This photo was taken last summer, when I had been practicing Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class for 11 years.
If you're not familiar with Bikram yoga, I realize that might sound a little odd... Isn't 11 years a long time to do "beginner" yoga? Surely I could have moved on by now. And I'm an instructor, I own a studio! Surely I should be more "advanced," or at least "intermediate" in my own practice.
But. 11 years in, Bikram yoga continues to be so delightfully challenging both physically and mentally- that no other activity compares. I have heard the dialog (the scripted instructions memorized and delivered by certified Bikram yoga instructors) many thousands of times, yet I continue to discover jewels in it, instructions I have heard for years which I have only just become ready to understand and apply.
How wonderful to repeat the same series of postures thousands of times and still have so much to learn from and about them!
Part of the beauty of the Bikram yoga class is that I often practice beside students who have never done yoga before. We are given the same verbal instructions, we do the same postures, we both try our best, we both are tested and pushed to our limits in body and mind, we both soak in our sweat and feel our hearts pounding. We both receive maximum healing benefits by simply trying, one step at a time the right way.
I have heard Bikram yoga both criticized and praised as a "one size fits all" approach to yoga. And so it is. (Guess which camp I'm in!) Because: that brand new student next to me? Our struggles may take different shapes, but the prescription is the same. This group class was thoughtfully designed for the benefits of hatha yoga asana to reach as many people as possible, all at once. No matter your trouble- knee, back, stiff, weak, sick, stressed out (as Bikram says, "junk body or screw-loose mind") Bikram's beginning yoga class has something (and probably more than one thing!) you need.
It doesn't matter how flexible or fit you are or how long you have been practicing this or other types of yoga. Follow the instructions to the best of your ability with precision, intensity and frequency, and your life will have no choice but to improve.
One reason your life will improve is: the lessons you teach yourself in the hot room keep you curious and humble to your own potential. In class you actively grow your self, but at the same time your self is growing too (maturing, aging, birthing, ailing, healing, grieving, celebrating and everything else) which means that no two of your classes will be the same. While you repeat the postures and breathing exercises year after year, remain a "beginner" at heart and you will never get bored.
So that's why I've been practicing Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class for over 11 years, and I will most likely do so for the rest of my life. What a gift that I am only just beginning! If you have just begun or are waiting to begin (or have been beginning longer than me!) I look forward to beginning alongside you soon.
Since our Founding Memberships went on sale a few days ago, seven people have purchased year-long memberships to a yoga studio they have never seen, because it isn't even built yet. I haven't met most of these people, but I can tell you they have a lot to teach us. They know how to do possibly one of the most important things in human life: They know how to leap.
You know, leaping. Like when you come to a giant, muddy puddle at the foot of your driveway, and the whole world is waiting on the other side- but you're not wearing your rain boots and it's hard to gauge the depth or whether your legs are long enough to make it across. It's tempting to walk around. Or even go back inside and wait for the sun to come out and dry things up! (Heh. Can you tell I'm originally a Californian?) Anyway, those are very practical solutions, and there's nothing wrong with them. Some of us, though... maybe we back up a bit, get something of a running start- and we leap the hell over that puddle and get on with the day.
Bikram Yoga St. Johns was a leap for us. When we found out we were going to be parents, my first impulse was to say "Let's wait with the business." We were going to have a baby to consider, after all! I wanted to go back inside and wait till the puddle dried, get an office job and put the kid in daycare. Save money. Play it safe.
It can be that way with the yoga sometimes, too. For many of us it was a huge leap to get to that first class, that's for sure. We had to get over worries about the heat, the fear of being vulnerable and sweaty in a room full of the beautiful people, concern that our bodies were somehow not up to the task- we had to let all that go and just leap ourselves into the hot room. And there are days like that even after practicing for years- coming back after an illness, or maybe just feeling really out of sorts and like we might not make it through two sets of half moon. If we go to class, we risk feeling uncomfortable, imperfect, even having to sit out a posture or three. On those days it feels much safer to stay on the couch and scroll through Facebook and let the hours pass us by.
But. Do you remember how you felt after your very first class? Have you had one of those "iffy" days, and then you go to class anyway? I know I have, and I've never regretted it. It's not always pretty, but in my experience you always feel better when you leap.
It certainly would have been easier for us to put the studio on hold. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been more responsible. But that puddle wasn't going anywhere! And did we want to teach our children to play it safe? That seems less responsible.
I'm not concerned about this community at all. It is being founded as we speak by people who are not afraid to take a chance. These people will build the kind of community that jumps in with all it's got. They will inspire new students to try that scary first class, they will make our studio vibrate with an adventurous spirit. Together with them- with you- we are setting exactly the example we want to set for our daughter.
Together, we will make this the best leap we all ever took!
Our building has no roof access. For months now, I've been trying to coordinate a really tall ladder- or a really tall guy with strong shoulders- to get us on the roof of Bikram Yoga St. Johns and hang our temporary banner signs. For various reasons, my original plan wasn't looking promising, so my husband and I decided to do it on our own instead. If we couldn't get on the roof, we'd hang it from the balcony! That's how Orlo ended up spending yesterday afternoon scrambling all over the building facade, string held in his teeth and balancing precariously in compromising positions while all the high schoolers at the bus stop across Lombard pointed and giggled.
By the time he called me to come by and check his work, he had the whole thing rigged. It wasn't what I'd imagined. I'd pictured a precisely hung banner attached to the building by some magical invisible method in such a perfect way that passersby wouldn't notice the vinyl or grommets or string or nails but would simply think immediately "Oh! Let's do yoga there!"
I frowned and looked at my feet and softly kicked the ground. I didn't want to ask him to take down what he'd done- he had worked so hard and pretty much risked his life crawling around up there. But it just wasn't exactly right. It looked messy. There were no convenient places to attach the sign, so string criss-crossed the facade at odd angles. A corner had torn from the banner when Orlo pulled it taut (using his yoga-chops to balance on one foot atop the 8-foot tall entry gate) and he had repaired it with a green tarp clip he found in our shed at home. There was a lightbox in the way, so the banner had to be folded up at the bottom instead of hanging flat. One corner was a few inches higher than the other. You get the idea.
I was concerned that this banner would give the wrong impression of our business. I worried that potential students would see it and think we were sloppy, we were unprofessional, we were imperfect. I thought some of them might even decide, seeing our fumbled attempt at banner-mounting, not to give us a try. I told Orlo all of this.
By the way, Orlo is the best. He said he was going to finish tightening some of the strings, and calmly assured me we could cut it all down if I still wasn't happy when he was done.
I am so glad I had a few minutes to reconsider. Because here's the thing: that banner gives exactly the right impression of who we are. And no, we're not sloppy or unprofessional. We're the kind of people- and ours will be the kind of studio- I think any prospective student would be pleased to get their yoga from.
We are people who see a problem and use the tools and skills at our disposal to fix it. We are people who are not afraid to take things on. We build businesses in the same year we get married and birth our first baby. We get stuff done. We clamber up and down building facades to hang banners, and when they tear we repair them with the best thing we've got. We are not sleek or streamlined. We're not putting in granite counter tops. We are scrappy and tenacious and we work. We throw our bodies into everything we do. We couldn't wait for a ladder to tell you we are here, because we know we have something to offer you which will change your life, as it has ours.
We don't mind if things get a little messy. That's something the yoga lets us practice: what's important is showing up and doing your darnedest. As one of my teachers says, "The perfection is in your effort." I almost forgot. But now I have a banner to remind me.
Bikram Yoga St. Johns' studio owner, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.