Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Art of Double Vision: Get Your Back-to-Back Bikram Groove On

Photo Via Milopeng's Flickr Photostream.
Welp, I think it's finally that time and I'm going to be trying a double tonight! I'm feeling pumped, am pretty sure my favorite teacher will be instructing, and have been looking forward to this moment for a while now.

Some thoughts... and I'd love your feedback/ advice if you've experienced the art of completing back-to-back classes!

Double Trouble

  • I hear class #2 involves intense focus and sometimes even euphoric feelings. It can, of course, also be tiring as heck, but I'm hoping I'll find my yoga zone tonight.
  • More class time = more sweat. Some say there's no warm-up time when you walk in the hot room for the second go-round. You just pour out every pore. Puddle time, here I come!
  • Increased flexibility shows up when you're working with 90 minutes of warmed-up muscles! Will I be able to push to a new edge in any postures? Hope so.
  • Timing is everything: It's hard to fit in 3+ hours of yoga in a day, even on the weekends! (But I have a serious feeling that it will be oh-so-worth it!) I couldn't be more excited to have finally found a time that works. And I'm curious to see how my hydration/sustenance schedule links up with my classes... hopefully I've got enough liquids and energy in my system to make it through! I'm definitely bringing snacks (an Odwalla bar and a yogurt) and refreshing in between with coconut water though, so no worries there.
  • I'm hoping the intense sweat/toxin dump will also include the chance to dump out all my unnecessary built-up emotions and stresses. For some lovely, self-indulgent whining on this topic, see post below.
  • By taking on a double, I feel like I'm one tiny step closer toward reaching readiness for Bikram teacher training. Sometimes when I think about it, three months on my own in the yoga bubble forcing my body to extreme measures feels like such an impossibility. How will I pay for it? And the real question: will I survive the Torture Chamber with Mr. Bikram himself? All that wondering aside, there are other times (like right now, as I eagerly await class with a butterfly-filled stomach and readiness to fly out the door from work) where I'm just SO DANG hopeful and curious and wholeheartedly excited about even the thought of being in the big tent with 300 over Bikram geeks.
Throw your hands up! Dance around a little! I'm joining the Doublers Club tonight! :) (Well, hopefully! Check back tomorrow for an update.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drift Away with a New Sleepy Tuesday Afternoon Bikram Poem

this one's about the experience of floating into deep, deep space during the break between the standing and floor series...


arms arch upward fingers interlace
of course
I’m stretching of course it’s early morning
summer here upon us
curved upward haze behind a building
the day coming. of course
I haven’t got my mind yet
haven’t quite found where it’s hiding.
this is supposed to be a day,
a beautiful life,
a wild and precious life,
a centered, kept, contained
moment held.
I’m floating elsewhere
away for now, back in five minutes
that little hand-drawn sign swinging from a string
pastel and ink, dream-like messaging inescapable
if not caught and held, perhaps gone to the wind’s
carefree moving mind-path: the breeze.
surely a life is not a day,
a day is not a moment of course
it can all boil down to just the one
split second,
one big break,
one forgetting,
one long fall toward failure.
Enter the room.
Set down your old mat,
bones, songs, fidgets, fears,
expectations, set your old life down
and unravel your very life-threads, your five minute signs, strings,
etched maps for knowing where you are.
Unroll your mind you can’t even find
and be somewhere: only here
is where you are
a corpse, body breathing in place
a two-minute savasana
floating filament thoughts out
the twisting of an untied cord,
rivets disentangling, notion-rope come undone
working loose our own bodies,
lives, days, pulling out the stitches
so that we are in fact of course
nowhere at all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yogi Characters Continued

PhotoVia SunSinger's Flickr Photostream.

A little while ago, I featured a post on some inspiring local yogis at my home studio, and our need for compassion in the hot room. Here are a few more characters I've come across, followed by a few who I'm keeping my eye out for.

