My first Bikram yoga class ever was on February 23rd, 2017, at BYSJ. I tried other yoga classes about 10 years ago, but they hurt my back so I didn't continue. (I have a deteriorated disc in my back between L4 and L5 from a construction injury in 1998.)
Until 1998, I had worked in the field in construction as an equipment operator and a foreman. When I injured my back, it forced me out of the trades and I became a project manager. Ever since then, I have tried various treatments to help reduce the pain and increase my back's physical capacity. I did physical therapy, deep massage, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, back braces, ice packs, hot packs, and lots of pain medication. Through all these years and treatments I don't remember ever sleeping more than a couple hours without flipping from side to side because staying in one position for too long hurt too much and would wake me up.
In 2012, I got in to see a back surgeon, and after performing an MRI, CAT scan, and a discogram, the diagnosis included disc degeneration, arthritis, bone spurs, and bone fractures. It was recommended that I get my L4 and L5 vertebrae fused together, because the disc between them had 0% containment of the dye during the discogram (basically there is no disc there at all!) and the entire area around it showed signs of arthritis setting in. I thought about it for a week, and then decided that I couldn't afford to take off that much work (6 month recover time), so I would go on as long as I could before having the surgery... I got used to living with pain, using plenty of ibuprofen daily to keep it tolerable.
When I went to my first Bikram yoga class, I was nervous and expected it to render me somewhat useless the next day, as many other physical activities could- but to my greatest surprise it did the opposite. During class, I was shocked that I was able to bend my back in every direction without it immediately hurting, and then after class I was waiting for the muscle craps in my lower back to kick-in, but they never came.
I was exhausted from the class, so I laid down on my back in bed expecting to turn over on my side after 15 minutes, and woke up 7 hours later in the same position- without budging an inch all night. This has never happened to me before.
Here is the exact text message that I sent my instructor friend the morning after, at 8:48 am: "OMG- I feel so good! I usually have a hard time sleeping and I toss all night. Last night I slept on my back and didn't even budge once all night! I was worried about the yoga hurting my back and shoulder, but it didn't. I'm planning to go again tonight. ;-). Thank you!!"
I have now attended 55 classes in 3 months and, without exception, I feel better every single time after class then I felt at the beginning of class. I have gone from taking 800 to 1600 mg of Ibuprofen a day, to taking it once or twice a week when I push myself at work or playing volleyball. In the mornings after going to Bikram yoga the night before, I generally wake up without any back pain, and when I skip a couple days without going to yoga I can't wait to go again. It truly has changed my life! I am grateful to my friend and to all the instructors at Bikram Yoga St. Johns for getting me started and creating a wonderful environment take motivates me to make it a regular part of my weekly routine.
There are many other benefits I have noticed from my practice, too. My flexibility has increased in every aspect to levels that I haven't had since high school (30 years ago.) The sweating and exertion makes me drink lots of water and want to eat better and choose healthier foods because that makes yoga easier the next day if I feel better. My cardio and lung capacity is much better. When I play volleyball, I can play almost twice as long now because my cardio and my back are stronger. My body is leaner and healthier-looking from sweating a lot, which flushes toxins and helps my skin.
Most importantly, Bikram yoga makes me want to take better care of myself. It has actually changed my inner motivation to live a healthier life. It is my personal form of meditation. Whatever stresses happen during the day at work, they all disappear when I go to yoga at night, and my mind quiets down and returns to the moment. I always leave the studio feeling peaceful and happy from the inside out. In some ways the major pain relief was just the beginning!"