DAY 31: Wild Horses.

Author: Heather Molina /

by Liesbeth Strobbe


It doesn't matter how beautiful you are. How much money you have. How people look up to you. How many friends you have. How successful your career is. How much power you have. All those things that might seem important "out there" are worth nothing inside Bikram’s torture chamber.

None of these things will help you to get through the 90 minutes.

We’re all struggling with ourselves, the heat, the postures. All trying to create stillness in our minds. Thoughts that act like wild horses and need to be tamed. And all trying to stay motivated when that yoga truck runs you over.

"In the hot room everybody’s the same."

When I heard that for the first time it made me realise it’s another reason why those 90 minutes are so much more than just a work out. It goes beyond that. And to explain that to friends who have nothing to do with this type of yoga and just see it as a "sweaty, smelly and unpleasant" get together, is sometimes difficult.

The more often you come to class, the more you realise that the atmosphere in the Bikram class is something special. It doesn't matter where you take a class. Different settings and different people, but you can feel the same vibe of people being confronted with themselves and nobody else. Just you and that person in the mirror looking at you and begging you to drink water and lay down for a minute.

Sometimes I meet people in daily life and I can’t help thinking "wouldn't it be good for your ego to take a couple of Bikram classes? Wonder how you would take that. No talk. To look at yourself in the mirror and try to find out who you really are. Calm? Determined? Full of faith? To catch a glimpse of that person inside you."

But hey, in the end, we all have to decide for ourselves to step into that room. Cause still... the hardest part of class is showing up!

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Liesbeth lives in Amsterdam and has been addicted to Bikram yoga for a couple of years. She works for a Dutch radio station and is a volunteer at Foundation Monkey. She is doing her 101-challenge at Bikram Yoga Amsterdam. Reading the inspiring blogs of other 101 challengers keeps her motivated!

DAY 30: One Challenge Down!

Author: bikramyogachick /

You've all just done a 30 day challenge. Congratulations! Feeling good? I bet you are!

Don't break out the champagne just yet.....71 more to go.
Stay strong Bikram 101 'ers!

DAY 29: A Plea For Healing

Author: bikramyogachick /

Hi guys, BikramYogaChick here. I hope you are all feeling strong and peaceful after 29 days doing this amazing yoga. I know I am.

I found out two days ago that a good friend of mine, who I have known for ten years has breast cancer. It was not diagnosed during the normal course of mammograms. She has swelling of the arm and kept going back to the doctor until they figured out what was wrong with her. It had spread to her lymph node on the right side. So today, my dear friend, a lovely woman in her mid fifties who raised a wonderful man all on her own went in for surgery. Soon she will undergo chemo. So tonight I post on our group blog and ask all of you amazing wonderful yogis to send healing thoughts to my friend.
Tomorrow as we lay our mats down and honor our challenge by hitting our 30 day milestone, it would be wonderful if you could think of my friend** and send light, love and healing her way.......
Namaste

**I have chosen not to reveal even her first name, as I promised her to keep this in confidence and I know some folks that run in the same circles as me read. I have faith though, that if you say "Michelle's friend" the powers that be will know where to direct your love and healing!

DAY 28: Choices

Author: KT /

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.

iPhone?

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.

DAY 27: About Bikram's Advanced Series

Author: thedancingj /

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.


So: Bikram's Advanced Series!  It seems that plenty of students don't even know that such a thing exists, and plenty more have heard of it but don't know anything about it.  And then it becomes this big mystery, which I find slightly silly.  The class is plenty interesting on its own, without an extra aura of mystery around it.  Since I have a decent amount of information, I will try to answer a few of the questions that people always ask me.

- What's the advanced class LIKE?

