pickles, and Cheeze-its.

There's also an electrolyte supplement called Elete Electrolyte Drink Mix that I'll use in a pinch, if I feel like my levels are falling low.  You can get it in a little pocket-sized bottles, and it's a super-concentrated electrolyte liquid that you can add to any beverage.  It has a little bit of a mineral-y taste in plain water, but it's not bad, and if you add to to a smoothie or juice you don't taste it very much.  (I've even hidden it in hot chocolate... yum.  I don't worry about my sugar intake too much.)

I hope you've found this little science report useful.  I'm obviously not a doctor or nutritionist, but I think most of this is good common sense.  Like Michael Pollan says, we're better off the more we think about eating food rather than "nutrients."  (Grocery stores are ridiculous.  Don't add fiber to water, just eat some whole wheat bread!  A topic for another day.)  Everyone have a delicious and sweaty weekend!

DAY 56: Smiling Eagle

Author: KT /

I have a new posture. I call it Smiling Eagle.


Because I can't (uh, correction: "at this time, I am unable to...") attempt Garurasana without smiling and, often times, a few giggles. It's either laughing or crying, so I chose the former.

After a feeble, yet respectable, attempt at twisting my arms like a rope and pull, pull, pulling my shoulders down....I hear the dreaded words.

"Sit down and cross your right leg over your left."

That sounds simple enough.

Just sit...down...and cross your right...leg....over your left.

I hesitate.

ok, sit down.
waaaayyyy down.

chest up.

leg over.

it's almost there, get it under my...
under my.
get it under my $&#!% calf !!!

By the time I see my own two eyes in the mirror, my body is practically facing the parking lot and falling over at the same time. Thus, the giggles commence!

Once again, our yoga lesson can be brought into everyday life. Point yourself in the direction you want to go and one day you'll get there. Progress happens gradually, then suddenly. I
f you don't show up, you might just miss it.

Sometimes inch by inch may be too grandiose a goal....for here in Bikram-world, we celebrate millimeters.

DAY 55: Growth

Author: bikramyogachick /

My nails are growing like crazy. My hair is getting longer too. I'm not sure why practicing Bikram everyday does this, but it does. I got home tonight and threw my towel/yogi toes/yoga outfit in the basket in my garage and noticed it was full already. Didn't I just do yoga laundry a couple of days ago? We are more than halfway through, yet it feels like we will be doing this forever, doesn't it? I just wonder though, if my hair and nails are growing at an accelerated pace, what else is growing? Muscles? Flexibility? Mental strength? Emotional stability? Spiritual growth?

We are doing this challenge for a reason. Don't forget that. In the midst of the grind of laundry, logistics, work, family, life and just trying to make it into that room everyday, don't forget that there is a higher purpose to this whole thing. What it is may not be revealed right now, but trust that there is something happening. At the very least I need to go file my nails.....

DAY 54: Calvin's Dad

Author: thedancingj /

Yesterday morning, during the 30 second break that leads into standing head to knee pose, while I was trying to organize my sleepy brain and gather up some determination for the poses to come, an image popped into my head.

How many of you guys have read the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips by Bill Watterson?  This was a strip that ran for 10 years about a 6-year-old boy (Calvin) and his stuffed tiger (Hobbes), but that description doesn't even begin to cover it!  (For the uninitiated, you can see a great sampling of comics here.)  Anyway, one of the running jokes in the comic was that Calvin's dad would sporadically take the family out on these camping trips or fishing trips that would be disastrous.  Absolutely disastrous.  But every time, the dad (who was a somewhat inept, business-suit-wearing, and frazzled guy) would insist that suffering is great for kids because it builds character.

That's what I remembered as I got ready to interlock my fingers and pick up my foot in front of me three inches below the toes.  "This is great for Calvin!  It'll build his character!!"  Because what is the yoga class (and especially the standing head to knee part of the yoga class), if not one big, long "character building" exercise?

Now, I'll admit that I have serious doubts about the effectiveness of Calvin's dad's "character building" fishing trips.  Those usually ended with angry wives, stubbed toes, soggy stuffed tigers, and zero fish.

But what about the effectiveness of our yoga classes?  What are we getting out of this daily practice, besides confused friends, sore backs, piles of soggy yoga towels, and zero spare time?

That's a question you have to ask yourself, of course.  But in my case, I have to admit that it really seems to work!  Since I started yoga, I've found myself in a couple of stressful situations (confrontation with a restaurant customer, minor car accident) that would have totally thrown me off balance before, and to my own surprise, I found myself staying calm and simply breathing.  I've found myself in the middle of a long, unpleasant task that I didn't really want to do, telling myself, "Ok, this is the halfway point, so it's just like triangle pose in a class!  It's all downhill from here!"  So good job, Calvin's dad!  I guess you were on to something after all.  A little bit of "suffering" can build character - just as long as you go about it the right way.

Day 53: Dreaming I Am Late!

Author: Unknown /

I love getting various kinds of energy work done. Acupuncture... Reiki... Crystal therapy healing.... Shucks, even massages are considered "energy healing"... And I love it all!

