Category Archives: Diary of a Yogi

Bikram Yoga Confession: how I lost my practice.

by Barbora Simek

Forgive me Bikram for I have sinned, it has been 6 years since my last yoga challenge.

I don’t really know how it happened.

Image

My bow pose and I, 2010.

When I returned from teacher training I couldn’t get enough of the practice. Yoga was my life. All I cared about was doing the standing splits, touching my forehead to my toes, eating better, hydrating  more and sleeping consistently.

I didn’t eat dairy, wheat or sugar. I didn’t go out. I practiced five or six days a week. I taught 12 classes a week, sometimes 14, I hung out at the yoga studio. I journaled about the things I learned about myself in class. I didn’t drink.

But I was 19 Bikram! Just a kid. And I hadn’t let myself be a kid. There I was, hyper-disciplined, making yoga my life when it hit me: I wanted more.

I wanted to see what it was like to dance till 5am. I wanted to follow other career paths. I wanted to eat wheat and dairy. I wanted to be friends with more than my water bottle and naturopath.

Soon, the desire to escape my self-imposed discipline grew so strong that I started crying an hour before class. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to judge myself in the mirror. I didn’t want to obsess about standing bow or the amount of sugar in my diet.

I wanted a bit of freedom.

I blamed the yoga.

It was foolish, Bikram, I know. But it was so easy to point a finger at the most consistent and disciplined thing in my life: my practice.

I began to resent my standing bow. I stopped trying in forward stretching. I danced till dawn. I ate dairy and wheat. I began skipping class. I stopped being disciplined.

Days, weeks, months went by. It took me 3 months to want to be in the yoga room again. Slowly, inconsistently, I started practicing again. I didn’t love the hot room anymore, I was still mad at the practice. But I was trying.

After another year it became clear that it wasn’t the yoga, but it was me.

I began to understand that I wasn’t being true to myself. I had forgotten that I practice so that yoga can enrich my life but not become my life. I didn’t want to be a career yogi, but a yogi with a career.

I forgot to honour that I was both the girl who loved dancing and the girl that loved working hard.

In a way, diving so deeply into the practice taught me the most valuable lesson of all: that we must all follow our own path and stay true to our spirit. You talk about it all the time Bikram. How yoga teaches us self realization. How our practice teaches us to like and love ourselves.

And so here I am nine years into my practice, about to turn 26.

For the first time I am ready to love both parts of me, the girl that loves to stay up dancing until 5am and the girl who loves to eat fresh salads and work on her standing bow.

So I am trying again. I am ready to welcome some discipline back into my life.

For 30 days, I am going to show up and try. I will still drink lattes and eat pastries but I will also dream of standing bow and touching my forehead to toes. Let’s see what we can make happen in 30 days.

See you in the hot room, Bikram.

Love,

Barb

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Diary of a Yogi: A boxer stands alone on the mat

 

by Peter Wood

I’m 57 and I’m standing on a yoga mat. I’m in a Bikram Yoga class sweating bullets, more so than the middle-aged woman wearing a two-piece leotard on my left, or the thin young man in white shorts on my right. The room in cranked up to a hot 105 degrees and my heart is racing. My towel is sopping wet. I haven’t sweat as much since I was fighting in the ring.

I’m standing in a warm puddle of sweat and it brings me back to when I was someone else—that angry eighteen-year-old middleweight slugging other middleweights in Jersey City. Back then, boxing was my yoga. I didn’t realize it then, but punching felt good because it purified me of my anger, fear and hate. All of that negativity during every training session was good because it spewed out of my fists and never coagulated in my mind. Unknowingly, I was purging myself. Today, I have a smile in my heart because of boxing.

One big difference in this yoga class is that there is no coach barking, “Dig deep!” or “Get tough!” Another big difference is that, thankfully, I don’t see anyone in here who wants to punch the tip of my nose into the back of my brain. Now, it’s only me on my yoga mat beating myself up, gasping for air, pushing myself to stretch and strengthen my old muscles.

I’m new to yoga and I’m enjoying its gentle, meditative philosophy. Om, and its mind-body-spirit thing. At this stage of my life, I enjoy having a supportive teacher who is happy to guide me through various postures, while reminding me to breathe deeply through my crooked nose. I appreciate her encouraging me to release negative thoughts and to avoid all judgments. This gentler, more enlightened coaching is so refreshing. My old anger-fear-hate thing, which worked so well for me as a fighter, has no value here. And, quite frankly, there isn’t much left in me any more. After all, I am 57 years old. Continue reading

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Diary of a Yogi: The difference a teacher can make

by Amber Klahm

To all those that seek healing…

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.BKS Iyengar

My journey of twenty six postures began with my mind set on one goal: to find peace. I searched for a release from anger, depression and anxiety in all the wrong places. I wanted something that was going to challenge me physically and mentally and give me a sense of spiritual balance. Finally that search lead me to Bikram Yoga.