Instead of 26 postures in 90 minutes, it's 84 postures in about 90-120 minutes.  Right away you'll notice, holy shit, that's a lot more postures!  Yup!  Advanced practice is very different from beginners class, and one of the biggest differences is the pace.  The pace is fast.  It's not like beginner's class, where you get to try each pose twice and hold it for up to a minute.  For most of the poses in advanced, you get one good try and then you move on.  And you don't get to take savasana after every pose, only after mini-series of poses.  For example, instead of "cobra-savasana-cobra-savasana-locust-savasana-locust-savasana..." the spine strengthening series is "cobra-locust-full-locust-bow-LONG savasana while your heart stops beating out of your chest."  That means it's not as much of a healing practice as the beginner's class; it's a practice for uninjured yogis who are interesting in opening and strengthening their bodies in new ways.

It's also a led class; the teacher does the postures instead of teaching by dialogue.

- What postures do you do?

All 26 postures from the beginning series are in the advanced series.  More accurately, all the postures in the beginning series come from the advanced series, which is the original set of postures that Bikram studied and practiced in India with Bishnu Ghosh.

So it's the 26 postures you know, plus the 58 that Bikram didn't think you (Westerners) would need in your daily practice.  These include: sun salutations (yep!), a bunch of postures in lotus position, splits, arm balances (like crow), shoulder stand, really deep backbends (like full camel, full bow, and wheel), headstands, forearm stands, and handstands.

- Can I read about it anywhere?


There's a book on the 84 traditional asanas listed on Tony Sanchez's website (google "yoga challenge"), and Bikram says that he's working on a book too.  (This is a pretty new development, by the way.  He used to say that he would never write a book, probably because he thought people would end up trying stuff they weren't ready for and injuring themselves at home...)


- How do you get into an advanced class?

Advanced classes are typically for teachers, plus any experienced students who are training for the yoga asana championships.  (That is how I got into the series, by the way.  I was invited to my first advanced class in September 2007 when I was training for the New England regional championships, and I've practiced it off and on ever since.)  If you decided to participate in your local championships (which is a great thing to do), you can probably expect to be introduced part or all of the advanced series.

Bikram also holds Advanced Seminars which are open to everyone, no experience necessary.  The last one was last July in Palm Springs, CA, and there's another one coming up in Barcelona in about a month.  A seminar with Bikram is a great introduction to the series.  Don't quote me on this, but it's been my experience that once you've practiced the series with a senior teacher such as Bikram or Emmy and built a strong foundation, many teachers will be happy to include you in practice at your home studio.  Just ask!

- Why don't we have advanced at my studio?

The 84 postures are not a part of the teacher training curriculum.  There are a number of teachers who do have enough experience and ability to lead the series, but there just aren't enough of them to go around yet!!

- I bet I could do all that stuff.  Will my teachers let me practice advanced with them?

The situation totally varies from studio to studio, and it's always at the discretion of the instructor.  Some places are cool with inviting students into class, and sometimes they prefer keep it closed to teachers.  There are plenty of good reasons for the latter.  Number one, advanced isn't "safe" the way beginner's class is; you can definitely hurt yourself if you don't know what you're doing!  And that is the last thing that any yoga studio wants.  Number two, some people might be comfortable "leading" the series with people who already know it, but aren't ready to "teach" it.  (Those are two completely different things.)  And number three, sometimes they just want space to talk about "teacher stuff" without their students listening in!  (One of the advanced classes I used to go to went "teachers only" for a while because, according to my teacher, "we have to hold ourselves back when you students are around!"  My response was, "This is you when you're holding back?!"  Those guys were hilarious... )

If you're interested in learning more about the series, I don't think it ever hurts to ask your teacher a couple questions or express interest in trying it someday!!  Just, you know, don't be whiney about it!

- How do you know when you're ready to try it?

You don't.  Your teacher does.  (You can only guess.)

- Do you have to take beginner's class on the same day?

At the studios where I first practiced advanced class, there was a pretty firm policy that all students had to take the beginner's class as a warm-up before advanced.  (Teachers can do whatever they want.)  This makes sense, because the beginning of advanced class is kind of intense and it's a lot to dive into with cold muscles.  (Safety first!)  And since there are postures where you really go for maximum depth, it makes sense to give yourself a little head start.