The thing is, though, that (for me at least) energy work tends to give me vivid dreams. And because Bikram yoga is "healing from the inside out," it is the best energy work/healing you can do. Which means my dreams are getting kind of "cray-cray" lately.

Last night's dream...

I am at Bikram yoga teacher training. I wake up late. I freak out. I am rushing to get downstairs to the classroom in time. I see Bikram at the doors, about to close them.

"WAIT!!!!!!" I scream. He turns around, looks at me and smiles.

That's when I wake up.

Now, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what the dream meant. Dreaming of being late represents fear and running out of time. Classrooms represent the need or desire to earn something.

I haven't cried in the past few days in class. Or felt an urge to tear up. Seems like I may be through the emotional part of this challenge. But my subconscious clearly is picking up where my emotions have left off, and are producing some messages on what I am feeling and *thinking about lately.

In case you haven't heard the rumor... And it is a rumor until it gets posted and confirmed on the official Bikram website... *Fall Teacher Training will be in Las Vegas from September 19th to November 20th.

DAY 52: Lifetime Practice.

Author: Unknown /

When I began practicing this yoga five years ago, I never really thought about how long I would practice it for. I was a casual practitioner... Averaging one or two times a week. But unlike most things in my life, I never seemed to outgrow and get bored with this yoga.

It appears to be a "lifetime practice" for me. A "lifetime practice" that almost (almost!) had me locking out my right leg today in Standing Bow Pulling.

I don't know that I will be able to do it again tomorrow... But I almost did it today. And someday in my life, I will almost do it again.

You can't stop progress!

DAY 50: Halfway There!

Author: thedancingj /

Welcome to the midway point of the challenge!!  Day Fifty - can you believe?!

There's only one thing I want to say to mark the occasion, and I think it's best expressed in song.  Take my hand, and we'll make it, I swear!

DAY 49: Attachments

Author: KT /

Here we find ourselves almost halfway through this incredible, life-changing 101-day challenge. This is quite an accomplishment and each of us are realizing the intrinsic rewards and the unavoidable tribulations!

I now pose to you a personal question? What are YOU holding on to and what is holding YOU back?

What have you unseemly become so attached to that "you just can't have a strong practice without it?"

Must you wear that certain 'costume' or there's no way you can kick your leg back in Standing Bow?

Do you feel overly hot and sweaty in the spine strengthening series if your favorite Yogitoes towel is still in the laundry?

Is it imperative that you have your silver water bottle, filled halfway with crushed ice, and three ice cubes, with a side of chilled Acai-Blueberry-Pomegranate Vitamin Water 10...or you just don't feel right?

Have you heard your mind saying...

I ALWAYS stand on the second line, right of the podium, at a 45° degree angle from my favorite teacher who delivers abbreviated Trikanasana dialog and, I'm convinced, gives us longer Savasanas. (I think I just called myself out...)

I MUST have a drink of water after _______ and _______.

OK, I'll go to class today, but I'm NOT doing Full Locust, and
that's final!!

Of course, we all have our thing. Our quirk. Our attachment. I challenge you fellow Bikram warriors...go crazy, throw caution to the wind! Wear those yoga shorts that are buried in the bottom of your drawer. Bring your last resort towel that doesn't quite cover your entire mat. Enter that gorgeous room with a smile and take the first open space you see. Resist the urge to take that habitual sip of water right before Fixed Firm (ummmm...yes, I'm talking to you).

You just may be surprised that...
YOU can make it through and so can I.

Listen to your body.
Focus on your breath.
and simply do your yoga.

DAY 48: It's all in the setup (and the dialog)

Author: bikramyogachick /

Have you ever been a bit winded by standing bow? Have you ever started the setup, hand back holding your foot, arm straight up in the air, waiting patiently for the commands to start the kicking and stretching part of the posture only to have the teacher pause to help a student with the wrong grip? Have you ever waited for the instructor to finish coaching that newbie on the grip only to find yourself exhausted already trying the hold the first part? Maybe you even come out of it for a second and then "re-setup" when the instructor is finished with the newbie. It could be that your second attempt to setup is a bit sloppy as let's face are a tired wreck. This kind of thing happens to me every so often during an off the charts hot class. In fact, it happened recently. That, combined with Juliana's competition post got me thinking about setup and dialog.

Juliana wrote this : Their advice to future competitors was clear and simple: follow the Dialogue They said it over and over. At the national and international championship level, people are still just getting deductions for not following the precise set-ups that are given in the dialogue. They mentioned things like gripping three inches below the toes in standing head to knee, two inches below the toes in bow, and keeping the wrists straight in bow. Have no doubt, these guys know exactly what is written in the dialogue, and they are sort of baffled when people aren't following it!
Now I don't know about you, but doing yoga so many days in a row sometimes the dialog can sound like the teacher on charlie brown "wah, wah, wah, waaaa" That's no good. We need to listen to the dialog like we are hearing it for the first time. Let's try this together, in the setup. The times I've done great postures have always been the times where I had a really strong solid setup. So tomorrow pick one posture and set it up to the letter. I know, it takes more energy to set it up right and you may not be able to hold the posture as long. It's ok! You will build endurance with your new strong setup and the day will come when you hold it as long again and it will be.....beautiful!

