How to Set Up Your Very Own “Hot” (or not!) Yoga Room
We could never have imagined Bikram Yoga without the traditional “hot room”! However, thanks to our practice of adapting to the hot room, we have learned to adapt to many other challenges since 2020 began…including practicing Bikram Yoga anywhere and everywhere!
Many students believe that practicing yoga online is “not for them”, or that Bikram Yoga couldn’t possibly be done away from the hot room. However, yoga is about recognizing and then breaking through unhelpful limitations, especially those of our own self-imposed narratives and preferences.
But let’s get back to YOU and YOUR yoga practice. Those who have dedicated themselves to trying something new and adapting to yoga online have strengthened their practices in so many cool and unexpected ways! Their health and well-being has continued to benefit from Bikram Yoga, and we know that yours will too! The choice is truly yours.
So…if you are ready for the benefits of yoga, regardless of the small challenges and mental excuses….
Here are some guidelines for how to set up your hot room or home space for Bikram Yoga!
You can practice in any room – or outdoors! – at a range of temperatures. We recommend a temp of 75F as a minimum.
However, if you are seeking a “hot room” experience, a small room is best, as it will maintain any added heat and humidity. Bikram Yoga is most beneficial in the range of 98F-105F with around 45% relative humidity.
Get your mat set up and find a place for your live-streaming device. A phone or laptop with a camera and wi-fi is all you need. A tidy, simple space is nice, but it is not required! Be hydrated and on a relatively empty stomach, as you normally would be for yoga.
Add a space heater and room humidifier if you can. Or run a hot shower in your bathroom to make a some steam. This will help to increase vasodilation, cardiac output, and sweat! All of this increases Bikram Yoga’s benefits by amplifying the tourniquet effect in each posture. Again, the heat and humidity are not required, but definitely beneficial and worth it if you are able.
A body-length mirror is helpful, so that you can see your postures and make corrections. Some students even watch their standing postures in the live-stream video on their device.
Some students practice in small, more enclosed spaces. Others practice in larger rooms, porches, and sunny backyards.
Some find it helpful to turn up the audio on their device so that the teacher’s voice fills the room.
Sign on to class 5 minutes early, and enjoy your 90-minute break from the stresses of the outside world!
We are so happy to welcome Angela Moulin Sinclair to Bikram Yoga Capital Area! Her passion for this yoga as well as her nearly two decades of experience make her such a wonderful and positive part of our yoga community.
Angela and I first met at a Mary Jarvis Lake Michigan Shapeshifting retreat in the summer of 2018, but our shared history goes back to many similar experiences in the early 2000s at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training (at La Cienega Headquarters, Los Angeles).
Both before and after we met, we have shared experiences and a similar outlook on this yoga. Her story is a good one; we hope you enjoy it! –Ann
I was born with a birth defect called Hip Dysplasia, a condition where the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thighbone. This allows the hip joint to dislocate easily and has led to knocked knees, as well as the inability for my feet to touch one another when I stand. The medical treatment for this condition is usually surgery, heavy pain pills, and arthritis medication.
I grew up in Humboldt, Kansas. My mother did not allow any western medicine to be practiced on me as an infant nor into my teen years. I developed arthritis as a teen, went to a chiropractor weekly; I also took supplements and over-the-counter pain pills (mainly aspirin). I even wore a hip brace all thru jr high and high school. My mother tried so many things with me to such an extent that I now have a hard time swallowing pills of any sorts.
When I did any extreme activities I would be in severe pain. I also could not sit nor stand for long without pain. I was told I would probably need to have hip replacement surgery later in life.
As a result of not being active, I was an overweight teen and young adult. I essentially have been overweight and in pain most of my life. As a teen, I turned to alcohol and marijuana to ease pain.
My Path to Bikram Yoga
In January 2000, my brother died of a very aggressive cancer of the stomach lining. Even though my mother raised us to be against western medicine, my brother would have fought his cancer with it. However, he was not given any chance to live when he was diagnosed.
When my brother died, he had lived in Boulder for almost 20 years. He had moved to Colorado to enjoy the active lifestyle that he had always had. He was always so healthy, and he loved the outdoors.
As he was dying, he talked to me about a yoga that heated the room. He knew I would struggle when he died, and he wanted me to find something that would help me. He had not actually tried it, but he thought I would enjoy it since I was already doing yoga and some other low impact activities for my birth defect.
So on Memorial Day Weekend of 2000, my daughter (who was 9 at the time), my new boyfriend, and I went to Boulder to decorate my brother’s grave and to spend time in memory of him. I went a tried a class at Radha Garcia’s yoga school (Bikram Yoga Boulder); my first teacher was Esak. I sat a lot. I remember that it was so hot I could not bare it!
I really did not have good heat tolerance to begin with. In 1986 on a river float trip with friends and family, I overheated and had a mild heat stroke. From that point on, heat was very hard for me to deal with.
But in doing the class, I felt very close to my brother. And after that first class I walked freely for what felt like the first time in my life. It was the first time I felt so little pain and not much of a limp. I took no pain medications that day, which was a big deal because pain meds were a part of my life then. I was 32 years old at the time.
Making Bikram Yoga Part of My Life
At the time I was a single mom living in Lawrence, Kansas, working as an independent hairdresser. But I found excuses to go to Boulder every chance I could, so I could take Bikram Yoga. (Lawrence had no Bikram Yoga at that time.)