Except for one time two years ago when I slept through my alarm, I personally have always practiced beginner's class before advanced, even out here in LA where they leave it totally up to you.  I consider it part of my discipline.  It also goes along with my idea that advanced class is a supplement to beginner's class, not a replacement.  But depending on schedule and stamina, your mileage may vary.  I'm pretty young and I have stamina to spare.  Some people say that they don't get as much out of advanced when they do beginner's first, because they "run out of steam" before the end!

- What's your first class like?

It's pretty much like taking your first Bikram class all over again, but in a fun way.  The worst thing you can do is going into your first advanced class thinking, "I hope I'm really good at this!"  That was my attitude the first time I did advanced (maybe partly because my teachers bribed me into it by telling me, "You will be really good at this!") and I was NOT a happy camper.  Because I SUCKED at it!  I could not do any of the postures at all.  But... now I can.  It really just gives you the opportunity to be a total beginner again.  "I felt like a beginner again!!!" is an almost universal response.  It teaches you humility and it opens up your world.  It's probably a good thing to do right out of teacher training, because it will help you really identify with your beginning students!

- Well, that sounds great.  Now I'm bummed that I don't get to do advanced.  Am I missing out??

Not really!!  The series of 26 and 2 is really all your body needs.  I can't emphasize this enough.  For example, you do NOT!!!! need to practice full camel to get deeper into your backbends.  I develop my backbend by doing regular camel, in class, two sets, every day.  I still think that the regular camel is more challenging, because it requires more technique and finesse.  Full camel is less technique, more flexibility - you just go as far as you can.  Doing full camel is diagnostic for me - if I can get farther into the posture than I did last month, then I know I've been doing something right in my regular classes.  I'm not gonna lie... the advanced class is really a lot of fun... but it's a bonus.  Icing on the cake.

And that's all she wrote, folks.  Did I miss anything?  Did I get anything wrong?  Are there any more questions that are burning...?

DAY 26: Tourniquet Effect

Author: thedancingj /

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?

DAY 25: Move Around!

Author: Heather Molina /

About three years ago, a Bikram teacher got on my case...


"Missus! You always practice in the same area of the studio for each class. You need to be moving around. Don't practice in the same spot every day. Mix it up. It will add to your practice."

She was correct. I was getting used to the nice breeze I would feel as I practiced a few spaces down from a pregnant woman in class, who had access to a door and would occasionally open it a crack to prevent over-heating. I was being strategic with my positioning. And my practice had plateaued a little because of it.

As soon as I began moving around the room, I saw my practice become more challenging. There were some hot spots in the room I had never realized before... And practicing in them definitely knocked me flat on my ass. I love that simply changing where I put my mat offered a new challenge in my practice.

Nowadays, I still mix it up... But I try to stick towards the front of the room. As a more seasoned practitioner, I think I can help newbies understand a little more about the execution of the poses by standing up front. I still move around though... Sometimes second row... Some times front row... Sometimes far left... Sometimes far right... Even when I pull back-to-back doubles! I never practice in the same spot two classes in a row.

What about you? Do you claim a spot in class?

DAY 24: Yoga is Vegan Rodeo.

Author: Heather Molina /

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.

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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."

DAY 23: Take Advantage of Opportunities

Author: bikramyogachick /

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.

Living in Las Vegas does have it's advantages. We are blessed with teachers passing through, especially now that TT was here in the fall and will be in the spring.
Lynne's class was amazing. She has great energy and a presence that commands the room. There were alot of teachers in there today and she kept on them. One teacher went to take a drink at an off time and she said "Nuh, uh!" He sheepishly put the water back down. The same instructor went to take a knee later and she said "Oh no you don't! I don't let teachers sit out postures!" The energy in that room with all of the instructors was off the charts. Unfortunately, the yoga truck was back for me today so I don't have any nuggets of Lynn wisdom to share with you as I was flat on my back with that darn truck parked on top of me for a good 30 mins of the class.
Next time your studio has a senior teacher visiting don't let the extra cost of attending prevent you from going. It's worth it, I promise!

