Happy end of January!
Lots of great links, tips and inspiration in the YWP newsletter. Enjoy!
The essential practice of Bikram, or any yoga, is simple: never quit.
We all have moments, days, or even weeks sometimes, when we think “I want to quit.” Yoga is too hard. Life is too busy. We have jobs, partners, kids, debts, commitments, houses, pets and our sanity to look after.
Sometimes yoga feels like one more line on a never-ending to do list. In those moments it can be tempting to quit. But yoga teaches us that quitting is not a solution. If we quit yoga when the going gets tough we are putting down the one tool that can help us hack through the jungle of stress and strife and come out smiling on the other side.
Yoga is where we hone our minds and bodies. It is where we return to ourselves. It is where we learn to breathe, be in the moment, and let go of external things. Yoga is also where we find community. Even if we dash in and out of the studio, we spend 90 minutes in a room with people who share positive energy and affirm the power of our practice.
Quitting is a temporary fix, like getting drunk after a bad week. But you wake up with a hangover, and feel worse than before.
If you are truly struggling for time and energy to practice yoga, it is better to modify, adjust, reschedule, or practice at home. Don’t quit on the one thing that will, over time, build a stronger mind, body, and spirit.
Have you ever quit yoga? What did it feel like?
Practice means two things in the yoga studio: we practice the poses to go deeper in our practice.
This sounds like a grammatical riddle but it is simple. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a new practitioner, this two-part practice is what you have to do to let yoga change your life.
Yoga can and will change your life. But not on its own. You have to show up, be present, make the effort. Practice means doing yoga when you don’t feel like it. Pushing deeper in a posture than you think you can. It also means being patient with yourself when you are awkward, stiff or in a bad mood.
Some people think yoga practice should wipe away all your problems so you float through the day on a cloud of bliss. I don’t agree. Yoga can lift your spirits and give you a brighter perspective but dedicated practice gives you something more valuable: the strength to face challenges and the courage be true to yourself in hard situations.
Practice is a discipline. And its reward is both self-confidence and self-forgetfulness. When you go deep into a posture you forget everything else: you are only focused on the moment. Repeating this moment over and over, class after class, balances you spiritually and emotionally. Practice gives you a new way of looking at the world and your place in it.
The beauty of yoga is that there is no deadline. We don’t have to achieve this awareness in one class, or 10, or 1000. We only have to practice.
How has yoga practice changed your perspective? Share in the comments.
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One of the most common things I see among new students is the fear of making mistakes. They worry they aren’t doing a posture correctly, or that they aren’t going deep enough into the pose, or that they’ll mix up their left and right.
Worrying about mistakes is a distraction. It takes you out of meditation and focuses you on negative possibilities, rather than helping you flow. Bikram yoga is an opportunity to retrain ourselves and step out of the right/wrong thinking that we are taught. There is no “wrong answer” or “mistake” in Bikram yoga. If you are on the mat, giving your 100% honest effort, you are doing it right.
To rise above your fear of mistakes, keep these tips in mind:
Let the teacher worry about your posture. It’s our job to help you get the best out of each asana. Follow the dialogue, take suggestions, but otherwise don’t worry.
There is no such thing as a mistake, just a learning opportunity. Each time you do a posture you learn a little more and get a little closer to the ideal for your body.
Don’t judge. Some days you feel on top of the world and everything is easy; other days you feel like you have two left feet. Accept sensations as they come, without judgement. As you learn to listen to your body without criticism you’ll naturally let go of your fear of mistakes.
What is your biggest fear in Bikram class? Share in the comments
I can usually spot someone who’s new to Bikram before the first posture: they’re the ones wearing tee-shirts and tracksuit bottoms. Once they get hooked on Bikram the Lycra comes out! In fact, I’d say Bikram yogis are more devoted to their skin-tight, streamlined outfits than just about any other athlete.
You might think it’s because Bikram buffs are all super-toned or maybe just vain. While those are possibilities, the truth is simpler: Lycra is practical. I see new students of all shapes and sizes in over-sized exercise gear that quickly gets soggy, floppy and makes getting in and out of poses more difficult. Regular practitioners of all shapes and sizes choose minimal, stretchy yoga gear that hugs the body and allows them to focus on the asanas.
Doing Bikram will help you trim down and build strength, so experienced students are often more comfortable in less clothing. But more important, it promotes a mindset that goes beyond weight. It teaches us to be present in our bodies and to appreciate all they can do, regardless of size, age or shape. Bikram yogis are less hung up on social pressures about appearance because they have a deep appreciation for the integrity and function of their physical body. They are comfortable wearing Lycra because they are more interested in the mind-body experience of yoga than how they look in the mirror.
