Happy 2011 everyone!
I am so stoked to introduce to you Nick Criscione. He practices at the Park Slope studio here in Brooklyn.
MH: What's up, Nick? Tell me-- how did you hear about Bikram Yoga?
NC:Two years ago, when I was working at an architecture firm in in Boston, a friend told me about a hot yoga studio in Cambridge. He told me it was really intense, the whole time chugging water, sweating so much, and just trying to get through. It wasn't until a few months later, after I had started practicing vinyasa yoga and was interested in learning more about the subject that I called him to ask him about the hot yoga.
Do you remember what your first class was like?
I left 2/3 of the way. I couldn't stand still. It was so overwhelming. When I went outside, the manager of the studio came over to see if I was okay. He told me to take my t-shirt off. Then he said to me, "Go back, lie down. No one gives a shit if you can't do the postures. Besides, being out here is not good for your body. Just go back in." I listened to him and returned to my mat. The only posture I could do after that was the final stretching.
That manager is brilliant. You did so well by listening to his advice. It is always 100% better to stay in the room, even if you're sitting out a lot, rather than go outside--it's such a shock to the body. What made you come back for a second class?
I played sports growing up, all of which had their own physical and mental demands. Bikram was no different. The #1 reason i came back was because of the physical and mental reward-- the way you feel after class. I was sleeping better, I felt more rested and refreshed. I also felt lighter, like each time I released all this stress. I realized that there was something to this.
And now, here you are in Brooklyn completing a 30 day challenge. What happened between Cambridge '08 and Brooklyn '11?
I moved to New York in February of 2010. I partied a lot, and it was this lifestyle that eventually forced me to re-evaluate my health. It turned out that there was a Bikram yoga studio in my neighborhood, and in March I decided to go check it out. By April, I was hooked once again, and decided to do the work-study program. I worked through the summer and accumulated a bunch of classes, but my practice was not consistent. Then one day all the workstudies got an email saying that our classes will expire if we don't use them by a certain date. So I picked up my pace and started practicing a lot more in August. It just didnt make sense to me to earn these classes and not use them. So I went from practicing 3 to 5 days a week, then from 5 days to 7 days.
I kinda see where this is going...
Yeah. It was a gradual buildup, to the point where i was curious to see if i could do the 30 day challenge. I was curious to see if I could do it.
That's pretty cool. Was there anything else that added to your curiosity?
A few things inspired me. By the late fall, I wanted to avoid the cold and flu that was going around. I wanted to keep the holiday-stress levels to a low. And also, I kept hearing about a teacher from San Francisco who was coming to do a seminar in January, so I wanted to sign up for that and prepare for it as well.
Mary Jarvis! Of course! I am still in awe of all the knowledge and wisdom she shared with us. I'm so glad you decided to sign up for that. She continues to amaze me with the beauty and truth she has found after experiencing a life-altering injury. What about yourself? Are you working with any injuries?
I was in a car accident that fractured my right shoulder/clavicle. So the pain in that area is starting to surface.
I've often heard from senior teachers that when it comes to old injuries, if they didn't fully heal at the time, there will be pain sensation that resurfaces when you start practicing seriously. They say, "it will get worse before it gets better." So just take your time and let it heal :)
Yeah, I am enjoying the process.
Good. Tell me, do you have any favorite/least favorite postures?
Yeah. I really enjoy the 2nd part of awkward, standing bow pulling pose, camel & rabbit, and savasana. I have a love/hate relationship with the 3rd part of locust. And I am not so crazy about half moon and eagle. Basically, I have new favorite postures when I learn something new about the posture that helps me nail it. The ones I don't like are the ones I haven't figured out yet, the ones I haven't mastered how to breathe in yet.
It's interesting to note this, because as your body changes so does your relationship to your postures. You're a muscular guy, which makes it hard in eagle to wrap up like a pretzel. And half-moon can be challenging no matter what, especially if your spine is not very flexible. But you're so on the right path. Understanding the series takes time. Be patient and compassionate to your body! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I'll see you in the hot room!
Hi everyone. Meet Lisa. She's from California and she practices at Bikram Yoga La Jolla and Bikram Yoga Encinitas.
Hey Lisa. How did you learn about Bikram Yoga?
My sister told me about it a few years ago, and when I finally decided to try it, I went with my son and his girlfriend.
What was your first class like?
Many of the postures were very difficult for me, but some felt really good. I liked some postures, and didn't like others. I kept watching the clock, hoping it would soon be over. But then when it was, I felt so amazing afterwards.
The first class is specially tough because you don't know what to expect, or when it will be over! I can understand that. What ultimately made you come back?
The second class was free and, well, I really liked how I felt afterwards.
It's funny, but that's also why I came back. I remember having payed 10 pounds for 10 days at Bikram Yoga Fulham and intended on getting my money's worth. Little did I know that it was the best 10 pounds I'll ever spend! But what kept you coming, even after your intro week was over?