Locals I Love:
  • Yoga Mom Extraordinaire: you've got sweet tats, a solid practice, and super-cool mom skills for bringing your daughter to Bikram before she's even old enough to be allowed in for the standing series.
  • Slick Italian Gentleman: I'm pretty sure you're a dancer in real life, what with that slicked-back hair, graceful form, and seriously-athletic focus. Your headband and strong-looking hands make me think of only the word "Om" filling up the room.
  • Fire Engine Man: your body looks like a brick and you've got to be at least 40, and yet you keep coming back for more heat and humidity. I like to imagine you're the captain of a local firestation and your Bikram practice is just another way to get used to being surrounded by fire.
  • Miss Firecracker (aka my favorite teacher): your spunk, liveliness and kick-ass dialogue rock my world. With your leadership and encouraging spirit, class always seems to fly by and I feel stronger and more empowered than ever. Who knew such vigor could come in such a small package?
Are You Out There?

  • Pregnant Moms Who Still Practice: If I ever encounter you, I will immediately offer you an extremely enthusiastic high-five and begin asking you a bunch of questions of how you survive the hot room.
  • Yogis Wearing Leopard-Print Anything: Straight-up Bikram style! I have yet to earn these stripes.
  • Scorpion-Doers: Seriously, how do people pull that pose off?! I've never actually seen it in person, so I'm pretty sure I will oogle and drool over whoever I first discover chilling out as a poisonous desert bug.
  • The Emotion-Weary Yogi: OK, so this may sound a bit strange but lately I've been hearing and reading so much about yogis who suddenly start all-out sobbing in the middle of Bikram class. I am completely intrigued and curious about this phenomenon. And not that it's not an emotional experience every time we practice, but it might be sort of interesting to experience the teary meltdown in the middle of class...just to see what it would bring up, and be able to say you survived it. Plus I generally tend to have have salt water in my eyes, anyway, from all the sweat drips...What do you think? Have you ever survived the yoga-mat tearfest?
Photo Via SpectreMan's Flickr PhotoStream.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Focus Forward Friday

Focus Forward Friday:
A weekly ritual for deepening your Bikram practice.
Today's focus: how can you get rid of those fidgets, loud exhales, and other unnecessary wiggles during class? Stick with your instructor's dialogue -- don't rush ahead or fall behind. As my studio likes to say, No Speedy Gonzalez!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

State of the Bikram Blog Industry: A Speech for Those With Bengal Tiger Strength

Yeah, that's Rosie the Riveter on my blog. She's got bulging biceps like you, yogis!

After receiving a comment from the lovely Kirsten at A Bikram Journey yesterday, I’ve been thinking more about the Bikram blogging community that’s out there.

She eagerly exclaimed how excited she was about discovering another Bikram blog when she encountered Alive in the Fire, and how she experienced the feeling of being “giddy like a schoolgirl” upon reading my latest yoga poem.

I’m the same way: when I come across those Bikram blog gems which combine great writing, honest reflections on a dedicated practice, and pretty, pretty pictures (my favorite!), I just about squeal with delight.

Sometimes I let out a loopy “eeeeep!” Yep, laugh as you will, but that’s what I say to my computer screen. Or sometimes, I’ll eek out a “yesssss!” as I begin scrolling wildly down the page, trying to decide whether or not to click “Follow.”

First I read other blogs. Then I click ‘Follow,’ post comments on their blogs, invite them to read my blog, and go back to mine to post. I write on my blog, eventually run out of things to say, and then go hunting for new Bikram blogs via friends of other bloggers. The sequence repeats, and the circle grows!

Read. Comment. Post. Comment on post. Comment on comment on post. Click follow. Comment to invite to follow. Post. Find new blogger. Read. Comment. Click follow… Cue laughter.

All dizziness and reverberation aside, though, I do have some thoughts to share on the State of the Bikram Blog Industry. (Consider this my summer term address speech, OK?) And fellow yogi writers, I’d love to hear your reactions to this post – I am ruminating about your practices, after all! Please comment with your reflections, ideas, and inspirations. Keep the cycle going!