I ended up marrying that man who went to my first Bikram class with me, and we were married for 17 years.
In early spring 2001, a lady from Lawrence who had gone to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training had just opened a hot studio in her garage. It fit 7 people in it, and our changing room was a tent set up in her yard. You had to get there early because once 7 people showed up she could not fit any more in!
I didn’t like the class very much because she was pretty mean. She just didn’t have much compassion – I guess maybe she had never suffered. If you sat down, she would ask you to leave. If you didn’t get in a posture in time, she would call you out by your name and say that everyone should egg you when class is over because you were making everyone else stay in class longer.
Her classes were very stressful for me and gave me a lot of anxiety. But while in class what I did feel was closer to my brother. And I got relief in my hips and lower back…and I had less limping when I walked out. I learned to block the teacher out and just do the yoga.
New teachers eventually came back from Bikram’s Teacher Training. I was a silent practitioner and worked hard, so more and more the owner left me alone. Even though she did not seem to have much compassion, I always loved the structure and discipline she taught. So I think she knew I respected her and was going to give my respect. When I cut hair, I always talked a lot about the yoga and promoted her yoga school. So we grew to have an ok relationship.
Dreaming of Bikram Yoga Teacher Training
Within 6 months of starting to practice Bikram Yoga, I started having dreams of traveling a long way from home and meeting a man of great wisdom. My dreams also included driving down a highway, and along the way seeing an assortment of garage doors, painted with all kinds of beautiful designs on them.
In one of the dreams I would have, I would be sitting, waiting for a presence to enter the room, but when this presence entered, I felt so inferior I would hide in the back closets. I didn’t tell the school owner about my dream, but I did tell my new husband. He was very supportive and encouraged me to attend Bikram’s training.
When I approached the Bikram Yoga school owner in Lawrence about going to the teacher training, she told me she would write me a recommendation letter, but she said she wouldn’t hire me. She would remind me that I was not very good at the practice, but she did write me the letter I needed.
So I went to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training (BYTT) in Spring 2003. I did it because I felt I needed to share the great news of this medicine that didn’t need to be injected nor swallowed.
I also had the support of my daughter (who was 12 at the time) as well as my new husband. I felt crazy leaving her and a new husband and a very successful hair salon business! I had never left my daughter for more than a weekend at that point. I would make jokes about the fact I had to go to this training so I could make these dreams go away.
Arrival in Los Angeles
When I got to training, it felt like déja vu. I saw these closets in the back of the training room (the ones from my dreams where I wanted to hide). And I felt intimidated by just about everyone.
Everyone except Bikram. Bikram gave me a sense of acceptance and compassion that the “senior” teachers and other students did not.
One weekend, my group went to Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship center. And there were those garage doors with painted murals on them…from my dream! At that moment, I knew I had made the right decision to come to TT.
Compassion and Acceptance from Bikram
I detoxed (cried!) a lot during my training. So much so that Bikram nicknamed me “Bawl Baby”.
I laughed so hard when he called me that, I stopped crying. In that moment, he smiled, and we have gotten along ever since. I have found so much warmth and compassion in Bikram.
I went back to his teacher training to get re-certified in 2006, 2009, and 2012, in addition to visiting him a lot at his trainings in the U.S., Hawaii, and Mexico. I even sent my daughter Alex to training in Spring 2012.
I have had great experiences with Bikram and have always felt safe around him.
The best part of my training was when I bounced off of Robert Downey Jr.’s chest. He was at our training working with Bikram and some of his teachers to break his heroin addiction.
Bikram asked all of us to not speak to him nor bother him in any way. So one day I was walking with my head down, and I bumped into Robert Downey Jr. as he was walking down the hall. I looked up, saw it was him, and said nothing.
The next thing I knew, a huge fight broke out in the lobby with a man that walked in and was insulting Rajashree. I looked over at Bikram, and as he looked back, he came over to me, put his arm around me, and said, “Bawl Baby, what should I do?”
I replied, “Kick him out! He is insulting your wife.”
I am not sure why that sticks with me the most, but it was incredible to me that he would come to me in a split second and ask me for advice.
Back in Lawrence
After I finished the nine weeks of training, I went back to Lawrence. The owner had told me she was never going to have me teach, but I practiced daily. One day, one of the school helpers called the owner (on a day that the owner’s kid was sick), and told her that she should let me teach. So I taught a class, and the students loved me. I cried at the end of that class with such gratitude. I was in love with teaching.
The student body requested me, and even though I didn’t have the blessing of the school owner, she put me on her schedule. The owner would never call me her manager because of her own ego, but I basically started managing her school while I operated my small hair shop.
Meeting Mary Jarvis
In 2004, I met Mary Jarvis while teaching and practicing in Lawrence. The USA Yoga Competitions had just started in the Fall of 2003, so Mary would come and work with the competitors. I stayed in touch with Mary, and whenever I could, I would go see her wherever she was teaching. I would try to talk to her at the competitions whenever I could attend them.
Later, when I had my own school, I invited Mary to visit at least once a year.
Because of practicing with Mary, I stopped used alcohol and marijuana as self-medication. With Mary’s Shapeshifting plus the regular Bikram yoga class, my body just rejects those two drugs.
I am 51 years old, and I still have both of my natural hips!
