by Liesbeth Strobbe
You've all just done a 30 day challenge. Congratulations! Feeling good? I bet you are!
Hi guys, BikramYogaChick here. I hope you are all feeling strong and peaceful after 29 days doing this amazing yoga. I know I am.
Ok, so it's official...no getting around it. I am a yoga freak. junkie. yogaholic. Call me what you will. My days are now planned around when I will practice...do I have clean yoga clothes, towel, water bottle? When will I eat, what will I eat? Nothing to eat within three hours of class, lots of water, a little G2. Better stop drinking any liquids a half hour before class...because you know what that means...and if I just HAVE TO leave the room, one of my favorite teachers may require me to do the "potty dance" when I return! Not pretty.
So, I started thinking about my habit. What if I had to stop doing my yoga?? (gasp!)
Not enough time, not enough money...what else could I give up instead?
Starbucks? No problem.
Yet another pair of Seven for all Mankind jeans? Of course.
Movies? Dinner with friends? Happy hour?
Sure. Yep. Affirmative.
I'm sorry, what?
Did someone just suggest me giving up my iPhone?
(THIS is supposed to hurt...concentrate, meditate...if iBlink my eyes, iMight just...)
But, I digress...
Surely, I could find a way to have BOTH my iPhone and my yoga. There is always a way! I'll decrease my minutes, but don't even THINK about denying me my unlimited texting. You know what they say...family first, then yoga & iPhone are simultaneous, equal, 50-50.
But then I encountered the quintessential "ah-haaa" moment in my yoga practice. It was the 25th day of this Bikram 101 challenge, but I'm actually on my 54th day in a row (except-for-Christmas-Day-when-the-studio-was-closed-and-yes-I-did-a-double-to-account-for-it-but-that's-besides-the-point!).
So back to this class...it was my strongest practice yet, silent & steady, sweating & struggling and even a few snickers, especially during eagle! I felt so incredibly focused, centered and peaceful that it hit me like a locked knee, lamppost, unbroken...YES, if it came down to it...I would make the choice to give up my iPhone to continue practicing Bikram Yoga.
For those of us who already experience a clear mind and strong body, while surrounded by amazing people, there is no need to explain. For those who are still wondering, we can simply guide by our actions and allow you to find your own way.
I wrote about this topic on my own blog yesterday, and I'm cross-posting here (with a few edits and additions!) since I got such good feedback and people seem to be really interested in this information.
Last month I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. The dental hygienist found that my gums were a little swollen (FYI, did you know that you are supposed to brush your gums, not just your teeth?) and gave me a fun little "gum stimulator" to use on them. It's basically just a rubber tip that push flat against your gums, then release. When she was showing me how to use it, she also explained the science of it. She said, "You just press this into your gums to cut off the blood flow, and then when you release it, all the fresh oxygenated blood rushes back in and heals the tissue..."
Yes, "fresh oxygenated blood"! No kidding. She had to take her hand back out of my mouth because I cracked up laughing. I quickly recovered myself and told her, "Oh, I know exactly what you are talking about," and told her why that phrase was so familiar to me.
Some teachers talk about this more often than others, but the Bikram series is all about reducing circulation to different parts of your body and then letting the highly oxygenated blood rush back in. That's precisely where so much of the healing comes from. First, we increase the amount of oxygen in the blood by heating up the body and doing pranayama breathing. Then we create compression and extension in virtually every part of the body, so that this super circulation can do its work most effectively.
I like the water shortage analogy that Bikram uses to explain this concept. He says, let's imagine that one day California has a really huge water shortage crisis...
"Los Angeles has many cities within it, and if the water department sends them all water at the same time, all anyone gets is a trickle. So the city says, "Every half hour we will supply water to each city in turn. At 6 a.m. we will have water only in the city of Beverly Hills. At 6:30 it will stop and the water will go to Culver City." And so on. This way, everyone gets more than a trickle and - ahh - they can take a nice shower. At the appointed time, everyone gets enough water pressure. It's all about extension and compression. This is happening in every phase of yoga, all the time. Every time you bend to the right, you are compressing or closing that side while opening up the left side. And vice versa. The moment you release the posture, blood is transported from one side to the other. In this way you sequentially improve each part of the whole human body."
