With 26 postures and one breathing exercise accomplished, the final breathing exercise begins to cool your body down so (after a 2-minute final savasana, of course!) you leave the hot room feeling like a brand new, yoga-lized you.
"January 2, 2016 was my first real class. (Technically I took a class in 2010, but because it wasn’t at BYSJ, there was obviously no reason to continue. ;)
"I am my mother’s son, which is to say that because she was fanatical about Bikram yoga, she knew I’d be interested before I knew myself. On a visit from Texas over the holidays, she roped me into joining her at a BYSJ class shortly after the studio first opened. I’d grown up a ballet dancer and runner and have always enjoyed meditative movement. Bikram yoga has proven to be a natural complement to my other current extracurriculars: running, dance, and Pilates.
"Beyond the obvious benefit of having much better sex (TMI?), I’ve learned through Bikram yoga that life can simply be breath and point of focus. Received one too many passive aggressive emails at work? Breathe, do the yoga, focus on breathing. Sore knee, tight hamstrings, and a twitchy eye? Breathe, do the yoga, focus on breathing. Car battery’s dead, it’s been 12 days since you last saw the sun, and your cat just peed on your new comforter? Breathe, do the yoga, focus on breathing.
"I love coming up with different soothing visualizations to get me through class and life. Whether it’s a firehose wiping around spraying water in savasana, transforming into a hot air balloon in camel pose, or being drawn and quartered in full locust pose, there’s a lot of fun to be had coming up with visualizations that reframe The Struggle.
"Here are some tips I've derived from my personal scientific studies:
"But hey. I’m just the Mayor of BYSJ, what do I know?!" *
*Ben holds the title "Mayor" of BYSJ because he has the most check-ins on the app Swarm, where he has checked in every single time he's visited the studio- 225 and counting! Thanks, Ben!
Camel is great for so many things! Among its benefits are:
This is a posture where it's very normal, especially as a beginner, to feel dizzy, nauseous or emotional. The best thing to do is? Breathe. Immediately after you exit the posture, lie down in savasana (try to skip the water, handtowel, or whatever else you automatically reach for in that moment.) No worries, those feelings will pass- or you may even learn to like them! Backward bending this way is most likely a new sensation, and opening your chest, hips and throat can feel vulnerable.
Here's a video Peter and I shot earlier this summer with our special guest teacher Audrey Holst from Bikram Yoga Natick. I asked Audrey if she had noticed any trends among our students in the way we are practicing, and together we agreed that Camel pose could use some attention to make sure you all are getting the goody mentioned above, without causing strain or pain. Enjoy, and please let us know if these tips are helpful for you!
"I've been practicing consistently for just over a year now, all because of you, your welcoming, inclusive studio, and the opportunity to be a karma yogi! Before that, I was an inconsistent, serial-Groupon-er in the Vancouver/Portland area. I've learned that being inconsistent made my practice harder on myself- pyschologically (I always had lots of reasons why I couldn't make it to class) and physically (I battled nausea a lot longer than I had to.) The secret for me is just showing up to practice frequently, ideally daily.
"I got into Bikram yoga expecting to improve a chronic knee injury and improve my strength and flexibility. All of these things have happened, and continue, to happen, especially now that I have a consistent practice. I have been most surprised by my seemingly sudden, new-found ability to automatically breathe slowly in and out during stressful situations that happen outside of the yoga room! I remember being in a work situation and I was all calm and breathing through it, and I literally wondered why I wasn't more upset, like I normally would be. It was at that moment I realized that I'd been practicing calm, full breathing while experiencing discomfort in class long enough that I had developed 'muscle memory' and it was automatic response. It was one of the strangest, and most freeing, moments of this year!
"When I began to practice regularly 3 or more times per week, I noticed a bunch of changes taking place. Decreased body pain, especially in my joints. I always say that Bikram yoga takes the 'old' out of my bones when my friends wonder why I practice. Cravings for healthier food and lots of lemony water. Serenity, instead of stressed, as a baseline for my mood for that day. Increased mental clarity and energy to be able to accomplish things.
"I've always enjoyed yoga, I'd take yoga books out of the library when I was a kid and contort myself in my first solo practice. Then I took my first Hatha yoga group class in college for credit. Yoga helped me be a better belly dancer and helped me through long shifts as a bartender. Later on, I didn't really think Bikram yoga would be very different from all the other non-hot forms I'd dabbled in, so I bought a Groupon (hahahahahahaha!)
"I went to my first class in a long-sleeve, full-legged bodysuit that I wore comfortably in dance classes. I was exhausted, dizzy, and queasy after the initial deep-breathing sets and pretty much just laid on my mat for the rest of class, trying not to run screaming from the room. It took me a month to return for my second try. It was still awful, but I kept on coming back, probably because the after-effects were so immediate and compelling.
"I often procrastinate. So when I saw "Do Later Now" on BYSJ's studio t-shirts, I was irked- and also knew this was exactly where I needed to spend my time, ha!
"Becoming a karma yoga cleaner at BYSJ gave me two wonderful (and unexpected) gifts. First, it has given me a sense of responsibility and belonging in a new, welcoming, beautiful studio/community. I'm pretty introverted and work with the public, so spending time in silence with other yogically-determined people was the perfect complement to my workday, especially practicing it early in the morning before I have to be 'on' for the public.
