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.