- From Bikram Yoga (also known as "the orange book"), pg 85-86
There's a longer explanation in the book (which is definitely worth a read), but that's the basic idea.
It's interesting to think about the postures in terms of extension and compression. Take standing bow pulling pose, for example. The point of the posture isn't to look like a pretty ballerina (even though it sure is nice when you feel that way). Besides raising your heart rate and developing your balance and concentration, it's also the only posture where you compress one half of your body while extending the other half. One the first side, the whole right side of your body is experiencing compression while the left side extends. Ta da!! Medical benefits.
I always "bought" this idea, because it's very logical and it definitely seems to work, but I wasn't sure how well it would actually stand up to Western scientific scrutiny. But as it turns out, this is all stuff that they teach you about in dental hygienist school!! So it must be legit. Who knew?
About three years ago, a Bikram teacher got on my case...
By John Williams
There’s a young woman named Ari at the yoga studio where I recently began practicing in Kansas City. We’ve forged the most unlikely of friendships, at least based my expectations and experience. She’s an extremely proficient, 5’ tall, regional yoga champion. I’m a 6’2”, 53 year-old, former bull rider. She’s beautiful, Asian, and a dedicated vegan. I’m hillbilly, weathered, and a far-from-mindful eater. She develops software; I develop real estate. She’s graceful, poised and flexible; I’m clumsy, tense and tight. Ari comes to class 4 or 5 days a week, and I’m attempting the Bikram 101 Challenge. Whenever we’re in class at the same time, we practice alongside one another. She says we remind her of the elephant and the mouse.
The other night after class we were talking about bull riding and Ari said that it must be similar in many ways to yoga. I agreed that they both required balance and strength, courage and determination. Also, they both take place in pretty smelly environments. “But”, I said, “If yoga was like bull riding, when you fell out of a pose yoga would try to kill you. In fact, if yoga was like bull riding, we’d have yoga-fighters hanging around the studio so that they could distract yoga and keep yoga from killing you when you fell out of a pose. If yoga was like bull riding, occasionally you’d get stuck in a posture and yoga would drag you around the room and bash you on the walls until you got loose. Then yoga would try to kill you some more. There’s no killing in yoga!”
But Ari smiled and said, “Actually, there is killing in yoga, but it’s of a different kind. One of the goals of yoga is to bring about the death of the ego – and allow us to better see how connected we are to all things, rather than how different from one another we are.” Damn! I tried to cling to my arguments for the vast difference between yoga and bull riding. I started to argue that bulls are much stronger than yoga, but that’s not true. When you put 33 students in a yoga studio, yoga just gets stronger. If you put 33 cowboys in a chute with a bull, the bull would just give up and be like, WTF?
Also, there’s much less violent thrashing in yoga than in bull riding - unless you’re like me. For me, a Bikram class is pretty much a 90-minute thrash-fest. You know Edgar, the poor farmer whose body gets taken over by an alien in “Men in Black”? The guy who lurches and stumbles and flails around wherever he goes? The guy with no control whatsoever over his motor functions? That’s me in a Bikram class. So, at least for the foreseeable future, the violent thrashing is identical in yoga and bull riding.
Which leaves the actual participation of a bull as the only material difference between bull riding and yoga. I’ve always thought of bull riding as far more humane than bull fighting (just about anything is, actually), but Ari has been sharing her vegan beliefs and her thoughts about animal rights, and she does it in a way that isn’t self-righteous or judgmental. She also brings me some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life - and this vegan fare, along with regular attendance at the Bikram studio, seems to be making yoga easier (and if not easier, then better). This young woman, the most unlikely of friends, has become my guide as I explore yoga and the wide range of unexpected consequences and ideas that have sprung from a regular practice. She’s helping me glimpse the higher realms of yoga – unimaginable vistas that might someday be reached if I try hard enough and long enough.
