Reflections on One Year of Bikram Yoga

Please note that as of the end of summer 2014, I will be moving my blog to the following link (until that time all blog posts will be duplicated in both locations): http://confessionsofayogaprincess.wordpress.com

365 Days. 278 Classes. 25,020 Minutes. 417 Hours. Once I did 4 classes in one day. Once I did 57 classes in 29 days.

April 29th, 2013: at approximately 7:10a.m. I walked into Bikram Yoga Marina Del Rey for the first time. In the time I’d done yoga, I never imagined myself going to Bikram. Doing yoga in 105 degree rooms with high humidity—that’s crazy making; that’s insane; that would kill me.  Well that’s what I always thought, but earlier in April I had a conversation with someone important to me. I was not at a good point in my life. So much emotional chaos surrounded me, including, but not limited to, my father’s decline. I needed some help. I needed a way to clear my head.

My friend suggested I hang out more with my friend MK.  She had a good sense of a healthy lifestyle and body image, he said.  I wasted no time in texting MK and telling her she had a new job—hanging out more with me!  She readily accepted (probably didn’t realize exactly what she was getting into;-)). The first thing she suggested was Bikram Yoga. I still thought the idea of hot yoga was a bit nutty, but I felt desperate at the time. We set a date, but when I didn’t hear from  her for a few days, I thought maybe she’d forgotten.  As it turns out she hadn’t, and I heard from her the night before.

When I arrived that morning, 6:45a.m. for a 7:30a.m. class, MK wasn’t there yet, so I waited in the parking lot until 7:10. When she still hadn’t arrived, I went in alone. I never would have done this in the past, but somehow I felt driven. I also wanted to make sure I got a spot in the back of the room. I wanted to hide as much as possible. She finally did arrive at 7:17a.m. and thought I had backed out because she didn’t see me in the parking lot. Ha!  I fooled her and myself by taking that first step.

That first day I felt nervous for several reasons: first and foremost, based on previous experiences, I had an inkling I’d be judged for my size, by the instructor, by my fellow practitioners, but, strangely enough, the instructor—I don’t recall his name (just kidding!!!!)—Loren Jay Cherrstrom didn’t really give me a second glance. I thought that was pretty odd!  Why wasn’t I being judged? Surely he’d be surprised someone my size wanted to practice that hot yoga! But, nope.  No judgment. Not from him. Not from others on that day.

I don’t remember much about the actual class itself. I didn’t die. I know that! I think I managed to do most of the postures. Who knows what my poses looked like, but I had to start somewhere! I do clearly recall the yoga stoned feeling I experienced after that first class. I floated on such a high. I felt giddy with life.

It’s that very feeling that instilled in me the desire to go back by myself later that week. I started out going twice a week and quickly graduated to three times a week. Then one day in June I decided to try a double. I figured if I’m already at the studio why not stay? I not only survived, but I thrived doing a double, so I made them my new habit. Three days a week I do doubles. Nowadays, I only do singles when I have a friend in town and when I’m on the road.

So much of my life has changed this past year. I’ve learned so much about myself. I know I wouldn’t have survived the death of my father without my practice. I don’t mean to imply I would have died, but on days I would have just fallen apart in despair I found the strength to get to yoga. I made the effort to go to class the day after he died. If I hadn’t gone I would have wallowed in despair. I don’t mean that I denied my grief. I’ve never done that. I wanted to work through it. I still am working through it. My yoga helps me work through it.

I’ve become a much stronger person, which is saying something because I’ve never really been a weakling. I’ve become more confident. About a month and a half into my practice, I decided to move from my safety net in the back corner to the front of the room and that’s where you’ll find me most of the time. Front and Center. I’m pretty sure the front of the room is supposed to be for seasoned practitioners, but I almost always make the effort to do my best, so I figure that counts for something!

When I started doing Bikram, I dressed to hide my body. I soon realized the insane blasphemy of this sartorial attitude. It’s pretty hot in there!  So, really, the fewer items of clothing you wear the better! Sometime in July, I found the courage to start practicing in bike shorts and a sports bra. I started to really look at my body and not judge it. And I’d always judged it prior to that. Fat. Lumpy. Unattractive. Negative adjectives you’ve all likely heard before. I saw myself the way ignorant others had seen me.

Not too long after practicing in my new attire, I discovered a new appreciation for being able to see how my body, how my muscles, how my bones moved in the poses. I had a clearer discernment for adjusting alignment. My body has become more toned. I’m much stronger in my core than I ever used to be.

But it wasn’t just in the yoga room that I changed. The yoga room really serves as the catalyst for appreciating who I really am, finding out who I really am. I’m learning to have a deeper appreciation for Nancy. I’m learning to listen to my soul. I’m learning that when things and people and situations don’t feel right, my body won’t tolerate them because my soul wants to find a way to thrive.

