One of my favorite teachers likes to say, "Bikram is less Om and more Oh My God." That’s putting it mildly. Perhaps a bit battle-weary, my body is slowly, sometimes begrudgingly, adjusting and starting to find its groove.
If you had asked me after my very first Bikram class if I would consider doing a class a day for 60 days, I would have run screaming. But, as I finish out the first three weeks, I’ve learned that, despite the daily roller coaster this journey has been and will continue to be, it might be true what they say: "No yoga, no peace; know yoga, know peace.
Note to self: If you’re going to go to an afternoon class because you couldn’t fall asleep until 4 a.m., that's fine, just don’t be stupid and have a huge bowl of pasta and caprese salad for lunch after you had a breakfast of three eggs, potatoes and half a grapefruit. You will die. You will have to kneel down at least six times and feel like a compete wuss. You will think it’s a bazillion degrees hotter than normal in the room. It’s not.
And don’t chug water throughout class till you have water belly. You will die for the second time. Just some loving observations.
Breakthrough! I can now lock my outstretched leg and actually flex my foot back in Standing Head to Knee. This took over seven months and around 60 classes. I can consistently bring my foot above my head in Standing Bow to the point where I can now work on straightening the leg. I still can’t quite touch my forehead to the floor in Standing Separate Leg, and I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I don’t fall out of Standing Bow every time, but baby steps, I remind myself. Baby steps.
One of the mantras of Bikram yoga is, "Don’t change the posture to fit your body, allow your body to slowly fit the posture." In other words, be patient with yourself and your practice. The teacher reminds us that working on the mind-body connection is also a part of the practice. Mental determination and stamina. I’m pretty tough mentally, except when I’m trying to balance on one leg during Standing Bow:
Body: "Oh, you want to stand one leg and bring the other straight up behind you over your head, do you?"
Body: "You’re funny. And what makes you think you can do that?"
Mind: "Come on, we’ve been going to class every day for weeks! At least try!"
Body: "You sure about this?"
Mind: "Yes, and no falling out! Now, just bring the chest down. Kick the back leg up. Good, see the toes inching up over the head? Now, try to straighten the back leg."
Body: "Whoa! Mayday, mayday. Going down."
When I find myself looking at shoes on the Toms website at 2:45 in the morning, I can already tell this day is going to be rough. After falling asleep somewhere around 3:30 a.m., I wake up to a torrential downpour and spend 10 minutes contemplating how feasible (crazy) it would be to do a double on Sunday, because I really don’t feel like going to yoga today.
But the idea of doing a double is even less appealing, so I finally peel myself out of bed. The theme of the day is obstacles. Insomnia. Rain. Slow drivers. Super humid and hot room. Fender benders. Lane closures. Toe stand (which I still can’t do). Class is hard and I am working on little sleep, so I just hunker down and give myself permission to suck, just for today.
One of my poetry professors in graduate school once said, “Sometimes, the success is in the attempt.” I chalk this class up to “attempt” and have a huge side of hush puppies with my salmon and broccoli. Life, like yoga, is all about balance, after all.
Lucky 21. The morning class is a hard, but fantastically and only sufficiently challenging one, not a rip-your-face-off hard core challenging one. In fact, it is downright fun.
Despite the regimented routine delivered in the same sequence every time, every class is drastically different in terms of the mood and energy of the class as well as a barrage of personal variables that make each trip into the torture chamber a unique experience.
I’ve learned that there is no way to predict what kind of class I’m going to have, so when I hit a (relatively) easy one like lucky number 21, I just sit back and enjoy. Thank you, yoga gods, for today’s stroke of good luck. Namaste.