“I knew I had found something that could heal my body and also appeal to my inner athlete.”
People who know of my two-year love affair with Bikram yoga will sometimes ask me if it ever gets boring and my answer is always, “definitely not.” Bikram yoga is a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. When I attended my first Bikram class, I loved to run, weight train, bike, you name it, I’d try it. My body was tired, stiff, and constantly recovering from a laundry list of injuries, including a herniated disk in my lower back, impinged rotator cuff in my left shoulder, tennis elbow, and recurring iliotibial band problems in my right leg. I had tried other forms of yoga over the years to increase my flexibility and prevent athletic injuries, but I never really got much satisfaction from them. After my first Bikram class, I can’t say I was in love, but I knew I had found something that could heal my body and also appeal to my inner athlete. That was what kept me coming back.
At first I only attended class once a week, maybe twice, and put more energy into my other athletic interests. Bikram yoga takes some getting used to because it’s a little crazy. The teachers tell you exactly what to do, and say odd things like “pulling is the object of stretching,” “you have no knee,” and “your back is gonna hurt like hell, but don’t be scared.” But it wasn’t long before those phrases became comforting, and I always felt better after class. Soon, that feeling was something I craved. Eventually, I began to focus more on the yoga and less on the other activities, and next thing I knew, I was hooked.
What I know from regularly practicing the two breathing exercises and 26 postures of Bikram yoga is that every class is different and there is always something new to learn. Sometimes I hear something in the dialogue I’ve never heard before, or I feel my body move deeper into a posture and can almost see the freshly oxygenated blood clean up old scar tissue–a familiar Bikramism–and restore my body to a healthier state. Sometimes I learn how to be less judgmental of myself or the person beside me who is dripping sweat and breathing heavily—just like me. Other times, I just relearn how to breathe. I know this: because of my hard work in the hot room, there are no more moans about aches and pains, trips to doctors, and visits to physical therapists. Instead, I’ve learned about strength, power, discipline, and determination. No amount of whining, doctors or other physical activities could ever give me what I have attained through a regular yoga practice.
It has also been amazing for me to see how my practice has steadily transformed my life outside the yoga room—in ways too numerous to recount. Without a doubt, I am calmer, happier, and definitely less judgmental of myself and others. And the people I have met through my practice are incredible. Yogis are just plain nice, and I have learned so much from the teachers and the other students, many of whom are now my close friends. We come from different backgrounds, we are various shapes and sizes, and extremely diverse in our yogic abilities, and yet we all get together to practice and grow and learn to appreciate ourselves and each other. We learn as much from a newcomer who struggles to stay in the room as we do from a very practiced yogi who perfectly executes a beautiful standing bow. They are equally inspiring, in their own special ways. Some of us can fully kick out in standing head to knee, some of us can’t even grab our foot, and it just doesn’t matter because we are all trying the right way. I love and respect my fellow practitioners of Bikram yoga so much.
It is hard to believe that almost two years have passed since the day I entered the Bikram yoga studio. I am so glad I did. Anyone who really knows me, knows that it is my passion. I could talk about it for hours. In fact, I will! There is something about the mental discipline and focus it requires that has taken hold of me, and my plan is to make this yoga a life-long practice. I am confident that as I continue to improve and grow in the yoga, I will also reap the benefits that have spilled over into so many aspects of my life, and I am extremely grateful for this. And I can assure you, I will never be bored.