DAY 47: Championship Report!

Author: thedancingj /

First, my apologies for the slightly late entry!!  I spent the entire weekend in LA at the yoga championships, and my sense of time has been all off since I got home last night!  Also, it's been taking me a bit of effort to "unpack my brain."

So - Friday was the U.S. Championship, Saturday was the International Championship, and then on Sunday they did something new, and held a final round for the top 10 men and top 10 women from Saturday's competition.  (This meant that the top 2 U.S. men and women, all four of whom made it to the finals, ended up performing three days in a row!)  There was also a youth division on Sunday morning.

If you're just joining us and scratching your head at the idea of a "yoga competition," go read my last post and then come back to this one!

The events were streaming online live all weekend, and pictures and results have been posted at OhMyBikram, an awesome new Bikram yoga blog page based out of Toronto.

Here's a bit about my personal experience...

The Yoga

The performances were amazing.  Things started strong on Friday with the U.S. championship, but by the final round on Sunday, things were really being taken to a whole new level!  The championships really do get better every time.  Courtney Mace, last year's international champion, taught the 7am class at headquarters on Friday, and she kept saying that it was amazing to see how everyone, collectively, is getting so much stronger every year.

My jaw was on the floor for most of the kids' performances.  It's great to see people starting Bikram yoga so early in life!  And there was some seriously good yoga this year, especially among the girls.  One after another, they went up there and nailed advanced postures that I've been trying unsuccessfully to do for years!  (Can anyone tell me, when did all the little kids start doing full standing bow?!)  It was really inspiring to see.

Those top 10 performances were mind-blowing.  In the men's division, Kasper Van Den Wijngaard and Joseph Encinia were neck-and-neck for the International gold medal.  I honestly couldn't tell who had won.  Kasper ended up coming ahead of Joseph by only six-tenths of a point.  (The routines are scored out of 80 points.)  I also have to give a shout-out to Deepak, whose score would have been in the same range if he hadn't gone over time in his last posture!!  And then, in the women's division... that may have been the best 30 minutes of yoga I've ever seen.  One of the more senior Bikram teachers wandered past me halfway through (I was working as volunteer, guarding the door), and said, "The ladies are bringing it this year!!"  I think it's fair to say that 5 years ago, any one of those performances would have earned an international medal.  Brandy Winfield ended up with a definitive win, but again, the scores were really tight; there was only eight-tenths of a point difference between third and seventh place!

The Technical Stuff

You can learn a lot by watching these performances.  You get to see the postures in their fullest expression, and you get a good glimpse of the advanced postures.  The competition also helps you to start understanding the nuances of the postures.  Think all standing head to knee poses look the same?  Try watching 60 different people do excellent versions of the pose, all in a row.  Your eye starts to recognize all the differences and subtleties.  The little technical details - the exact position of the grip, the height of the heel, the angle of the wrists - start to jump out at you.  And since every body is unique - long legs, long spines, short arms, short torsos, muscular and strong, slim and flexible - you start to see what correct execution looks like on all the different bodies, with all their different proportions.  

On Monday there was a choice between advanced class with Emmy or judge's clinic with Bikram.  I headed to advanced class, and I was happy with that choice, since Bikram was actually there with us for the first hour before he headed over to the clinic!  Bikram and Emmy started the class by talking about the postures that they'd seen on stage over the weekend.  Their advice to future competitors was clear and simple: follow the Dialogue!  They said it over and over.  At the national and international championship level, people are still just getting deductions for not following the precise set-ups that are given in the dialogue.  They mentioned things like gripping three inches below the toes in standing head to knee, two inches below the toes in bow, and keeping the wrists straight in bow.  Have no doubt, these guys know exactly what is written in the dialogue, and they are sort of baffled when people aren't following it!  Emmy thinks that when people get advanced, they start to do things their own way, but they should be doing it the way the dialogue says in order to get the best benefits.  Even in competition, it's not about doing the "prettiest" posture; it's all about doing the most correct posture, according to the dialogue, to get maximum medical benefits.

The Fun

I adore the championship weekend because it's just like a massive family reunion (where there are hundreds of people in the family and very few of them are related by blood).  Teacher training groups were reunited - the fall 2005 graduates were very proud to point out that almost all of their Group One was there! - students were reunited with their favorite teachers, Facebook friends met face-to-face for the first time, and of course everyone got to see Bikram, Rajashree, and Emmy again!

I kept describing it as a "yoga convention" to my friends at home, because that's what it feels like to me.  Even if you're not competing, you spend the entire weekend immersed in the world of Bikram yoga.  I was getting up before 6am every morning to take the 7am at Headquarters, but I still found myself awake past 1am, at the hotel bar with a glass of wine talking about yoga miracles or in a friend's hotel room talking about how to pick up the foot in standing head to knee.  In other words, it was yoga dork heaven!!