With Mary’s creation plus the yoga, I have been able to control my weight, which helps to have less weight bearing on my hips. I feel confident that with regular practice, I will continue to keep feeling better physically.
Looking for the Place for My School
In 2007, my husband was taking over his father’s insurance brokerage, and we had to move to Kansas City. No one had yet opened a Bikram Yoga school there. I told my husband that the benefits were so good and that I could not live without the yoga.
I had no idea how nor where I was going to have a school. At that time, we had a 2-year-old, along with my daughter starting high school.
And then…here came the dreams again.
This time I knew it was Bikram who was in my dreams. In the dream, we sat together on a hill with beautiful green grass.
I knew nothing about Kansas City at the time. When I told my husband about the area I thought my dream could be about, he would say, “If that’s the place, I think it’s unsafe.”
One day, I put my toddler son in this old truck we had at the time, and I drove around the area.
So I pulled up in front of a bus stop. I thought: “Are you kidding me? This is where I am supposed to open?”
There was zero parking. But I did see a space for lease with a phone number on it. I called the number and asked to look at this spot.
I spoke with the realtor and explained to him about this yoga practice. He said he had another realtor friend in Chicago who had leased a space to a Bikram Yoga school, and that it had been very successful. This was all at the time before Google made it easy to find things, so a lot of this was word of mouth, knowing the right person, or driving around a lot to search for available spots for lease.
Ultimately, the Kansas City realtor helped finance the build-out of my school, as he was building a new shopping center in an area that had been known for drugs and crime. He wanted to change the neighborhood and believed in me and the potential of this yoga.
The yoga school really made a difference in the neighborhood. A chiropractor later moved in to the shopping center, along with several other small busineses, and the neighborhood really got nicer.
Opening Bikram Yoga Kansas City
So I opened our first Bikram Yoga school in Kansas City. I commuted an hour each way – every day except for Sunday – until my daughter graduated from high school.
On my grand opening day – March 2, 2007 – I made $12,000. There had been a lot of doubt – on the part of other local teachers – about whether I could teach, and whether I could even open a successful studio.
So when I had such a good opening day, I called Bikram to tell him the good news; he and I could not believe it.
The media always says we are franchises, but we just never have been. Bikram never once asked me for any money. I did have to sign an affiliation agreement that I would use his name and only use his teachers. But I was proud to do it.
For almost 11 years, I operated under the name Bikram Yoga College of India, Kansas City, Missouri.
In 2017, I changed my name to Hot Yoga Cure Kansas City. Partly because I added a few classes on my schedule that weren’t strictly Bikram Yoga, but also because I had listened to many people who were full of judgment and hate towards Bikram. People who didn’t know the man (Bikram) that I knew.
But I know in my heart and in my experience that his method and his dialogue WORK! I feel very strongly that changing the name was the wrong decision for me.
If I ever reopened, I would definitely call it Bikram Yoga again, and I would stick to the Bikram Yoga practice.
At my school in Kansas City, I taught Jack Black, Alex Rodriguez, Jewell, and Idina Menzel, among others. Also some local celebrities such as Rex Huddler (announcer for the Royals), and retired baseball player Brian McRae (NY Mets, Chicago Cubs, and KC Royals).
Curing My Emotional Eating
When my brother had died back in 2000, I became an emotional eater; I went from 140 lbs. to 200 lbs. in six months. I didn’t realize for years, though, that I was eating as a way to distract me from my painful emotions.
At a certain point in my yoga practice, one of my teachers challenged me to stop drinking water in class. That I could bring it in, but not touch it.
I soon realized that I was using my water during class like a security blanket. Anytime I was uncomfortable, I would drink water. It was just like the emotional eating. Something to distract myself from whatever physical or emotional discomfort I was feeling at the time.
When I stopped using the water like that during class, I also stopped the emotional eating. What freedom!!
So, many years later, (around 2007-08) we had a Hallowe’en class at my school, where we all wore costumes for class. I dressed up as a baby, and I had a baby’s bottle for my water bottle.
It symbolized the way I used to try to escape discomfort or pain with a distraction – both my chugging of water during class and my emotional eating.
Closing My School
In 2019, my life took a turn that I would not have wished for – nor would want for anyone. My husband filed for divorce at the same time that my yoga school’s building sold (and all business had to move out). Right around the same time, my father had a massive heart attack and was put in a nursing home.
At that time, I chose not to relocate my school; I wanted to be available to help my father pass away.
After my father passed in September 2019, I thought about reopening a yoga school in Kansas City, but I was struggling to find a location and hitting many roadblocks. I even looked for other jobs and was doing some hairdressing again.
But I soon realized I was not supposed to have any other job besides teaching Bikram Yoga! So I recently decided to travel to schools and teach; that maybe this is the right job for me right now. I know that I need the medicine of Bikram Yoga.
This way I can continue my passion and path to share the good news about this yoga practice and about Mary Jarvis’s Shapeshifting.
A New Start in 2020
As of early January 2020, I hadn’t had a regular Bikram practice at a school since April 2019. Up until I arrived here at Bikram Yoga Capital Area, I had been limping and feeling crippled almost constantly.
Now, after less than 10 days of practicing regularly (including some doubles!), I am already walking noticeably better.
The Bikram sequence done in the hot room is the only yoga I have found that takes the pain away. I have learned that my practice needs to be daily. Five times a week is the minimum I should go.