DAY 22: "All Is Coming"

Author: thedancingj /

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.

DAY 21: Ardha-Kurmasana.

Author: Heather Molina /

We are three weeks in, people!


It is known that it takes about three weeks for something to become a habit.... So... Is a daily practice now a habit for you?

It should be. Keep in mind, we are only about 20% through the challenge now. Still a ways to go. We have 81 days left. But after the first three weeks, it should be a of piece cake.

Piece of cheese cake!

Getting to the room each day is the easiest part for me now. And I have noticed some changes in my postures and my body shape after 21 days. With my body, my arms are tightening up. And my shoulders are toning as well. With my poses, endurance is coming back. It's been great. I'm seeing my poses stabilize right before my own eyes.

In fact, every posture I do has had a noticeable change in its look and feel for me. Every pose, that is, except for Half Tortoise.

I have always sucked at this pose. And the sad thing is, it's one of the easier-looking ones. My problem with it is that my forehead does not go to the ground. Not even if my hips are hanging freely in the air, away from my heels. My waist seems to be too short, and I can't lengthen my torso over my legs to get the spine stretching from the heels to the fingertips.

Over five years of practicing, I have seen improvements in every other pose... Just not this one. It is the bane of Bikram practice existence. This pose is the exact same for me as it was in 2004, at my first class.

My hope is that over the next 81 days, I will continue to see changes in all my other poses... But I really want to see some specific change in Half Tortoise. I want to get my forehead to the floor.

DAY 20: The 60 Day Makeover

Author: bikramyogachick /

Oprah Magazine featured an article written by a woman who embarked on a 60 day Bikram yoga challenge. This woman was 80 pounds overweight and at the end of her rope for various reasons. Part two finally came out.
Here is the link to the original article: Can you transform your whole life in 60 days?

And here is the highly anticipated part two: The 60 day makeover part II

Enjoy!

DAY NINETEEN: Your Future Self

Author: thedancingj /

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.

DAY 18: Bikram Stigmata.

Author: Heather Molina /

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!

I think it was the Dancing J who taught me that term a year or so ago. That's what we call the nice pink-patched callous forming on the tops of our feet.

I attribute mine to Fixed Firm pose... As I squeeze my knees down and together on the ground. Though, Camel pose, Rabbit pose and Half Tortoise pose also contribute to the stigmata formation.

I know I'm not the only one who has experienced this. Many other practitioners have Tweeted about it as well. I usually just ignore the look of it... But does anyone have any useful advice for getting rid of it?

DAY 17: Satisfaction

Author: L.Z. /

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.

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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.

DAY 16: Shine

Author: bikramyogachick /

"Who are we, not to shine?"
Nelson Mandela

Sometimes we doubt ourselves. We battle insecurities, we allow fear to creep in. Perhaps we feel inadequate on a particular day about a certain thing. Doing 101 days of yoga is a huge commitment. That's almost a third of a year. With jobs, spouses, children and all the trappings of everyday life it's no small feat. Doing something that spans a good chunk of time allows for unexpected events to sneak in there and throw a monkey wrench into our plans. We keep going. We take it one day at a time and we work around that illness, trip, power outage and just schedule a double. We don't throw in the towel. Why would we? We've only just begun! Here on day 16 we march forward, brave little yogi soldiers. We won't listen to any of our internal excuses. Those excuses are not afraid of failure, rather they are afraid of success. During our moments of doubt and fear not only in a yoga challenge but in life they shrink back not from our darkness but from our light. Sometimes we wonder, who am I to complete this yoga challenge/be successful/marry my dream spouse/acquire my dream job/move to my dream location.
Who are you NOT to do any of that?
Who are we, not to shine?





DAY FIFTEEN: 60 Days in Oprah!

Author: thedancingj /

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...



DAY 14: "Ass Muscles."