And of course, there was Bikram's birthday party on Saturday night, complete with Indian buffet, mind-boggling demonstrations from last year's champions, and a classic Bikram speech.  And yes, he danced.  (He loves to show off his disco moves.  "I invented disco; I just took off the -theque!")  And yes, I did too.  It was glorious and silly.  It was everything that you wish you'd had at your awkward middle school dances.

On a personal level, I was thrilled to meet some great new friends and spend time with some of my favorite people.  On Sunday night, after the awards ceremony, a car-full of us took off and went to the Korean bathhouse on Olympic Blvd near Headquarters for a couple hours.  Then we went to a late-night Pakistani place and filled our stomachs on a full spread of hummus, grape leaves, and baba ganoush, plus some kind of black tea with mint leaves in it.  Our waitress asked if were were from here, and everyone laughed; we had one person from Hawaii, one from Australia, two from Massachusetts, and one Massachusetts/California hybrid (me).  It was such a joy to be in that moment, in that place, with those people.

The Real Competition

On the final day, just before the last awards ceremony, last year's champions all got up to speak.  I was really moved by Courtney Mace's speech.  She said that she started Bikram yoga about 6 years ago because she "just wanted to feel better," and she never imagined the potential that would be unlocked by just 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises.  (At this point, I was already mumbling, "I think I have something in my eye...")  She said that when you see the competition, and especially when you are a part of it, you know that it's not really a competition between people.  "There is always a competition," she explained, "but it's not between people.  It happens every time you step into the hot room, and it's a competition between the ego and the soul.  And the soul always wins.  It has to.  So by the time you get on the stage, there is no competition anymore.  There is only your soul."  (Okay, I admit it, I definitely got teary!)

It was a wild, disorganized, and wonderful weekend, all in true Bikram style.  If you ever get the chance to attend one of these championships, it's most definitely worth the visit.

I'll probably be updating my own blog with more bits and pieces throughout the week, so keep checking over there if you still want to hear more!!

Day 46: Memory Harvest.

Author: Unknown /

Does this happen to anyone else?

When I do certain poses, certain memories come back. Not bad memories. Just random ones. For example...
  • Head to Knee with Stretching Pose: I flash back to being a Freshman in high school and waiting by my locker for my boyfriend.
  • Wind Removing Pose: I think about Sophomore year in high school, being in student government.
  • Locust Pose: Dancing to Indian drum and bass music in the core of on an old ship docked at Chelsea Piers in NYC.
  • Spine Twisting Pose: I'm at Cheer Camp (summertime during high school) and walking across the university campus we were at. It is sunny. And hot.
So random. Like I wrote... None of these are bad memories. Though, they're not memories that I can recall as being "the best of my life." They're not even what I would call "key moments" in my life. But yet in each designated pose, for as long as I can remember, these are the memories that pop into my head while executing. Why does my brain harvest them at those particular times, and then never pop them back into my head at any other time?

I only recently noticed this was even happening... As I have been doing this every day since the new year. Does anyone else have this happen?

DAY 45: ValenTIMES.

Author: Unknown /

by Michasana
(aka Michelle H. Zimmer)

In honor of Valentines day (or rather "Valentimes", as they say here in the "boogie down Bronx") I decided to blog about a new romance I am having.

Today I celebrate loving me again.

On December 28th 2009 I celebrated the first anniversary of my 39th year, yes, I turned 40. I don't look a day over 30, but I was starting to feel like I was 90. I decided that it was time to get back in shape when I went to lift my boob in my bra and realized I mistakenly grabbed a newly acquired belly roll. I needed help mentally and physically. I was writing "to do" lists in invisible ink and it was time to make some changes.

Aside from some seasonal rollerblading, I had not worked out, exercised in any way (not even a stretch), for almost 5 years. I had lost my dad to lung cancer and my mind decided to go along for the ride. I got very lazy (and drunk), and then overwhelmed (and stoned), and then depressed. Apathy... Denial... You name it. I lost my core, with every meaning of the word. I was a former "femme fatale" who turned into a "femme fetal" (position). I went from a size 6 to a 16 and somehow did not notice, as I gained it kind of equally everywhere. I felt like I was carrying an extra Michelle on my back. Good thing about that is at least she counter-balanced the hugeness of my breasts and knocked off the monkey.

Somehow, I knew it had to be Bikram for me. All I had to do was get off my butt and go. I had not really been drinking much the past 2 years (thanks in part to having a non-drinking boyfriend), but even so I decided I needed to go on the wagon completely if I wanted to do the challenge correctly. I know what my triggers are. If I have some wine, I might have a lot of wine resulting in lots of whine and me missing class. All or nothing, it's always been that way with me.

On January 3, 2010 I attended my first class at Bikram Yoga Bronx and of course I delved straight into a challenge. "All or nothing", I told you. I was so nervous on my way in to class that I was dry heaving on the bus. I mean, I used to be a gymnast as a child, later a personal trainer and now I can't even touch my toes. I used to be able to put my legs behind my neck and now when I move my shoulder it makes...noise? Is that gravel in my rotator cuff?

I decided to start breathing through my nose early and calmed myself down with a Dr. Andrew Weil breathing exercise I recalled from a book a crunchy ex- boyfriend forgot at my apt. (Seems like a fair trade, he got all of my 20's and I finally learned how to breathe).