Whether it be a small change or a dramatic effect, we have all felt the hand of healing through this yoga. The yoga brings us to state of peace and enlightenment. But that journey cannot be realized without the help of passionate instructors who know the yoga the best.

Photo: Bennie Shapiro

Along each yogi’s journey we hit a block -sometimes after few weeks or after few years- that makes us question whether Bikram Yoga is really the path we should be following. My block came just a few months into practice. I hit rock bottom. Relationship problems, financial hardships and health scares left me wondering if this yoga could going to give me the strength to hold myself up. I wanted release from my frustrations, fears and excuses. I wanted to let go of all that was holding me back.

Amber's Instructor Frank in Rabbit Pose. Photo: Ron Sombilon

That was when Frank came into my life.

It’s not everyday that someone can come into your life and make a profound impact. But through his guidance, I was able to heal myself and move toward the peace I was searching for.

There are many instructors who will help a student find prescence, focus, energy, and conscious meditation. But from the beginning Frank did more. He helped me find the passion to love and accept myself and the faith to push past the barriers that kept me captive for so long.

I endured aches like I never felt before, but I knew this was a part of the healing process. For the first time I began to enjoy my blood coarsing through my veins when reaching new depths in my practise. His voice became the voice in my head. Stern, refreshing, discipline kept me motivated and helped release my frusterations in a room that welcomed tolerable cruelty.

It took sometime for all his teaching to sink in.

Frank taught me that breath is the key to maintaing a balanced practise. He to taught me to laugh especially when we don’t want to. To remind myself that each day is another way to stretch the boundaries of my body and my mind.

He taught me that standing head-to-knee is not a privledged accomplishment, but takes real discipline and work. Because of him, I understand many keys to maintaining this posture: discpline, breath, focus. And now, just before my head touches my knee I exhale and zone out, not focusing on the balance or the kick, just the moment.

The most challenging and valueable lesson was to believe that I could exceed my own limitations. That I could push through obstacles and still stay grounded and balanced to the reasons why I started this yoga to begin with.

A few months ago, I completed a 150 day challenge. And Frank helped me get there. He never let me feel self doubt, he stood beside me while I took myslef to new depths in my practise, and took the time to help me find what I was made of.

I thank Frank for showing me what I didn’t think I possessed. For inspiring a band of yogis and yoginnis who are still motivated and driven after he has left the studio. He has helped us overcome some the hardest hurdles on a journey that continues to open new doors.

Namaste


Amber Klahm is Bikram yogini and blogger based in Langley, British Columbia. She has finished a 150-day yoga challenge at Bikram Yoga Langely and writes for her blog Amber’s Bikram Diary.

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Diary of a Yogini: Merill’s First Class Ever

by Merril B

Guest blogger Merril B tells us all about her first experience with Bikram Yoga in this beautifully written post below.

I did it. I finally tried Bikram Yoga. And I loved it. So I’m thinking about keeping it up. I haven’t made any kind of major personal commitment yet, so this isn’t my way of documenting a goal or a challenge, I’m just saying. It was good. I liked it.

photo: Bikram Yoga Huston

Anyway, I’ve been reading as much about Bikram as I can in the last few days. What to expect. Tips for beginners. How it works for weight loss. The myriad of benefits and changes it promises. Blogs about peoples’ 30-, 60- and – get this – 101-day challenges. And it occurred to me that if I really want to reap the benefits of the practice, it might make sense to write down my own experience and give myself the opportunity to go back and see how things might change in me.

I mean, who cares about the benefits other people see? I want to know how it is going to benefit me. Not just my body, but my mind, my attitude, my life, in general. Heaven knows I could use some change in every one of those arenas. Can’t we all?

So here goes, let’s see if it sticks.

I went to a small, cozy little studio in Encino while visiting family this weekend. I started with a 10 a.m. class on Saturday and went back for day two on Sunday at 8 a.m. That was the first thing I did right. They say the best thing you can do in your first class – besides keep breathing and stay in the room – is to come back the next day. So I did. Yay for me.

But, I don’t see that as any big accomplishment. I’m good at that stuff. When I like something – especially something workout/fitness/diet/weight loss/health related – I have a tendency to, um, obsess?

Yep. That’s the word.

So, whatever, I made it back for day two. But what amazed me was how different day two was from day one. To me, that was the accomplishment. That I felt the difference. That I observed it. That I could make progress in just one day. That made me proud.

On day one, I was eager and even a little giddy with excitement. But, I wasn’t really nervous – and I probably should have been. I signed in, told the woman at the front desk I was a “total newbie” (an exact quote), got set up and ready to get going. I had no idea what I was really in for. I had been looking forward to the heat. I love heat. I’m always cold. I think I could live in a sauna and be perfectly happy. I sleep with an electric blanket most of the year. In San Diego. I’m okay with heat.

But that room was HOT.

And it just kept getting HOTTER.

When I asked how many people are usually in a class, the instructor told me about 20. But that morning, there were at least 40. In a room made to comfortably fit half of that. We were CLOSE. And the first thing you do is a breathing exercise. Lots of really long, deep breaths in an awkward, moving posture. In a HOT room.

Photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

So, right of the bat, I felt like I’d inhaled and exhaled my way into a dizzy spell. Then we got into the first posture, half-moon pose, and I was positive I wasn’t going to last much longer. And I felt immediately weak, just thinking that. It was just standing up, arms up in the air and bending a little to each side, and then back.

Oh come on… I’ve run a marathon, I’ve pushed my way through countless spin classes and boot camps. I’ve run six miles through waist-high MUD. There’s no way you can’t do this! It’s just yoga!

But, holy cow, in that heat, this whole yoga business was no joke. I had to put my arms down and come out of the pose a few times just to keep myself from passing out. And it was just the first pose!  But I got through it. So I figured I could probably get through the rest. And I did. Sopping wet, blazing hot, often shaky, and a little daunted by some of the poses I couldn’t quite get into, but I did it.

Balancing Stick photo: The Ripple Effect blog

I actually felt pretty capable in the first half of class – the standing-and-balancing-on-one-foot postures. I’ve never thought of myself as balanced, but I held it together. The second half, was a bit trickier. Back bends. Laying flat on my belly and lifting parts of my body off the ground without using any of my limbs as levers. Finding a way to tuck my arms under my body without stabbing them with my hip bones. Twisting into a pretzel without anything to grab onto. And worst of all, the real kicker: RELAXING in savasna. Just laying there. Silent and with a clear mind. Open eyes. Present and aware of how my body was feeling, but relaxed.

Uh, right. Sure. Because I’m soooo good at clearing my mind.

I was relieved when class was over and it took me a while to get out of the room and cooled off enough to stand up straight and walk out. But, I had done it.

Day two was different.

First, I was sore. All over. A light sore, but in areas where I had no idea I even had muscles. I went earlier so I was a little tired, but I was also freezing (shocker) so I was really looking forward to getting in the heated room. Only about 20 people showed up so the temperature was much more bearable. In fact, it was comfortable. Like the first few steps into a hot Jacuzzi on a cold night. I didn’t sweat nearly as much.

I also set myself up closer to a side mirror, so I could see my posture from two directions. And, this time, the most visually unappealing and distracting of all people in the room, set up his mat directly in front of me. With no concern for whether I could still see the front mirror or how much his hairy back and legs might distract me from my practice. UGH. I scooted my mat and towel over a bit so I could see the mirror, but was still a little disturbed by the idea of looking at this guy all class.

But as soon as the instructor walked in, I didn’t think about him once more the entire time. And he’d left by the time I got up from final Savasna, so it was as if he was never even there. (I know I learned a lesson about those around you in class that morning, but I’m not sure yet if it has more to do with the harm in being judgmental and superficial or the value in focusing on yourself for 90 minutes. Maybe a little of both?)

This time, I was totally relaxed and comfortable at the end of class, not dizzy and overheated. I had a better grasp on what some of the postures are supposed to look and feel like. I think I got the concept of actively stretching and lengthening, rather than just getting into a pose and staying there without growing into it, as the instructor stressed.

I had progressed. In one day. It was good. I liked it.

At the end of class, just as I was leaving the studio, the instructor stopped me and said, “Second class?” Yep. “In a while, or ever?” Ever. “You’re doing great.”

And I knew I’d be back for day three very soon.