Author: Heather Molina /

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 think most people (I imagine) have issues with that posture because of their back. Or maybe because they can't lock out their knee. Neither of those things are a problem for me though. I can lock my knee very easily and tightly on command. And lower back? The Bikram floor series healed that years ago. No... The problem I have in this pose - and the reason I fall out of it all the time - is due to ass muscles.

My ass muscles give out every time.

The locking of the knee... The tightening of the quad... The clenching of the bum muscle... Sucking in the core... All to help hold me up... It is TOO MUCH! I can go 20 seconds. Then my ass muscles - which are the biggest ones and thus burn the most - collapse.

It happened tonight, just like it does in every class lately.

"Missus!" called out the teacher this evening. "Is it your back?"

"No," I said back, loudly. "It's my ass muscles! They burn!"

She laughed. I think other people did too. It was hot. I don't exactly remember other people. She also told me that to prevent my ass muscles from burning so much, I needed to really bring all my weight into the front of my balancing foot. "Into the toe." And it helped! A lot!

This is one of the things I love about doing challenges... You come every day and you get small details that help evolve your practice.

Here's to my ass not burning so much tomorrow!

DAY 13: A 90 Minute Moving Meditation

Author: bikramyogachick /

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 transition has also afforded me the opportunity to experience other types of hot yoga and even be in classes that were Bikram but perhaps not sticking to dialog entirely. I'm sure this happens elsewhere even in Bikram studios, different teachers have different styles, so perhaps you all can relate. What I have realized lately is this: The reason I fell in love with Bikram yoga as opposed to some other form of yoga is the dialog.
The first time I ever took Bikram yoga I remember looking at the instructor, a white female, late 30's and thinking "why is she talking in broken English? Where is she from? I don't hear an accent, what on earth is wrong with this chick's English? Good God! What is this place!!!"
It literally took me a few weeks to understand that the teachers were reciting a dialog. As I practiced more and more I started to understand the power of this dialog. Then I started asking questions about training and was told they are given pages and pages of verbatim dialog to memorize written by Bikram himself. What I first thought was "choppy English" I later realized was just very precise commands. Think about it: "thumbs crossed" is so much quicker to bark out then "Ok great, now everybody cross your thumbs!" It's just a few more words, right? Not when you are sweating your arse off in 105 degree room wondering just how long you will be able to keep your arms over your head to begin with! These precise commands work in so many wonderful ways. They are simple. They are direct. They keep the class together, moving as one (if everybody is listening!). They tell you how to get in and out of a posture safely, without hurting yourself. They tell you about proper form and alignment. They are the same every class, soothing, meditative. You are not "checking out" completely, rather, you are allowing your body to be guided by somebody else's brain for once. When you have a class where you are one with the dialog you know it. It's the best feeling in the world. This is why I fell in love with Bikram yoga and no other.....it's a beautiful 90 minute moving meditation.

DAY TWELVE: Surprise!!

Author: thedancingj /

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.

Surprise!!!

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.

DAY 11: You Can't Control Everything.

Author: Heather Molina /

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.


Yet, even with all my planning skills, I know that sometimes things aren't going to go the way you prepared for them to. Which is why you still have to be adaptable for when the unexpected happens. Like yesterday...

I decided that since it was Sunday, I would go to the late afternoon class. I spent the morning doing some household chores. I went grocery shopping. I spent some time visiting with my sister-in-law who was visiting from Australia. And at about 3pm, I packed my bag and got ready to walk to the Bikram studio in my neighborhood.

On my way to the studio, I decided to stop off at various stores and pick up some things I still needed to get. But as I was walking around, I noticed that power was out on many street lights. Cars were stopping at intersections and treating them as "Four-Way Stops" because the traffic lights weren't working. Many stores had notices in them that read, "Closed Due to Blackout."

"What blackout?" I wondered. I lived in the same neighborhood, and my power at home was totally fine.