I get to class and I'm already teary-eyed. I don't know what's worse, the idea that my dad is gone or him being aware of what a mess I have become. I don't feel like myself. I certainly don't look like myself, but I keep telling myself, "you're here, you are here, the worst part is over..." And then I tried rabbit pose.

Don't even get me started on what it feels like to do rabbit with my DD's and with this gut that used to be a 6-pack. "Stop judging and breathe normal." Breathe normal? It sounds like I'm motor-boating myself! Which caused me to start laughing. This is a good thing because that means I'm breathing...and burping...but more importantly, breathing.

I am on day 43 now (wahoo) and I am a new person. Or rather, I feel like my young self again. I stopped weighing myself but last time I checked I had lost 25 lbs (35 to go), I am down three jeans sizes and my arms are getting ripped. My flexibility is back about 70% and I am very proud of my camel and bow poses... But don't you ask me to lock my knee. Darn hyper extension! (lol)

I can see my obliques... And what are those? MY COLLAR BONES ARE BACK! Aside from waking up a couple of times a night to pee the 120 ounces of water I have to consume, I am sleeping very well. (Except for that one stressed out night, but I counted asanas instead of sheep and crashed right out!) My skin looks like Edward's in the film Twilight. I am not craving melted cheese on everything anymore. My digestive system is, well let's say, things are good on that end (all puns intended).

I also usually have gruesome menstrual cramps for a full day prior to getting it. Nothing but a bath would ever help (and it barely did). I took a class at the start of my cramps and got it an hour and a half later!!!! If for nothing else Bikram is worth that! I have also learned not to stare at the moving subway during savasana, you make that mistake one time.

Here is the best part though. It seems I have inspired at least 7 friends to start practicing Bikram. One friend in particular (she knows who she is) her doctor has taken her OFF her blood pressure pills and her insulin. Diabetes...GONE! Another buddy told me how inspired she was by me, that I was her hero. It seems I am the "wind removing pose" beneath her "eagle pose" wings. Time to fly.

Michelle lives in New York City and originally hails from the Riverdale section of the Bronx. She is passionate about the food, drink and garden industries. She used to think she might be a "vegetarian with sausage tendencies," but recently realized she is more like a "carnivore with a conscience." She considers herself an "Urban Garden Hoe," as she invests a lot of time volunteering in her neighborhood's community garden. She loves the Yankees and constantly invites people to explore the "northern" part of NYC. "You won't get a nosebleed," she promises.

Day 44: Double Up

Author: bikramyogachick /

As we approach day 50, many of us have hit some snags. A few of us have some catching up to do. I read an interesting article on "Oh My Bikram" blog regarding the whole concept of a challenge. A long thread of arguing yogi's ensued on this topic. You have your purists who insist a challenge must be everyday, no makeups allowed. Then you have the others who say it's 30 classes in 30 days (or in our case, 101 classes in 101 days). Click on the link and read the arguments for both sides. It's pretty interesting. My thought is this: before you embark on your challenge decide which one you are going to do. Will you attempt to go everyday and literally start over if you miss, or will you do the one that allows for doubles to catch up? Pick the one that resonates with you and stick to it. After all, you are doing this for yourself and not to prove anything or receive some sort of award. The reward we all will get is the amazing sense of accomplishment when we are through.

So for those of you that have some catching up to do, embrace those "double" days and approach them with the attitude of "what will this double day teach me?" My teachers always tell me "you are so much stronger than you think you are". So do a back to back, split it up, do what works for you. I personally did one today and I split it up. It worked so much better for me. I also doubled up on my electrolytes, added 2 extra liters of water into my normal routine and made sure to eat well.
You are all doing great! We will be hitting the halfway mark soon!

Bikramyogachick is a coauthor of the Bikram 101 blog along with The Missus and Dancing J. She knows she owes you guys her bio, as she is still somewhat behind the curtain. She promises to have it ready for her post next Saturday.....

DAY 43: Yoga Competitions?!

Author: thedancingj /

Yoga competitions!!  What's up with that?!

When people first hear the words "yoga" and "competition" in the same breath, the typical response falls somewhere in the spectrum between a puzzled "Wait.... what?" and an aggressive "What the %$&*?!"  Now, I could go over all the talking points for why yoga championships are a fine idea (like the fact that they've been doing them in India for centuries or the fact that it's a yoga asana competition, not a yoga competition), but I'd rather just share my personal competition experiences a little bit.

The first time I competed was in the New England regionals in October 2007, at the request and encouragement of my studio owners.  I was still pretty new to the world of Bikram yoga, and I had never heard of a "yoga competition" before, but I was interested in trying something new and learning a little more about yoga, so I said, "Sure, why not?"  So I started training, with a group of other students and teachers, and I learned how a yoga competition works.

It goes like this: each participant has exactly 3 minutes (no longer) to demonstrate a routine of 7 postures on stage.  The first 5 postures, the compulsories, are taken from the beginning Bikram class and are the same for everyone: standing head to knee, standing bow pulling, bow, rabbit, and stretching.  The last two postures, the "optionals," are where you get to strut your stuff a little bit and demonstrate something that you are especially good at.  Those postures are usually chosen from the advanced series.  The goal is to demonstrate strength, flexibility, and balance.  Each of the postures is scored out of 10 points based on form and technique.  There's also a subjective score for "grace."

