- Concentration. This word literally means "the action of bringing to a center." By fully focusing your intention on the specific work at hand- be that locking your knee, keeping your breath steady, or focusing at one point on your forehead in the mirror- for just a few seconds at a time, you are training your mind for ever more demanding feats of "bringing to a center" which are called for in daily life. While all traditions of hatha yoga develop concentration skills, Bikram yoga adds some bonus challenges to your concentration in the form of heat and dripping sweat. Lucky you! With a regular practice, you will find yourself more able to focus on the tasks you tackle outside of the hot room, resulting in more efficient performance in all areas of your life.
- Faith. Plenty of faith gets practiced in Bikram yoga classes every day: faith that time did not stop and the 90 minutes will eventually end, faith that the room is only 105 degrees and not 2000 degrees which is what it feels like, faith that the teacher is not actually trying to kill you, etc. The most important, though, is faith in yourself, that you are capable of more than you think. The more you remind yourself of that, you become capable of even more.
- Self-Discipline. Move with the instructions, not before and not after. Wait until "party time" to drink water. Stand absolutely still between the standing postures. Don't. Wipe. The. Sweat. Lie still like a corpse in savasana. Don't. Wipe. The. Sweat. The instructor might remind you, but she's not going to come over and slap your hand if you reach for a sip right after half-moon pose, and she couldn't breathe for you even if she wanted. In the hot room as in the world outside, you are the only one responsible for your actions. Bikram yoga is your opportunity to practice repeatedly choosing the best actions to take.
- Patience. First class ever? Tight hamstrings? Bad back? Knee surgery? Coming back to yoga after having a baby? Just having an especially rough day? Bikram would say, "Take it easy, honey." And for many of us that can be the most difficult thing! Patience involves faith and self-discipline, too. In Bikram yoga, while the postures never change, you yourself are very different from day to day. Patience is crucial in the hot room to protect you from injuring your body by pushing too hard, too fast- and to keep from judging yourself harshly if your postures are not yet where you think they should be. Cultivate patience with yourself, and you'll find patience for others is quick to follow.
- Determination. All of the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of Bikram yoga are yours for the taking, but they hinge on this: you've got to stick with it! One class alone might make you feel fantastic right away- it might even work out that kink in your neck or get rid of your hangover from the night before- but lasting results require the determination to keep coming back to class. A few times a week, ideally. Even when it feels hard. Even with a kink in your neck. Even with a hangover! And when you come to class in whatever state you may be, each and every posture asks you not to give up. We even allow plenty of time in each posture, so if you fall out you have a chance to practice your determination and try again. Determination is also essential to practice all the other qualities of mind: you have to stay determined to concentrate, determined to have faith, determined to exercise self-discipline, determined to be patient with yourself. Your determination will be rewarded with successes great and small, and (like the yoga itself!) once you make it a habit it will aid in every challenge you face.
How has Bikram yoga changed your mind? Leave a comment. We love to hear from you!