"My karma cleaning committment was the 'trick' I needed to play on myself in order to stop making excuses about why I couldn't get to class. Before I was a karma yogi, I'd change my mind about going for lots of reasons: not well-hydrated, didn't eat healthy food, need to clean the house, other people need me more, blah, blah, blah. Once I had to be there, I quickly realized that I'm better in so many ways, from the inside out, that I do everything in my life better when I do yoga that day too.
"Finding a studio that I could really belong to has led me to a consistent yoga practice and that has been ONE OF THE BEST GIFTS OF MY LIFE. Thank you, BYSJ!"
** Interested in becoming a Karma Yogi like Natalie? Email us!
I have been practicing Bikram Yoga since 2006. A back injury I sustained in 1999 limited the activities I could do without pain and a co-worker's encouragement got me into my first class. As a stubborn perfectionist in my 20's, my initial yoga practice was intense, disciplined, and with the singular focus to deepen my postures.
After becoming a teacher, practicing consistently over time, dealing with life, and growing as a person, my practice today looks, and feels, WAY different than it did back then! I have always been a rebellious and creative person so it is surprising that I picked Bikram Yoga as my yoga of choice. Here are some tips I use to keep my yoga consistent, nourishing, and healing no matter what is going on.
1) "Just breathe, everything else is optional." - Diane Ducharme-Gardner
The most important thing your teachers constantly remind you to do in class is "breathing always normal." If you never did a single yoga posture, but kept your breathing normal, you would still be practicing yoga! If your yoga postures are very pretty on the outside, but you breathe by your mouth, you hold on tightly to your breath, or your breath creates a panicked response in your central nervous system, you are not doing yoga, you are just making body shapes. By breathing normally in and out by your nose you stay present, keep your system calm, and get the intended healing benefits of the postures. Next time you practice, put a little more attention on how you are breathing, especially during the postures you dislike - you may find you dislike them because you are not breathing.
2) Pay attention
The dialogue helps to create a moving meditation. When you have been practicing for some time it's easy to tune the teacher out and go at the pace you want to go at. Don't fall into that habit! If you stay with the postures word-by-word, you will deepen the connection between your mind and your body. You will hear different things in the dialogue and you will begin to understand them differently. "Nice and tight contraction" and "completely relax" will each take on new meaning from practice to practice. You will understand your muscles and injuries and sensations in your body. You will start to be able to make better decisions in your practice. Pay attention with your ears, the feelings in your body, and the energy you have on any given day.
3) Adjust your intensity
This may be one of the most important lessons I've learned over time. The postures should always be done with the correct alignment and precision of technique. However, the intensity you apply to them should change on a regular basis. If you are feeling great, have gotten lots of sleep, are well hydrated and fed, and have laser beam focus you can practice much differently than if you have been working overnight shifts, have been drinking nothing but coffee, and haven't slept in 3 days. You need to consider yourself in the present moment when you practice because if you don't, you will start to hate your yoga. You should always leave the studio feeling better than you did when you entered it. If you are constantly tired, are in pain, or dread coming back, something needs to change. Give yourself permission to push less, rest more, and perhaps be kinder with yourself during your 90 minutes. Life is crazy and yoga should always make you feel like you can handle it better. If yoga is not helping you, talk to your teachers, they have been there, too, and can help!
4) We're all in this together
I recently had a student tell me she was feeling frustrated and discouraged because she felt like everyone else in the room was "getting it" and had great postures and she was the only one that was struggling. Here's a tip from someone that stands on the podium and also stands on a mat - none of us get it and we're all struggling! What I mean by that is you can't tell what is going on with someone internally by looking at them from the outside. I've known people with beautiful looking yoga postures that struggled with chronic pain. I've known people with some wonky looking postures that were so joyous and felt so good in their bodies that you always wanted to be around them. I discover new things about the dialogue and about myself every time I step onto the mat. People share with me every day both their struggles and their successes and how their yoga is so important. Remember that most of us are doing yoga for a reason - because we need it.
5) Simply show up
I can't tell you how many times people come up to the front desk terrified of stepping into the room after a long hiatus. They build up the class so intensely in their heads and put huge expectations on themselves for what they need to accomplish. Please go back to the first tip above - just breathe. Most importantly - just show up. The hardest yoga posture you will ever do is Showing-Up-To-Classasana. Bikram Yoga is a beginner's series designed to heal, strengthen, and create resilience in the mind, body, and spirit. Keep this in mind when you step into the room. Take the pressure of performance off yourself an embrace the heat and the healing and the community support of your fellow practitioners.
What do you think about these yoga tips? Which one are you most interested in practicing? I can't wait to meet you all and talk everything yoga with you next week!
Audrey Holst is a Certified Bikram Yoga Instructor, Studio Owner of Bikram Yoga Natick in Massachussetts and professional Stress Reduction Consultant. She will be in residence at BYSJ this May for a whole week- teaching, mentoring our instructors and giving private lessons to you! View Audrey's teaching schedule here.
Bikram Yoga St. Johns' studio owner, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.