And that’s what this blog, my new website, my Facebook page, and YouTube channel are really about—finding positive ways for my soul to thrive. I want to share my journey with others, so that they too can see that Yoga really is for EVERY BODY TYPE. I’m very open with my practice with my emotional journey. This year of Bikram has given me that strength. It will give you that strength too, if you give it a chance. And if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too. Find your passion. The Bikram is my passion. It continues to give me undreamed of gifts, gifts I work for.

There’s so much more to my Bikram history, my emotional growth. That will come in future blog entries. Thank you for listening and being a part of this experience with me. The support I continue to receive gives me strength in ways I can’t explain.

 

Namaste!

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Check out my new website: http://www.confessionsofayogaprincess.com

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Revisiting the Rabbit (previously known as Daringly Doing the Rabbit)

In honor of Easter, I’m revisiting my post on the Rabbit pose from a couple of weeks ago!  I’m also working on migrating to a new blog: http://confessionsofayogaprincess.wordpress.com

I’ll be posting in both blogs for the next couple of months. By the end of the summer I’ll be posting only in the Yoga Princess blog!

“Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” ~Richard Bach

I’ve had a habit, over the past eleven months of my Bikram practice, of saying variations of the following: “I can’t do that pose.” “That pose isn’t for me.” “My body is too big to do THAT.” I’ve made these declarations to myself, to others, to my instructor………But, you wanna know a secret? Those limitations exist only in my mind. I create them. When I declare I can’t do a pose, I make that my truth.

Earlier in the week I made some statement about not liking rabbit pose. I don’t remember the exact wording, but I’m sure it had something to do with not being able to do the pose. Well, there’s some truth to that. In this present moment I can’t do the idealized version of the pose, but I can benefit from doing the pose to the best of my ability.

The question to then ask myself: how does the body benefit from rabbit? and how can I work the pose to achieve that benefit. Bikram describes Rabbit Pose as “the most radical forward-bending and spinal compression” posture in his sequence. How then do I adjust the pose to achieve that effect? I concentrate on rounding my back and on not putting too much pressure on my neck. When I started doing rabbit I’d put way too much pressure on my neck—not a good thing.

I’ve learned over time then to work at, really work at rounding my back. Each time I go into the pose I try a new little adjustment, knowing my body will tell me when it’s ready to go further. Sometimes that means I push where I’m not sure I’ll go. That allows me to discover new space. Most often I discover I can go further than I imagined. I’m learning to love and revel in the new spaces.

I’m also learning to listen to myself more and more. If I listened to everybody who ever told me someone of my size couldn’t do yoga, couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that—well then, I’d probably be dead from inactivity. Anyone of any size, any ability, any anything can do yoga. If you can breathe you can yoga.

Argue for your limitations and they’re yours. Accept your limitlessness and an unknown infinite world of possibilities awaits!!!! Which will you choose?

Follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaYogaPrincess

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http://youtu.be/LDxJKJ0gvWg

Squats Done Right!

Video

Not that long ago in the land of OZ, I posted a squat challenge on facebook and then posted a squat video: https://confessionsofahawaiianprincess.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/squats-away/

My squats in that video, for lack of a better look, reflected how tired my body felt after doing 40 squats. Actually, I wanted to say lazy but realized that’s not a very yogi-like attitude.

At any rate, not too long after my first squat video, my friends at Bikram Yoga Glasgow reposted my squat challenge and nine of them clicked like, so I thought this would be a fun opportunity to work at doing the squats to the best of my current ability.

After I did the first video, some people asked me questions about the curtsy/booty busting squats, so I tried to demonstrate them a little more clearly. At one point in the video I show myself doing the squats from the rear. Ideally the back leg will, at some point, rest horizontally on the ground. I’m not there yet, but will be someday.

In another couple of months I’ll do another squat video and show the two videos side by side, to show the progression of my squat practice. I’m a fan of showing progress in ways that have nothing to do with a number on a scale and different videos are a great way to show how much stronger my body is becoming. I encourage you to find ways to record your strengthening body. Embrace your body in the now, and celebrate as it becomes more of what you’re working for it to become!

Daringly Doing the Rabbit!

Video

“Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” ~Richard Bach

I’ve had a habit, over the past eleven months of my Bikram practice, of saying variations of the following: “I can’t do that pose.” “That pose isn’t for me.” “My body is too big to do THAT.” I’ve made these declarations to myself, to others, to my instructor………But, you wanna know a secret? Those limitations exist only in my mind. I create them. When I declare I can’t do a pose, I make that my truth.

Earlier in the week I made some statement about not liking rabbit pose. I don’t remember the exact wording, but I’m sure it had something to do with not being able to do the pose. Well, there’s some truth to that. In this present moment I can’t do the idealized version of the pose, but I can benefit from doing the pose to the best of my ability.