As I wandered my neighborhood, I found it odd... Some stores had power, others didn't. It was very random. And confusing. As I got closer to the Bikram studio, I saw that at least two nearby coffee shops had power, and I took that as a sign.

"The Bikram studio will be fine," I told myself.

But as I walked up to the glass doors that led to the basement studio, I saw one of the owners sitting at the top of the stairs, strumming his guitar. He looked up at me and smiled.

"NOOOOO!" I screamed. I walked to the door and looked from him down into the darkness of the descending stairwell. "DAMMIT!"

He laughed. He said the power had gone out just after 11am. He still taught the noon class, but it was cold. And as the class went on, the emergency lights in the room began to dim and he couldn't see any of the students. He continued to stay at the studio in the event that the power would come back on for the 4pm (and final) class of the day. But it did not.

While I was standing there talking to him, more students showed up for class. The studio is doing a 30-day challenge right now. So a handful of us now get to play catch-up later this week with a "Double Class."

Sometimes, even with your well-planned intentions, there are circumstances beyond your control which make it necessary to do a double class. I think I will be doing mine next Saturday. Probably going to the morning and the late afternoon classes.

Doubles aren't my favorite thing in the world, but this is where I get to exercise the patience and the adaptability my yoga practice has helped me develop. Sometimes you are shit-out-of-luck in life, and you just have to find a way to deal.

Surrender

Author: Jenn /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY NINE: Showing Up

Author: bikramyogachick /

"Eighty percent of success is just showing up"
Woody Allen

Are you still excited? Chomping at the bit to get in your car and get to your Bikram class? Or have you run into some life snags and thought to yourself "Oh my gosh, how on earth am I going to make it to 101 days? It's only day 9!"
It's a marathon, not a sprint. Just get there. Just go to the studio, lay down your mat and let the teacher guide you through the class. I promise you that whether or not you wanted to go, whether or not you are feeling well, you will never be sorry you went. The first 30 days is about working through the logistics of getting there and working through the physical woes of getting used to a daily practice. Days 30 through 60 you will hit your stride. Days 60 through 90 you will start to see a leaner more toned you in the mirror. Your skin will be glowing and your body will change.
Just get to the studio.....everyday.

DAY EIGHT: The "Cumulative"

Author: thedancingj /

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!

DAY SEVEN: "Just Get To The (Hot) Room."

Author: Heather Molina /

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."


And you know what? It has worked. No, I'm not surprised... As I have successfully completed challenges in the past using this method. But instead of only having to tell myself that for 23 more days (30-day challenge), I have to keep telling myself that for another 94 days. And it will continue to work.

Hope the first week has been a rewarding challenge for you too!

DAY SIX: The Opening

Author: bikramyogachick /

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.

Then slowly it started to happen. Posts about solid practices. Slowly but surely we, as a group, started to get into the groove. We started to open, like a flower petal blooming.
Can you feel it? Ain't nothin' gonna breaka our stride!

DAY FIVE: Dedicated to Ren

Author: thedancingj /

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.

DAY FOUR: My Crutch. My Bad Habit.

Author: Heather Molina /

Oh. My. God.


I pretty much DIED in class tonight. And this is only DAY FOUR of the challenge! My issue tonight: Acid Reflux.

It happened first in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee pose. But I struggled through and did both sides. Then I moved onto Tree and Toe Stand. But once I turned on my belly in the floor series for Cobra... I was up "Sh#t-tastic Creek." I couldn't even lie on my belly, let alone do the "back strengthening" series. I had to turn on my side to take the pressure off of my stomach and chest.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of having acid reflux, let me enlighten you... For me, it starts out as a slight pain in my stomach. Then it moves up my stomach, into the sternum-area. That is where I get to experience more cramping followed by a burning sensation. That slow burn then proceeds to move up into my chest... Then, if I don't back off, it shoots up into my throat.