I suppose it’s inevitable that she would find herself guiding a man like me. Ari’s full name is Ariadne. In Greek mythology, Ariadne was the princess that helped a man escape the darkness of a labyrinth – a labyrinth he had entered to do battle with a bull-creature. The labyrinth of the Minotaur.
Everyone is connected.
Everything is yoked.
Today is day 24.
John Williams began practicing Bikram yoga in October 2009. He lives in Kansas City and practices at Bikram Yoga Kansas City. He spends as much time as he can volunteering for Habitat in Central America. His goal is to retire in the next 10 years and work full time doing developmental aid in Africa. He has a 27-year-old daughter he adores. And he loves reading all the Bikram 101 blog entries by people from all over the world. Some days, in class, he can actually hook his foot behind his calf in Eagle. He feels, "Those are pretty good days."
Today I had the opportunity to take Lynn Whitlow's class. There are some teachers that are commonly known throughout the Bikram community. Diane Ducharme. Craig Villani. Mary Jarvis. Lynn Whitlow. These are amazing senior teachers that are very well respected and well loved in our wonderful little community. I took Craig's seminar last year. It was an amazing experience and I learned alot about the postures.
Here's a thought for the weekend.
Bikram has often said that when you do this yoga, when you can do these postures, then "you don't have to chase the world, world will chase you. You don't have to chase the money, money will chase you. You don't have to chase the Gods, the Gods will chase you. *a pause* You don't have to chase the chiropractor, chiropractor will come to you!"
Sri Pattabhi Jois, the late founder of Ashtanga yoga, is known for saying something similar: "Do your practice and all is coming." I always loved that. It's too similar to be coincidence.
We're a few weeks into our daily yoga challenge now. For some of us, these are the first steps on a journey, but for many of us, this is the newest phase of a practice that was begun months or years ago.
So when you do your yoga practice.... do you find that things begin to "come" to you? And does it feel like coincidence, or does it feel connected? This is a huge question, and there are a million different ways it could be answered, but I suspect that all those million ways might be right.
We are three weeks in, people!
I think it's safe to say that we all frequently do the things that we don't really feel like doing. We go into work, wash the dishes, eat our greens, and play nicely with others, instead of spending the day at the beach, leaving the chores for later, chowing down on chocolate cake, and telling that jerk in the next office what we really think of him.
This is called Self-Control, which is also one of the five elements of the mind that we strengthen by practicing yoga. Self-Control means that we know the difference between Want and Need. Self-Control means that we don't give into our every whim. There's also a very positive way to phrase it: Self-Control means doing the things that will most benefit our future selves.
Here's a passage from Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (which is a fun and brilliant book about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future and our capacity - or lack thereof - to predict how well we will like it when we get there).
"We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy. Rather than indulging in whatever strikes our momentary fancy, we take responsibility for the welfare of our future selves, squirreling away portions of our paychecks each month so THEY can enjoy their retirements on a putting green, jogging and flossing with some regularity so THEY can avoid coronaries and gum grafts, enduring dirty diapers and mind-numbing repetitions of The Cat in the Hat so that someday THEY will have fat-cheeked grandchildren to bounce on their laps."
(Yeah, it's an awesome book!)
So Self-Control isn't about self-deprivation; it's about learning to choose the things that will give our future selves the most pleasure.
And you can see where I'm going with this, can't you? This is why we got to yoga even on the days when we'd rather go out for a beer or stay at home watching TV or just take a nap. This is why we slog through the early morning classes and the second sets of locust posture. Because we know that we'll thank ourselves in the future. We have it on pretty good authority, because when we talk to the people who have been doing this stuff for years and years, they say "oh yeah, it's worth it." And when we look into the catalogue of our own experiences, we see that yes, we do usually feel much better after we've spent 90 minutes in the hot room, even if the 90 minutes themselves were not the most enjoyable minutes of your life. We know that we're investing in our futures, and the investment is a solid one.