I liked seeing my progress, every day I was getting better. I like that I am investing time into myself, knowing I am doing something so wonderful for my body. My mood is elevated. My thoughts are positive. My skin looks better. I sleep better. I drink lots of water. I crave healthy foods. I like that the whites of my eyes are very bright. I feel stronger and I stand up straighter. It's only been five days of the challenge!
Yes, the challenge! What motivated you to do it?
I felt inspired. My boyfriends bought me a 30-day unlimited pass and I thought I would put it to good use. He is doing the challenge with me.
That's so fantastic! And as you go through your challenge, what is helping you stay inspired and motivated?
I would like to be able to do every pose correctly. I would like to feel and look stronger, leaner and healthier.
I really love that you said that. To do the pose "correctly" is so much more important than doing it "perfectly". I always like to tell my students that alignment and form is so much more important than depth. When you are consistent and you try the right way, you will always get the benefits. Are there any postures in particular that you'd like to learn?
Yes. Janushirasana with Paschimotthanasana. It's the one I'm not as good at. But I am sure as I near the 30 day challenge I will be much better and learn to like it.
Always make sure that in the third part of the posture, when you grab the toes, to learn to stretch your legs first. In other words, the knees must be locked and the heels should come off the floor first, before you bend your elbows down, and eventually pull your body forward till the forehead touches the feet. But yes, one step and one day at a time. Thanks so much for sharing and please tell your boyfriend that I think he is brilliant for having given you this gift!
Hey Lauren from Massachusetts! Where do you practice and how long have you been there?
I stumbled upon Diane Ducharme's Bikram Yoga for You studio in West Roxbury, MA and have been practicing there on and off since 1999. It was 4 months after I had given birth to my second child and I was 60 lbs overweight. Then I moved to Baltimore and studied a bit there when the first studio opened in 2004. When I returned to the Boston area I went back to Yoga for You once in a while until I resumed my practice last spring.
Tell me about your first class.
My first class was long ago!!! I remember being scared because I was in so much pain and the thought of bending backwards was terrifying.
What made you come back?
I came back because I thought it was worth a try and it was a challenge. I lost lots of weight, got out of pain and continued until we moved to Baltimore 2 years later. The city we moved to did not have a Bikram studio for 2 1/2 of the 3 years that we lived there. When the studio opened I went back until we moved back to Boston in 2004. I did not pick up my practice again until February of this year.
I really love that there are studios opening up all over the place. It's a testament to the yoga, how it works, and how its helping so many people around the world. Bikram tells us often how by having created this sequence, he was able to help more people at a time, thus fulfilling his promise to his guru to bring yoga to as many people as possible. But tell me, what do you find to be the most challenging thing about this practice?
The hardest part of the class for me is making the commitment to get myself there. Once I'm in the room, I am swept away!
Yup, I have to agree with you on that one. Are you working with any injuries?
My injuries include a spine compression injury and arthritis in my knees from competitive figure skating when I was young.
I can understand why the backbends would have seem terrifying. But those are precisely what will help heal your spine. And of course, each time you lock your knee, you strengthen the muscles around the knee. I bet you know this already, but you are totally in the right place. What made you want to do the 30DC?
I wanted to do the 30 day challenge because I finally had the life circumstances where I could try it! My intentions were to see if it would change my body and my practice. Since my 30 day challenge I have attended class between 4-6 days/week. As long as I continue with my yoga practice, my knees and back remain pain-free. I can enjoy restful sleep and can walk up and down steps without pain. It is amazing! Practice continues to be wonderful! I feel so fortunate to have found this yoga that works for my body and mind.
You're totally right. As long as you continue your practice you will be pain-free. And it's just like brushing your teeth. Aligning the body and getting it healthy may be challenging, but it's waaaay harder to maintain it. Thank you for sharing your story!
It is such a pleasure to share with the world Solitaire's story. He practices at Park Slope in Brooklyn, where i find myself the most these days. Every time I see Sol, there is this crazy big smile on his face. And the energy he radiates always makes my heart jump for joy and click its heels. Anyway, this is not about Sol's 30DC. It's more like Sol's 365DC. Yes! 365 days! Here's more from him:
Hi Sol! It's always such a pleasure to see your happy smiling face. It hasn't really been that long since you started practicing. Was this your first encounter with a yoga practice?
Well, I'm a Buddhist, have been since the early '70s. That's my start in Yoga.
You'll have to tell me more about that one day. What about Bikram? How did you find it?
Last October Jasmine Edwards, a member of the 'Food Coop' squad which is my honor to be the Squad Leader of, encouraged me to try Bikram as a way to address the arthritis in my entire body and severely advanced in my lower back and legs. You see, around the time I took up Buddhism, racing Formula-1 Ducati Motorbikes was my passion. Needless to say, a serious track spill left me severely damaged on my right side. My right leg is 2+1/2 inches shorter than the left, and the knee is fused to salvage the leg after the spill.
