by Ann Chrapkiewicz
For almost 20 years now, I have been sharing a certain topic with anyone and everyone who might want to listen.
Just a few minutes on this website will tell you what that topic has been.
An hour spent with our book on Bikram Yoga and Autoimmune Disease will also give you a clue.
Answer: “What happens to humans when they do Bikram Yoga.”
Yep, that’s it. Pretty obvious, I know. 🙂
All of the physical and mental health benefits, the scientific research behind it, the personal stories of change and hope and resilience, the accessibility to every level of stiffness and fitness and injury, the diversity of practitioners….you name it.
It is by now – 50 years after Bikram Choudhury started teaching in the United States – an established fact that when you practice, you will get a number of predictable benefits. And especially when you break into the 4-classes-per-week frequency level, things shift dramatically for the better.
But here is why I am bringing it up:
My way of sharing this topic may very well be the exact opposite of the way we should all be thinking about it!
For those of us who have been practicing for a few years or more, we have created a new “normal” state. One quite different from our pre-Bikram-Yoga selves. This state involves a much-slower aging process, and in most cases, an experience and appearance of reversal of the aging process. Our energy is different, our depression is less, our pain is reduced, our blood tests look better, our muscle tone improves over time, our mobility does not decrease, our skin glows, etc., etc.
As this process takes hold, we start to appear a bit “not normal” to those around us.
People ask: “What have YOU been doing?” Or: “You look different from everyone else.”
Our not-normal-to-everyone-else state of well-being has become… our new normal.
And we can’t imagine going back to the “old normal”.
We know when we miss practice….
Because we feel the slide back into that other state.
- Out of compassion for all of our loved ones and co-workers and friends, we urge them all to practice. So much so, that they often don’t want to hear about it anymore.
- We do this not because we are part of some cult of sweat, or belief system, or extreme fitness organization.
- We do it because we LOVE YOU and know how good you can feel!! That’s it, plain and simple.
We talk and share and invite and urge and encourage … because we know that everyone around us can have that transformation into their own new normal. That new state from which they will not want to return.
But here is the thing. I think we need to flip this whole conversation on its head. A thought experiment, if you will.
What if we understood the “normal” state of a human to be that of someone who practices Bikram Yoga regularly?
What if the lack of practicing is seen as the not-normal state?
What if we talked more about the special consequences of not practicing … instead of trying to explain to people what would happen if they did practice?
We’d have lists like this:
- Increase in depression.
- Increase in inflammation and chronic pain.
- Increased asthma symptoms and inhaler use.
- Reduced ability to focus.
- Reduction in natural strength and mobility.
- Slow yet steady age-related weight gain.
- Increase in obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
- Increased stress and tension.
Just to mention a few.
I am rearranging my thoughts on this, and many of my conversations. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.