State of the Bikram Blog Industry: Observation #1:
Too Many Posts Underwhelm

No offense to those of you out there who use your Bikram blog as a personal practice diary, but sometimes I get a little tired of reading those posts who could be summarized as, “It was hot, but I survived. Yay, yoga.” Repeat times four for the week and you’re looking at a sad majority of what’s out there floating around on the interwebs.

Normally, typical posts fall into these categories:
  • Holy Crap I Just Sweat So Much
  • I’m Half-Way Through the 30/60/101 Day Challenge, and It Hurts
  • My Next Door Neighbor Yogi is Hot (and Inspires Me, Too)
  • Teacher Training is Changing My Life and Here’s Why I Love it/Hate It Today
  • Yoga Is Spiritual: Did You Know?
Alright, a caveat, and a big, fat one at that: I’ve certainly written about some of these topics, and I’m not trying to say that there’s not an interesting way to do so. (Hopefully my posts about local yogis and dreams for completing TT someday were somewhat engaging to read!) I’m also not trying to discount the experiences of beginners getting used to the heat, or the benefits of using a blog as a support network (for encouraging people during challenges, during hard times, or during injuries). And finally, I absolutely don’t want to write off those Bikram sufferings, er, understandings we share collectively.

In fact, that’s actually what I’m hoping this post will address: the fact that there’s a way to write about the Bikram stuff we all share – the heat, the sweat, the joy of gaining strength and flexibility in a pose you hate, the bizarre characters you meet in the hot room, Bikram’s outlandish humor and wisdom, and, YES, the first time you realize why wind removing pose has the name it does. You know: you’ve been there!

But come on, yogi writers! I know you can write effectively about these moments – and capture both their everyday tedium and the way they sometimes jump right out and change your life. I’ve seen it:
Photo Via FroschFresser's Flickr Photostream.

State of the Bikram Blog Industry: Observation #2:
Some of You Are Damn Flexible, And Damn Great Writers, Too

Examples that just scratch the surface:

The practical, useful prose which Seattle-based Jenn uses to describe budgeting for teacher training.
Hannah Just Breathe’s poetic way of describing how fearlessness and determination, even on the days when “the whole world seems to boil up and over,” bring us through to the peace of Bikram.

TheDancingJ’s recollection of TT, week five: complete with Bikram-isms (“I smell so good!”), honest confessions (“I actually fell asleep, had a DREAM, and woke up during the 2-minute savasana…”), and descriptions of the breakthroughs (“Sometimes I just sit there with a big stupid grin on my face and I can’t believe how GOOD we are getting at this dialogue stuff!”).

OhMyBikram’s fantastic, thorough and seriously helpful posture clinic posts.

Now there are some bloggers who know how to tell a story, dig deeper into the emotional insights their yoga has to offer, and entertain an audience, too!

I encourage you to (before you angrily comment on this post about its flaws and shortcomings, and before you sit down to type up your own post entitled “State of the Bikram Blog Industry Observations") simply to click the links above and see if you can see why there are some reasons to just be downright thrilled about the state of our little hot-room blogini universe! We’ve got some talented writers, observers, teachers, students, and philosophers out there who bring as much passion to the page as they do to the yoga mat.

But let’s not forget: just as we shouldn’t half-ass anything in our Bikram practice (as my teacher last night happily announced), we also shouldn’t approach our blogging routine with humdrum, nonsensical, or just plain useless chatter. Goodness knows, there’s enough blather and monotony out there as it is!

Let’s continue to make the Bikram blog world as astonishing, burly, and evocative as our ridiculously expressive yoga; that is, let’s be warriors of both eloquence and strength, of both integrity and depth.

State of the Bikram Blog Industry: Observation #3:
We Can Do Better. Oh Yes: We Can Do It!