Bikram always likes to ask, "Would you rather suffer for 90 minutes or 90 years?" And when a few souls in the class are alert enough to call out, "90 minutes," he says, "Ahaaa! You're getting smarter.... That is called introduction to Self-Realization..." And he smiles.
Yep... 18 whole days in. And already my body is showing the signs of a Bikram Yoga Challenge...
- I have a nice pink patch under the ball of my chin from Locust pose.
- My knees have a hint of "towel burn" on them Camel.
- The tips of my fingers have a nice "dry sprinkle" look to them... With bits of peeling skin.
- And the piece de resistance... My Bikram Stigmata!
By Luyi Zhang
In the pursuit of improvement, we constantly set goals and try to reach them—it is only human nature to strive higher and try to improve ourselves. Within the yoga room, in the individual postures, we desire progress—more depth, more definition, more endurance. Although striving for improvement encourages us to be determined and put forth more effort, sometimes it helps to put our goals aside and truly appreciate what is there, in the moment.
The other night, I was moving deeper into Standing Bow pose with the intention of kicking back strongly while charging forward with determination. All was well... until I fell out of the pose, my palms hitting the top of my towel, leaving perfect handprints of sweat. I felt disappointed with myself, wishing I could have balanced in the pose for a little longer. Does this process sound familiar? We've all had moments of progressing into postures with the intention of executing it strongly, only to fall out of it and feel unsatisfied. We wish we could have kept kicking or stretching for just a few more seconds, and from there, it's so easy to feel a little frustrated: why wasn't I strong enough? Why did my strength and determination fall short? We've all been there; we've all experienced the negative spiral of emotions that sometimes ensues in the yoga room.
What causes these series of negative emotions? Our desire to achieve, to improve. Our goals can help us and hinder us at the same time: on the one hand, they inspire us to accomplish more; on the other hand, they can easily cause us to become frustrated with ourselves and our practice when we don't meet our own expectations. When we have clear goals in mind, it is understandable to become results-oriented—but then, if we don't attain a desired result or if we don't feel like we are improving quickly enough within a posture, etc, it is only natural for negative self-talk to happen. In our yoga practice, it is, of course, good to execute postures with effort and determination, but does it really serve us to become disappointed or frustrated with what we don't accomplish?
Plutarch (A.D. 46-120), a Greek personal essayist esteemed for his sympathy and sensitivity, once wrote,
"We must never consider a small good as a large evil, nor be ungrateful for what fortune has given us because it has not filled the measure as full as we expected."
In class, I thought of Plutarch's thoughtful words as I attempted second set of Standing Bow. This time, instead of doing the posture with the intention of achieving a certain depth, I decided to throw attachment of results to the wind. I chose to be truly grateful and appreciative of my progress—my progress itself, whatever it may be. This time, when I fell out of the pose, I didn't let it initiate a series of negativity and self-judgment. Instead of criticizing myself for only staying in the pose for half the time and becoming frustrated because I fell out, I chose to appreciate the fact that I stayed in the pose for half the time, acknowledging the strength and balance that carried me through those few seconds. This time, I evaded the clutches of the self-criticism demon: by choosing to be appreciative, I felt a lot better about myself and my abilities.
It's amazing how freeing it can be to let go of our attachment to outcomes. Rather than defining your practice by what you want it to be in the future (goals and expectations), instead, appreciate your practice for what it is right now, in the moment. Instead of using what you can't do to judge or criticize yourself, appreciate what you can do. Be grateful for your efforts. Our bodies are fascinating and incredible—some 75-100 trillion cells working together in harmony—so be thankful for your body and what it is capable of, both in class and beyond. Take a look at yourself and your practice—what are you proud of right now? Maybe it's a posture that makes you feel fabulous? Or maybe your overall perseverance and resilience? Take some time to appreciate where you are right now, at this stage in your practice.