I had a lot of fun training, because all us students started working together after class to help each other improve in the postures.  We started sharing tips and trick and stories, and it was the first time I started being really social at yoga.  (Of course now I am Miss Social Butterfly, but in the beginning I didn't talk to anyone!!)  I learned a ton about the postures, and I gained so much confidence.  Before I started training, I really never wanted anyone to watch my postures.  After a couple months, I was totally comfortable going up to any teacher after class and asking them to watch my routine and give me feedback.

One of the most important things about yoga for me has always been the lack of judgement.  Yoga class was the first place in a very long time where I was able to just see myself instead of constantly judging.  So this idea of getting up on stage to be judged was unsettling, at best!  I went up to one of my coaches after a class in September, all teary for some reason, and told her that I didn't like the thought of going to stage to have everyone judge me.  She said that I shouldn't think of it like that; I should just think of it as "show and tell."  It was a chance for me to go in front of my teachers and peers and show them what I'd been working on, nothing more.  I liked the idea of "show and tell."  I decided that my goal for the performance would be to demonstrate everything that I had learned in the past months, so that other people could see how wonderful my teachers were.

I was scared shitless before I got up on stage, but once I was up there I had SO.  MUCH.  FUN.  I held all my postures and I was so proud of myself, because I'd made my teachers proud and I'd done something that I didn't think I could do.  The whole team went out for a celebratory dinner that night, and I was the happiest I'd been in a long time.

I competed again one year later, in November 2008, in the southern California regionals.  I had just moved cross country a few months earlier.  This time, I didn't have a team of coaches and teachers and friends.  It was just me!  I did it to challenge myself, because I didn't especially feel like doing it, but I knew it would help me to grow as a yogi.  I practiced my routine on my own and got feedback when I could.

My postures definitely improved through the training, but that year was all about the community!  If you're new in town and you want plug into the local community, showing up on stage at the competition is a pretty good way to do it!  Competitions are really just these big old yoga conventions.  They are the least competitive things ever.  We all hang out backstage and help each other with our routines.  We watch each other from the wings and hold our breath, wanting to see everyone else do their best.  Everyone winces when someone wobbles and cheers when someone does well.  Some of the people who I met at that event are now among my best yogi-friends in Los Angeles, so it was totally worthwhile!

As far as the actual performance that year, I was totally relaxed backstage, giving last minute tips and cracking dirty jokes, and then I was scared shitless when I got up on stage!  It was very dark, and Emmy was in the middle of the judges' table - yikes!  I wobbled pretty badly coming out of standing head to knee and was sure it was all over.  But as soon as that happened, I thought to myself, "Whoops, well, that's that, oh well, too bad!"  I put a big smile on my face, relaxed completely, and finished the routine very cheerfully.  (My friend in the audience said that I was the only one who smiled, like, at all.)  Whaddaya know - I got third place.  Didn't qualify me for nationals (that's first and second place winners only), but it was something to write home about.

I didn't get to compete this year, so that's the extent of my personal experience on the yoga stage!  (I'm really gonna have to do it again next year, though, or certain people will kill me.)  Since my experiences have been so positive, I always encourage people to get involved in their local events.  They're inspiring to watch, they bring the community together, and it's empowering to be a part of them.  

"Competition" gets a bad rap, but it's not inherently a bad thing.  When good people compete with each other - not against, but with - without malice or pettiness, everyone improves from it.  Bikram likes to point out that competition is the foundation of democracy, and I think he's got a point.  Without competition, you have either a monopoly or a caste system, right?!  Everything in life is competition, but that's not necessarily bad news.  Let's compete with each other to see who can raise the most money for Haiti, and we'll see if anyone's worse off at the end of the day.

I'll be in LA all weekend for the national and international championships, and it promises to be a fun time!  (Yoga family reunion yay!!)  Maybe I'll see some of you there!  For those of you staying at home, the events will all be streaming live online.  You can watch on Friday at USA Yoga and on Saturday and Sunday at Yoga Cup.  The schedule of events is here.  Enjoy!!

DAY 42: All I Really Need to Know

Author: KT /

All I Really Need to Know I Learned
in Bikram Yoga...

Plan ahead. Try your best. Some days are better than others. Look at your own two eyes. Drink your water. We all have our strengths. Work really hard and then take a rest. Listen attentively. Surround yourself with amazing people. Pretend you're a camel, an airplane, a cobra & a flower. Some things are gonna' hurt like hell--don't be scared. Commit to yourself. Follow directions. Sometimes you think you can't make it, then realize you just did. Don't compare yourself to others. Be on time or you might miss out. Make everyone feel welcome. Point yourself in the direction you want to go. Quiet your mind. You can't just run out of the room every time you feel like crying. Focus on you. When you fall down, get back up and try again. Small corrections can make big differences. Every millimeter counts. There are many things you cannot control. Concentrate. Others will guide you, but only you can do the work. There's always space to scoot over and make room for one more. Smile when making a triangle. Everybody sweats. And don't forget to breathe.


