I started practicing at BYSJ in fall of 2016 because I felt like my body and I were at odds. I needed a practice that allowed me to reconnect with myself. Since December 2015, I've been pregnant 4 times. The first three pregnancies have all ended with miscarriages. I was grieving the loss of those babies in unhealthy ways and I sought out yoga as a way to find my way back to peace.
Since practicing, I appreciate my body in a different way.
Like I mentioned, when I began practicing I felt at odds with myself. I was really self conscious and critical of my physical appearance, being overly critical of every lump and bump.
There's something a bit magical that happens when you stare at yourself for 90 minutes. Over the course of practicing I began to marvel at all the ways my body could move and how it carried me through the poses.
Even when it was hard, I learned that I could do hard things. This belief has carried over into my life.
I am proud of my consistency in practice. The yoga is hard, but I continue to come back because of the benefits. The best thing I receive from my practice is peace. My husband, Filip, has noticed a big change in my temperament. I used to have big, dramatic reactions to small things. I was filled with anger and would lose my temper quickly. I've always had a difficult time managing anger. Since practicing Bikram's I am much calmer, my reactions are less immediate and intense, and I am overall happier/ more optimistic.
My mantra in the room is just breathe. It's the only thing I tell myself I have to do. When it feels challenging to get to a class I just say, "show up and breathe." It makes it feel so manageable.
The effects of the yoga practice:
Physically, my posture has improved dramatically. I used to have a bit of a hunch, which I don't have anymore.
I have always suffered from pain in my right shoulder. This practice has really opened/loosened those muscles that were always so tight. Eagle pose works wonders.
But really, I practice for the mental benefits. It's the most important thing I do that keeps my mind peaceful; reduces my anxiety. I used to have crazy anxiety, I would need medication at times to manage it.
Since practicing Bikram's I haven't needed any anxiety medicine.
I practiced through my miscarriages. I would set up my mat in the back of the room and cry through most of the class. I was able to grieve my losses and let go of the pain through the yoga. It helped me get to a place where I could accept that perhaps motherhood was not going to be a part of my journey. Like I said, I could do hard things.
When I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time, I didn't want to live in the fear. I also didn't want to live in the hope. I just wanted to live in every moment. Fear represented the past. Hope represented the future. I really didn't want to place any of my energy in either of those places. I thought a lot about the impermanence of a situation. The only experience I wanted was the one I was currently in.
When I practice the yoga, the only thing I can think about is the current moment. Breathing through the pose, living through the pose. That's what I wanted for this pregnancy.
I am very forgiving with myself when I practice the prenatal series. I really listen to my own cues about how much I can do and what I need in the moment to take care of myself and baby.
Moving forward, postpartum, I want to continue to treat myself this way.
Diane Ducharme Gardner recently visited BYSJ and graced us with her wisdom, expertise and insight. Among the top "a ha" moments that students have been sharing they experienced at the workshop is this one: how to get into Camel pose!
How do you know it's right?
For any body!
Check out the video for the full demonstration of correct technique:
The key you'll want to remember is: when you hear the instructor say "go back halfway and stop in the middle," that does not mean bend back.
It means lean back halfway, using your strong thigh muscles, thereby decreasing the distance between your hand and the heel. If you approach the pose this way, almost anyone can grab the heels!
Once you have the grip on the heels (and don't lose it) you can push everything forward toward the mirror, causing the back muscles to engage and bend your spine evenly, creating 360 degree angle backward bending.
It feels so good when you do it right.
Even better, Camel pose boasts numerous benefits for your life outside of the yoga room, including:
Depth in any posture is a result of correct technique and time.
So it never matters how much you do, as long as you practice with consistent correct technique.
The beautiful thing about the instructions you hear in class is that they work for any body- stiff, flexible, injured, whatevs. But don't take our word for it. Now that you have seen a stellar example in the video, try following word by word with the correct technique in your next class!
A friend posted this great little meme on Facebook the other day:
First, I love this. As a language-learning geek, a mom and a bookworm, I love everything about it. But it also made me think about... yoga! (Surprise, surprise.)
So I want to share with you this:
This is an issue I help a lot of students with, often because they have told me their shoulder(s) hurt. As Emmy Cleaves says, pain is a gift. That shoulder, bless it, is trying to tell you something! It's the first thing I look for when the student takes my class: are you overusing your poor shoulder?
Bikram yoga is so, so great for healing shoulder injuries because we don't do any weight-bearing on the arms. If your shoulder was bugging you when you started but you are not experiencing improvement after a few weeks in the hot room, it could be because you are overusing the shoulder in class and thereby preventing it from healing. Once you learn how not to overdo it and start practicing that way, any chronic pain or stiffness in the shoulder should improve relatively quickly.
Bikram yoga is hard enough.
Work smarter, not necessarily harder, in class and you will notice the difference in how you feel after.
So how do you work smarter, in this case?
Whenever you are not going to bring your palms together for the pose, there is no need to bring your palms together in the set-up of the pose. This means Eagle pose, Standing Separate Leg Stretching, and Triangle pose.