Here is my challenge to you for some posts I’d love to read about and some new trends I’d like to see (you know you want to be next in the “clicking follow immediately!” routine):
  • Have a focused, airtight, and significant purpose behind why you write. Are you hoping to figure out how yoga brings out your inner beauty? How it changes your physical makeup and transforms your body? Or perhaps how it helps you develop relationships and reach your goals? These are much more vivid, enlightening and relevant topics than, say, your detailed notes on how many inches you progressed in fixed firm. Not that we as other yogis aren’t interested in reading about how your capability in specific poses has advanced, reached a plateau, or reversed backward…but dude, who cares if on Monday your pinky toes hurt “a little bit” and by Tuesday they “ached majorly” and now they’re “sort of sore after class”? Honestly, save those minor details and start sharing your reflections on them. Teach us something new!
  • Post regularly! This is key. Let me say it again: KEEP UP ON YOUR BLOG. Post regularly! There’s nothing more frustrating than coming across a great blog with diverse, engaging content…from three years ago. And really, what does it say about your dedication as a yogi if you can’t apply that same regularity and perseverance to something outside the hot room that’s also going to sustain you and help you grow?
  • Speaking of the real world, please DO connect your yogic thoughts to your personal life, emotional ups and downs, travel, work and career, relationships, artistic endeavors, and dreams and goals. Use your blog as a space to DO MORE than just comment on Bikram’s leopard-print shorts and your love of 747s taking off…
  • But please, think twice about how far you expand your blog’s horizons. It’s really quite fun to find a writer who lets his or her personality and sense of humor enter into the picture, but it’s entirely wearisome to discover that their posts range from Bikram to bathroom remodeling to their recent grocery store purchases. OK, so maybe your blog’s about your life in general and not just yoga, but at least market it that way.
  • Where are my yoga men in the blog space? Since I started Bikram, I’ve been seriously impressed by the number of guys practicing in the hot room (and sometimes in short shorts, eeps!) and stretching as far as other experienced yoginis. And gentlemen, some of you look like tanks, er, firemen! I mean, you see some straight-up brawny, beefy guys sweating it out in there, not just slender, lean-framed guys who seem built for the practice. Anyway: body shapes and dimensions aside, we need more of you to write about your Bikram! Ladies, invite those husbands, boyfriends and guy friends to share a post or two. Tell us what it’s like teaching the most beastly form of yoga out there. Describe what thoughts are running through your heads as you move with Bengal tiger strength!
Alright, this post has gone on long enough. But hey, I’m a yogi, not a political speech writer, after all.

Afternoon Thunderstorms and The Untouchables

Photo Via SunSinger's Flickr Photostream.

Last night was a beautiful practice. My body needed the heat, so I hustled over to the studio after work and got there just in time to secure a spot in the second row, set up camp in the humidity, and proceed with some pre-class backbends, hip-joint cracks, and slow neck rolls.

It never ceases to amuse me how we all have different warm-up routines at Bikram. Some of us stretch out like we’re about to run a race, strongly pulling our muscles and staring at the mirror with stern, serious looks on our faces. Some of us settle into a relaxing child’s pose, or simply sit cross-legged with our eyes closed, connecting with our breath and body. Often beginners or newbies can be found glancing around the room, trying to get a sense of what to do and why people aren’t running out of the room.
And then of course, the rest of the room usually unwinds in savasana with their heels together, toes open, palms up like champions of the hot nap.

So there we all are, a mixed bag of yogis sprawled out and sweating, calmed in the heat, preparing for the next ninety minutes. We are the beginning.

Meanwhile, outside, cue torrential downpour! Through the little windows I can see a monsoon of rain, the sweep of forceful winds, and a darkened, charcoal-colored sky. The thunder booms.

The teacher enters the room. “Stand up, please! Alright, this is Bikram. Stay in the room. Hands and feet together at the gray line in the middle of your mat…”

Outside, flashes of lightning flicker and the resounding thunder roars again.

Yes, yes, yes! I’m thinking. I love thunderstorms. And I love yoga. And I love meditations where I can be wrapped up in the moment, safe in my hot room space, concentrating on nothing but my body moving and finding a way to fully occupy stillness.

There’s nothing better than a summer afternoon thunderstorm, and the way the rumbles and bellows rise and grow and explode in the distance like faraway cannons. Like God’s own fireworks.