That's pretty intense, Sol. It could not have in any way been easy. I am so grateful that Jasmine shared the love with you and brought you in. Did you love the practice right away?
Well, the same month I started, I completed my first 30DC and today makes 293 days in a row. My goal is to one day achieve LEVITATION and the end of arthritis pain in my body.
Tell me about some of the benefits that you are experiencing.
My upper body is now free of arthritis!
You rock, you rock. Straight up, you're amazing. More amazing of course is seeing you progress in the hot room, taking your time being patient honoring and healing your body, all the while maintaining a calm deep breath. You are such an inspiration. What do you find most challenging in your practice?
All the asanas are hard for me so they're all my favorites. Bikram is one of a few daily yoga meditation practices for me, and is the most physiologically beneficial. Spiritually my practices include Mantra, kundalini and Karma.
Thank you for sharing your story. And by the way, I LOVE the picture of you and boss. You both look so so happy. And yes yes yes to the 365 days! I'll be cheering you on for sure. See you around the hot room!
Rose from San Francisco! (i loooove your picture)Tell me. What drew you to Bikram?
There is actually a Bikram yoga studio 3 blocks from my house and I've been walking/driving past it for the last 2 years and seeing how steamed up the windows get. It was pretty intimidating because I usually feel slightly claustrophobic in extreme heat. I went on the Fluid Yoga San Francisco website and read about all the benefits of practicing Bikram.
Haha that's true, the steamy windows. The studio at Park Slope in Brooklyn is crazy steamy, and when the door opens literally a cloud of steam escapes. Passerbys are always trying to see through the cloud at what is going on. What made you actually go in though?
Well, I try to set 3 goals for myself every year and 2010 had just started and I thought trying a class could be one of my goals. My initial plan was just to survive a class but I never imagined actually completing a 30DC this year!
You go, girl. And what of your first class, tell me about that.
I forced myself to chug tons of water before the class (I used to hate drinking water and now I LOVE water). When I got to the studio, one of the members advised me that the heat is tolerable as long as you don't breathe through your mouth. The instructor also told me that my goal was just to stay in the room the entire class and to kneel down if I felt dizzy or nauseated. I was surprised at how much I was sweating and we were only doing the first breathing exercise! I was also really proud of myself for trying all of the poses and giving it everything I had.
That's all you ever ever ever need to do. Stay in the room, come in hydrated, give whatever you have to give on any given day (it will ALWAYS be different). What of that first class made you want to come back for seconds?
I tried doing Toe-Stand during my first class. On the first side, I was hesitant to bring my hands to prayer. When we switched to the other leg, as cheesy as it sounds, I made eye contact with myself in the mirror and told myself that I could do it and then I brought my hands to prayer and held the pose! That was the first time I had ever willed my body into doing something and I LOVED that I was able to make that mind-body connection. It was empowering and it got me hooked.
That's awesome! That mirror is SUCH a tool. And so is the dialogue you hear each class. It really comes down to making the mind-body connection with the words you hear spoken. Bikram will often say to us that during those 90 minutes, he is doing all the thinking for us, all we have to do is listen and connect our body to the words. "My mind, your body," or something along those lines. Tell me what you like and dislike about the practice.
I like noticing the small improvements in my poses with each class. It's usually a surprise, like the first time I touched my forehead to my knee during the Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee pose. And the first time I hooked my left foot during Eagle Pose. I usually end up smiling to myself during class when it happens. I dislike how much time it sucks up out of the day. It would be one thing if it were just a 90 minute class, but it really ends up being more like 3 hours when I include getting to and from class, making sure I'm hydrated, planning my meals a few hours before the class, washing all the sweaty towels and clothes, not to mention having to wash my hair everyday which makes it frizzy. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons so it's not a huge issue.
Tell me about it. You basically just enumerated all my cons. It's crazy how you totally plan your day around it. Even more so when you're practicing every day. What made you do this for 30 days straight?
After I heard about the 30DC I instantly knew that I wanted to try it. I thought it could be a nice 2011 goal but when I realized that my schedule would allow me to try the challenge in June 2010, I thought "I'll try it one day at a time and if I hit 30, then great!" That's pretty much what happened. I went one day on a Friday and again that Saturday and then that Sunday and by Monday I thought "well I've already done 3 days in a row, if I don't go today I would have to start all over again!" And it kept on going until day 31! I'm kind of a quitter so I really wanted prove to myself that I can commit to something if I put my mind to it.
Yeah, then 4, 5, 6... 31. Well you certainly showed yourself! What sort of things have you noticed as a result of this daily practice?
I wanted to be able to turn off my thoughts and just focus on my breathing and build a stronger mind-body connection. And although I still catch my mind drifting to other thoughts like work or my next meal, I can now use my breath to calm my heart rate after a particularly difficult pose (or anytime I'm anxious) and now I use breathing to transition through poses. Oh and people telling me that it looks like I've lost some weight doesn't hurt either :) It's definitely icing on the cake.