In the yoga room, we spend so much of our energy striving for improvement—but take some time to define for yourself, what does improvement really mean to you? Improvement doesn't necessarily have to be a physical effect, even though the general approach is to judge our progress by what is visible. We tend to feel satisfied after a class where we felt strong, achieved a certain degree of depth in the postures, etc. But these are only our self-imposed standards. How our bodies will react to each class can greatly vary and is often unpredictable. The yoga in its purest form is so beneficial—everything you do in the room, as long as it is done the right way with positive intention—will serve you in some way. And ultimately, how you feel about each of your classes is entirely your choice, so why not choose to feel good about it? Perhaps, improvement could mean being more open and accepting of your process in the yoga room, regardless of outcome. Perhaps, improvement could mean occasionally loosening your grip on your goals and expectations—don't hold on so tight; appreciate all you have, in the moment.
Perhaps, improvement could mean satisfaction.
Luyi practices in New Haven, CT, and never fails to be amazed by the immense potential and power of the Bikram series. She strives to approach this 101-day challenge with patience and acceptance, while breathing with joy. She chronicles her explorations, revelations, and appreciation for this practice on her blog at 101 Days of Lampposts.
For those of you who haven't seen this yet, Oprah's magazine "O" ran a gorgeous article in its January issue about the first 30 days of a woman's 60 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge. The author of the article, Paige Williams, begins her challenge in a tough place: stressed, out of work, divorced, and 80 pounds overweight. She needs more than just a "makeover." In her own words: "I'm not a renovation; I'm a teardown. And I'm hoping Bikram is my bulldozer."
Paige's account of her first 30 days is clear, funny, and honest. The article captures so much of what is essential to Bikram yoga: the sweat, the postures, the heat, the dialogue, an encounter with Bikram himself... and also the words of encouragement, the determination, the lifestyle shifts, and the quiet revelations, Paige's words may resonate with how some of our challengers are feeling right about now. She writes:
"After 15 days, I am sore and discouraged and sick of being wringing wet, and I feel utterly overwhelmed by everything I'm supposed to remember, sometimes all of it at once: Lock your knee, contract your abdominal muscles, chin down, chest up, focus only on yourself in the mirror, quiet your breath, pulling is the object of stretching, if you're falling out of the posture you're not kicking hard enough, chin up, eyes open, let it go, just be here, have compassion for yourself, kick harder—kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick!"
I've read the article many times since it came out, and the story grabs my heart every time. It's so compelling to watch someone set out on this path. I can see her beginning her ascent, slowly but surely, dragging herself out of the muck, growing from what she has been into something so much stronger. I can see the coming weeks and months laid out before her like a red carpet, leading her into her new life, as long as she just keeps walking forward.
The February issue (which apparently has hit some newsstands already) will give us the story of the second 30-day period. By this point, Paige has already completed her 60 days and moved on to the next stage of her journey. But still, every time I read the article I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat, cheering for her as urgently as I'd cheer for the Red Sox in the final game of the World Series. Keep going, Paige! You're right there!
The article was on display at both the studios I visited back in Boston, and it was great to see how enthused my teachers were about Paige's story. I love this about our community. We get so excited for every single person who taps into the power of Bikram's yoga. They all matter to us. Everyone is cheering, everyone cares. They live for this kind of thing. (Soon I will, too! This is exactly why I'm heading to teacher training.)
The first part is here: "O" Magazine: Transform Your Life In 60 Days
The next part is coming to newsstands very soon...
There are 26 postures in the Bikram yoga beginning series. There are poses I love. And there are poses I struggle with each time. The one pose that gives me the most grief is Standing-Head-to-Knee.
I wasn't sure what I was going to write about tonight on our group blog. So I updated my own blog first, allowing the words to pour directly out from my heart. After reading my post, I suddenly knew what I wanted to write about over here. For those of you familiar with my blog, you know I love to do Bikram challenges. Twice a year in fact. I've done a few 60's and attempted a 101 last year (made 99 classes in 101 days). You also know Las Vegas has had some transitions with it's studios which has presented logistics challenges for me this time around. I'm remaining calm and positive about the whole thing and pretending it's an adventure. I'm LUCKY that Las Vegas has as many studios as it does (currently 3 Bikram studios, one is not open though). This gives me the opportunity to meet new students, experience new teachers and absorb the different ambiance that each studio has to offer.