About peaceloveyoga:
Kristi Traub lives in San Antonio, Texas USA and began practicing Bikram yoga on December 5, 2009. She quickly became yoga-dependent and practices daily at Bikram Yoga San Antonio (BYSA) where she has met many, many cool people and new friends. Kristi is somewhere between a guest writer and regular blog contributor here at Bikram 101, as she is now writing on Thursdays throughout this challenge. Kristi is 40 years old and has three young children, which makes her feel like the 'big sister' of the Bikram 101 blog. She used to be a flight attendant for United Airlines and loves to travel. Kristi would love to visit Bikram yoga studios all across the world. Kristi feels like her Gramma when writing grammatically in the third person about herself, as her Gramma could often be heard saying "Gramma loves you."

DAY 41: I Want To Be A Continuer.

Author: Unknown /

by: Cristina Eriksson

One thing that has been on my mind the last days is a thing my Budo-teacher talked about some time ago.

“There are only to types of students, continuers and quitters. The beginners don’t count as they don’t know yet what they are doing. After you have been a beginner and by your second semester, you have made a conscious decision to continue. After that you are either a continuer or a quitter.”

This makes so much sense in (Bikram) yoga as well.

We have beginners. We all have them in all studios, they don’t know what they are doing, they get a trial pass for some classes for a bargain price. Some students quit right at this time and others go on and buy a month card, or a 10 times card, or what suits them. At this time they become continuers.

Continuers come back. Once a day, once a week or something in between. They come regularly. They have an open mind and want to learn. They continue. They do their yoga continually.

Quitters quit. They give up. They have excuses that, if we hear them, we can see through them as being a (more or less) lame way to not come back. So they quit.

Quitters quit when it is starting to get tough and rough.

Quitters quit when they get in touch with things that are uncomfortable.

Quitters quit when the laziness in them takes over.

It doesn’t matter for how long you have been a student, you are still a continuer. Some more experienced, others less. Continuers continue what so ever... After a tough day, an uncomfortable feeling and through the hard work... Day after day after day.

I come back to the studio every day. So far I am a continuer and I want to continue to be a continuer with this yoga.


Cristina lives in Stolkhom, Sweden and has been practicing Bikram yoga for over 5 years. Currently, she practices at Bikram Yoga Sodermalm. The 101 Challenge is a way to more deeply learn about herself and this yoga. She works as a Lead Developer where she combines her two interests: motivating people and software development.

Day 40: Autobiography of a YOGA DORK

Author: thedancingj /

"My world's on fire! How 'bout yours?
That's the way I like it, and I'll never get bored."
- "All Star" by Smash Mouth

Heather (aka TheMissus) pointed out yesterday that we crazy masterminds blog administrators have never properly introduced ourselves. Fair point! I'd rather talk about yoga than myself, but today I will talk about myself. And yoga.

So.... Hi!  My name's Juliana, and I used to be a ballet dancer.  (Hence the name.  When I first picked this name, for a ballet forum a million years ago, I really just wanted to be "J" or "the J," which was what my friends called me. But those were too short.  Ta da - "the Dancing J".)   I started ballet when I was 7 and kept it up all the way through college. I apprenticed with Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre in Cambridge, MA during my last year of college and then spent a year with them dancing full-time after I finished school, during the 2006-2007 season.

Ballet dancers love cross training, and I dabbled in pretty much every yoga style I could find. A friend brought me to my first Bikram class during the summer of 2004, at a tiny studio in the Pacific Northwest, and then another friend brought me to Bikram Yoga Boston the following winter. This particular yoga style really captured my attention. It was intense, it was cleansing, and I couldn't believe how good my body felt after class. I could never make it to yoga regularly when school was in session (college + ballet + yoga = not enough hours in the day), but I would go to Bikram a few times a week during summer breaks, and I always loved it.  I had the idea in my head that if I ever really "got into" yoga, this would be the style I would like to do, and I would do it every day.

In the summer of 2007, I decided that ballet as a career was Not For Me. I left the ballet company, started applying to grad schools, and walked into Bikram Yoga Boston to see if they had any work-study spots open. The owners hooked me up right away and started training me for the regional championships that were happening that fall. They were so good to me. Brad, Jill, and Tomo Koontz were my first yoga family, and I am forever grateful to them. I had an amazing time practicing at their studios, where I got to take strong dialogue-driven classes every day and I was welcomed into the most amazing community I'd ever experienced. (Seriously, you have no idea how nice yogis are to each other compared to ballerinas!! Sorry, bunheads, but you know it's true.) I also started making regular trips to study with the amazing Diane Ducharme, whose studio was a couple bus rides away on the outside of town, and she's been a great friend and huge influence on me. I can't say enough good things about her, either!