And what a yummy cake it is. It's great when you can take the practice off the mat; out of the hot room. Do you have any fav postures? Not-so-fav?
My new favorite pose is the Half Moon Pose. It wasn't until my 3rd week that I finally figured out how to pull my arm over and shift my hips properly. It really does take a lot of strength to keep your arms perfectly straight behind your ears. My new least favorite pose is Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee pose. I dislike the choking feeling and how there are days when I can touch my forehead to my knee and some days when I can't. When I can't touch it in class, I keep trying the pose when I get home to prove to myself that I still have it i
I like your determination. But don't forget that your body needs to be warmed up in order to do these postures (not too hard in this heat). Generally, we dont recommend doing poses outside of sequence, since their order is cleverly set. It is better to try the posture you want to work on right after class... just a bit of advice... but you seem to get the idea, the mind-body connection intention. Prior to the challenge, did you have any other intentions?
I love that even though there are only 26 poses, there are endless possibilities for improvement! There's always something to strive towards. Even the breathing exercises are a challenge! Hopefully someday I can learn how to properly inhale through my throat and be able to make that sound! Maybe it can be one of my 2011 goals. :)
And so it shall be, and better!
Celine's challenge, part of a much bigger project, is an amazing feat that stirred inspiration and excitement within me. Doing the 30-day-challenge is one of her "30 things to do before turning 30" (one of my favorite ones, and one which has been on my to-do list forever, is to learn how to surf). So, here's the recap behind her experience in the hot room:
MH: Cool, so you've crossed one thing more off your list. But why Bikram? How did you learn about this practice?
CN: I first heard about Bikram back in maybe 2005 when the first Bikram studio was set up in my hometown, Manila (Philippines) by Pye Trinidad. I was a Beauty Editor back then for a lifestyle magazine so I tried out a class in order to write about it. It was a great class but I found it so challenging that I was pretty intimidated from coming back. I did not step into a Bikram studio again until 2007, when a friend convinced me to take a class at Bikram Yoga Union Square. Again, I had a rough time and after that first class, didn't come back to Bikram again. And then for some reason, Bikram popped into my head once again in March 2009 and I went for a class at Bikram Yoga NYC. This time, I didn't have to go because of work or because a friend made me. I went because I really wanted to practice Bikram, and this time I came back for a second class. And I just kept on going from there!
That's really cool, when you make up your own mind to do something. I think it changes everything. Do you remember your third "first class"?
Yeah, that's thee one I remember most clearly. I came in thinking I would do well because I have 12 years of ballet training and I was attending a first time only class at Bikram Yoga NYC. I thought, well if we're all beginners I'm sure I'll do great ... Boy did my ego get beaten down and dragged back to earth. I was, hands down, the worst student in that first class! I was seeing spots by the time we finished the awkward pose, and surrendered to the mat soon after that. I spent more time hyperventilating on the mat than practicing the asanas. It was really bad. I got my ass thoroughly kicked.
I always felt that the best thing to do is to just jump into a regular class, since it is structured as a beginner's class. The range of levels on any given day in any class is pretty diverse, but that's the way it's meant to be! So, you took a first-time only class, though it was really your third time, and you tanked it, but you came back. Why?
No matter how terrible that first class was, the high that I got afterwards was just so amazing that I had to go back. I came back better hydrated and left my ego at the door, and the second class was a hundred times better than the first. From not even making it past the awkward pose, I was able to complete a full class. When I saw that I was actually capable of completing the class without keeling over, I was hooked. Within a month, I availed of a special one year offer at Bikram Yoga Union Square and have been practicing ever since.
That's awesome! Pretty great at realizing so much on your first class: the absolute pre-requisite of coming in hydrated, practicing for the sake of the practice and not letting your ego drive you... Good stuff. So, are you working through any injuries?
Besides a once severely bruised ego, not really.
Hahaha nice. And what is it about the practice that you like and dislike?
I like how great my joints and my muscles feel afterwards. I really feel the restorative effects of the practice on my body. I also like the intensity of the practice because it forces me to quiet my mind and concentrate on the task at hand. What I dislike at times is the repetitive nature, since the same 26 asanas are done every time. I find myself wishing I could learn more asanas. Though when I did the 30DC, I realized how much more work I need to do on the 26 asanas that I've been practicing, so that took away some of my antsiness to try something new. There's so much work to be done here still!
Totally, there is always somewhere to go. Especially as a beginner, I think it's important to understand that you are not expected to master these poses in a month or even a year. It's a lifetime process, and these postures take years and years of consistent practice. Plus, of course, there's also the part of us changing all the time, what we eat, how we feel, etc will come up in the hot room. There will never be two classes alike. What is it that inspired you to do the challenge?
