No, YOU! YOU are ready for yoga!

all ages full locust bikram yoga
by Ann Chrapkiewicz

Are you ready for yoga?

As inclusive as North American yoga wants to be, yoga in its deeper dimensions demands certain qualities.

Are you ready for yoga?

Well, I have a yoga mat and I hydrated well.  So yes, I think so.

But the question again: are you ready for yoga?

The yoga clothing companies would like you to think you are.  They would like you to picture yourself as one of those long, lithe, young bodies, wearing their pants.  And maybe you have that body.

But most people don’t.  And the tragedy therein is that you might not think that you are ready for yoga.  You might even think you need to look like that in order to start yoga.

Getting ready for yoga

After spending 3 days and nights off the grid (literally), it was a joy to come back to my other favorite place – the hot room – on Labor Day to teach the evening class.

30 humans prepared themselves.  They were ready.

They brought themselves to class and faced themselves in the mirror for 90 glorious minutes of their days off.

You may have heard from various sources that that is really the hard part of the class.  To stand there, to look in the huge mirrors at your own self, and to not try to fix anything.  Not to mess with your out-of-place hair, not to fidget, and especially not to try to solve any problems your mind has decided needed solving.

Instead, you stand still and breathe.  You physically transcend and transform the mental disturbances.  You live so fully in those uncomfortable moments when you choose to only breathe.

In any case, we had a fun little exchange tonight in the front-and-center, right in front of that giant wall of mirrors, 70 feet long and over 8 feet high.

“I am not ready for yoga.”

A week or two ago, a retired man – visiting from the Middle East – started taking classes with us.  It was his first time practicing yoga, but even before he took his first class, I could tell he was ready.

And tonight I found out that he is much more ready than he thinks.

This man is cheerful.  He laughs at himself.  He stands in the front row in the center of the room.  He laughs and smiles with me when I fold up his hand towel and have him hide it under his mat so it will not tempt him.  We discuss the salty sweat that drips into his eyes.

He tries so hard.  He communicates – often only with his eyes – when he needs a break.  He listens to me speaking constantly in his not-native language.  He persists.  He is already loved by our morning regulars.

At one of those special, irreplaceable, and almost indescribable group of moments that happen in class, it all came out in a little dialogue tonight.  All of a sudden, in between standing postures, I fully understood something and immediately shared to him:

“Mr. M, you are SO ready for yoga!”

He replied, in friendly disagreement, and with a smile:

“No, I am not.  She is.”

He signaled with his eyes to the young woman standing immediately to his left.  From outward appearances, she is young, lean, flexible; the yoga “type”.

(And certainly she may be just as internally ready for yoga as he is.  She in fact has an extremely calm and focused practice.  But that was not the point here.)

I said something like – and I meant:

“NO.  YOU are ready.  She is bendy and beautiful.  Being flexible has absolutely nothing to do with being ready for yoga.”

I could not stop there.


“YOU are ready for yoga, Sir!  

Why?  

Because you are not afraid.  

You are not afraid of the mirrors, you are not afraid of me, you are not afraid of yourself.  

You are not afraid of the yoga process.  You are ready.”

 


Be not afraid!  That is the only thing – and everything – you will need.

 

9:30 am Class Bow Pose

 

July 2017 Intermediate Yoga – Instruction and Silent Classes – Weekday Mornings

intermediate standing bow pulling standing rainbow pulling

Those with at least one to two years of regular practice and 250 or more classes’ experience in the traditional 26&2/Bikram Yoga method are invited to join us for a unique practice intensive in intermediate preparations and postures in the Ghosh lineage.  This round will be an immersive, daily, morning practice (6:15 am – 8:15 am) for the entire month of July, held Monday through Friday for four weeks (with the exception of Friday, July 14).


Monday of each week will be the instructed intermediate yoga class – $25 each or $90 for all four weeks (pre-paid, no refunds for non-attendance.)

Tuesday through Friday classes will be a silently led practice and are donation-based (cash only, payment optional).  Those who attend the Monday instructional of a given week may attend any or all of the classes the remainder of that week.

Those wishing to practice the intermediate sequence with us for any days between Tuesday and Friday each week are required to attend the Monday instructional of that week.


You may attend one or more weeks in any order; it is recommended that participants do at least one week of Sequence A and one of Sequence B, but it is not required.

Monday, July 3

6:15-8:15 am

instructional session for Sequence A

Arm Balancing Strength, Core Strength, and Leg-Behind-the-Head Mobility

Monday, July 10 

6:15-8:15 am

instructional session for Sequence B

Full Backward Bending Awareness, Inversions, and Pranayama

Monday, July 17

6:15-8:15 am

instructional session for Sequence A

Arm Balancing Strength, Core Strength, and Leg-Behind-the-Head Mobility

Monday, July 24

6:15-8:15 am

Instructional session for Sequence B

Full Backward Bending Awareness, Inversions, and Pranayama

Those with less experience are welcome to inquire in advance.


Each Monday session is $25 each, or $90 for all 4 weeks (prepaid only; no refunds for non-attendance). Any classes attended for the remainder of each week are donation based.


For “Optimum Health & Wellness” members only, intermediate class fees are included in membership.
For all others (Flex, Commitment, regular Autopay, guests, etc.) , the fees are:
$25 each Monday instructional, or

All four Mondays for $90


CLICK HERE for online booking or pay in advance at BYCA.

Each session is limited to 10 participants.


What is Ghosh Yoga?  What is Bikram Yoga?  What is hot yoga?  Click here for an introduction.

26 Impossible Things Before Lunch

Alice and the White Queen Impossible Things
by Ann Chrapkiewicz

The weekday morning classes here are indescribably special.  I love every single class I teach and practice – evenings and weekends included – but the 9:30 am classes have this special energy that dedicated, regular, curious students create.  The average age is probably 55, with many of my 70+ students attending regularly at that time.

9:30 am Class Bow Pose

This past Tuesday’s “warm” 9:30 class – practiced about 10 degrees cooler than the usual 105F – was an all-front-row class with the kind of calm, deep focus that leaves you floating the rest of the day.

And then on Wednesday, a question from a regular student about awkward pose reminded me of a point I have been expressing lately in class.

Curious Questions

The question was about the first part of awkward pose; about how difficult it is to try to get your upper body upright while stretching forward and keeping the feet flat, weight in the heels.  How could she improve upon her technique and approach?

Awkward Pose Part One

Her question represented a very thorough understanding of the intentions of the posture.  After we considered the posture briefly and I gave her my input on how to approach it, she said,

“Well that seems virtually impossible!”

I replied with a smile, in acknowledgement, and in instantaneous recognition of the truth and awesomeness of what we both realized at that exact moment:

“YES!  It is!”

The class burst out in laughter.

[What a beautiful thing to share a common practice, common challenges, and similar realizations.]

I continued: “Exactly!  It IS virtually impossible.  This is part of the point!”

“When you try something that seems nearly impossible, and you do it on a regular basis, and you learn to stop listening to the voice in your head that says ‘this is impossible, why are you even trying it?’, and you still persist with the pure focus on the task, and you forget completely about the result….THIS IS THE YOGA PROCESS!  Perfect!!”

This act of pure, focused, mind-quieted action creates a tremendous amount of personal, positive, creative, energizing power.

And we do it everyday of the week.  In 26 postures.  All before lunch.

Imagining “the impossible”

Last year, during Bernie Sanders’ beautiful and inspiring primary campaign, he often talked about making the impossible into the possible.  For six solid months, I was more inspired than I have ever been about our country.  On a daily basis, he was inspiring us to value our dreams, and to strengthen the will and resolve we need to do truly challenging things, all in the direction of improving the planet and healing humanity.  Such a rare thing in politics.  It felt like yoga and politics were actually intertwined, for once.

And then about a month ago a flash of literary recognition came to me about this yoga.

It came to me in the form of Lewis Carroll’s White Queen:

“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Alice and the White QueenThe power of imagination and visualization is amazing.

Yet the power of unattached action towards an “impossible” thing – a yoga posture, for example – is perhaps even more profound.

This Is “Not Yoga”

People love to define yoga in order to control it or to get you to do their version of it.  Some say that yoga should not be “difficult”, that you should do “whatever feels right”, that no one should be telling you how to do it correctly.  (Those who make these claims will definitely tell you not to do Bikram Yoga.)

However, what initially feels right and easy is a reinforcement of the weaknesses and tightnesses we have had for decades.  What the body and mind need to actually transform are exactly the things we do not want to encounter: the challenging creation of a new pattern of movement, the awareness and removal of old habits, the elimination of self-talk, and the initial mental struggle of frustration and impatience that we usually bring to the class.

In my experience, encountering “the impossible” on a daily basis is an extraordinary yoga practice, and the Original Hot Yoga/Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class is one of those magical places where we can do this in every class.  When I and most students started practicing, taking a 6-count inhale was impossible.  Holding our arms over our heads for one and a half minutes was impossible.  Breathing normally during triangle posture was impossible.

But then we showed up and tried again.  And one day we noticed we were doing things we never initially dreamed possible.

Actually attempting “The Impossible”

When the teacher says at the beginning of Half-Moon Posture, “Try to touch the ceiling,” you have a couple of options:

  1. Have an internal dialogue about how ridiculous that is, that you are never going to touch the ceiling, that the teacher is really annoying for giving impossible instructions, that your shoulders are too tight, that you are not flexible enough, that you were not born to straighten your arms like that, and that this is totally unnatural, or
  2. Just try to touch the ceiling, not giving a thought to if or when you will actually touch it.

You can probably guess which one will serve you more.

The second one represents pure action in yoga, and we do it for 90 minutes every day in Bikram Yoga.  It is so beautiful to be surrounded by this energy.

It is no one’s business if or when the leg actually locks.  If or when you see your toes in camel posture.  If or when your head actually touches your knee.

It is the fact that you are trying – without mental interference from your own chatter – to do each element of each posture.

There is great avoidance of the things that actually serve us, and great comfort in repeating old, familiar patterns – some of which actually hurt us or block our healing.

When you encounter “the impossible” on a daily or regular basis, and when you put your mind on the effort anyways, change will occur.  The main thing is to get out of your own way and to not listen to the “this is impossible” mantra that your mind would like you to accept.

The best thing, obviously, is to see for yourself.

Show up every day for a few weeks.  And see what kind of empowerment and strength you get, from trying to do 26 impossible things before lunch.

Ghosh Yoga in Michigan – March 2017!

I am very excited to announce that two of the foremost North American ambassadors of Ghosh Yoga will be coming to Bikram Yoga Capital Area this March for a weekend of workshops!  Ida Jo and Scott Lamps will be leading six unique, not-to-be-missed yoga practice seminars from Thursday-Sunday, March 23-26, 2017.

In the summer of 2016, I completed the inaugural Ghosh Practice Week in Madison, Wisconsin.  The practice, the leadership, the questions, the diversity, the thoroughness, and the overall experience was so beneficial that I have asked them to come to Michigan to share with you all.

I truly believe that these workshops are essential for any dedicated student of Bikram Yoga, as well as a must-do component for any Bikram Yoga teacher, whether current, former, or aspiring.  The historical and philosophical insights exceed the usual posture workshop or master class.  Your practice and teaching will truly be expanded.  Those interested in apprenticing at BYCA in the near or distant future should complete as many of the 6 workshops as possible.

Ida Jo’s and Scott’s approach will introduce those from other yoga lineages or even from a non-yoga background to the benefits of the Ghosh lineage.  Many of the classes are ideal for regular and beginning practitioners, and others are accessible to those who have no experience with yoga of any kind.

Those looking for the most basic therapeutic class will benefit from Yoga Therapeutics: Back Pain and Stress Reduction.

Seasoned Bikram Yoga practitioners and teachers will be challenged by Advancing Your Practice, and will have their horizons broadened by Buddha Bose Workshop with the History of Ghosh Yoga.

Ida Jo and Scott recently visited the Pure Bikram Yoga community in Austin, Texas, to rave reviews, and will be presenting again at the One Fire Hot Yoga Festival in March.

Complete workshop descriptions are currently available at Bikram Yoga Capital Area, and full information and registration links are available on our Events Page.  We expect these workshops to fill up, as this is Ida Jo’s and Scott’s first workshop visit to Michigan.

What is Ghosh Yoga?  What is Bikram Yoga?  What is hot yoga?  Click here for an introduction.

Ghosh, Bikram, and Hot Yoga: What does it all mean?

by Ann Chrapkiewicz

As you have probably noticed, there is a lot of yoga out there!  As yoga and fitness studios continue to open and close, I find it increasingly important for us to understand the practices in more depth – focusing on the history, lineages, science, and testimonials of practitioners.  For practitioners of Bikram Yoga, Ghosh lineage yoga, and hot yoga – or for those interested in trying them – here are the most basic distinctions and history.

What is Ghosh Yoga?

Ghosh’s Yoga of Physical Education was founded in 1923 in Kolkata, India, by the late Bishnu Charan Ghosh.  It was then named Ghosh’s Yoga College in 1970 and currently operates under the direction of Bishnu Ghosh’s granddaughter, Muktamala.

Bishnu Ghosh (1903-1970) was the younger brother and disciple of the world-renowned Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952; founder of the worldwide Self-Realization Fellowship and author of Autobiography of a Yogi).

Ghosh Yoga has a fascinating history of meditation, breathing techniques, showmanship, physical culture, asana, bodybuilding, therapeutic exercises, medical research, and individual prescription of exercises and asana.  The Ghosh lineage has been transmitted worldwide primarily via Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury, Tony Sanchez, and their trained teachers.

Currently, Ghosh Yoga in its fuller expression is being taught in North America and Europe by Tony Sanchez and his trained teachers, and Ida Jo and Scott Lamps.  Ida Jo and Scott have completed Muktamala’s Therapeutic Training program as well as many other yoga trainings and are now the North American administrators of the therapeutic training program at Ghosh’s College.  They have sole permission in the U.S. for use of “Ghosh Yoga” and have published the Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Practice Manuals in the tradition.  You can read more about Ghosh Yoga at Ida Jo and Scott’s website.

Ghosh Yoga Graphic - Logo Plus IdaScott Photos - Untitled Page
Ida Jo and Scott Lamps – Ghosh Yoga Practice Manual Photos

What is Bikram Yoga?

Bikram Yoga refers to the standardized beginning sequence of Ghosh lineage therapeutic postures, as distilled and taught by Bikram Choudhury (b. 1946) and his students.  Mr. Choudhury was one of Bishnu Ghosh’s students in Calcutta in the 1960s and brought his teaching to the United States in the early 1970s.  He taught primarily in Southern California until 2016.  Bikram and his former wife (Rajashree Choudhury) and senior teachers have certified approximately 4000* teachers to teach in that time.

Bikram Yoga is commonly also known as the 26&2 (26 postures and 2 breathing exercises) and is taught at independently owned yoga schools all over the world.  It is traditionally practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees F and 40% humidity.  Over the decades, it has been found that the heat provides an increase in the circulatory benefits via the “tourniquet effect”, as well as reduced stiffness, cardiovascular benefit, and improved stress tolerance, among other health benefits.

Although these schools have traditionally been named “Bikram Yoga”, they are truly independent and not part of a corporation, chain, or franchise (despite what most media sources and the official Bikram Yoga website report).  Rather, they are owned and directed by teachers who were trained and certified by Bikram and his most senior teachers, and who have committed to upholding the techniques and methods of Bikram’s beginning yoga system.

Many Bikram Yoga teachers and experienced students also practice the intermediate and advanced postures and sequences of the Ghosh lineage, taught in various manifestations by Bikram Choudhury, Tony Sanchez, and others.

2016 Yoga on the River
Bikram Yoga students from around Michigan come together for the 2016 Yoga on the River event in Downtown Detroit, Michigan.

2016 Yoga on the River

How does this relate to “hot yoga”?

Bikram Yoga is known as the Original Hot Yoga, because it was the first – and, for a time, the only – yoga class taught in a heated room.  Many other unrelated yoga and exercise traditions began to add heat to their rooms over the decades, so “hot yoga” and Bikram Yoga are no longer equivalent.

“Hot Yoga” can refer to any movement, asana, or exercise class in a hot room and is not necessarily related to the Bikram or Ghosh lineage.

When you see a studio or a class called “Hot Yoga”, it generally now refers to one of two things:

  1. Former Bikram Yoga schools that have removed the word “Bikram” and now use “Hot Yoga” in their school names.  These still teach the traditional Bikram method and usually have lineage-trained teachers.  Some have added other types of yoga or fitness classes, and some have not.
  2. Other hot yoga studios that do not have a connection to or training in the Ghosh or Bikram Yoga lineage.  They might have teachers in a lineage from a different part of India, but most are not directly descended from an Indian yoga tradition.  Many feature classes with a combination of yoga postures, dance, exercise, weights, barre, or music classes.

We realize it can be a bit confusing, so we always recommend researching the specific training lineage of the owners of the schools you are interested in practicing at.

Another way that you can find a Bikram-lineage school – owned by a Bikram-trained teacher – is on the directory of the Original Hot Yoga Association website. Original Hot Yoga Association Logo Bikram Yoga

For an easy-to-read-and-share link, check out our handy comparison chart here: Bikram Yoga vs. Hot Yoga.

If you are interested in experiencing the benefits of a Ghosh lineage and/or Bikram Yoga practice, let us know if you need help finding an experienced teacher or lineage school.

 

*this is my estimate based on social media groups of certified teachers