I have also found that I need to be practicing Mary Jarvis’ Yoga Shapeshifting regularly. With Mary’s practice, my feet are closer to touching each other than they have ever been. And it lessens the squeezing together of my inner knees, so my knee pain is less. What Mary created from her car accident is so healing for injuries and joint problems.
What I Love About Bikram Yoga
What I love about Bikram Yoga the most is the structure, the discipline, and the fact that I can handle my hardships. It makes me feel forgiveness and love from the depths of my heart and soul.
I love that I can walk without pain and with little limp. That I can be active without needing to take pain meds.
I have recovered from the tendency to have heat stroke and now can tolerate all levels of temperatures. I love that I sleep well, and that I overall just feel good.
I love empowering people to find their fullest potential, and to seek truth.
Just over three years ago, Michigan State University Assistant Football Coach Ron Burton started practicing Bikram Yoga with us. Since then, he has been telling every coach and athlete he knows about this practice, encouraging them to come to class, and bringing his kids to class whenever they are in town.
They call each other “coach”, so if you ever hear Ann say that in class, you know who she is talking to! 🙂
Here you can read a short interview between Coach Burton and “Coach Chrapkiewicz”! 🙂
Can you tell us about your background professionally, as an athlete and a coach?
I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and earned a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina, where I graduated with a B.A. in 1987. I then played linebacker in the National Football League for 4 years (1987-1990). I played for the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Raiders. Following that I went to graduate school, and became a graduate assistant in football at North Carolina from 1991-93.
I have been a college football assistant coach for 26 years – now going into my 7th season at Michigan State University. (You can read more about Coach Burton on his MSU profile here.)
What is your experience with yoga practice in general?
My yoga experience started with a few times during the spring in college, then a few times during my off-seasons in my professional football career. While living in Colorado, I would search for workouts from our cable networks. So I rediscovered yoga in my basement believe it or not, and started following some of the 20-, 30-, and 60- minute yoga workouts.
I just kept remembering how great I felt physically and mentally after a session. I was refreshed, my body increased its fluidity and limberness, and the clarity of my mind and focus was always increased.
We had been living in East Lansing for a few years, when Golf Coach Victor Whipp told me about Bikram Yoga. I came to Bikram Yoga Capital Area for the first time in May of 2016 and have been coming as much as I can since then. More frequently in the off-season, but during season whenever I can, too.
How does Bikram Yoga relate to teaching and coaching?
I am just a novice in Bikram Yoga, but I view it as a fundamental. It is a necessary foundation that helps improve the physical and mental side of any sport or hobby.
The class connects with “we” …. I get to be coached by someone else in a hobby or sport that I know nothing about.
This yoga forces you to listen fully in the moment, to understand what you are hearing, and then respond. It forces you to focus. Each time in class, I’m learning something new to further improve one of the 26 postures. I learn how to adjust each posture with precise movements – all according to my ability in the moment.
As a coach, you are constantly trying to improve your way of getting your point across. The instructors here speak with clarity, and effective tone of voice. They respond to and troubleshoot questions. And they do it without being in a hurry, or loud. And yet it is so effective.
This improves me as a coach because I get to see, hear, and understand a different way of teaching and getting a point across. Coach Ann Chrapkiewicz has been a great example for me as a coach. Not just talk…action!
How does Bikram Yoga contribute to athletic development?
Bikram Yoga definitely contributes to the development of an athlete, regardless of sport! With a consistent practice, it contributes to mental development – it improves focus, clarity, discipline, and listening skills. Physically, it improves range of motion at the arms, hips, core, and spine. It feels like it is rinsing the body of toxins.
It’s a lifetime journey!
Here is a video of Coach Burton and the whole class practicing the backward bending portion of Half Moon Pose:
What are some of the benefits that you have personally experienced with Bikram Yoga?
For me personally, the benefits have been numerous. My focus and clarity have improved, as has my patience. My stress level has definitely been reduced. My listening skills are better. Physically, I have an overall better understanding of my body’s weaknesses and strength. My posture is better, my flexibility has improved, and my breathing is so much better.
I have had numerous athletic injuries in the past – torn pectoral muscles, sprained ankles, pulled groin, broken fingers and thumb, torn ACL, meniscus tear, and multiple neck strains. The way that Bikram Yoga includes modifications of depth in all of the postures helps you have a starting point. So even with all of these injuries I can start each posture correctly. And then when I try the same postures from class to class, I can see improvement in those injured or weak areas.
During the football season, I LOVE Friday morning Bikram Yoga to end my work week, and Sunday morning class before church to start my work week. My goal this year is to add Wednesday evening class to my schedule.
One of my New Year’s resolutions this year has been to become more consistent in attendance at Bikram Yoga Capital Area. Why? Simply because I LOVE IT!
Meet Briona Jones, 29, doctoral candidate in English at Michigan State University and former Division I basketball player.
Briona’s story is so moving and her reflections so articulate, we decided to share them in multiple blog posts! Here is Part I, which focuses mostly on the physical benefits Briona has created with her practice.
I was born with rickets, so as a child I was able to walk, but I wasn’t able to run. I was also prone to dislocation of my knees. Corrective surgery is usually needed for those types of situations, but my legs got better without it. My mom would take me out in the sun a lot and gave me vitamins.
