I started Bikram yoga because I needed something different. Playing pro basketball, I lived in the gym. I always stretched, lifted weights and ran, but after I stopped playing professionally, I began looking for an alternative to those - something that would challenge me, make me work and focus, somewhat give me the rush and feel that playing ball gave me.
Through a woman I was dating, I discovered Bikram yoga. Though the heat did kick my ass at first, I fell in love with it immediately. Now I have been practicing Bikram off and on for a combined 12 or so years over the last 19 years.
I keep coming because it’s great, man. I love it! It challenges me in the ways I like to be challenged. It keeps out of my comfort zone. It humbles me. It keeps me striving for improvement. Returning to my practice after time away has taught me to be more patient with myself, let go of some of my expectations, and just roll with it; wherever I am that day. It helps keep me in the moment. I love the way it makes me feel.
Physically Bikram yoga keeps me in a place where I can do what I still love to do, which is to be in the gym and on the basketball court.
I would say the greatest benefits are how much better my lower back and left knee feel when I’m practicing consistently. Years of basketball has taken its toll a bit, but the Bikram seems to keep those areas free from pain, by strengthening them, and keeping them flexible. Overall, my entire body just feels better, looser and stronger.
When I leave the room, I’m light, I’m floating, even a little tingly. I feel more alert, more relaxed and I feel more in tune with my self. It makes my whole day better. When I leave the studio, I’m always glad I came. I have more energy, I eat less, I sleep better and need less sleep. And it keeps me feeling young enough to still get out there and run up and down the court.
Getting myself back in that yoga room and beginning to rebuild my practice after time away is something I am most proud of. I knew I needed it, but wasn’t making the time to make it part of my day once I had my two daughters. I would practice a posture or two or a few throughout the day at home, but it’s not the same. I needed to be back in the studio vibe; with that heat, the instruction/the guidance, and the energy of the other people in the room on a consistent basis, there’s nothing like it.
The mind will try to play tricks on you if you let it, tell you how hard it is, how hot it is, how long class is, all of these things to deter you from going.
This happens to me from time to time, and on those days when I can ignore the mind and make it to the studio I always feel good about, because I know the right decision was made, because once I’m there and complete the practice, I always, without fail, feel better.
Overcoming the doubts, excuses, and the shenanigans of the mind is an accomplishment for sure.
I actually have a few thoughts and mantras that I rotate through to keep me going, especially on those super challenging days. One of them I actually first heard at the studio: it’s the acronym T.R.U.S.T. – Try Releasing Until Serenity Takes Over. I like that one. I also use this mantra from Yogananda, that says, “I am the Prince of Peace, Sitting on the throne of Poise, Governing my Kingdom of Activities.” That’s the one I use when the mind really starts f**ing with me in class.
I also like this one here too, this one comes from Access Consciousness . . “All life comes to me with ease, joy, and glory." This one keeps me relaxed and in a place of enjoyment in class.
The other thought I often have is: wherever you are and whatever you have today is good enough. This one helps me stay relaxed and in a place of gratitude for whatever I can do that day. It takes the pressure off that I sometimes put on myself to be good at something.
I remind myself that this is a lifetime practice, my career in yoga doesn’t have a window. I can do this as long as I live.
Bikram Yoga St. Johns' studio owner, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.