This is too funny.
I must confess that I have been taking a very casual approach to this challenge so far. It's not going to be the most yoga I've ever done, I will do more yoga than this in the future, and I know I can finish this challenge, no problem. I love being in this with a group, following everyone's journeys, and cheering people on through their own challenges (especially since for many, this is the most yoga they've ever done). But I haven't been expecting any earth-shattering changes in my own practice. It's just a few more months in a lifetime of practice.
Or so I thought...
In my 13th class of the challenge last night (I did a couple doubles), I noticed something odd. Then I checked a bunch of pictures, and my suspicion was confirmed.
I've been doing standing bow pose wrong for the last 5 years.
Now, it's not like I've been doing everything wrong. This is overall a strong pose for me. I can lock out and everything. But there was one thing that never occurred to me. It's the placement of the free hand, the one that's stretching towards the mirror. I have always lined up this hand somewhere between my eyes in the mirror. I don't know why. This just seemed like a good place for it. To be perfectly honest, I never really put a lot of thought into it. But before class yesterday, I was checking out some pictures of the 2007 and 2009 female world champions demonstrating the posture, and I compared their postures to mine. This is hardly the first time I've done this exercise, but this time I really noticed that their arms were perfectly straight, parallel to the floor, and my arm was angled up just a little bit. So I decided to fix this in class. Um. That forced me to put my hand in a completely different place! I could see my whole face above my hand in the mirror!! I have definitely never done the pose that way before in my life. I checked every picture I've ever taken of myself in standing bow, dating back to 2008. Yup!! The hand is too high in all of them, with ONE exception. In my profile picture, which I took at the Grand Canyon, the hand is low enough. But that was only because I was balancing with my fingertips on the railing!! So... I guess now, after 5 years of the same thing, I will experiment with putting my hand in a slightly different spot, and I will be seeing something totally different in the mirror...
Why am I rambling on and on about one stupid detail from my personal practice, you ask? Because I am so amused and delighted that the "twenty-six and two" can still surprise the heck out of me. Because theoretically, I totally knew that it's an awesome practice and you can spend your whole life learning about the postures. But it had been a long time since I discovered that I had the wrong idea about a posture altogether, and you wouldn't believe what a huge grin it put on my face.
Enjoy your challenges, everyone... because no matter how many hundreds or thousands of classes you've already taken, these hundred (and one) will still be a new experience. And there are plenty of surprises in store.
I pride myself on my planning abilities. At work... At home... When I travel... When it comes to my hobbies and personal time... I am pretty thorough with my planning.
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: www.yogabootcamp.blogspot.com and now keeps a more general (but heavily yoga-weighted) blog at: www.yogajenn.blogspot.com.
Happy Friday, all! I think Friday is a good day for story-time, don't you?
So here's a little story about my roommate. My roommate is awesome. We've lived together for a year and a half and we are really close friends. In the 15 months that we've known each other, she's come to maybe 12 Bikram classes total. And she LOVES them! She's taken classes at our local studio, and she's even come to LA with me and taken class from Bikram and Emmy. She listens to my yoga ramblings and even finds them interesting, most of the time.
I used to always ask her, "Slappy (her nickname), why don't you come more than once a month? You could try coming once a week!" And she would really think about it, and say, "Nah... I don't have that much time, and I like coming once a month!" She actually is quite active and flexible, so she had the most rocking once-a-month practice I'd ever seen! Tons of natural ability. She even has the ability to eat a plate of scrambled eggs right before class, which blows my mind every time. On Sunday morning, I'd be heading out the door to class, and she'd be at the counter with a plate of scrambled eggs saying, "go ahead and save a spot for me, I'll be there in 10 minutes!" Impressive!!
Last month, out of the blue and with zero prompting from me, she came up to me and said, "I want to do the 30 Day Bikram Challenge next month!" I said, "..... ok, GREAT IDEA!"