The main reason really is because I decided to put it on my 30 Before 30 List. But why did I add it to my list? Well, when you're in your late 20s, you start getting the feeling that your body is past is prime and you start pining for the good old days when you had a tiny waist, no flab on your arms, and so on ... well, at least I did. I missed the body I had when I was in my early 20s, the body that was so flexible from years of dancing and so resistant to the onslaught of fat! I wanted to see if I could still get some of that back if I just worked really hard. So I thought, why not do the ultimate workout, the 30-Day Challenge! And I have to say, the challenge put me in the best shape of my life.
That's rocking. Haha "the ultimate workout", that's pretty funny. I can almost hear it on an infomercial. So what got you through during the rough days? What were your intentions?
My intention was just to get through it, really, and see what it does for my mind and body. I wanted to see how much flexibility I could regain, and was happy with the results. I'm not as flexible as I was when I was still dancing ballet, but I accept where I am right now and I know that I can improve more with more devotion to the practice. I was surprised at how strong I got over the 30 days. I can honestly say that I'm stronger now than I've ever been in my whole life! I became very lean and muscular, which was fantastic. Moreover, I was really happy too with the effect it had on me mentally and emotionally. It made me such a calm person, which is difficult to achieve in a crazy city like New York. Mentally too, I was pleased that by the end of the challenge, my mind had become so quiet, just focusing on the practice rather than blathering about random things like what I'm having for dinner, the way it did when I was just starting out.
Yeah! My favorite one is "what am i going to drink right after class?" I used to daydream about walking down an endless aisle of deli refrigerators lined with zico. But it is pretty amazing whenyou catch yourself and you bring yourself back. Lastly, my dear, what is your fav and least fav posture?
The standing head-to-knee pose is both my favorite and least favorite posture. Even when I was a dancer, forward extensions had always been my weak suit because I never had a strong core. During the 30-day challenge, I always both dreaded and anticipated the head-to-knee pose because I felt that it was my "barometer" of how much I was improving. I was really pleased that by the end of the challenge I found it much easier to maintain my balance in this pose. Though the more classes you take, the more you learn about the pose, and the more you find needs to be improved with the way you're doing it! I still have light years of improvement to go on this one, but I'm definitely happy with the progress I made through the 30-Day Challenge!
Totally agree on standing head to knee. I've been practicing for about three years and only now am i learning to properly kick my leg out. This was of course after i realized that going for it all the way "just to get my forehead to knee" was rubbish if other alignment details were ignored. So I've gone back to step one and now I'm kicking out! Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, I'm gonna go and do a similar list. Good luck on the rest of your adventures!
Jacqueline is one powerful lady. I've been bumping into her around different studios, and I was so thrilled when she told me she was on a challenge. Even more so when she agreed to share her experience. Jacqueline is a Bikram teacher, and she is such an awesome reminder of how important it is to commit to the practice hardcore whenever possible--even as a teacher, or rather, especially as a teacher.
MH: I've stopped doing challenges, or rather, stopped counting my class attendance. It's a given that as teachers, we need to practice to stay connected to our students. But I want to go back to your roots as a student. Tell me about your initial encounter with Bikram.
JM: My friend Nick Potenzieri took me to my first class in April 2002. He was doing workstudy at 48th Street. I was going through a very traumatic period in my life and he recommended I go to class with him. I had been practicing mostly Hatha and a little bit of Jiva at that point. I figured learning another form of yoga could only help my practice.
I LOVE Nick. He is such an amazing teacher with the most beautiful blue eyes and the hottest fanny! I totally love that he brought you in. What about your first class?
That first class was with Johnny Salvatore and it was totally awful. I was nauseous the whole time and vowed never to come back. I recall looking at Nick's legs in Separate leg head to knee and there was this stream, no a river, of sweat pouring down his leg. I sat out most of the class, but finished and stayed in the room. I felt great afterward, but I declared that this yoga was not for me.
Absolutely love rivers of sweat. I'm sure that Johnny made you laugh a couple of times--- doesn't hurt when you're totally dying. What inspired you to return for another class?
It wasn't until eight months later that I took another class. I was walking by BYPS in November of the same year and called Nick right away to tell him that there was a studio in Park Slope. It was open just a few months. I decided to give it another shot and took this amazing class with this woman named Robin and was instantly hooked. I guess I needed her to point out some things that I needed to work on. I still do.
I hear nothing but amazing things about Robin-- I've yet to take her class. As a side note though, aren't we the luckiest here in NY? We have so many great teachers. Do you recall your overall experience during this time?
At that point, I had carpal tunnel so bad, that I couldn't even hold a pen, which is not so great for an artist. I had pain in my arms and hands and could barely move my neck. I was going through a battery of tests at that time as well-I had sprained my back body surfing-only to discover some really crazy stuff about my cervical spine. I was diagnosed with advanced degenerative arthritis from my C1 through my T1 in my neck, with three bulging discs and these weird stalactite-like growths that have fused two vertebra in the front of my cervical spine. I also found out that I had a fused Lumbar spine. The doctors told me that I had the spine of an 80 year old woman. I guessed this was probably why I was having problems with my arms. My whole life I've been used to throwing my body around without consequence-I've been an athlete my whole life, so at some point, injuries were bound to surface and boy have they.