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Diary of a Yogini: Bikram Yoga and Tattoos

by Barbora Simek

“Tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection, and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts.” – Wikipedia on Tattoos

It always strikes me how yoga unites people from different walks of life. How the front row of a class can have a Rastafarian DJ, next to a CEO, next to a housewife, next to a graphic designer, next to a social worker, all working, sweating, breathing together.

But if there is one other thing that unites us in the yoga room it is the presence of body art.

Whether it is a small zodiac sign on an ankle, a traditional Celtic armband or an elaborate back piece, it seems that tattoos are the one uniting attribute of Bikram Yogis.

As lover of art and type, the idea of using skin as a canvas has always fascinated me, though I have always had profound reservations against getting a tattoo.

At the age of 17 my older brother walked into the kitchen and sat down at the kitchen table. As he turned his head a small beam light reflected off of his new nose ring. My mother fell apart, sobbed violently, screamed, shook. “You might as well pack your bags and move under a bridge,” she wailed. “No one will ever give you a job.”

A fiercely obedient 12 year-old, I sat on spying on the steps shaking my head at my brother’s foolishness. I swore a silent oath that I would not repeat his mistakes, I would not get into this kind of trouble when I was a teenager. Thus, body art remained out of the question for years.

Until I started yoga.

In hot yoga rooms I saw stars spilled on shoulders, family crests fill spaces between scapula, trees extend branches across shoulders and words circle wrists.

Then came teacher training.

My appreciation for body art grew with the animals that marched across thighs and pin-up girls that stretched in half-moon.

Then came Bikram’s lectures.

He ranted that the body was not ours, the body is a temple.

The way I understood his argument was this: the body is the house of our spirit. Because our spirit is everlasting, and the body is only temporary, the spirit is borrowing to body for this lifetime. Since the body is borrowed by the spirit, it is not ours to decorate or deface, it is ours to honor, cherish and maintain.

I understood, and understand, his position. But tattooing has been around for centuries, for many cultures tattooing is spiritual rite of passage. From Ancient Egyptians, to Celts, Queen Charlotte Indians tattoos were the marks of warriors, told stories, served magical purposes and were badges of honor. For thousands of cultures, the tattoo has served a purpose more spiritual than aesthetic.

For myself, I can say this:

Between sweaty towels, aching poses and cathartic releases, I have experienced moments of feeling infinite, spiritual, profoundly connected to myself and people surrounding me. Slowly, I have assembled a piecemeal spirituality. While I am still unable to define my thoughts and beliefs on the matter, while I still feel like I am searching, I can also confidently say that because of my yoga, I am a spiritual being.

As a result of that, I feel like there is a spiritual value to the tissues, synopses, and cells that make up my body. I do feel that my body is a temple. Not being an Ancient Egyptian, a Celt or Queen Charlotte Indian, I don’t feel I can claim that there is something profoundly spiritual and magic about choosing to colour my skin.

Photo credit: The Tattoologist Blog

So the question then remains: am I ready to decorate , or deface, my temple?

The answer: I don’t know.

For the first time in my life I have found a design, a decoration that I feel is worthy of etching on my skin. A coming of age symbol that summarizes both the place that I have come to as a woman and the direction I would like to see for myself in the future.  And so I find myself poring through articles, reviewing the opinions of the tattooed and un-tattooed and trying to assemble an opinion of what I think is right.

“If the body is our temple, then shouldn’t it be ours to celebrate and decorate?” said Dana Moore, a tattooed yogini and studio owner during our conversation on the matter. And I agree with her.

To me, tattoos should be rites of passage, decorative milestones, celebrations of our bodies, experiences and stories.

The decision I made as a little girl was made out of fear of other people’s opinions: my mothers’, my peers’, my teachers’. As I grow into my own I realize more and more that their opinions are not so scary, and while they are important to me, their ideas of what my body should look like are not the ones I need take to heart.

I am not sure yet whether I chose to wear ink will permanently mark my skin, but I do know that the little girl who sat on the steps at 11 years old and swore to never mark her skin has changed her mind. Or, rather, has opened her mind to new possibilities.

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Diary of a Yogini: 7/60

Mira is a student and journalist from Bikram Yoga Centre in Toronto. Here she writes about her struggles on Day 7 of her 60 Day Challenge… enjoy.

by Mira Saraf

Guest Blogger Mira Saraf

It is sometime between the first savasana on the floor and the spine strengthening series that I feel the initial pangs of panic.

It is always the same.

Numbness teases my fingertips that have grown extremely icy in spite of the heat.

My heart starts to pound and I feel like laughing and crying simultaneously.

It is day seven of my 60-day challenge.

I have spent the day at the Distillery district on a class field trip, consumed two caffeinated beverages, a small (very small) sample of beer and brunch. Day seven will forever be the day that I wish that I had stayed back with my classmates to sample Mayan hot chocolate at the Soma Chocolatemaker than coming back up here to push my tired limbs in a room crammed with dripping strangers.

I start to breathe heavier, but become acutely aware that I may be distracting others around me so I try to keep it in. I always panic on this side of the room when it’s crowded. But I seem to forget this every class and put my mat down in the same spot.

As I pull my knee towards my chest I curse coffee, I curse alcohol, most of all I curse Eggs Benedict and stupid dehydrating hollandaise sauce.

I wonder why I thought this challenge was a good idea.

Then I quickly retract that thought.

This is progress, I tell myself, this is pushing myself to do something good for my mind and my body.

I stare pleadingly at the vents, praying for the click of the fan switch. As we move into spine strengthening, the air whirs to life, suddenly I feel invincible.

The air-conditioning is my rock, my prince charming, my knight in shining armor. It occurs to me that my dependence on the fan is slightly unhealthy, and I am a little relieved that nobody around me can read my random thoughts.

I sigh inside my head. I have so much to learn.

Cobra pose goes surprisingly well and I feel myself coaxing the fan to stay a little while. In spite of my mental murmurings the fan goes off half way through the next pose. My skin instantly heats to the point of burning but I am stronger now.

We are in fixed firm pose when I first feel the pinch on my shin. I examine it quickly as I come out of savasana and see the faint blue of a developing bruise. Where this came from I have no idea.

Isn’t yoga supposed to give you more balance? If so, then why do I continue to walk into hard objects without realizing. The bruise distracts me from the silence that is supposed to be in my mind.

I wonder briefly about dehydration and kidney stones.

A friend at work had kidney stones from too much yoga and not enough hydration. Could I have kidney stones? No bruises are something else, blood clots. Yes it’s true, I am in fact sitting here in the middle of half-tortoise diagnosing myself with blood clots.

“This is ridiculous,” I tell myself and try to silence my mind.

Finally, my efforts start to yield results. By camel my mind is calm and my body has accepted it’s fate. By the end of final savasana I dream of the electrolytes swishing down my parched mouth.

On the walk home it is cold, colder than it was earlier. The sun has set and I am heading home to Superbowl Sunday.

As I walk and the cold breath of winter clings to my legs below my tights, I realize that my muscles have softened and my body does not have carry that limp feeling of weakness I felt this morning.

My body is no longer fighting.

I realize that for once, my mind and body are one, in sync: pure, beautiful harmony.

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Bikram Yoga Poetry by Mahogany Browne

by Mahogany Browne

Poet, Mahogany Browne. Photo: http://www.mobrowne.com

I was fortunate enough to meet slam poet Mahogany Browne through a dance project years ago. Through the years her profound work has always stayed with me. This week OMB is proud to feature poetry by Mahogany.

Here is a little more about her…

The Cave Canem Fellow is the Editor of the women’s anthology His Rib: Stories, Poems & Essays by HER and author of several books including her latest book of poems: Swag.

She has released five LPs including the live album Sheroshima. As co-founder of the Off Broadway poetry production, Jam On It, and co-producer of NYC’s 1st Performance Poetry Festival: SoundBites Poetry Festival, Mahogany bridges the gap between lyrical poets and literary emcee.

Her freelance journalism can befound in magazines Uptown, KING, XXL, The Source, Canada’s The Word and UK’s MOBO. She facilitates performance poetry and writing workshops throughout the country, focusing on women empowerment and youth mentoring.

She is the publisher of Penmanship Books, a small press for performance artists and owns PoetCD.Com, an on-line marketing and distribution company for poets. Mahogany is currenlty host and curator at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Without further ado the work of Mahogany Browne…..

porno yoga

for the yoga teacher that told us we were quite loud for a class. we were renamed the porno yoga class

the mat
the moan
the wet
the sweat
the breath
deep breath
beneath the press
of palms

flesh to flesh
bone to flesh
sweat between
it all

dripping hot
fire in chest
spine stretch
veterbrea stretch
fingers stretch
stretch
stretch
breathe deep
deeper
moan deep inside

but

“suffer in silence”

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