With every pose, the storm wore on but it could not touch us in our shelter of the hot room, our refuge, our calm harbor.

Outside, the world was ending and the sky was crashing down and the wind was whipping around the streets and sidewalks… but inside the heat was on and we were safe, our Bikram bodies holding us up like warrior statues, the yoga making changes in us.

Outside the world was ending, but inside the hot room we moved as one and could not be touched.

A couple hours after class, the sky erupted in a beautiful expansive rainbow and I stared at it off the porch, so grateful for my practice and such a stunning reminder of the wonder of stillness. This was the end: the calm after the storm.

Thanks to photographers over at The Chicago Tribune for capturing THE exact rainbow I saw yesterday after yoga!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Notes on Feeling a Little LOST in My Practice

This week it's back to the grind, and I find I'm having a little trouble getting back into my Bikram groove. It's weird: all weekend I was aching to get my butt to the studio, and now that I'm free of evening obligations, all I feel like doing is curling up on the couch for a nap or an episode of LOST.

What's up? Has the yoga truck finally smacked me down? Or, to stick with the silly analogy, maybe I've been run over by a shockingly blue Dharma Initiative bus?

Alright, so it's a stretch...but seriously: how cool are these posters? Pretty sweet.

Anyway, the Bikram, well. See, there goes my scatter brain skittering around, just like it's been doing at work. Skipping beats, veering off course, trying to stay out of the nap zone. Sigh.

But again: the Bikram! Have you ever had the experience of falling off the wagon? Truly discovering that each day of this yoga varies, and even though you think you've got it down, you may end up sliding backward before you break through a fear, obstacle, or just wave of exhaustion? Me. Too. How did you get back on track?

A Bikram Poem

The Good Morning Arriving

in the value of
the mirror

I feel like a bag of bricks
I feel like a million bucks
I feel like a breeze spreading across a pool of water

pretty invincible
even in this heat
mirror-made self being witnessed

I just don’t feel very capable
I feel a bit lightheaded
In fact, I feel like I could fall asleep right on the floor…

looking toward me
what I am
reflecting back

around in repetition:
bodies breaking limitations
pushing toward a better practice

I feel beautiful in a way
I feel a little less crazy
I feel this stillness blossoming in the room

the way the heat holds
between the rows
a collectivity, moisture of the mind combining

I just feel this overwhelm of energy
I feel a peace in this strange pocket of time
I feel a sense of gratitude ballooning up inside my chest

Everyone is nowhere
Have we all forgotten?
No one can get in the way of what we’re feeling
with the mirror there, with our eyes
all beauty and truth caught
connecting up in the practice of the body

I feel ready
I feel empowered
I feel a part of the system which moves the body I belong to

I have been here before
and I know the way
through the fire
the lonely ice the way of breaking
the body down into its base
falling it out of its formulaic habits, absentminded imperfection eluded

I feel superstitious but
I feel myself trusting the process if I can let myself
feel my body fighting its own way, marking its own entropy over the mat

I can go there, where

all the yogis are pretending to be yogis
as we simply human people exhale toxin-breath
and replenish our lives with compassion, elasticity, duty
to leave what we don’t need, hallucinatory reconciliation
and elaboration on all the reasons we’re tired
our bodies no longer on the list

I feel like a pilot performing a long-distance raid
I feel like a mountain climber conquering El Capitan
I feel like this is all there is,

will be,

our bones reshaping
our lives we take
back to the mat
sweat falling like rain
and the sun rising out the window of this studio
I feel the good morning arriving...

Monday, June 21, 2010

What Graduation Really Teaches You: You Need the Bikram

Photo Via A. Yakovlev's Flickr Photostream,

What a weekend! Caps and gowns, dinner reservations, visiting family, traffic, crowds, diplomas, convocation speakers, thunderstorms, tours of the town, late nights, early mornings and more. Who knew hosting graduation could be so hectic!

