Tag Archives: Yoga

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

11 Comments

Filed under Bikram Yoga, Diary of a Yogi, Yoga Challenge

Sweat the Small Stuff: a photo essay

by Barbora Simek (text) and Caitlin Hicks (photos)

Photographer and yogini Caitlin Hicks joins OMB with her stunning yoga photo essay. Hicks is a fourth-year photography student at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). The images below are a part of her final project in which she photographs yogis of Bikram Yoga Toronto.

“In photographing this series, I aimed to get away from the idea of photographing each pose, instead I examined the intense form and focus that is required throughout the 26 postures,” said Hicks.

More after the Jump….

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Bikram Yoga Toronto, Photos

An open letter to a new student on their first class

by Barbora Simek

Dear New Student,

Welcome. Like it or not you are now a part of the Bikram Yoga family. Whether today’s class will become something that is laughed about with friends and never attempted again, a daily routine, an occasional pass time or obsession, your experience today will stay with you forever. This means I have ninety minutes, and ninety minutes only to show you a practice I have dedicated a part of my life, my heart and much of my body to. So listen carefully, because this is important, this can change your life in ways you never thought possible.

I know the room is hot, and the poses are difficult. This is not because we are trying to prove something. This is because these specific elements: the postures, the heat, the mirrors, the style of teaching — are the perfectly combined to heal your body, heart and mind.

I know there are a lot of people. This is not because the studio is interested in a big pay-day. This is because the more we can practice together, the more we can share energy. Your neighbors will help you get through class, inspire you, become your friends and maybe even your future fiance (it’s happened more than once!) So be kind. Be patient. Because the more patient you can be with people here, the more patient you will be with them out there in the world.

I know my voice is loud. This is not because I want to dominate you. My voice is the best tool I have, along with the dialogue (the directions), to help you through your class today. When you feel weak, my voice will be strong to support you. When you are tired Continue reading

86 Comments

Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Bikram Yoga

Posture Clinic: Rabbit Pose

Rabbit Pose

Sasangasana

Rabbit Pose photo: Bikram Yoga San Antonio

The progression between Camel Pose and Rabbit Pose is one of the most stimulating and beneficial parts of the Bikram Yoga series. Both poses open the spine deeply, helping to stretch and stimulate the inter-vertebral disks. This helps to not only ensure proper spinal alignment but helps to maintain the spongy nature of the disks which helps them absorb shock from daily movement to prevent back pain. Highly theraputing for the nervous, skeletal, digestive and glandular systems this is pose that is difficult to master but well worth the effort.

Strengthens:
Abdomen

Stretches:
Muscles of the back
Shoulders
Scapula
Medulla Oblongata

Stimulates:

Thyroid
Parathyroid

Physical Benefits:
Provides maximum longitudinal extension of the spine.

Stretches the spine to increase proper nutrition to the nervous system.

Improves the mobility and elasticity of the spine and back muscles.

Helps balance and regulate metabolism.

Balances hormones.

Improves digestion.

Helps relieve glandular problems.

Helps improve conditions of the sinus, common cold and chronic tonsillitis.

Emotional Benefits:

Helps with depression.

Helps with insomnia.

Releases issues with taking on responsibility for the happiness of others.

Energetic Benefits

Opens the back of the heart chackra.

Posture Tips

Rabbit pose is one of the most challenging postures to master in the Bikram Yoga series. This is a posture where it is especially important to pay attention to the dialogue.

Always start with the right grip in the pose. The thumbs should be included with the rest of the fingers, thumbs on the outside, fingers on the inside.

Once you are in the posture, do not move to correct it. Fix the posture in the set up, not when you are in it. – Bikram

The biggest misconception beginners have about rabbit is that there should be no weight or pressure on the head. In fact, about 15% of the body weight should be in the head.

The dialogue will always encourage to lift the hips up, which is important to the pose. But it is important to never sacrifice the grip to get the hips higher. Remember,it is the grip and pull that create the force to stretch the spine.

If there is too much pressure on head, grab lower on the foot – Craig Villani

The harder you pull on the feet the better of a compression you will create benefiting the organs.

Try to eliminate any gap under the ankles and work to have the heels together through the pose.

While pulling on the heels, lift the shoulders away from the ears.