I started playing basketball in middle school (around 2002), and in 2006 I had a bad knee dislocation at a basketball tournament – my knee cap went to the back of my leg! I had surgery the following year and it went well.
College Athletics, Surgery, and Recovery
I played Division I basketball in college at Kennesaw State University. I ended up developing “jumpers knee”, which is a type of tendonitis of the knee. It caused a sharp pain anytime I jumped, ran, or stopped abruptly. I could not run without sharp pain.
I had an MRI in 2011, which revealed three holes in the cartilage layer below my knee cap. The surgery I ended up having involved Platelet Plasma Recovery, the injection of fetal cartilage, and realignment of my kneecap!
Even with surgery and physical therapy, my leg never went back to its full capacity of being a leg.
At physical therapy, they ask you to rate your pain on a level of 1 to 10. Well, in 2011 and 2012, I had a pain level of 15 on a frequent basis. The swelling did eventually go down, and I continued to run, until 2015. But I would say my knee never totally recovered.
Pain and My Quality of Life
Cooking most of my meals is a really important part of my life.
This might seem simple, but in order to cook a meal, you have to stand, right?
From 2011 until I started Bikram Yoga in 2017, my knee would swell at least 4 or 5 times a week while I was cooking dinner. The pain level would be between a 7 and a 9, and I would always need to sit down and ice my knee, just to finish preparing a meal.
I never, ever expected that the pain in my body would dissipate. It just seemed like it was always going to be that way.
Journey to Michigan State University
I came to Michigan State in 2015 to enroll in the doctoral program in the Department of English.
I remember that when I was working out and running, I would still have intense swelling in my knee. My previous normal running distance would be five miles, easily, but at this point I could barely run two miles. I was frustrated, so I stopped running. My physical therapists here suggested that I try biking.
In September 2017, I had an MRI; it confirmed that I had arthritis and tendonitis.
I tried going to physical therapy here at MSU, but it was $15 a session, and they wanted me to come 3 times per week. I really could not afford that, the recovery was not going to be fast enough, and overall I just was not satisfied with the care. It seemed to me like it was going to end up in me having to have surgery again!
Bikram Yoga Showed Up
In the fall of 2017, it was time for me to write my proposal and study for exams, and it was the most unstructured part of my life. It was a time where I was able to set my own schedule, and I knew I wanted a more holistic way of tending to my needs and my health. I had been meditating, but I was looking for more.
I live directly behind BYCA, and one day in October, after I left my physical therapist, I thought, “I am just gonna come to Bikram”. Although I had heard of Bikram Yoga before, I had no idea of the kind of healing possibility it would have!
It’s a one hundred percent healing venture.
I practiced on and off for the first two months and then started practicing consistently in December 2017.
Physical Therapy & Respiratory Benefits
In physical therapy, they always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Prior to Bikram Yoga I had pain levels of 7 to 9 most of the time.
Once I started doing Bikram Yoga consistently, I had swelling only 2 to 3 times in the first four months! As of April 2018, I might occasionally have a level 2 pain. And that was it.
Then, in December 2018, after only a year of practice, I could play basketball every week with no pain. It is amazing!
It seems like what physical therapy is trying to do is similar to Bikram Yoga. Since practicing yoga regularly, I have felt the contraction of the knees and thighs, and noticed how my quadriceps have developed without any weights.
I should also point out that I am asthmatic. During my first few Bikram Yoga classes, I couldn’t breathe well. But by four or five classes in, I was able to breathe and keep up with the group.
And before that – throughout my life – I had worked out a lot!
Stay tuned for many more aspects of Briona’s healing experiences… Part II, coming soon!
Meet Melissa, 40, of Williamston, Michigan! Melissa started practicing with us at Bikram Yoga Capital Area in March of 2014 and to date has practiced over 725 classes! Melissa wrote this super thoughtful blog as part of 2017’s Spring Yoga Buddy Challenge. I am so grateful for Melissa’s insights, her quiet strength and presence at the yoga school, her patience with my backlog of stories needing to be shared (!), and her wonderful writing.
Hi! I’m Melissa and this is my first ever attempt at a blog, so in true yoga fashion, I ask for no judgment 🙂 !!!
I’m very much a visual person so I plan to use analogies to help bring you into the inner workings of my brain. (Good luck while you’re in there!) I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga for a little over three years and am completing my second Yoga Buddy Challenge. In order to complete this buddy challenge, the last piece for me was to write a blog (what we won’t do for a free t-shirt!!).
When trying to figure out what to write, one of my yoga buddies (who was also one of my instructors) suggested that I write about something I have thought about in class. Sounds like a trick to me! The ultimate goal is to think about nothing in class, just focus on the instructions and my breathing.
So what did I think about in class that night? Yep, what I’m going to write about. My ideas were all over the place, how would I choose just one thing?
Then I realized, my scattered thoughts are the perfect topic! Envision trying to wrangle up a herd of cats. That’s what it feels like when I’m supposed to keep my thoughts in check and only focus on the words and my breathing. Cats are all over the place!
Here’s a little more about my experience with Bikram and herding cats.
When I started Bikram yoga my thoughts during class were very different than they are now. While I do love yoga, I’m not a fan of heat or sweating non-stop for 90 minutes. For me, the initial months of practice were all about survival mode. I couldn’t believe that I allowed myself to be submitted to this torture and would bet my life that I could smell burning flesh. How was this even legal?
