Celebrating All of Life

Yoga and Life

What is your favorite thing to celebrate? Your birthday? A long and hard fought victory by your favorite athlete or team? Holidays? A graduation? I like this last one, a graduation. It implies growth, a change, a moving forward or up a level. For some people just being able to breathe easily or move about pain free is cause for celebration. These are the people that have in their grasp a very powerful key to happiness—appreciation for the simple things in life.

Being from Calcutta, India, Bikram has a very different perspective on life in America than those of us born and raised here. When I was in teacher training back when it was held at his headquarters in Los Angeles, we had a group of over 260 teacher trainees. We did everything in the yoga room—all the yoga classes, posture clinics, lectures, etc. The room smelled, the carpet had wet spots all over from those who sweat heavily in class and occasional clumps of hair that would tangle in our toes. There were over 200 women in my training and we women had only 10 functioning showers, a crammed and steamy changing room and rarely more than 60 minutes within which we all had to shower, get dressed, eat (hopefully we’d packed the meal the night before) and be signed in and ready for whatever was next. When one of us complained, Bikram said to us all, “You know what the problem with Americans is? They have no problems.”

That was hard for us to grasp. The tension in the line for the shower was far from pleasant, especially when “Suds” was in the shower. This woman, dare I call her a yogini, literally had thick pillows of bubbles spilling out of her shower stall, over the top into the showers on either side and out into the middle of the room. All we could think while witnessing her luxuriating in the shower and demonstrating complete lack of courtesy for the rest of us was, “He expects us all to be ready in one hour and says we have no problems!!??”

India is a land of tremendous contrasts. The rich are incredibly wealthy and the poor are incredibly poor. These contrasts are evidenced everywhere you go. “What are you complaining about?” Bikram said. “You have a roof over your head. You have food to eat. You have clothes to wear. Americans don’t know what real problems are so you make every little inconvenience a problem. You have no idea just how easy your life is.” What could we say to his words?

But I transgress. We were talking about celebrating, right? I was asking what you like to celebrate, not what you complain about. On the 4th of July we celebrate Independence Day and our nation’s liberation from British rule. That day represents the victory of a long and hard fought battle and the birth of our country and is traditionally celebrated with great fanfare and fireworks.

Yet not every situation is celebrated in the same fashion. On July 9th, the Bikram Yoga world honors Bishnu Ghosh, Bikram’s guru, by celebrating his mahasamadi, his passing. As with anyone dear to us who passes away, it is natural, and even important, to grieve what is our loss in no longer having them physically present with us. But we also remember and can choose to celebrate all that they were to us while in this world. Reincarnation is an integral part of Indian religions and culture, so in this light we celebrate Bishnu Ghosh’s graduation as a spirit in being liberated from this body in this lifetime and moving on to whatever is next. Bikram Yoga is a direct result of Bishnu’s research, knowledge and teaching and Bikram has asked that all Bikram Yoga studios close on July 9th in honor of him and all that he has made possible for us.

Most all of us enjoy celebrating victories and birthdays and the like, yet each moment, each incident we experience, whether in the past or present, has something of value worth celebrating. It is our choice as to how we look at it and thereby how we allow it to affect our lives. We can dwell on the negative aspects of a situation or we can focus on the positive aspects of it. We can celebrate privately by simply appreciating what our life has allowed us to experience, both the good and the bad as we grow through all, or we can throw a party and gather to jointly celebrate the big events.

Bikram encourages us to celebrate all of life. If you feel that you need a reason to celebrate, set yourself simple goals and celebrate each time you accomplish one and everything beyond it. With Bikram Yoga the benefits begin with just being present in the room. We tell you to set your goal for each Bikram Yoga class at just staying in the room for the full 90 minutes. Let everything you do beyond that be the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Take this attitude to the rest of your life as well. You can start by appreciating the simplest of things that you normally take for granted, having clean water to drink for instance, and make it a habit to look for as many positive aspects of your everyday life as possible. Your brighter smile will make you and everyone around you happier.