Wow. That's some pretty intense stuff honey. It's really incredible how much we abuse our bodies on a daily basis, and how that stuff adds up over time. I'm pretty sure that you struggled more than most people in the hot room.
I kept practicing, despite the pain. I was able to eventually work out the arm pain in locust pose, but it took a while, and I grew to be patient about the slow changes in my body. I love the healing aspect of the practice and how preventative it is as well. Also, I love the meditation, as I practice Vipassana and Metta meditation, too. I'm not sure if there is anything I dislike about the it, otherwise, after just two years of practice, I would not have gone to training. I figured if I have to deal with this arthritic spine stuff for the rest of my life, I might as well make a commitment to counteracting its degenerative nature for the rest of my days.
That's really inspiring. You're such a perfect example of how nothing is really permanent-- we have control to change our bodies, our minds, our lives. One of my favorite quotes from Bikram is when he asks us what is the easiest thing in the world-- according to him, accomplishing something. And the hardest thing is maintaining it. Which is where the 30DC comes in. I think it gives people an idea of what it takes, the type of commitment required, to create and keep a healthy body.
I first did a 30 day challenge when I began the method. I learned that it was a great way to jump start my practice, heal the body/mind and helped with the cost of coming 5 or 6 times a week. I did a few 30 day challenges before training and did one stretch of 60 days. The strength I attained was enormous and the quiet mind I acquired was/is brilliant.
Exactly. It's funny though because I remember thinking about it in economic terms as well.... like, "I'm paying for a monthly unlimited, might as well get my money's worth," only to realize its the best investment ever. So fastforwarding a bit... you went to training, did your thing, became a teacher, and now where are you in your practice?
At the moment, I am doing another challenge. I just finished day 31 and will be practicing everyday until I leave for vacation in a few weeks. I have a avery stressful job, teaching art in a high poverty and violent neighborhood. So, needless to say, all that stress has affected my body and I decided to get rid of it the best way I know how-through Bikram. Throughout the school year, I have only been able to practice 3 times a week at best, so this is a great way for me give myself focus and get that stressful junk out of my body. I decided to put myself first and make the commitment no matter what was going on at school or otherwise.
Yeah! YOU are the most important thing in your life (another one of my fav Bikram mottos). Are there any specific goals or desires from this challenge?
The only changes I would like to see happen are the opening of my neck and shoulders and my hips. This is starting to happen, but as far as my shoulders are concerned, this is my biggest challenge because of the arthritis.
Yeah, but its great to know that you are so in the right track to healing. I'd love to know how your body progresses over time. Tell me about your current fav/least fav postures.
My favorite posture: Camel for it's chakra opening abilities and that wonderful feeling I get every time I come out of the pose. Even though there are some days that it's really hard to open the front side of my body, I always have that same yummy feeling after the posture is over.
My least favorite posture: Standing head to knee. Any posture where I have to round my spine is the most challenging. It not only hurts, but I feel so crunchy and can barely come out of the posture. So, I kind dislike Rabbit as well...but also love it at the same time. You catch my drift?
I've been resisting Rabbit for the longest. I'm always blaming my short arms. But then when I decide to stop being lazy and actually try harder, then yeah, its pretty awesome. I love how this practice never gets easier, but it always gets better. I want to buy a cheerleader outfit and cheer you on this journey, my dear. You are amazing! Can't wait to chat when this challenge is done.
When Bridgette told me that she had begun practicing Bikram, I was ecstatic. I love this practice to the core, and it brings me joy to know that the people in my life practice it too. I interned for Bridgette years ago, when she was a designer and I was a High Schooler enamored with the fashion world. I didn't get too far in the field, but I did meet an incredible mentor. So, oh the joy for her to be practicing!
I totally loooove that the Bikram community keeps growing, strengthening relationships that once existed and creating new, powerful ones. How did you hear about Bikram?
I heard about Bikram yoga years ago. I’ve been practicing other forms of yoga on and off since 1994, yet never did Bikram until March of this year. I never thought I would enter a Bikram class, it seemed like a horrible way to exercise. Nothing about it seemed appealing whatsoever.
Technically speaking, it doesn't sound too appealing. All that sweating doesn't sound too sexy (but its oh so sexy!). What changed your mind?
I asked someone to bring me. My friend, who is also a client of mine, had been practicing for a few months. What drew me to the practice was watching her, over time, transform before my eyes. Since my job is to dress her, I was very aware of the changes her body was going through from practicing Bikram regularly. She was losing weight and just looked more graceful. In addition, she was calmer and more focused.
And I'm sure she looked super smokin'. Bikram yogis are so damn sexy. So you equated horrible-sweaty room with amazing results. Not a bad incentive.