9 Comments

Filed under Daily Feature, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips

Studio Sneak Peek: Bikram Yoga Hamilton/Dundas

Alexandra Evans opened the doors of Bikram Yoga Hamilton/Dundas early this November. This beautiful facility has been designed by a feng-shui designer for good flow and energy, features green appliances, an ionized-alkaline-PH balanced water filter, full shower rooms with lockers and the first headset microphone in Ontario. Such a beautiful space should not be missed, take a trip to visit Alex today!

The AMAZING ionized, alkeline water filter.

3 Comments

Filed under Bikram Yoga Hamilton/Dundas, Daily Feature, Studio

Yoga and G20 protest: an open letter to residents of Toronto

Downtown Toronto is fenced in, boarded up and empty.

Plywood covers glass in preparation for the hurricane of fury that protesters have promised to unleash in the streets this coming weekend during the G20 summit. Packs of police parade the streets. Pedestrians clutch government issued identifications to gain access to their neighbourhoods and homes. Companies are closed for business. Liquor stores are on lockdown. Homeowners hold their breath, and keep a brave face.

Homes boarded up in Toronto in preparation for the G20 protests. photo: Barbora Simek

Trees have been uprooted, bus shelters removed, for fear that they will be used as weapons. Residents reel.

“What about our liberties?” ask some.

“When did I chose this?” ask others.

“What’s all the fuss?” say the rest.

Amidst the fury of rhetoric, threats, challenges, brute force, politics and protests, its important for us to stop and take a breath and get some perspective.

Torontonians weren’t asked if they want the summit.

Neither were those displaced from their homes by policies and politics in a majority of the world’s countries. Around the world, the displaced do not get fair warning, press releases and the courtesy of polite police officers. They are not put on lock-down preemptively to uphold their safety and the security of their homes. Their lives, assets and loved ones are the tallies by which warring factions keep score of their victories and defeats.

We are the small percentage of the human population that does not live on a precipice between life and death.

Perhaps rather than grumbling about the inconvenience of this summit, we should embrace the gift that we have to live in a democracy in which we and those around us have the ability to express our beliefs -regardless of whether we agree with how some of us chose to excercise the right.

As members of a free and democratic society, its my belief that is our duty to listen to each other, even when the message is relayed in a destructive and hateful way. There are a lot of issues that surround this summit, and many of the arguments made by protesters deserve good ears. Other messages may not have merit in our eyes or hearts. However, listening and considering the opinions of others is one of the foundations upon which democracy was built. If we can’t uphold the value among each-other, we certainly can’t expect our leaders to.

This weekend, I will be teaching and practicing and Bikram Yoga Centre in the downtown core, a few meters outside of the “traffic zone.” I will be nervous travelling to and from the studio. But my practice and my presence as a teacher will be my version of protest.

The great yogis believe that the violence, inequality and suffering in the world is a mere reflection of the imbalances and cruelties within us. Yoga teaches us to bring harmony into our bodies, into our lives, into our hearts.

“When your body, mind and soul are harmonious, you will bring health and harmony to those around you and health and harmony to the world – not by withdrawing from the world but by being a healthy living organ in the body of humanity,” writes B.K.S. Iyengar.

This weekend, I hope Torontonians will join me and practice their yoga so that we can all bring harmony to our city.

2 Comments

Filed under Daily Feature, Letter from the Editor

The Skinny on Kombucha

by Barbora Simek

At OMB, we’ve been drinking Kombucha for years finding it helps increase energy, and awareness and balance moods. We wanted to find out what the real deal was behind the drink that many Bikram Yoga practitioners are hooked on, and here is what we found…

The History…

No one really knows where Kombucha came from. Reports of the fermented drink go back thousands of years, the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Russians all created versions of Kombucha although no one has conclusively identified the roots of the drink.

A Kombucha 'SCOBY'

The process of making it….

It all starts with a beige rubbery pancake-like culture called ‘SCOBY’ (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). The SCOBY is added to sweetened green or black tea and left to ferment for approximately two weeks. As the ‘SCOBY’ feeds on the sugar in the tea, it releases a cocktail of organic acids, enzymes and amino acids.

The end result…

After two weeks (or longer if you want a fizzy drink), the ‘SCOBY’ is removed, along with its ‘daughter’ (a smaller version that forms and can be grown into a Kombucha culture.) Flavors are added to create the drink you consume off your store shelves.