And guess what? She's actually doing it! She's been to class every day since Jan 2nd! It's been the greatest thing to see. I mean, she is one of those people who had NEVER done consective days of yoga before. Her first day was the worst. Her second day was better. On the third or fourth day in a row, she came up to me after class with big wide eyes and said, "That was one of the best experiences of my life!!" I gave her a big grin. "It IS totally different when you come every day!" she said. I gave her another big grin. "Yep!" "Sigh. You were right..." "Yep!"
What she has just discovered is something that Bikram calls the "Cumulative." Here's the description from the original book, Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class, as told by Bikram himself...
"Tell Terry Two about The Cumulative, Bikram."
"Why don't you tell it, Barbie?"
"I'm not very good at arithmetic."
"Neither is Bikram. The Cumulative is the craziest contortion of figures I ever heard."
"Then how come it works?"
"Yoga is cumulative, you see, Terry Two. That's why I'm always mean to Lavinia here. She getting nowhere, she wasting her money. She come that first Thursday, it's like she get five points of worth in her body. If she came the next day she'd get five for that second day, too. And since the five from the first day wouldn't be wasted - it would be like building block - she would be starting at five instead of at zero. So at end of second day she would have ten points cumulative - five for day one added to the five for day two. End of third day, fifteen points cumulative.
"But if she doesn't come second day she lose three points of her five, and the next day two more. So the next Thursday she start again at zero. Except her body is still remembering to be stiff and sore from the Thursday before, so she got to work twice as hard just to get back to where she was when she started...
"I am not trying to get rich by yelling at beginners to come every day. If they do or don't do is not going to make me rich. What makes me rich is seeing people lose pounds and years and get muscle tone and vitality and good health and bendable knees like Francis and a back that works like Archie and no rheumatism and easy childbirth and a brain that doesn't rattle."
So that's the "official" explanation for why yoga feels different when you start coming every day, and that's why I've got a new yoga addict on my hands! She even wants to do some doubles this weekend. I don't have to ask her to come to class now; I spend half my time talking her down off the ledge! She gets really excited about asking me posture questions, and then gets cheerfully indignant when my answer (which typically just involves talking her through the straight dialogue) makes the posture harder! You should've seen the dramatics when she asked me a question about eagle pose, and I showed her that you have to sit down and lean your upper body back before you pick up your leg. "That's not easy at all! I'm never asking you a question again!!" So cute.
Oh yes... and as I've been reminded by certain senior teachers lately, you do NOT need to go every day for the rest of your LIFE! This is the upshot to the cumulative: Bikram claims that once you've stored up enough points, you can cut down to two or three classes a week or even "lay off for whole month", and just live on interest. (I think that is kinda what Bikram is doing already...) I guess it's kind of like saving up for retirement, so you can spend your golden days sipping Pina Coladas at a tropical beach! What a nice theory. But personally, I do not feel like I am that advanced yet. My body doesn't like it when I skip too many days. I am miles away from retirement and still cheerfully putting my points in the bank!
Well folks... We're seven days into the challenge. One whole week. Which means we only have 94 days left.
ONLY 94 DAYS!!!!
For me, this first week has flown by quickly. And whenever I do a challenge, as soon as I hit day seven, my success rate for finishing the challenge skyrockets. Perhaps it is a mental thing, but if I can get through the first seven days, I tell myself I can get through all types of days during the week.
Busy and long work days...
Days where I have too many thoughts in my head and can't quiet down...
Days where I got no sleep the night before...
Days where I was not prepared for class and inadequately hydrated...
Days where I have to haul ass from the subway to get to class on time, because the subway system had severe delays...
Days where I didn't shave my legs, and find the thought of having to squeeze my legs around each other in Eagle pose really creepy...
Yes. All of the above would normally be excuses for me to skip class. But in these first seven days, I've told myself, "Just get to the room. That is all you have to do. Get to the room. Your body will know where to take it from there for today."