Simply bring your arms over your head sideways with shoulders fairly relaxed, the way you would do if a cop (hopefully this never happens to you, but it's just the best example I can think of!) told you to put your hands in the air. You wouldn't stop to think about stretching or looking pretty, would you? Just bring your arms over your head.
Check out the video above for a demonstration, and check out these related posts for more tips on how to stop overdoing it in yoga:
Hi, I'm Matt! I'll be covering a lot of classes this month at BYSJ while Kay is on maternity leave. Here is a bit about me and how I came to be a Bikram yoga instructor:
I started Bikram Yoga back in spring of 2011 - I was the Chief Architect for one of HP’s Cloud product lines and found that my productivity, happiness and health were being impacted by my work stress. I knew I needed to find something powerful that would work on my mind as well as my body and deliver tangible results. I attended one class - was completely exhausted - but happy and at peace - and I knew this was exactly what I needed in my life!
I graduated from Bikram's Spring 2014 Teacher Training program in LA. My life has always had an element of teaching/mentoring in it - something that is humbling and rewarding, and having the opportunity to do this in the context of peoples health, wellbeing and - let's face it - life - is a huge privilege. In February 2015 I left HP to devote my time to being a full-time Bikram Yoga teacher.
I look forward to seeing you all in the hot room soon!
I have been practicing Bikram yoga for 1.5 years. My beautiful wife Sophia has been doing it for years, and seeing the difference it makes in her life made me want to try it.
I have gotten numerous benefits from Bikram, starting with the common, increased strength, stamina, pain relief and flexibility. More surprisingly, I have developed a better sense of listening, contemplation and patience. With all the physical improvements, I am most proud of conquering my mind.
Everything in my life has improved since I started Bikram yoga. Love, sex, relationships, work, even my tolerance of society. My skateboarding and surfing are more focused and I can target my aggression in productive ways. My Bikram yoga practice has helped me to improve my agility and recovery time, which has left me feeling like I have a long, long time to keep doing all the activities I enjoy. I think Bikram yoga is the key to longevity in all areas!
The thought I have in the room that keeps me going is: solace.
I want to thank Kay for this great honor of asking me to share my story, my wife for enhancing my life and the East Coast for making me strong. Love, Strength and Peace.
Don't miss attending our Posture Clinic with Josh on Saturday, October 13! Free for BYSJ members, $20 everyone else.
I started Bikram yoga when I was 39, feeling my body aging, still smoking, and scared of getting old and being sick. I suffered from depression most of my life and had been recently diagnosed with ADHD. Turned off by the many side effects of the medications being prescribed, I was interested in how mindfulness and yoga could help with rewiring the brain. Then a friend of mine turned me on to Bikram yoga while we were training for marathons. I loved the heat and the challenge, so I kept on going back.
I need discipline and good orderly direction to feel balanced in my life. Bikram yoga to me is like an ever-present life coach, always kicking my butt back into line when I have become too indulgent, too distracted, or too lazy. A bonus of my practice is that my friends say I look about 10 years younger than I am! When I am hurt, going to yoga helps me heal faster. I had a shoulder injury, and some inflammation in my elbow that were a bother, but when I stepped up my frequency, the pain went away. My pain flares up now and again, but now I know it’s just an indicator I need to get to class more often!
This past year I have experienced a great deal of grief and pain, but the one thing I have been most able to rely on is my yoga practice. It is unwavering and brings me great relief to know it is always there for me. Recently I have found myself crying in class, but Kay tells me that just happens sometimes. Yoga people (like Kay) tend to be loving and accepting, in my humble opinion after a few years of observation. I feel safe in the hot room and I can allow myself to cry when I’ve been holding onto things too long.
Yoga helps me to release and accept pain without taking it personally. Yoga has also helped me come to terms with myself completely. I am more able to accept all the parts of myself… experiencing depression, distractability and a very busy mind, as well as all of the great aspects. I understand myself more deeply through yoga.
Last December, I bumped into Natalie (who I later found out is a longtime Karma Yogi at BYSJ) at a Garcia Birthday Band show. She stuck a buddy pass in my hand and told me I should go to yoga. It was a wild night and Natalie seemed like a cool lady, so I decided to check it out. I had no idea what I was getting into! At 65 I had never been to a yoga class. Now I do Bikram yoga every day...
In 7 months of daily practice, here is what Bikram yoga has done for me:
I wanted to share my story especially for other people with fibromyalgia who think there is no answer besides expensive medications with tons of terrible side effects. For me, Bikram yoga gives me relief of my symptoms without all of that other stuff, and it makes my life better in so many other ways too. You've got to give it a try!
With temperatures in the 90s this week, summer is definitely here! Are you wondering whether it makes sense to turn the heat up even more by coming to hot yoga class? You may be asking yourself if you even have the energy for it. Your friends and fam may be looking at you funny if you mention where you're headed when the thermometer outside is reaching the triple digits... So is it worth it? Short answer= YES. Here are just a few reasons it is:
Exercise scientists have been researching the benefits you may already be experiencing! Here's a study that explores how “Exercising in the Heat May Improve Athletic Performance in Cool and Hot Conditions.”
Bikram Yoga St. Johns' studio owner, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.