I still remember my first class. I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave the room so I thought I could escape the heat by laying down. Wrong! It was like that movie, The Fog, and I could just feel the heat rolling over my body like fog.
There was no escape! Somehow I managed to make it back for another class where I tried to trick myself into thinking I was on a tropical beach somewhere. The problem with that is, I didn’t have my umbrella drink or a cool pool to jump in to cool me down.
Looking for Distractions
As I went to more and more classes, I continued to try different techniques to distract me and get me through the class. I LOVED distractions. They helped make the 90 minutes move a little faster.
I would find myself in awe of those that did not have the “typical yoga body”, yet had the confidence to wear barely anything. (To give you a visual, a typical yoga body stereotype could be: someone who is long, lean, flexible, probably a vegan and/or health nut, etc.) Here I was trying to hide my curves in a tank and leggings, as I surely didn’t have the kind of body one would flaunt! I wonder what gave them the confidence?
I also really loved when I had people with tattoos near me. It provided me actual art to look at and gave me the opportunity to wonder what the story behind the tattoo was. The list of distractions goes on.
For various reasons, it took me almost a year before I started to make Bikram part of my almost daily routine. (My goal is every day, but I average about four times per week.)
And the benefits start clicking…
I’ve made Bikram sound SO enticing so far, how on Earth did I start going on a regular basis? Honestly, I don’t remember having a “light bulb moment” where everything just clicked. It was more like the clicking of a roller coaster climbing towards the top of the hill. Once I actually started to put more focus on the words and tried to quiet my mind, little by little “things” just started to make sense.
The environment and the community are so encouraging, welcoming, supportive and non-judgemental. Click.
It didn’t take me too long to realize that I too could shed the tank and the leggings. Nobody cared what I looked like, they were focused on themselves. Click.
My migraines had dramatically decreased. Click.
My allergies seemed to be better. Click.
I felt better in general. Click.
I was less stressed. Click.
My posture was better. Click.
My thoughts outside of yoga were changing. I was becoming less critical and more patient and carefree. Click.
I realized that Bikram could be an escape from the outside world. No cell phones in the studio meant two hours where the outside world could not reach me. Click. Click. Click!!
By this time, I’m heading down that first thrilling hill of the roller coaster! I wasn’t exactly sure what I had gotten myself into, but knew that Bikram had made a lot of positive changes in my life. I wasn’t ready to hop off the roller coaster just yet, so I decided to invest in a year unlimited package and see what happened.
Still Happily Riding the Roller Coaster
After two years of regular practice, you’d think that I’d have this mental focus thing down. HA! As you know, roller coasters have their ups, downs and plateaus. I realize and accept my body has limitations and those limitations can and will vary. Naturally this also means my practice will be different from day to day. Some days I feel like I rocked it out, some days I feel like I got rocked and others I feel like I did just enough to “pass”.
What I started to realize is that the teachers are right. (I know, shocking, right!) The practice is 99% mental and 1% physical.
On the days that I feel like I rocked it out, my focus was like a laser. The other two types of classes….. cats! Trying to either herd a little or a lot of cats!!
Changing Thought Itself…sometimes with the help of Billy Ocean
As you may recall, I mentioned earlier my thoughts during class have changed (i.e. they have not been eliminated). Most of the time, it’s no longer survival mode thoughts. I rarely think I smell burning flesh. Admittedly, there are still some classes where I look around to see who I might need to douse with water and hope it’s not myself that is on fire!
The majority of the time I now recognize when the negative thoughts are trying to creep in, and my focus turns to what I’m going to do about it.
Do I really need a break? Can I put more effort into a posture?
On occasion I will sing a Billy Ocean song to my negative thoughts. Of course I have to adjust the lyrics a bit.
Let me sing it to you… I said hey (hey) you (you), get outta of my mind (get out of my mind), get into my car…
Essentially, I was singing to my negative thoughts (yes, complete with back-up vocals) and telling them to drive away. (I’m sure it’s not what the writer had in mind for the song!) Then I almost immediately think, wait a minute, I’m supposed to be focused on the teacher’s words, not singing in my head (even if is with good intentions). Focus Melissa, focus!
So, the question is, how does one herd the cats and keep out all of the mind’s chatter? That is the million dollar question!
Words like determination and perseverance come to mind. Those are actions that everyone is capable of, if they put their mind to it. HA! Get it? What is it in people that makes them capable of having such focus on a consistent basis to make them determined or to persevere? I think of my practices where I feel like I rocked it out and wonder, “What happened on those days?”
Some of my most intense classes are when I had hot yoga guy in my mirror (you can determine what you visualize: hot yoga-guy or hot-yoga guy). I had no choice but to focus on myself in the mirror or risk the chances of making eye contact. Awkward!
Other classes where I rocked it, I honestly don’t know why! The stars had aligned, it was a perfect storm, everything just seemed to be firing on all cylinders… whatever analogy you would like to insert.
Really, I think this is part of the reason that I continue to come back to class. Will I have another rockin’ class today?? There’s a mystery/puzzle about it that intrigues me.
I can see the overall positive impact Bikram has had for me (and for others), but I don’t particularly love spending 90 minutes sweating my butt off. I would much rather sleep in, take my dogs for a walk, catch a movie… you name it and I’d probably be up for it if it keeps me out of the hot room. Yet, I keep coming back and have worked it into my weekly routine. I even try to get all of my family and friends to come to class. I encourage them to try to get past the “survival” stage so they can experience all of the positive that Bikram has in store for them!