It's only been six days and already we are bonding. Leaving comments on each others blogs, encouraging the non-blogger participants via the Facebook group. It's really great, this community we have built together. Already I can feel a group energy. Days one through three started off tough for many of us. Blog entries about illness, hangovers (Jan 1st of course!), creaky joints, tight hamstrings....heck, tight everything! We pushed on knowing we are at the very beginning of the challenge and that we just need to keep at it, day by day.
I am not really qualified to write this, but here goes.
The Bikram community lost one of its own in the last hours of 2009. A deeply fabulous senior teacher, seminar leader, and true Bikram yogi by the name of Ren Soriano. In the last few days on Facebook, so many yogis have been speaking up and sharing their beautiful memories of him. He was simply adored, as a teacher and as a human being. Across the board, there is one sentiment that keeps being repeated: he is still with us. He still lives in us. We won't forget him. We honor him by living our lives the way he would have wanted us to live. He is with us.
He taught for Bikram in Los Angeles, and I saw him plenty of times when I visited headquarters. He was a perfect bundle of energy and enthusiasm. But you know, I never took his class. I walked by him in that big room and never started a conversation with him. I was really looking forward to it. I thought there would be time. It scares me shitless that he's just gone. He wasn't old; he was younger than Bikram. He was a yogi, a senior teacher, the real thing. Part of me thought that these people were supposed to be spared, they were supposed to stick around to help guide the rest of us. I guess that was naive, one of my last illusions. Next time, I won't wait around.
As they say: Life is a terminal illness... act accordingly.
Ren's funeral is being held this morning in Hollywood. I can't make it, but I will dedicate my yoga practice to him tonight. For those of you who knew him - and those like me who didn't, but wish you did - maybe this is one of the best things we can do. And if you have memories of him, please, I invite you to share them here.
Oh. My. God.
- Drinking coffee less than four hours before class.
- Eating less than three hours before class.
- Guzzling water right before or during class.
We're a few days into the challenge, and we know many of you have experiences you would like to share about your Bikram 101 Challenge. Every Sunday, we would like to have other practitioners share their thoughts right here.
There's a big difference in my body when I practice in the morning versus in the afternoon or the evening.
- Get out of bed.
- Brush teeth.
- Pull clothes on.
- Head to the studio for class.
Welcome to the new year and the first day of the 101 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge! (Though as one of my friends pointed out, they're already on day two in Australia...)
I think that everyone doing this challenge is excited for the beginning. There may be some apprehension mixed in there too, along with curiosity, ambition, determination, and any other combination of emotions. A lot of people have never practiced this much before, so it will be a new experience. Let's be fair; even for those of us who HAVE done ridiculous amounts of yoga in the past, this will STILL be a new experience, because every challenge is different, just like no two classes are the same.
What is our destination? Many of us have heard teachers say that you have to "kill yourself!" in class. What we don't understand right away is that the true instruction is to kill your self. Here's what Bikram says in his most recent book (emphasis is mine):
The ultimate destination of human life is Self-Realization... When I say "Self" with a capital S, I mean the real you, the perfect you, the ultimate human potential that you carry inside you, which, I believe, is also the Divine. You have godliness in you, and so do I. That's our birthright. Our mission here on Earth is to fully inhabit or to realize the awesome potential of our true Selves. The "self" we think we are, the one spelled with a lowercase s, is just a creation of our minds, the ego. We have to break down and fight through that ego self to get to the right Self. And the only way to become a Self-Realized human being is to study and practice yoga.
And there you have it. That's what we're really after
So tuck that idea away in the back of your brain somewhere, and keep it safe. Because so many other things will happen over the next few months, it'll be easy to get distracted. We get caught up in the changes in our bodies, we fixate on perfecting one particular posture, we get impressed by the magnitude of our achievement, or we get discouraged because we haven't met some arbitrary goal. These things are fine! They are all so natural, and they are part of... dare I say it? The process. But every now and then, remind yourself that you're not trying to "kill yourself" by being better than the other guy, by being more aggressive, or by suffering the most. You're trying to "kill your self" and find the Divine part of you.
Let's do it...