The question to then ask myself: how does the body benefit from rabbit? and how can I work the pose to achieve that benefit. Bikram describes Rabbit Pose as “the most radical forward-bending and spinal compression” posture in his sequence. How then do I adjust the pose to achieve that effect? I concentrate on rounding my back and on not putting too much pressure on my neck. When I started doing rabbit I’d put way too much pressure on my neck—not a good thing.

I’ve learned over time then to work at, really work at rounding my back. Each time I go into the pose I try a new little adjustment, knowing my body will tell me when it’s ready to go further. Sometimes that means I push where I’m not sure I’ll go. That allows me to discover new space. Most often I discover I can go further than I imagined. I’m learning to love and revel in the new spaces.

I’m also learning to listen to myself more and more. If I listened to everybody who ever told me someone of my size couldn’t do yoga, couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that—well then, I’d probably be dead from inactivity. Anyone of any size, any ability, any anything can do yoga. If you can breathe you can yoga.

Argue for your limitations and they’re yours. Accept your limitlessness and an unknown infinite world of possibilities awaits!!!! Which will you choose?

Follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaYogaPrincess

They Call Me a Yoga Animal

Video

I’ve been called an animal, in a complimentary fashion, by more than one person when they see or hear how dedicated I am to my yoga practice. But if you know me, if you’ve read my blog you know I have a passion and a zest for life.

These days I have a strength and resilience in me that I never knew I had. This may not make a lot of sense and probably won’t be one of my more well-written blogs, but I have a lot going on in my head. I make too many assumptions, I’m always thinking, I struggle to just stay in the present moment. And goodness knows I have to work at relaxing, something so simple, yet something that takes so much effort.

More than all that I’m working at opening my heart, at just trusting, at just being, so, lately, when I’ve been in the hot room I’ve been making an extra effort in camel pose. I’ve been making this most intense backbend my best friend. Camel pose (also known as Ustrasana) opens up the the heart and throat chakras, areas normally closed off in most people. Notice how often your chin is lowered and you’ll see what I mean.

With the opening of the heart and throat, emotions flow more freely, and I’ve borne witness to this these past few weeks. I’ve seen myself feel more vulnerable, feel more emotional. It’s as though so many childlike emotions that I’d been suppressing have spiraled their way out of my spine. I don’t know how else to explain it.

It’s a part of processing my grief, that I know for sure. The more time that passes since my dad’s death 7 months ago, the more I find myself trying to recapture the small moments of my childhood.

But it’s more than that too. I also want to move forward without taking the negative parts of the past with me. And there’s a part of me that believes, that really believes that opening my heart more will release the painful and open my heart and soul to the awesome possibilities that lie ahead.

That’s why I’ve been holding (or attempting to) the camel pose through savasana. Yes, it brings up stuff, but the release of that “stuff” creates room for new joy, for new happiness, for seeing new love and kindness everywhere I go!

In the video you’ll see me do an almost two minute camel. I couldn’t do much longer because it’s a pose that requires the body to be warmed up in order to do the pose correctly. I did warm up before I made the video but it’s not the same as warming up in a hot room! Also, it’s a pretty boring video, but I wanted to share my camel with ya’ll!

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaYogaPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue

Naked Yoga: I’ve tried it! Have you? (Body Perception Part Three)

Got your attention, eh? If there was a February 29th it would be the 10 month anniversary of the day I started taking Bikram. I’ve chronicled so many of my internal and external changes, many of which have surprised me, but none so much as the personal revelations I experienced the day I tried Naked Yoga. Not the Naked Yoga you might have heard about where you have to send in pictures of yourself to be approved to practice.  They actually only offer Naked Yoga for men, and only fit men at that.

My naked yoga was more personal. A few days ago when I was involved in making a yoga video I decided to film myself, without clothes, doing some yoga poses. I wanted to see what my body looked like, really looked like, without the mask that clothing provides. I didn’t know what I’d see. I didn’t know how I’d feel. I’ve spent so many years having such negative thoughts about my body, and that’s not really surprising given that my body was, for years, too big to do things people take for granted such as sitting in a booth or buying underwear in a regular store.

It’s been so easy to see all that I thought or felt was wrong with my body. If I didn’t hear my own thoughts, I’d hear others snickering around me, pointing at me, whispering, etc. It was hard to find the good in something so many people told me was wrong.  Or if I got a compliment it was “you have a pretty face, but……..”

My thoughts have changed much during this past year. I’ve gone from being semi-covered up in my yoga classes to practicing in bike shorts and a sports bra. And I’m quite comfortable with that mode of dress.

But something in me wanted to see how my body moved. How it really looked. So I closed my blinds, turned on my lights, set my camera to film, took off my clothes and did some yoga.  Naked Yoga.  I went through just a few of the postures I normally do, and after I finished, I got dressed and sat in front of my computer for a viewing.

As I watched the video, I found myself more than pleasantly surprised by my reaction. I didn’t experience a single bit of negativity. I could literally feel myself appreciating how my body moved. I loved seeing that my abdomen, which I don’t much care for, didn’t look as big as sometimes I feel it to be. I loved seeing how freely my body could move. Sure it jiggled and wiggled, but that’s to be expected unless one has had an all over botox job!

Perhaps, most importantly, I felt no shame. I watched. I observed. I appreciated. I expressed gratitude. I liked what I saw. And that I never saw coming. And that I’m grateful for in ways I can’t express. I could see where I’d been. I could visualize where I’m working toward being. And I saw where I am right now. And that’s an image I love.

That’s a feeling I couldn’t imagine having 10 months ago, or even a few months ago. I’ve looked at myself in the mirror without clothes, but seeing myself move—that’s something entirely differently altogether.

If you’re feeling brave enough, I’d recommend at least watching your body move, while you’re not wearing clothes. You never know what you might see, and your experience might just surprise you!  Love yourself! It’s an amazing feeling!

BTW, these videos will NEVER be put online, but they’ll be there for me to see, for me to measure my progress.

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue

While I won’t show you those videos, here is an un photoshopped pic of me, sans make-up, with my hair in its natural state!

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Throwback Thursday: Doing Downward-facing Dog

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There’s this phenomenon on Facebook called Throwback Thursday where people post pictures of themselves from times past. In the fitness world people show “before” pics of themselves. Last night, I had some low moments and found myself feeling not too good about my current emotional state. When I find myself feeling down, I look for a way out, a way through. As I drove home from yoga, in the rain no less, an idea filtered into my head: instead of a Throwback Thursday picture, I’d make a Throwback Thursday video—and thus my downward dog adventures were born!!!

I first started doing hatha yoga in the summer of 1996 with my friend Sharon. We’d get together for some semi-private classes (there were about 7 of us) at a friend’s house. Our teacher, Craig Balcom, had the patience of a saint to put up with us! The antics we, well I, pulled in yoga that summer are legendary! But it’s safe to say they’ll remain secret!! Most of the women have moved away and Sharon has passed on.

I’m digressing again!! Such a habit of mine!

Back in 1996 I couldn’t even imagine doing downward facing dog! My body was too big (I weighed a lot more than I do now). I wasn’t strong enough. There was NO WAY I was even going to try it!

I’m not sure exactly when I first tried doing downward dog. I think it might have been when one of my instructors taught me how to do it against a wall. In the first sequence of the video, you’ll see me demonstrating the “against the wall variation”. I found even this to be difficult as my instructor (I don’t remember which one) would be picky about the position of my back. If I could have angled my back up I would have been just fine! But NOOOO!!!! I was ordered to do it correctly!! Imagine the horror!!!

At some point I could enter the pose from from tabletop position, with my knees on the ground. This you’ll see in the second portion of the video. I felt so HAPPY the day I could enter the pose from this position! I still didn’t care for staying in the pose though. That took too much effort!

One day, I don’t remember exactly when, I progressed to being able to enter the pose with my body almost flat on the ground. I felt elated!!! SOOO HAPPY!!! Still I didn’t care to stay in the pose—it felt toooooo taxing!!!!!

It’s different these days though. As I lost more weight I began to really appreciate down dog. While in the pose I can see the excess skin on my arms, and this makes me smile, makes me happy, The loose skin is a sign of progress that I’m working toward my goal. There are days where I’ll just stop in the middle of whatever I’m doing and go into down dog and look at the puckered up wrinkled loose skin on my upper arms—it’s a cool look actually. And I’ll stay in down dog for a few minutes just because! It makes me feel good as I can sense the growing strength in my body and in my mind!

Watching myself in this video, it would be easy for me to focus on my abdomen, but I actually notice my back more. I see a flat back. And that to me is a miracle. I used to have sooooo much back fat. It looked like I had “back boobs”!! I’m so grateful now to have a flatter back. That’s why I love locust pose so much in Bikram Yoga—it helps me to keep working on my back, and these days I can FEEL my back muscles in ways I’ve never felt them before. That’s a miracle. That’s a testament to my hard work. That keeps me going because I know I’ll feel in other places as I keep working toward my goal—to have a happier healthier body that allows me to truly live without self-imposed or worldly-imposed limitations!

(apologies for the lighting. It was raining outside and I made the video in the early morning light inside my apartment.)

Pic is of me doing Downward-Facing Dog February 2014

 

 

 

Downward Facing Dog February 2014

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue