I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga for a while now and the truth is, these were a couple of things that I hated when I began this new lifestyle. I would dread (almost) each and every one of them. But to transform what challenges us the most, it often makes sense to embrace our unpleasant feelings, and tirelessly work at what we stand to learn from them.
10. It’s Addicting!
Since beginning my yoga practice, I find myself in the studio as much as possible. I have a true desire to spend any free time that I have on my practice. More than that, it has truly become a crucial part of my well being. If my schedule prevents me from going as frequently as I’ve grown accustomed to for one week or two, I feel very out of sorts. This unsettled feeling is mental, as well as, physical. I find myself a bit grumpy and more easily frustrated. The strong body and spine that I have developed starts to feel out of alignment, and even my posture feels softer. I feel an actual NEED to get back to my practice.
An addiction is something that is psychologically or physically habit forming. My yoga practice has truly become a habit, in which, it’s cessation causes difficulty in my daily life. I have become addicted to yoga!
9. Letting Go- “Stale Air, Stale Thoughts”
We love to hold on to our negative feelings, opinions, and mantras. Sometimes, I’ll enter my yoga studio after a difficult day, feeling upset or angry about some offense or harsh word. I’ll be fixed in my emotion or opinion. After the first pranayama deep breathing exercise, I’ll begin to feel a bit lighter. As class progresses and we practice our heart opening postures, I feel even lighter still. Eventually, by the final Savasana, any negative feelings that I wanted so desperately to hold on to… hold a lot less weight. My yoga practice has naturally helped my mind learn to let go of those stale thoughts. They are only hurting me. I don’t deserve them. My yoga practice has shown me that letting go comes from within. The detox process of Bikram yoga is truly from the inside out.
8. The Sweat
I’m a girly girl. I love make-up and high heels. I love clothes and accessories. In my opinion, pink is a fantastic color! When I first began practicing, I would pile on the deodorant and add just a touch of perfume. The amount of sweat that would literally pour from my body wasn’t something I was prepared for. To be honest, I was a bit put off by this at first. . I’d never been very athletic, nor had I ever broken that kind of a sweat from any physical activity.
Now, after practicing Bikram yoga for almost one year- I love to sweat. I wouldn’t dream of putting on perfume because the smell gets in my nose during standing head to knee. Nobody at my yoga studio has ever seen me with make-up, and I feel completely free in that space. For me, the sweatier the better! If I don’t sweat enough during class, I feel cheated somehow. I’ve learned to embrace my body, the sweat that drips from my pores, and I still feel gloriously feminine.
7. There Is An Asana Called “The 10 Year Posture”
Everyone loves to feel good at something that they practice. We practice, and we get good at it. That’s the way life works, right? Anyone that practices Bikram yoga knows that some postures, like standing head to knee, can take up to 10 years to master. One day, my knee will fully lock out and I’ll kick out my heel while bringing my elbows down. The very next day my standing leg will wobble, and I find myself falling out every few seconds. It is so much more than just mere practice. How well we do in this posture depends on what is happening in our life, what we ate that day, who we interacted with- it all matters when we’re trying to kick up and lock both knees. It’s mind over matter. Our minds, as well as, our bodies are what help us stay in the posture. While practice is crucial, it is not everything. I’ve never had the kind of discipline to practice anything that would take me up to 10 years to master. Now, each day is like starting over and I’m eager to see what my body can do. Falling provides insight. There is satisfaction in falling. It means we have more to learn. One never falls by standing still in life.
6. No Drama
We are so quick to react and broadcast our feelings- either verbally or through our body language. In the hot room, we are taught to breathe in and out through our nose for the entire 90 minutes. When we are holding our triangle pose, we give attention to our form. We’re and getting a full body workout while holding this intense posture. Part of yoga practice is also practicing stillness. It is important not to be dramatic in our reactions to exerting ourselves. When we come out of a posture, we must try our best to do it gracefully and not make a big fuss about it. Let it go. Our breathing should stay calm and relaxed, and if our heart rate is rapid, we are taught how to bring it down with our exhalation. My instructor once said, “if someone were to see your face right now it should look relaxed as if nothing is happening.” We are guided to stay focused and calm ourselves down while our bodies are struggling. That is one of the most useful things that I’ve learned in my practice, as well as, the most challenging. In the beginning of my practice I had to unlearn mouth breathing and my natural response of hitting the panic button. Remaining calm has always been a challenge for me. I’m from a big Italian family. Drama is our thing. My yoga practice has helped me breathe through my reactions, and try to remain calm during of life’s challenging moments.
5. Camel Pose
One of the most difficult poses to navigate emotionally, is camel pose. Sometimes after a stressful day, or during a trying time in my life, coming out of camel is truly a challenge. One of my instructors reminds us, “It’s normal to feel weird, weird to feel normal.” There was one class, specifically, that I will never forget. My instructor had the class hold camel for one whole minute. After coming out of the posture, I lay on my mat and tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt such an emotional release. I wanted to just pull the towel over my face and cry hard. How could a yoga pose bring me to tears? After class, I waited for everyone to leave and I quietly told my instructor what had happened. I was somewhat embarrassed, yet curious as to what had taken place. She congratulated me, informing me that I went deep into this heart opening posture and made progress. Sometimes making progress means releasing those feelings that don’t feel so nice.
When I first began practicing, I was so aware of the heat. At times, I felt as if I couldn’t take it. Many times, I remember wanting to run out of the room. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. It almost felt suffocating. In some classes the heat can still be overwhelming. Now, however, I’m more aware and bothered if it’s not hot enough. Something that I was so hyper aware of, and even made me feel angry with my instructors for, is now something that I crave. I actually find myself daydreaming about the feeling of being in the hot room. I’ve grown to appreciate and respect the heat. I crave its benefits. I never thought it possible to crave something that I passionately hated.
3. Each Day Is Different
I truly marvel at the mind-body connection and have never been more aware of it until discovering Bikram yoga. Most yogis will agree that one class can find us strong, energetic, and flexible, while finding new depths. The very next class (sometimes just 12 hours later), will involve immense struggle- struggle to straighten our wobbly knees as we fall out of postures that we felt so strong in holding. If I have a good class…well, I’ve had a good class. Just as we learn to let go of our negative thoughts about our practice, we also learn to let go of our positive ones. This will only hinder our progress. Yoga helps capture the essence of humanity. We are cyclical, not fixed. Letting go of our thoughts about who we think we are can only serve in helping our progress in who we can become. Everyday is different.
For me, before beginning a yoga practice, looking in the mirror was more about vanity and criticism. “How do I look?” was the eternal question. The answer was mostly self critical in nature. Only now, as I spend 90 minutes in front of a mirror 4 times a week, can I really see myself. I’m looking in the mirror to correct myself, in order to promote positive changes in my body from the inside out. I’m no longer only using the mirror for negative assessments. On my mat, I’m looking in the mirror to validate that I am evolving in my practice, to assess just where I can go deeper to improve my form. The benefits are worth it. I am worthy of that kind of self love. It’s taken me quite a long time to really see myself when I look in the mirror.
1. It Never Ends
It is because everyday is different, because our minds are so strongly connected to our bodies, that our practice is constantly evolving. Even a master yogi can have a difficult day and fall out of a posture. That is their lesson for that particular experience. I’ve learned so much about myself and this practice, yet I’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg. For me, that is such a gift. Yoga practice never ends. We’re never finished. We don’t reach a goal and stop. We continue on. We see where our practice takes our body, mind and spirit.