by Barbora Simek
Bikram Yoga is obviously a very physical practice. Often, the physicality of the practice draws the ire of other yoga communities who centralize their practice around meditation. But anyone who has practiced Bikram Yoga for long enough, knows that consistent practice has a profound and lasting impact on the mind.
“One life time is not long enough to talk about life, one lifetime is not long enough to talk about the body, one lifetime is not long enough to talk about the mind, but the basics you must know.” Bikram Choudhury
The mind can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Bikram calls the mind your telecommunication system, the vehicle that sends messages not only to your body, but the world around you. “How you use [your mind] can make you Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Gandhi or Jesus Christ,” says Bikram.
He points out that our mind is constantly feeding us information, “sometimes to satisfy you, sometimes only to satisfy itself.” To discipline the mind becomes one of the most important tasks in life, as it is the mind that will dictate what kind of life we will lead.
Our minds are constantly being inundated by wants and needs. “Sometimes we want but we don’t need, sometimes we need but we don’t want,” says Bikram. True discipline of the mind then, according to Bikram, is when you can make decisions based on both wants and needs accordingly.
There are many ways your mind is exercised in a Bikram Yoga class, but Bikram likes to break it down into five categories, otherwise known as the ‘five aspects of the mind.’
Bikram says that we are all born with two of these aspects that are strong and developed, the practice of yoga helps us to cultivate and strengthen all five. Each of these aspects are like muscles, the more you use them the stronger they become. The stronger they become the more you can use them in abstract and creative ways.
As we all do the postures, and feel challenged by them (often thinking things are impossible) we build faith by continuing to struggle towards our goals. As we grow through our practice we begin building faith in ourselves by seeing what we are capable of accomplishing, transcending and achieving in the room.
“If you do not believe in yourself, you cannot believe in God, in any subject or in others,” says Bikram. “When you have faith in yourself, you have the key to the kingdom, you can have faith in everything on earth.”
In the moments when we feel too hot, too tired, too thirsty and we want to run, chug water, yell at our teacher, our peers or ourselves, we learn self control. We teach ourselves, instead, to stay still, to drop the water bottle and breathe.
Different from mere discipline, self-control and self-discipline is being able to use your own guidance to chose a path that finds equilibrium between your mind and soul.
“Concentrate, meditate,” you hear your teachers say all the time.
The poses in class take focus: to stay balanced, to keep your muscles engaged, to keep your mind clear. When the challenge of the class gets harder, your ability to concentrate becomes more vital to ensuring that you can survive and enjoy the class. Exercising this ability, to let go and focus on what truly matters is invaluable to life outside the yoga room.
“To achieve success in life, the best tool is concentration,” says Bikram.
Finding your concentration in the yoga room, when all circumstances around you are pulling at your focus, is the meditation of Bikram Yoga.
It happens in the last 10 seconds of the posture, in the moments when muscles burn, when we are tired, sore or weak. It is in the moment you chose to hang on a little longer, to stay in the room, to come to class when you rather watch 30 Rock. It is determination. We have all felt it, we have all used it. The more determined we become the more easily we are able to see things through, whether it is a 30 Day Challenge, or pursuing a new career, determination is what helps you to make the leap and stick to it.
Patience is likely one of the most essential aspects to a successful yoga practice. Whether it is patience with your own body and experience in the class, your fellow practitioners, teachers or environment surrounding you in the room, Bikram Yoga constantly pushes us to re-discover and cultivate patience. As we learn to balance our patience and perception of time, we begin to see an outcome. We begin to understand and interact with ourselves and our surroundings in a new light.
Note : all quotes taken from the lecture by Bikram Choudhury October 27th 2005