This all sounds unsettlingly linear, so here's the curveball: the college I went to was MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, world-renowned school for scientists and engineers. My undergraduate degree is a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering. (I'm pretty mathy.) While I was getting deep into my Bikram practice in Boston, I also applied to engineering schools and got accepted into my top choice Ph.D. program at UC Santa Barbara. Hooray?!  I think Brad was kind of heart-broken that I wasn't going to the Bikram teacher training! He'd already been trying to talk me into it for months. To tell you the truth, I was sad, too. (I think I already knew that he was right.) But grad school seemed like a good idea, so I packed up, hugged my teachers goodbye, and moved cross-country to work on semiconductor engineering.

But the Bikram bug had bitten me, and there's no going back from that! I tried to give grad school my best effort, and I lasted for a year and a half, but it became so obvious that my heart wasn't in it. Research work is a noble calling, but sitting in lab all night and reading research papers all day just isn't the life for me. Santa Barbara is less than 2 hours north from Los Angeles, so I could drive down on the weekend to take classes from Bikram, Raj, and Emmy, and that just pulled me deeper into the yoga! After months of going back and forth in my head, I had a moment of total clarity. It happened during a Sunday morning class in October, at 10am, during pranayama. I knew that Bikram yoga was the path for me. It was obvious, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And it wasn't necessarily easy, but it was simple and right.

Four months later, I am no longer in grad school. I did manage to finish a Master's degree, which was a great bonus. (I may never use it, but you never know.) I'm still in beautiful Santa Barbara, doing odd jobs and practicing at the Bikram studio here. I am going to teacher training in just a couple months, on April 18th in Vegas!  I feel so lucky.  I can't wait to see what happens next.

And that's the beginning of my story....

(Half moon in the foothills of Santa Barbara)

Juliana Olmstead is a Bikram yoga teacher at heart, and soon will have the certificate to prove it!  Writing about yoga is one of her favorite activities these days, besides practicing yoga, talking about yoga and studying the dialogue!  (YOGA DORK.)  She also cooks, travels, and watches bad sci-fi movies.  She thinks that watching the global Bikram yoga network grow stronger and stronger is the coolest part of this blogging stuff, by far!  She grew up in Northampton, MA, spent 6 years in Boston, and currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA.

Day 39: I'm No Wizard.

Author: Unknown /

We've had so many guest posters lately. It has been wonderful! And I encourage ANYONE who wants to guest post to simply write in and let us know. We would be more than happy to schedule a day for you to post. The stories and thoughts everyone has shared have been awesome. The Bikram yoga community is amazing and strong.

But as I have worked with each guest poster to get their stories up and live on the blog, I realized something... You all get a chance to learn about where they are from, as we post bios for them with their stories. But I've never taken the time to give you all background info on me. And, if I recall, neither have my two co-editors of this blog, Bikram Yoga Chick and Dancing J.


As one of our guest posters wondered recently, "Do you really practice this yoga? Or are you like the Wizard of Oz behind a curtain... Pulling strings?"

I promise, I'm no wizard.

But now that we are a third of the way through this challenge, I figured it is time to give you some background on me and my Bikram yoga practice. (And I encourage Bikram Yoga Chick and Dancing J to do the same on their posting days!) I think it is probably good that you understand I am an actual practitioner and not just someone coordinating a scene.

I blog as "The Missus." In reality, my name is Heather Molina. I moved to Toronto last year from Boston. And I have been practicing Bikram yoga for five and half years.

I began my practice at Bikram Yoga Boston, with a collection of amazing teachers who are strict dialogue teachers. They paid attention to not only the words they recited each and every class, but also to my progress. One teacher in particular never missed a thing in the story that is my Bikram yoga practice...

Example: For the first two years of practicing, I wore yoga pants or cropped pants to practice in each day. The very first time I wore shorts to class, she commented, "Heather!!! You are wearing shorts today! About time!" It was amazing to me that she noticed because I only ever saw her twice a week, as she rotated teaching with other instructors. But she noticed. As did other teachers on various little things.

They helped me evolve my practice while also helping lay a strong foundation for me. I learned how to move in and out postures the correct way by practicing with such strict dialoguers. And when I moved to Toronto and began practicing at Bikram Yoga Bloor, the teachers there didn't have to fear any bad habits I picked up at my old studio.

Since moving to a new home studio and practicing under another set of amazing teachers, I have seen my practice progress forward in new ways...
  • I can feel the muscles in my back flex in Cobra.
  • My thighs are starting to get off the ground in Floor Bow.
  • I can stand on tipped part of my toes and almost come down all the way in the second part of Awkward.
  • Standing-Head-to-Knee... I can, for a brief second, actually put my head to my knee and hold it.
I've also seen my body make "progress" in a weird way too. I get acid reflux, badly, every few classes. But my teacher the other night explained, "This is good. Your body is getting rid of something."

I am excited to see what the rest of this challenge brings. Both the good (progress in poses) and the bad (acid reflux and crying for no reason).

Heather Molina is a married woman living in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood. She has been practicing Bikram yoga for a long-ass time. So long, in fact, she knows it is time to commit to going to teacher training. By day, she works as a digital marketing executive at an agency in the city. When she's not working, spending time with her husband or detoxing in the Bikram studio... She loves to write and travel. In fact, she loves to visit different Bikram studios when she travels.