Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have Some Fun

Recently, two different friends of mine expressed some misgivings about continuing to practice Bikram yoga, at least temporarily. One of them had some disagreements about particular teachers and the other one is just a little burned out and wants a break. I completely understand both of their points and it reminded me of something extremely important in practicing Bikram. It's supposed to be fun.

The fact is, many hours per day each week are spent on things that wouldn't necessarily be considered fun - work, paying bills, dealing with traffic, personal drama, whatever. Above all else, the hot room should be a place of respite, of calm and somewhere you want to be. If it stops being someplace you want to be and something you want to do, then by all means, change things up a bit.

I know exactly what it feels like to be burned out, and I've blogged about it more than once. One thing that worked for me was to stop coming every single day. I've settled in to a pretty good groove of coming "only" six days a week, sometimes five, sometimes seven. I also like to get a nice variety of teachers every week, so I'm not just taking one or two teachers in a week. My studio has enough variety that it works out ok. Plus now with my work schedule, I get to take at different times and see a larger variety of other students, which is nice. Above all else, I just don't take things too seriously in class. I try my best but I don't stress over the postures. I certainly pay close attention to what I'm doing and always try to improve, but yoga lasts forever, so I'm not going to get too concerned if I'm having a rough class on a particular day.

Of course, what I describe above is what works for me. Plenty of people could be burned out coming six days a week or need to do something else to keep things interesting. If coming to class isn't fun anymore, then by all means, do something to change it up. Talk to your teachers about it, talk to other students and see what works best for you. If you've been coming a long time, you already know the benefits, but sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Making Shapes

The following is a guest post I did for the Bikram 101 blog about a year and half ago. I've updated it a bit and added a few things. It's one of my favorite posts I've written and I was thinking about it recently, as our studio has another 30 day challenge going on and a number of people are dedicating themselves to the 30 day (or longer) journey. Plus I've picked up a number of readers over the past year and half (thank you!) and I want to make sure they can see this posting I did, since it technically never appeared on my website before.

"I had a very interesting discussion with a teacher a few weeks ago about the difference between practicing Bikram yoga vs. making shapes with your body. This topic came up as I was lamenting my lack of flexibility, and complaining that there are so many students that are more flexible than me. While many of these students are indeed very good, a few of them are just, well, making shapes. Having a good practice isn't just showing up and moving your body into different positions for 90 minutes. Just imagine doing the postures in the right sequence in the heated room, but add in loud music, people talking, wandering around the room, leaving the room, drinking water whenever they want, etc. Do you think you'd get a lot of that class? Of course not!

Of all the things I pay attention to when I'm practicing, it all begins with my focus. When that's good, then the breathing is good, the discipline is good, and the class just flows. If my focus goes out, you guessed it, I start just making shapes with my body. My focus is the thing I have the most control over. I don't know how my body will react to each posture, or if the room feels too hot or cold that day, or if the person next me is wandering around their mat. I can control if I'm in the room and focused and if I do that, it's a smooth ride for the whole class."

Update July 6th 2011: Over the nearly two years I've been doing this, my practice has evolved to a point where I'm no longer fixated on the mechanics of each posture while I'm in class. Oh believe me, I appreciate corrections and I want them (and complain sometimes if I don't get corrections), but it's not the most important thing. It really is a 90 minute moving meditation, not a workout program, and for me that evolved over time. There are some nice external physical benefits to practicing regularly, and more internal physical benefits that I probably even realize, but ultimately the focus, discipline and moving meditation are where the magic happens.