Amazing Yoga Questions
I could probably think of a million other random thoughts that I have or have had (i.e. Why is Bikram not covered by health insurance? If everyone practiced yoga, would we have world peace? How is it that the mind, which is not even a physical thing, can have so much control over a person? If the goal is to focus on the teacher’s words, why is it so routine? I know why the sequence itself is routine, but why always start with the right side? We know what’s coming next, so it’s easier to go on auto-pilot. Why not help us out and switch it up and start with the left side now and then? Will we ever have animals in class? Music?) …but I don’t want my first blog to turn into my first novel!
To start to wrap it up, what I have learned so far is it’s hard work to try to keep the mind in check, even for a brief moment in time. I don’t have the key on how to master laser beam focus (or how to wrangle a lot of cats).
What I do know is in my three years of Bikram classes, a lot of positive changes have happened to me both mentally and physically, even with classes where I was on auto-pilot or they were just plain bad. Why wouldn’t I keep coming back to try to figure out how to have more classes where I rocked it out? I can’t imagine how I would feel if the majority of my classes were that intense (Holy smokes, my flesh might actually catch on fire)!
How I Got into This in the First Place
In closing, I never explained how I even went to my first Bikram class. I was always curious what happened in hot yoga classes, but was nervous about the heat and assumed I didn’t have the right body for it (even though I had been doing some form of yoga for over 10 years and should have known better than to stereotype!). It was one of those “non-typical” yoga bodied people that I noticed coming out of the studio one day. I figured if he can do it, I can do it and went to my first class shortly thereafter.
My point in saying this and for writing this blog, is you never know what kind of an impact you may have on a person. That person will never know that by him simply walking out of the studio gave me enough courage to give it a try. If my experiences – as a person who doesn’t love 90 minutes of sweat, heat, and torture (j/k, not kidding) yet finds herself back there almost every day – can intrigue someone else to give it a try and potentially change his/her life in a positive way, why not?
People can use some positive in their lives! I encourage everyone to give it a try! The most you have to lose is 90 minutes in a day and some sweat, but what you stand to gain is all within your control!
Hope to see you in class!
You never know whose life will turn around when they start practicing Bikram Yoga! Feel free to share the goodness and healing with anyone who might need a little boost.
Meet Sarah Cook, 34, of St. John’s, Michigan. Sarah started practicing Bikram Yoga with us in the spring of 2014, upon a recommendation from her sister. As of this writing, Sarah has practiced exactly 365 classes! Sarah has had some exciting updates recently, but her whole history of benefits is very diverse, and quite exciting!
“Before I started yoga, I had gotten a bone bruise (near-fracture) close to my knee, and after 4 weeks on crutches, I was supposed to do physical therapy. Instead, with permission of my specialist, I practiced Bikram Yoga 3 times a week for 6 weeks. After that, the specialist said I was completely healed, I did not need any physical therapy, and she would not need to see me anymore.
“In my first year of yoga I lost 30 pounds….and I have kept it off! I used to gain about 5 pounds every winter, but now it doesn’t stick with me anymore.
“I had several previous wrist sprains and injuries and had so much pain I could not use scissors. Within a few months of practicing, I could use scissors again and the pain was gone.
“My need for asthma medication was drastically reduced. Before Bikram Yoga I was taking a daily inhaler at 220 mcg every day – sometimes twice a day. As of Spring 2017 I was taking half of that dose, and I only needed it an average of once a week!
“My sciatica also went away. My dad walks with a cane because of similar issues, and it was starting to develop in me. Before yoga I could hardly carry my toddler for a minute without intense pain. After practicing regularly, I was able to carry her an entire mile without pain.”
“I recently went through a Candida overgrowth and hormone imbalance. I treated it with a massive change in my diet, and that was very difficult. I had a lot of anxiety and depression as a result of making these changes so quickly. Practicing Bikram Yoga not only helped my hormones balance out quicker, but it made it possible for me to take a complete break from the stress and cost of meal planning and preparation.
“Despite my asthma, my lung capacity has always been slightly above average (111% before yoga). But now, 3 years into yoga, it has increased to 116%.”
“As an adult I have always been 5 foot 3 and 3/4. At my check-up last week I was 5 foot 4 and 1/2 inch. At my check-up this month, the nurses looked at my chart and could not figure out what was going on!”
All we are doing is the not-at-all-secret secret of a regular Bikram Yoga practice. Feel free to share the goodness and healing with anyone who might need a little boost.
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
instructional session for Sequence A
Arm Balancing Strength, Core Strength, and Leg-Behind-the-Head Mobility
Monday, July 10
instructional session for Sequence B
Full Backward Bending Awareness, Inversions, and Pranayama
Monday, July 17
instructional session for Sequence A
Arm Balancing Strength, Core Strength, and Leg-Behind-the-Head Mobility
Monday, July 24
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.
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.
An important yoga-related question occurs commonly with regards to Fixed Firm Posture:
I hear something like: “When am I going to be able to do the posture?”
I smile in response: “What are you talking about? You are already doing it. I have seen you do it several times a week for the past 5 months.”
“But I am terrible at it. When am I going to be good at it?”