Pretty quickly I realized: I’ve fallen into a valuable routine with my Bikram yoga and when I go more than a day without it, man,

I’m cranky,

I’m tight,

and sometimes it hurts, but I need this yoga!

Word to the wise: if you’re balancing a busy weekend of juggling time with family, celebrating, hosting and entertaining your guests, and making convocation on time, find a way to fit the Bikram in, too…or you
will go crazy.

Photo Via Captain Skyhawk's Flickr Photostream.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Om, Baby!

Photos Via Jill Hudgins Flickr Photostream.

A quick list for the middle of the week...

Top 10 Reasons I Love My Bikram Right Now:

  1. It gets rid of workday boredom.
  2. Cracks the back.
  3. No more toxins!
  4. Keeps me up on my hydration, and VitaCoco after class is sooo refreshing.
  5. The teachers freakin' rock!
  6. The class flows as you work together and move as one.
  7. Breathe, stretch, shake, let it go! I feel loose and light after class.
  8. I know I'm changing my body for the better from the inside out.
  9. I get inspired by the crazy yogis and local characters that surround me.
  10. I can relax, and let the heat take me in.
What do you love most about your yoga practice right now?

Where Does Yoga Take You?

Photo Via Veronikaa's Flickrstream.

When you lay your head back in that final savasana, where do you drift away?
Are you floating in the sea somewhere by yourself?
Dancing in a field in your underwear?
Strutting down the red carpet?
Taking in the view from atop a mountain?
Cuddling with your newborn kid?
Racing a motorcycle around a curve?

Wherever you are, you are.

Photo Via Nikki.Jane's Flickrstream.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Inside and Outside the Hot Room

a true love is gifted
a true love is sacrifice

-Ben Harper, "Not Fire, Not Ice"

Thanks for Sharing Your Practice, Local Yogis

All it takes to remember your compassion for your fellow yogis in class is a crowded Bikram class where the collective group energy is off the charts. You realize:

We depend on each other.
We thrive because of those around us.
In this way, yoga reminds us to be compassionate.

In the past few months of my practice at my lovely home studio, I've started to recognize some familiar faces and even develop a few friendships in the hot room. Sometimes I'll enter the torture chamber, set up camp on my mat, and begin stretching to warm up for class. Often I'll look up from my space to discover

hey -- all of the regular characters are here!

at which point my face erupts in a big, goofy smile and I get giddy about practicing with such awesome people around me. In fact, that's something I've noticed has changed as I become more familiar with the Bikram experience: with time, I've begun to look forward to being side-by-side with yogis who used to scare me, intimidate me, or simply seem like faraway strangers.

So, with that exhilaration in mind, this post comes leaping out of the bottom of my heart: I'd like to thank the following usual yogi characters for showing up on a regular basis, for pushing me to work harder in the hot room, and for bringing me great delight simply by your smiles, nods, laughs and antics around the studio.

You guys rock:

  • Double Pigtails Dearest: always a sweet smile on your face and always those crazy buns atop your head. They tend to brighten my day.
  • Mr. Bald Yoga Guru Guy: the headwrap intrigues me. Without your dialogue, I'd probably miss half of savasana. Oh, and I think about half the girls in the studio seem to have a crush on you. I consider your presence a way to practice my focus -- and hey, my eyes meet the mirror more often when you're up top the podium, so thanks for that!
  • Shush Woman: I find it silly how you whisper-yell at everyone not to talk in the hot room, but I do appreciate the subsequent silence. I sometimes wonder if you realize you're making as much, if not more, noise than the rest of us. Update: I've recently realized what a great sense of humor you have. And your swoopy dance/stretch warm ups are the most amusing. The best. Smiles all around.
  • Old Lady Rascal (also known as Egyptian Bronze): you hardly ever stay with the rest of the group, but your eagerness, twitchy, sparkly fingertips, and ridiculous flexibility for your age never cease to impress. And I'll admit: I get a kick out of your wildly colorful outfits and your eastern European accent!

Photo via The Stickler on Flickr.

All said and done, I guess I'm getting closer to the real-deal namaste thing, where

the good in me acknowledges the good in you

and we may not be best friends or even know each other, but I can feel how the yoga brings us together. And I love it, and I appreciate your practice more fully because I depend on it.

I'll continue to introduce you to more local characters along the way in my blog adventures, and I encourage you to make friends with those around you in the hot room. Thank them for sharing their practice!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dreaming of the Future: Bikram Teacher Training

So as you may or may not know, I'm about to graduate from Northwestern University with a degree in English (creative writing), which means I'm at that time in my life where everybody's asking:

what's next?
what are your plans?
where are you going from here?

I'm hoping to do someday is embark on the yoga adventure of a lifetime -- 9 weeks in the torture chamber with Boss himself! -- and then make a lifestyle of teaching others how to live and breathe Bikram.

It's true: I can't wait to be one of those little 747s taking off in the crowded hot room someday. And right now, I have faith that it will happen... it's just a question of when.

So, have you completed teacher training? If so, first let me say I'm so excited you've encountered this blog! I hope it resonates, prompts you to contemplate your practice in new ways, challenges you, inspires you, and helps you have a good time thinking about your Bikram adventures.

I also hope you'll share it with others, inviting them to offer their ideas and feedback as well!

And if you're an active and enthusiastic instructor, I'd love your thoughts on your TT experience...
  • First and foremost, how did you survive?
  • Best moment? Worst?
  • What was your strategy for keeping in touch with family, friends and loved ones during training?
  • How did friends and family react when you announced you wanted to adopt the yoga teacher lifestyle?
  • Did you do any fundraising prior to training? I mean, $10,000 ain't cheap... (I'm hoping to apply for a scholarship myself!)
  • Anything in particular you couldn't live without during training?
  • Best Bikram quotes/ memories?
  • Did you have a job lined up prior to training? How did you manage the transition toward teaching?
  • Anything else?

Photo Via Roz Yoga Training.

Post-Bikram Bliss: Celebrate with Massage!

Last night I experienced the best of the best: following a Bikram class with a full-body massage. Talk about bodily bliss!

Not only does completing class beforehand get you warmed up, loose and ready for work on your deep tissues, but it also makes your leg muscles and feet so ready for post-workout relaxation. And as my massage therapist noted as I happily plunked my head into the face hole, "Relaxing shouldn't be much of a problem since you're already in the yoga daze!"

Amen. to. that.

Those 90 minutes were my celebratory close-eyed meditation, and afterward I felt like I'd been on a week-long retreat! To boost your post-yoga bliss, or if you're looking to celebrate (like me: graduation from Northwestern in less than a week -- woohoo!), I highly recommend a massage after class.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Focus Forward Friday

Photo Via Alameda.

Focus Forward Friday:
A weekly ritual for deepening your Bikram practice.
Today's focus: find a way to be the only one in the hot room. Forget about all those other sweaty people, distracting thoughts, and lingering emotions. How fully can you occupy a single moment?When you practice Bikram, there is nothing else.

Private Practice: Just You and the Mirror

Photo Via Health Food Nation.

In the hot room, your focus should be forward. Your practice grows when it is intensely, deeply, passionately focused.

Sounds simple enough, right? Keep your eyes on the mirror and you should be good to go.

But in reality, it's not always so easy. We want to look around the room, see what local characters have joined tonight's class. We start to compare our bodies to those around us. We check to see if friends are around. We guess what that guy over there does for a living, whether that old lady up front will be able to keep up, how the woman one row back can possibly be so flexible. Or smelly. Or whatever.

If your mind is wandering around all over the place,
what are you practicing?

Bikram reminds us: "The whole Bikram class is one big brainwashing session." Or, one of my personal favorites which one exceptional teacher from my studio often repeats throughout class:

"If you let someone steal your peace, you lose."

So next time you find yourself aware of how crowded the torture chamber is, and the endless amount of distractions available to you -- the unceasing number of emotions, thoughts, disruptions present all around -- let them go. Get out of your own head. Don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Not only will it prevent you from falling out of the balancing poses in the standing series, but it will strengthen your entire practice from the inside out.

Bikram is a collective experience and requires a group energy, but it is first and foremost a private practice. Keep it between just you and the mirror!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mr. Bald Yoga Guru Guy's Handstands After Class: Intimidated Much?

You know the feeling: complete overwhelm. Maybe it's the heat; maybe it's the sweat. The simple thought of being locked in the torture chamber for 90 minutes. Increased heart rate? Labored breathing?

Oh, wait. Maybe the reason you're feeling a bit stunned and terrified has to do with none of the above.

Maybe it's your hot neighbor. Or better yet: the teacher standing up on the podium there. Or the day when you unexpectedly find yourself side-by-side with that well-built, well-practiced Bikram instructor, their lovely muscles shiny with sweat and oh-so-close to your very own mat.

Throughout pranayama breathing, you find yourself sporadically glancing their way. Your eyes meet for a moment in the mirror, as a rush of embarrassment floods your cheeks. Great: now your face is red from the heat and the shame of revealing your interest in the other yogi's currently seriously-flexible shoulders and audible throat-like-a-valve inhales.

Let's be honest: we've all experienced intimidation in the hot room. There are those days where we wish the notion of competition didn't get in the way of a posture's integrity, and we push past our edge for the wrong reasons.

Or, in my case, I look around the room after class to discover a teacher who I find rather intimidating executing beautiful, bold, sturdy handstands. I mean, we're talking muscular strength in all its glory. Balance and grace and tenacity all rolled into one vigorous posture. And this is after class, people! Most everyone else in the room is half-asleep, doggedly making their way to the door, or oogling in his direction.

Don't get me wrong, but I felt a tinge of jealousy as I watched him fling his legs skyward with athletic control and freeze in the statuesque spot. Jeez, I thought to myself. I wonder if I could ever do that?

It was a momentary blend of feeling like a miserably-inexperienced yogi with little potential, but then simultaneously realizing how long it must have taken to develop such a skill. It was inspiring.

In the same way that I've been intrigued by the teacher since my first class with him -- the calm, smooth tone of his voice as he delivers the dialogue, his fierce demands of yogis during class (especially his strictness when it comes to unifying the class), and (perhaps most of all), his bald, lovely, perfectly rounded head. His physique looks a bit like a statue itself, I've sometimes thought. And combined with his stern expression and posture, he seems a bit like an ancient Egyptian or some expert yoga guru or something.

A couple of days ago I experienced a breakthrough about this guy, though. For all of his outwardly exotic allure, his severity while leading class, and his mastery as a practicing yogi, I could make an equally compelling case for his normalcy.

He might sit behind the studio desk looking mysterious in his head wrap, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't mean intimidation by it.

And hey, when it comes to the yoga, we're all getting the same benefits, as long as we're working at our maximum.

It's just as Bikram reminds us: we should bring no expectations to the hot room. It should be a place where we go to lose, not boost, our own egos.

Truly falling in love with Bikram means bringing humility to our mat every time we practice -- and using that lack of pretentiousness to build a strong collective energy, an inspiring sense of grace, comfort, and love in the room. We use our humble hearts to welcome others -- no matter their level of flexibility or strength -- to the power and beauty of yoga.

The other night as I was leaving the studio after an energetic class with Mr. Bald Yoga Guru Guy, I made my way quietly to the door, ready to slip out unnoticed and into the post-Bikram bliss of the rest of my evening. Much to my surprise, he turned to me with a sheepish grin, a cheerful wave of his hand, and joyfully exclaimed, "Nice job tonight!"

I felt a little burst of butterflies in my stomach, the excitement of being recognized filling my core. In that little moment, I was so proud, so thankful for the practice. Grateful for the guidance of exceptional teachers, and for their mystique as a tool for bringing me to my knees and boosting me up at the same time.

Who knows: maybe someday we'll be doing those handstands side by side in the Bikram studio, Mr. Bald Yoga Guru Guy. You just never know.

Photo Via Maui Yoga.