Does actually it work? Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Daily Feature, Nutrition

OMB’s Favorite Things

Clockwise from the top right:

“Can you believe it!?” Bikram Yoga College of India has updated their website after years and years of having the same page. We’re still getting used to navigating the pages and finding all of our favorite content but we are digging the new update!

After years of varying success, Lululemon has finally come up with a bra that truly works for hot yoga. Other models have proven too tight, unflattering or have used fabric that is too heavy. But Lulu’s new Layer me bra is the prefect combination of good style, support and light fabric. We’re a big fan!

Just this January, Kombucha Wonder Drink released three new flavours. Already addicted to their Asian Pear elixir, we are now also equally enamored with their new Cherry Cassis flavour. This drink is yummy in a yogi’s tummy!!

Looking for inspiration, OMB has hit the books…

We’ve picked up B.K.S. Iyengar’s Tree of Yoga, a wonderful read that explains the philosophies behind yoga and compliments much of Bikram’s lecture’s in teacher training. Written in a simple yet eloquent fashion, this book has gotten us inspired to hit the mat more often.

After a good read we hit the couch and watched Enlighten Up, a wonderful documentary about a journalist trying to find the yoga practice for him by traveling around the world and seeking out yoga gurus across America and India. Full of wisdom, laughs and a few teary moments, this is a great documentary to watch alone or with your favorite fellow yogis.

We told you about Pretty Organic cosmetics in this post a few weeks ago. Since our post, Pretty has launched a wonderful website and has gotten us hooked on their Facial Cleansing Grains. This product makes a soft, grey clay-like facial wash that draws toxins out of your skin, clears pollutants and environmental toxins and invigorates your skin, we like the sound of that! (available at Essence of Life Organics in Kensington Market)

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Feature, OMB Favorite Things, The Tree of Yoga

Posture Clinic: Bow Pose

Bow Pose

Dhanurasana

Teshia Maher in bow pose

Anatomical Focus

Strengthening of…

Erector Spinea muscle

Deep spinal muscles

Deltiods

Rhomboids

Trapezius

Lattismus Dorsi

Compression of…

Kidneys

Stetching, extension of…

Entire front side of the body

Shoulder joints

Spinal column

Stimulation of…

Digestive system

Liver

Thymus

Lymph glands in neck and endocrine glands.

Benefits…

Increases circulation to the heart and lungs.

Improves breathing by extending and opening the diaphram and chest.

Increases circulation to the spine, helping to revitalize the spinal nerves.

Tones the abdomen, improves digestion and relieves constipation.

Helps to regulate the ovaries and prostate gland.

Helps to relieve rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago and cervical spondylosis.

Relieves menstrual problems.

Stimulation of the thymus gland helps to regulate the cycle of eating, making bow good for eating disorders.

Helps to correct bad posture.

Alleviates fatigue.

Improves the function of the kidneys, liver and spleen.

Good for bronchitis,

Mental Benefits…

Strengthens concentration and determination

Emotional Benefits…

Works through issues of sexual insecurity.

Helps to relieve the need for external validation.

Develops freedom of expression.

Relieves stress associated with taking too much responsibility for others.

Tips

Always grab right below the toes, no grip on the ankle or shin.

Remember, this posture is about kicking

Often students will kick first and look up second. Try to synchronize bringing your head back and the kick at the same time.

Always look up in the pose, this helps to complete the benefit for the cervical spine (neck) and helps to tone the muscles surrounding the eyes while stretching the ocular nerve.

Tips from the Pros

If one foot is higher than the other, instead of thinking to kick harder with that foot, think kick toward the corner of the ceiling. – Bikram

Manifest tension in the grip, but not the arm – Craig.

80/20 breathing is essential because it directly effects the compression of the spine. – Craig

Grab the feet not the ankle. – Craig

Tips for Teachers

Recently, Bikram began advising teacher trainees (from the Spring 2008 training onward) that he wanted bow pose to be taught to start with the knees together in the set up (instead of six inches apart) and then to allow the legs to separate once in the pose. This helps to keep the knees closer together once in the full expression of the posture.

4 Comments

Filed under Daily Feature, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

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.

13 Comments

Filed under Diary of a Yogi