The question I must ask in return:
What do you mean by “doing” a posture? Or being good at it? And what is the purpose of the posture?
Let us say that you are thirsty for a drink of water. Very thirsty. As in you just ran a mile unexpectedly on a hot, sunny day. You have been breathing hard and were not hydrated beforehand. You arrive at a fountain of fresh, clean water, and a friend of yours is even standing there, holding out a large glass of this water that he has just filled for you.
This angel of a friend says to you, “You look so thirsty. I got this water ready for you and even squeezed a little bit of lemon in it.”
What do you do? Take the water, right? Drink it blissfully and in complete appreciation for the water, the fountain, and the friend. And maybe even ask for a second glass. You feel every drop of it soothing your dry mouth and thirsty body. Heaven. You drink the water to relieve your thirst. Plain and simple.
You do not think about whether you are drinking it as well as someone else drinks a glass of water.
But am I good enough?
Well, you know you are good enough to drink the water when you are thirsty, right? How “good” you are probably doesn’t even cross your mind. You just fulfill the need.
We can apply the same simplicity to therapeutic yoga postures, especially the difficult ones.
Let us say that you have tight ankles, old foot injuries, bad knees, tight quadriceps, or poor leg circulation.
A lifetime – or even just a few years – of misuse, while not intentional on your part, has resulted in poor mobility, slowed healing, stiffness, or pain. Not to mention disillusionment with your own body, and lack of faith in its ability to feel better with the passage of time. It just seems to get worse each year, little by little.
So you arrive in a Bikram Yoga class, perhaps at the urging of a friend. And maybe you even come back 100 times, just to get the smallest taste of the immense benefits that are available. Each day, you do the deep breathing, the standing warm-up postures, and the spine strengthening series. Not too bad, you think. I feel so good when I am done with class, my panic attacks have virtually disappeared, my depression is nearly gone, my cholesterol has dropped, and my blood sugar is balancing….this is definitely good for me.
But then you get up from the floor to do Fixed Firm Posture.
All of a sudden, the thoughts come pouring out like a waterfall: “I cannot do this posture! When am I going to be able to DO this posture? Why can other people do it better than I can? Why do I suck at this? I am not good at yoga.”
These thoughts repeat themselves for the entire 20 seconds of the first set. Finally, the teacher says it is time to change, and you turn around and flop down on the floor, partially defeated and partially relieved that it is over. “Oh, god,” you think. “I have to do it again.” Hell.
Heaven or Hell? You choose.
Now what you might not realize – or perhaps might know but often forget – is that Fixed Firm Posture is, for most sets of legs, that metaphorical fresh drink of water at the end of the hot sweaty mile you ran.
Your friend (Ms. Yoga) knows that your legs are weary, stiff, and damaged, and she has prepared you – through the first 80 minutes of the class – for the maximum benefit of Fixed Firm Posture. She has designated about a minute of your day to help you find relief, improve circulation, and generally help your legs to function better. She offers this to you joyfully and with calm persistence and faith that the posture will help in some way.
But instead of accepting the glass of water from Ms. Yoga and drinking it joyfully, your mind says, “Oh jeez. I am not good at drinking water…I cannot do it as gracefully as the other people around me. Is this over yet? I really can’t stand this but I will go through the motions. Ugh. I guess.” Little to no appreciation happening, no relaxation, and very little awareness of the breathing for those 20 seconds. Just mental torture!
And it doesn’t just happen in Fixed Firm Posture. It can happen in any posture, and it can transfer from one posture to another, as time passes in our practice and old injuries or weaknesses come to the surface.
Instead of seeing a posture for what it is – a tool for healing – the mind can turn it into a thing to be achieved. The mind can basically ruin the whole thing – not just one posture but the whole class. Just by choosing a certain set of thoughts. We generate dread and tension when relief and healing is being offered.
Drink the water. Savor every drop.
Although our beloved yoga method is intensely physical, 99% of the most wonderful lessons and benefits are mental. And this example is one of the many great shifts that can happen. The reality is that fixed firm posture is here to help you heal your legs. It regulates the circulation of blood and lymph. It removes scar tissue. And it is known as one of the best postures for the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
If you dread it or if you see it as something you need to accomplish, you can create all the suffering and mental hell you want. You might even leave the yoga class with a negative comment for social media about how this was supposed to be a beginners’ class, but clearly it was not because you couldn’t do some of the postures.
But if you consciously approach it as your friend and appreciate it for what it is, you can learn to relax while you do it….and maybe even enjoy it. Here’s to Fixed Firm Posture.
By “doing” a posture, all we mean is an honest, correct, open-minded attempt, repeated consistently. Without thought of the outcome, without comparison.
The purpose of doing a posture in a therapeutic lineage is healing, not the achievement of some particular depth of expression.
*none of the individuals pictured in this post whined or complained about Fixed Firm Posture during the making of this post.
Join us this winter for Intermediate and Therapeutic Yoga Classes in the Ghosh Lineage!
Every other Sunday, from January 15-April 23, join BYCA owner and mentoring teacher Ann Chrapkiewicz for classes focused on specific areas of the body. In these classes, we will combine therapeutic exercises for specified sections of the body with preparations for intermediate yoga postures in the Ghosh lineage. Each session is limited in size to 10 students, ensuring individual attention to each level and need.
Classes will be held from 11:15 am – 1:00 pm on the following Sundays: