The following post was made by my love, Jess. Today she finished the 30 day challenge and I couldn’t be prouder:
Today marks my 30th day of the Bikram 30 day challenge and I feel great! This is my second time doing the 30 day challenge, however this time is different for a few reasons:
1) I am partaking in July instead of January
2) New 60 minute classes have been offered in addition to the traditional 90 minute classes
3) My body is different
4) My mind is different
1) The first time I tried Bikram yoga was in July 2013, however I did not go every day consecutively and I was also doing other exercise: kick boxing, zumba, running, surfing, weights, etc. My first 30 day challenge was in January and I had to worry about getting into my car wet, bringing a hat and gloves so I wouldn’t get sick and really looked forward to the 105 degree hot room. I knew the heat would be a challenge but to be honest, the only time it made a difference was when I was not hydrated enough. For example, if I was in the sun before class, I would feel horrible. Or if I had too many margaritas, it seemed as though alcohol was seeping out of my pores. So I changed my habits and limited both- come out of the sun earlier than usual, drink alcohol minimally and drink water plentifully when possible. Out of the 30 classes, I had 4, maybe 5 truly awful classes. At the time, I wanted to blame either (in order from lamest excuse to probable excuse) the teacher or my body, but in reality I knew it was actually the mind (see below).
2) Traditional Bikram classes are taught in accordance to Bikram Choudry’s 90 minutes of “hell” as he calls it; 26 postures, done twice in 105 degree carpeted hot room 40% humidity. There is no music, there are no candles, there are no props. Everyone is expected to give their 100% all the time, even if this means they accomplish only 1% of the pose. I was inspired to become a yoga instructor myself and when faced with the decision of where I wanted to train, I did not choose Bikram as my guru. The more and more I hear about the man, the more I really disagree with his morals and ethics. I also have a very different vision for who I believe yoga can and should reach and I don’t believe that everyone should be expected to participate in the conditions Bikram yoga lays out, even though I enjoy practicing it and it feels good for my body most of the time. He has, however, inspired many good people to teach his sequence and the Bikram Yoga Long Beach crew has become family to me (being from out of town, I see them more often than my actual family!) My instructors are always concerned with student health, never pushing anyone to a point of injury and I trust them. Many studios, however are limiting their affiliations with Bikram himself and are dissociating from the Bikram studio name, calling themselves “Hot Yoga” studios instead. The Long Beach crew is not going this far, however they do find value in offering a shorter series to students who do not have unlimited time to practice (see Talia’s entry on how much time Bikram yoga actually takes out of your day).
My first challenge, there was no such thing as a 60 minute class. Each class, day in and day out was 90 minutes. There was no anticipation of what the next day might be, because we knew it would be exactly the same as the day before. At the time, we didn’t even anticipate who the teacher might be. Now, with the addition of the 60 minute class, the planning freaks among us rejoice. And have the potential anxious moment when we realize we can only do 90 minutes each day. Now we can even scope out who the instructor is for the day. Don’t get me wrong; overall it is really nice having the option of 60 minute classes and picking out an instructor I know will help me reach my potential. But there was something nice about the routine, the anonymity of the instructor and the realization that the day before you completed the exact same class.
The 60 minute classes and 90 minute classes are both enjoyable; the 60 goes a bit faster, but you get out of the room faster, meaning I can usually reason with myself a little easier to give my entire effort during the last half hour of class. With the 90 minute, the two sets of each pose gives me time to breathe more slowly, slow my heart rate down, work on deepening my poses and relax greatly in savasana. If beginners are giving Bikram yoga a shot, I suggest trying the 90 minutes for the first few then switching for an authentic experience and learn where the body and mind are as a starting point in something so challenging.
3) My body is different.
When I began the 30 day challenge a few winters ago, I was still learning how to do the poses correctly. Yoga never came naturally to me and one thing I really liked about Bikram yoga is that the instructor tells you exactly where to put your body from an anatomical perspective. I saw major progression over the course of January 2014 as I explored each pose. Now, in July 2015, I do not see the same type of progression. I understand how my body works better, I have seen my body at its full flexibility and its tightest and have learned that if I do not accept it for what it is at that point in time on that day, I could either become unnecessarily disappointed or worse, injure myself. When going for vinyasa yoga teacher certification, I vowed to not let yoga “stress me out” as that would be an oxymoron. I remind myself of this when I get down for not reaching what I think is my full potential and instead try to accept myself for where I am that day. No, I do not look the same as I did that January, yes I have improved in some areas and maybe become tighter in other. But my body tells a story of what each muscle has learned over time and expresses itself differently each day.
4) My mind is different.
Probably the most important thing for me to recognize is the impact the mind has over what the body can do. If I say I can’t, then I won’t. If I can, then I must. I struggle with this time and time again, but often give myself a pep talk ahead of time saying, “Today is a new day; do not write the end of the story. Do not think about what happened yesterday or ten minutes ago. Live in the now, Jess. Right now”. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. While lying in savasana between sets or poses, when I feel my mind wander, I meditate on my breathing, the ceiling tiles, a “bright white light”. Bikram has taught me how to focus like nothing else has. “Bengal tiger strength, bull dog determination”. Sometimes I stare in the mirror not to focus on a particular body part, as the dialogue says, but to keep an eye on myself as a whole. As a being who is strong all over; that if I can do this, bring my knee up straight to my forehead in front of me in a humid, hot room then perhaps I can do many other things under pressure. I found Bikram yoga at a particularly uncertain time in my life and it has lead me on a path of healing. For some, that healing is physical, but for me it is absolutely mental and spiritual. To realize that I amount to more than I was feeling at the time; that I could do things physically that I never thought were possible. Yoga is therapeutic in many ways.
During my January challenge, I started dreading going to class at the end of the month because I had over exerted myself and allowed my mind to take over my body. I couldn’t wait to be through and take a day off. This challenge was something I looked forward to each day, even when it was inconvenient, even when I had a wedding to go to in 20 minutes after class or showed up to social functions with wet hair, still sweating from class. It was all worth it.
Most importantly, this challenge was much more enjoyable than the first because I did it with my best friend. Talia and I started together in July of 2013, thinking we were both crazy for going to a hot room in the summer. Spending 30 days with someone you trust, can commiserate with and who knows exactly what you are going through is nourishing to the soul. We brought each other up during the month, rooted one another on, agreed when we had a particularly horrific class and got to spend quality time going to and from class which builds a bond that one never forgets. I started one day before Talia and she will be finished tomorrow but I am very grateful that she was there by my side almost every single day!
Cheers to finishing the 30 day challenge!