Ultimately mastering yoga comes down to learning to breathe. It is the breath that can help you push past your current state to improving your health.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”-Emma Lazarus Quote on the Statue of Liberty.
I spent my youth destroying my body. I was the shortest Volleyball player on my team. That means that I didn’t care if I landed well to protect my knees, all I cared about was jumping as high as I could! I pole vaulted for 7 years, hyper-extending my back with every take off. I ran 8 marathons (including the Boston!!) in 22 months. If I could go back I would do it all over and I plan to continue to living my life actively as much as I can, but my body has taken a beating. Bikram yoga has helped me make my body healthier and stronger for the activities I love!
The first time I went to a Bikram class I was shocked at how tough it was. Dripping sweat, huffing, and puffing I kept telling myself you will not sit down, you will not sit down! As the teacher reminded me over and over “Don’t wipe your sweat it will just come back.” I thought F*** You do you see how much I’m sweating????–She was sweating just as much. As I kept going back I began to see there was more to this than just fighting through and that was when I decided to needed to master this art. If those flexible noodles could remain calm in this 105 degree torture chamber I could too!
My first big aha moment came about a month into doing yoga pretty regularly. (I’ve told you before I’m pretty competitive so I started going 4-5x a week convinced I could master this strange, sweaty, art!) One day as I was huffing and puffing, mentally begging the teacher to open the door, I heard the teacher say, “Relax, let it go, just breath. Long slow inhales, long slow exhales.” The teacher was giving me the answer EVERY CLASS at least 50x!! How had I never heard this before?!? I must have done 20+ classes and I hadn’t heard this message yet. That was the day my yoga practice started to improve. I started hearing all kinds of new cues I had been tuning at before and slowly but surely my tight hamstrings were starting to lock in Pada-Hastasana. I could touch my forehead to the floor in between my feet, and on a good day I had become inches away from doing the standing splits!! CRAZY!!!
Once I got over what yoga did for me, I began to talk to other people in my class and hear where they came from. Their stories were way cooler than mine. Bikram yoga helped people conquer addiction, avoid back surgery, stop numbness in limbs, aid in weight loss, the stories were endless.
How Does Bikram Yoga Do this?
Bikram yoga teaches you to breathe through your discomfort so you push past your current health state one step at a time. “If you will faithfully follow my directions, you will be relieved of your symptoms of discomfort.” -Bikram Choudhury. He may not be offering you a cure, but what he does offer is often better than what the Doc has to offer. One example is, Mary Jarvis, a Bikram Yoga Senior teacher. She taught at Bikram’s Yoga College of India in San Francisco for 10 years before a car smashed into her almost killing her. Her surgeon cautioned her against any physical exercise. She stayed in bed, popping pain pills, taking cortisone, and gaining weight for 6months. She went back to her doctor, deeply depressed and in so much pain she couldn’t raise her arms. He suggested fusing her spine. Mary didn’t accept this, so she headed back to the torture chamber. It wasn’t an easy road, but after two years taking as many classes as she could, she is mostly pain-free and her postures have returned to her top form.
There are many similar stories. If you are looking for an answer to your pain, illness, depression; it doesn’t hurt to try….Just don’t take a month to remember to breathe! 😉