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Change is Good!
Change is good! As they say, the only constant in life is change. But just because it’s good doesn’t always mean it’s easy. The times in which we struggle and suffer the most are the times in which we resist change. In fact, all suffering is the result of resistance. We lack the faith that everything will work out in the long run so we resist. While we may be very clear in knowing that our current circumstances are not satisfactory or far from our ideal, we’re afraid to allow the change that creates the space for the better circumstances to materialize. We have two choices, we either stay stuck in our struggles or we stop resisting and allow change. This is where Bikram Yoga comes in.
Bikram Yoga is all about transformation. Bikram created this brilliant formula to facilitate change in people’s lives, to heal their bodies and their minds. The class was perfected over time and has remained unchanged now for decades. There is not a single element of the Bikram formula that hasn’t been thought out, analyzed and scrutinized by Bikram and others. The exact sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises in which each prepares the body for what comes next, two sets of virtually every posture allowing your body to open up in the first set and go deeper in the second set, the heat, the mirror, the power of the group energy responding to the instructions from the teacher, all followed by the complete relaxation of final savasana—it’s perfect.
To leave out any single ingredient from the Bikram formula only weakens its potency. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!” Bikram says. Some people might think that doing the same thing every time would get boring but when you tune into the details you’ll find that there’s an infinite number of nuances to discover about your body in the postures. It’s a common occurrence for students’ practices to plateau after six months to a year of practicing. Bikram says that’s because they’ve done the yoga so many times that they begin to think they know all there is to know and stop listening to and incorporating the details. At the same time, their mind begins to wander and thus ends the meditation and mental benefits of the class.
Despite the obvious physical workout, Bikram stresses that the biggest benefits we reap from the practice are mental. We can’t help but develop our patience, concentration, determination, discipline and faith. All five of these elements are crucial to being truly successful in life.
When I think back to my very first Bikram class there are a few things that stand out in my memory. I was on a retreat in the desert outside of Palm Springs and had never done any kind of yoga. I drove with friends, Bikram aficionados, 40 minutes to get to a yoga studio in Palm Desert where they offered a Bikram class only three times a week. The teacher was very fit with well defined muscles, the kind of body I used to have and wanted once again. She told us what to do and we did it—no option! It was the most difficult workout ever. I’d worked my entire body and someone was telling me exactly what to do at every moment, personally challenging me. I had just enough time in between the postures to recoup before we did it again. I remember a gentle tap on my shoulder as she told the entire class to relax the shoulders during the beginning breathing exercise. I remember her pointing to my bent knee while I was kicking out in standing head to knee as she told everyone to lock the knee. Her physique, confidence and presence were like a promise that if I just stuck to the formula I could look and be like her.
The timing for this class was pivotal. Two years prior I remember consciously acknowledging that I wanted to feel and look the way I did in high school. Back then I had been a very competitive athlete in top physical fitness and with that had enjoyed a very strong sense of self and personal power. The demands of life, college, career all whittled away at this over time. On this retreat we’d looked at what was working in our lives and what needed to change. It was very clear that the biggest piece missing for me was my physical fitness. I know I work best under pressure and to make up for almost 20 years of physical negligence would take a boot camp experience to truly get back on track with the proper routine and regimen that could promise results. I was in the Bikram haze after class and new realizations were slowly occurring to me. The class was amazing, best full body workout ever and a meditation at the same time. I saw that this yoga could be the key to my physical wellbeing as long I had the patience and dedication to come back day after day. On the drive back to the retreat space after class my friends asked me if I’d liked the class. I obviously said I did and their response was, “Well, if you really liked it maybe you should go to the teacher training where they make you do it twice a day for 9 weeks.” The sense of total certainty hit me. It felt as if the universe delivered the solution to my dilemma. My path was clear. Scary but clear.
A month later (yes, it took me a month!) I found the Bikram studio only five minutes from my home and began my journey to health. Six months after that I was at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. I was lucky to make it to class three times a week in the beginning and frankly don’t know if I could have handled any more than that. Each class wiped me out. I’d do a class at 9:00 in the morning and struggled to get myself together enough to make it to see my clients by 1:00 in the afternoon. I learned early on that I had to change my diet to include more meat so that I’d have more strength in class and be able to recover more quickly afterwards. I began to crave different foods and without realizing it started eliminating junk foods. Slowly but surely, things were falling into place and boy was I feeling great in the process!
Bikram Yoga has been a tremendous facilitator for change in my life and provided the tools necessary to successfully navigate changes. The class has taught me to tune into details and feel for what’s happening both in my body and around me at the same time. I’ve developed the ability to concentrate on one thing and ignore distractions that keep me from my purpose. I’ve garnered the determination and discipline to see my vision through to the end. I’ve learned to appreciate that there are times when I need to struggle and there are times when I need to surrender; one follows the other just as the tides ebb and flow. I’ve learned to go with the flow, to be patient with life and wait for the right time to instigate changes. I’ve learned to trust that the universe will make clear to me, one way or another, when that right time is. I have faith that I will achieve my vision in time even though I may not like what I’m going through in that particular moment.
I send out many thanks to my first teacher, even though I’ve never taken another class from her and don’t even know her name, for the wonderful introduction to Bikram Yoga and providing the inspiration that’s gotten me to where I am today.