It is the most uncomfortable sensation I have ever personally experienced during a Bikram class. What causes it? Well, I believe the following:
  • Drinking coffee less than four hours before class.
  • Eating less than three hours before class.
  • Guzzling water right before or during class.
The last one was what did it to me. My really cool Lululemon "Sweat Once A Day" water bottle was filled to the brim with a mixture of Emergen-C and water. And despite having hydrated all day at work, I still proceeded to use the mixture every chance I got in class... Even though I didn't particularly need it.

Simple truth: I just wanted it.

And my body gave me a simple response: "You don't eff-ing need it!" And it decided to try to push it back up out of my body.

I fought my body for the entire class. But I lost the battle while standing around, waiting for the shower after class. It wasn't bad. That's one thing I have learned from Bikram in the past five years...

"You abuse your body, eventually it will correct you on what it likes and does not like."

Tomorrow, shooting for less water.

Looking For Guest Bloggers!

Author: Heather Molina /

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.


So if you have an interest in being one of these guest Sunday bloggers, please send us an email at bikram101challenge (at) gmail.com. We would love to get you slotted in to post.

Thanks!

DAY THREE: The Dehydrated & Creaky Body.

Author: Heather Molina /

There's a big difference in my body when I practice in the morning versus in the afternoon or the evening.


It seems the best classes I have are when I practice around 3pm or 4pm. The evening classes, 6pm and on, are fairly strong for me too. In both cases, my body has been awake for a few hours and is stretched out a little more. The only problems I seem to encounter in these classes is that if I've eaten or had something other than water less than three hours before the class begins, I end up getting a feeling like I want to vomit. (Yep, right during Standing Head to Knee, as I am trying to get my hands "bucketed" around the bottom of my foot.) But despite the "vomit" feeling, I feel good in the afternoon and evening. But mornings? Ugh!

By "mornings" I mean the following:
  1. Wake-up.
  2. Get out of bed.
  3. Brush teeth.
  4. Pull clothes on.
  5. Head to the studio for class.
When I practice in the mornings, I literally roll out of bed and head to practice. I may have a glass of water before I leave the house... But often I don't. I just don't have time. And I walk into the studio for class with a dehydrated and creaky body.

My bones play their "snap, crackle, pop" melody for everyone standing around me. I can't get my back to arch and "go back, lean back, way back, more back" in the Half Moon series. Even after most of the class goes by, I have trouble with Camel. Then Rabbit pose comes along, and I can't tuck my chin far enough into my chest to get the stretch going down my spine.

"I should be warmed up by this point!" I tell myself. But I am not.

And that is how classes go sometimes. "Lifetime practice," they call it. You can practice for many years, and you're going to have days where you struggle. Today was one of those days for me. But it won't prevent me from taking another morning class next weekend. I just hope that by then, after practicing for over eight days, my body will allow me more freedom in flexibility first thing in the morning.

DAY TWO: Letting go of Results

Author: bikramyogachick /

"The wise man lets go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on the action alone."
Bhagavad Gita

It's hard to let go of results. How many times do you fall out of standing bow repeatedly and start giving yourself the evil eye in the mirror. Maybe even shaking your head in disgust before getting back in. What if we decide "This challenge I'm not going to sit out any postures for the entire 101 days". That is certainly an awesome thing to achieve. There are many yogis on this challenge that will in fact do that without trying. However, even the most seasoned yogis have their bad days. The yoga truck doesn't discriminate. It doesn't say "Hi Bikramyogachick! You've been practicing for two and a half years so I'm just going to honk and drive by, no running you over!" No. That truck doesn't care who you are, what you have eaten, how hydrated you are or how long you have been practicing. It will run you over occasionally. Some days it might even chuckle, slam it into reverse and back up after you have staggered to your feet. The important thing is that we do not give up. We take each practice as it comes. We speak with wonder of our strong rockstar practices and we let go of the tough ones. For we are here to practice Bikram yoga for 90 minutes a day for 101 days. That is the action we are focused on. We will let go of the results and just.....do!

DAY ONE: Just "kill your self"

Author: thedancingj /

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...