Don’t feel at ease in teeny-tiny shorts quite yet? Ask yourself, why not? Your body takes you into the hot yoga studio and through 26 postures in 90 minutes. That’s amazing! Appreciate yourself and embrace the flex 🙂
What do you wear to yoga? Share in the comments!
Karma is a word we often use, but what does it really mean?
Karma is defined as the sum of our actions in this life and previous lives that decides our fate in future existences. However, I don’t think you need to believe in reincarnation to understand or embrace the concept of karma. Another way of looking at karma is as an expression of Christianity’s “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This doesn’t mean being a doormat, or living your life through other people, it means having equal measures of respect and self-respect so that you can see other people as unique, valuable individuals. When we are able to do this it automatically changes our attitudes and behaviour. We are kinder, more compassionate, more open.
Karma, ultimately, is not about the universe keeping score, waiting to turn us into a cockroach if we screw up, it’s about having a philosophical approach to life that keeps us present, balanced, and humble. Karma can be as simple as the kindness of giving up your seat on the bus and the smile you get in return.
Yoga helps us cultivate the mindfulness and presence to strengthen our karma. Through the breath and the asanas we learn to inhabit and respect our bodies, and our place in the harmony of living things. It is a tool that brings us awareness, develops patience, and teaches us to appreciate the uniqueness of every being.
Read more about Karma yoga — the practice of transforming everything you do into selfless service.
How do you define good karma? Share in the comments
Joy might not be the first word that comes to mind when you’re standing on one leg, sweat pouring into your eyes, muscles trembling, grip slipping, and heart pounding but in the A to Z of Bikram Yoga Joy is essential.
Joy is what lifts and inspires us. Joy is something deeper than happiness and more profound than pleasure. Joy arises when we dedicate ourselves to something we believe in — and what is Bikram but a practice of dedication?
We talk a lot in class about concentration, focus, discipline, patience, persistence, and acceptance. These are the ingredients, if you like. Joy is the finished product. The endorphin fix of yoga may last a couple of hours, the mental calmness can carry you to the end of the day, but when you have true joy in your practice it wraps around every aspect of your life. The trick is to notice it.
Next time you get on your mat, take a moment and think about joy. Breathe it in. Feel yourself in your body and the deep satisfaction of what you are about to do. Throughout class, be conscious of the positive moments and sensations. And when you leave the studio, cherish the blissful feeling in your mind and your physical body. That joy is what yoga is all about.
Over the festive season continue with your yoga practice be it Bikram or Dharma Mittra, or hatha yoga. It can seem impossible to find the time this time of year but you don’t have to do 90mins to get the benefits of sustaining your practice.
Wherever you are in the world, find a space put your mat down and make time for yourself. You don’t have to do an entire Bikram sequence. In fact, if you’re doing hatha postures I recommend several rounds sun salutations or two sets pranayama breathing, followed by head stand, shoulder-stand, fish, bow, standing forward bend, cobra and spinal twist.
These postures are especially good when you know you have been indulging a little too much and you feel your waistband is a little tight. These asanas will stimulate and give benefits to all your bodily systems. Not only will you feel fitter and stronger, yoga practice gives you a much needed mental break from the bustle, and time to ground yourself. So whatever your holiday plans, make sure you take your yoga mat with you, drop it wherever and funk-up your asana over Christmas!
What does it mean to set your intention? And why is it so important?
Intention is simply what we plan to do — or who we want to be. We set intentions in our lives every day without even thinking about it. When our alarm clocks go off our intention is to get out of bed and start the day. We get to work and our intention is to teach a great class, or make a sale, or complete a project. In our relationships we set intentions by how we spend time and energy. All these are often done almost unconsciously. We don’t necessarily ask ourselves every morning: “Why am I getting out of bed and going to work?” But maybe we should.
Bikram yoga is a practice that encourages us to be mindful of our intentions. Simply getting to class is one declaration of intent. Class is your opportunity to bring conscious attention to who you want to be and what you want to do for the next 90 minutes. You might set a physical intention, such as completing every posture, or going further in a pose. You can also use Bikram as an opportunity to set a spiritual or mental intention, for example: to speak kindly to your family, or to be more patient at work.
During class, bring your mind to your intention and use it as the focus of your meditation in the postures. As you get in the habit of setting and concentrating on your intention you’ll find it manifesting in your life — just as doing the physical poses brings about a change in the body, this mental exercise will literally change your mind!
What intention do you bring to Bikram? Share in the comments.