At that particular time, my life was completely opposite to hers. Not only had I put on a few pounds that I wasn’t happy about, I was also dealing with a pretty bad chronic lower back/ gluteal injury from, ironically, doing another style of yoga several years ago. The pain had resurfaced with no relief which was very taxing to deal with. In addition, on an emotional level, I was going through a time where I felt like I needed to center myself. Basically, I was experiencing some sort of pain on a mental, emotional and physical level, all at the same time. I felt cornered, like I just couldn’t run and hide from myself anymore. Seeing my friend healing all aspects of herself through her Bikram practice, I asked if I could go to a class with her.
Nice. She must have been thrilled to bring you. Do you remember your first class?
I will never forget my first class. I was really nervous. I’m not really a fan of heat and I had no idea how I would hold up through the practice. I remember walking into the studio prior to class feeling like I had walked into an oven, sweating before class even started. I mean, I knew I would sweat, but I had no idea it was humanly possible to sweat as much as I did. My teacher Troy over at Bikram Yoga Downtown in Manhattan was so kind and sat down and explained, as best he could, what was going to happen. From there, I just remember his loud claps interrupting his voice. He sounded like an auctioneer at Sotheby’s announcing things like “Go back, lean back, more back, way back, push, push, push, change.” The rest of the class is a blur.
That's totally my favorite line from the dialogue. It's so amazing how efficient it is. You really do go back, lean back, fall back, waaaay back. What motivated you to come back?
The simple answer to that question is because I never felt better in my life. But the longer, and slightly funnier story, is that about 3/4 of the way through my first class, I was surprised to hear myself think “How soon can I get back here?” I just couldn’t wrap my brain around this response because, logically, it made absolutely no sense to me. Here I was, torturing myself, yet I wanted to come back. That first week, I went to class five times. I really don’t recognize this part of myself since starting to practice. I’ve never been the person who voluntarily physically pushes themselves harder than they have to, if you know what I mean. I have no desire to run a marathon, and I’ve never considered exercising as a happy way to spend my free time. Heck, I don’t think I can run around the block. When it comes to working out, I’ve always preferred the easy way out. I like being fit, I just always saw the process of working out being a huge cross to bear. Yet, with Bikram, I make time to practice. It’s like an addiction, and when I come, I want to do my best.
Although, I have to say, when I’m having a hard class, I sometimes jokingly think to myself, “Why did it have to be Bikram yoga that I got hooked on??”
Honey, we all have "bad classes". For me, those are generally the ones where I still feel my lunch in my belly. But even those classes totally serve their purpose. It teaches you more about yourself and what you need to do to prepare efficiently for practice. You mentioned some lower-back issues. Are you working through any other injuries?
Well, aside from the fact that I have little cartilage in my right knee, which strangely doesn’t seem to give me much of a problem, my back is a real problem. It’s more of a tight soas, quadratus lumborum, gluteal issue that extends down my IT band. My upper back also gives me problems. Before starting Bikram, I really couldn’t bend without pain. Acupuncture and Bikram yoga have really helped. Bikram, in particular, has helped me tighten my core, which has taken the pressure off my back.
Bikram would say "Piece of cake!" Yoga is the medicine for the body. And like any medicine, you have to keep taking it to get better. But I'm sure you've already noticed that. What do you like about the practice.... and what do you dislike about it?
Wow, what do I like? Where do I begin? I just like the way the world looks from this vantage point. I’ve never slept better, I’m calmer, more accepting of myself, situations, others, etc. Things move slower. I look at life with greater objectivity and the small stuff just has way less meaning. I don’t get hung up on things like I used to and, most importantly, that anxious whirring in my mind has dissipated greatly. I’m also much more aware of my breath and am more present to life. Bottom line, practicing Bikram regularly makes life better.
As far as what I dislike, well, it depends when you ask me that. For example, two days before I started my 30DC, I remember being in the middle of class thinking, “Not only do I not want to do my 30DC, I don’t think I ever want to come back to Bikram again!” That was a hard class. However, I’ve found that the harder the class, the better I feel afterwards. Other than that, I really hate getting dressed back into my regular clothes after class is over and I’ve showered. Even after showering, my body still seems to be trying to regulate itself from practice. So, not only am I damp from my shower, but I’m sweating again. I’ve learned that putting on jeans after class is not a good idea. It sort of feels like I’m trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube when I do that. I’m definitely looking for easy summer dresses to just pop on after class is over and I’ve taken my shower.
Please, have you ever tried putting on leggings or stockings after class! I remember once after a strong particularly hot class, I kept sweating... in the subway. Someone asked me if it was raining out. Ummm... not quite. I just came back from the torture chamber... So despite these untidy somewhat unappealing side-effects, what is motivating you to do your 30DC?
Well, I remember when I started practicing, clearly saying to myself that I’d never do the 30DC. I figured my four day a week schedule was ambitious enough. Well, within a week of starting to practice, I was shocked when I changed my mind. I would have done it sooner but June was the first month, since starting my practice, that I was home for an entire month. So, I’m doing the 30DC because something inside me told me it was important that I did it. That’s enough of a reason for me.
Awesome. That's so great. I can't wait to sit down with you when your challenge is over. But you'll be so hooked that you'll probably keep going. Curtin Dixon, one of the yogis in this site, was so on that he's on like a 300DC. How's that for awesome! And you should see him, he's a new man. What are your intentions for your challenge?
My greatest intention in the 30DC is to experience the satisfaction found in setting a challenging goal and reaching it. To me, the 30DC is a great expression of what it truly means to honor and love yourself.
Yes! This is an incredible way to honor your body, your temple. The best thing you can do for yourself! What sort of changes would you like to see?
Well, I’d like to lose weight, get more toned and in shape. I’m also excited to see what is staring back at me in the mirror after 30 days are over, physically as well as mentally. Lastly I’d like to have a stronger core and see my back injury be less sensitive.
Piece of cake. Wink. What about your favorite/least favorite postures?
Oh, I could take a nap in rabbit pose. I like getting into the posture, and there is something really comforting about curling up in a little ball-shape like that, especially at the end of class when I’m feeling ready to be done. I also like half-tortoise, probably for the same reason that I like Rabbit Posture. Plus, I happen to be good at the pose itself, which is a rewarding thing to do right after all the cobra poses and my feeble attempt at Fixed Firm.
As far as my least favorite posture, well, it used to be Triangle. Like, seriously, if I could have boycotted that pose, I would have. However, I learned quickly that the hardest posture is often the more important one for us to work on. It took a while, and tweaking my back once during it, to fully understand how to do that pose. I still can’t say it is my favorite, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of getting better at it.
That leaves standing head to knee pose as my all-time least favorite pose. I dislike it because I re-hurt my back while doing it, so I always proceed with caution, fearful that my lower back will spasm out on me again. However, I’ve made strides with this pose as well. After injuring my back, I could barely touch the bottom of my foot while holding this posture. Now, less than a month later, I’m grabbing under my foot and locking my leg. So I’m making progress. However, I still am happy when we’re done with it.
You're so right about the hardest postures being the ones we need most. What I noticed in my own practice is that everytime we come to my least favorite postures, I'd always go into it thinking "f*ck, I hate rabbit. stupid posture, I suck at it." And, of course, I'd suck at it. So now I catch myself and my negativity and potty mouth and go into it instead thinking "Yes! Rabbit! I am so damn good at this one!" And even though I still struggle, at least I smile at myself. And it works! So keep up your awesome work darling. You're so on it, you're hot! On fire! Yes! More for you, please!
Ruthie emailed me: she's never so much as lifted a dumbbell or double-kicked to Billy Blanks. But when she started Bikram back in January, she jumped into her 1st 30DC. She's recently completed her second. On fire. Literally and figuratively.
So, zero exercise routine. How did you hear about Bikram?
My friend Natalia Maldonado told me about Bikram Yoga. She also completed a 30-day Challenge and even went to Costa Rica on a Yoga Retreat. Natalia did not come with me to my first class, but I did bring a friend with me to my first class and she too has continued to practice Bikram Yoga since early January 2009.
Those retreats are so fabulous. Tell me about your first class?
I took a class for 1st timers only because I am not very active. I have never had a gym membership, never done pilates, never done yoga, never joined a dance class, never exercised more than 1 month in my whole 29 years of life. The teacher was great! It was a 1st timers class, so she demonstrated and explained each position. I know I was determined enough to do every posture that 1st day, but I know I did not do them well.
What inspired you to come back?
I came back the next day and the next day because I was not sore and I just felt better about myself. If I'm sore the next day after exercising...I usually won't continue much longer.
Are you working with injuries?
I don't have diagnosed injuries because I don't like going to the doctor, but I recently began to have foot pains characteristic of plantar fascitis and have had neck/back issues for about 15 years.Bikram would say "piece of cake". Just keep coming to class. What do you like so far about the practice?
I like the heat and I like that I'm not sore. The heat really helps you push your body to the maximum. I like that I am able to sweat. I don't like to sweat, but I like that this practice helps me sweat. I have to workout for hours in a gym to build up the amount of sweat achieved from one Bikram class. Sweating makes me feel like I really achieved a good workout.Yeah, it feels amazing to release all those toxins through the skin. What about your challenge? What made you go for it?
I didn't want to do the 30-day Challenge in my 1st month, but I saw myself going every day and before I knew it...I was more than halfway through to 30 classes in 30 days...so I figured I'd complete it. This time around is my 2nd 30-day Challenge in less than 4-months...I knew I had the time to do it...so I just decided to do it. I feel like I'm cheating myself if I have the time to go to class and I do not go.
Yeah I totally know what you mean. What are your desires from this second time around?
I hope to become more flexible and less tired. One change I am looking forward to is losing weight as I continue to eat healthier and practice Bikram.
Tell me about the postures you dig and the ones you're not so crazy about.
My Favorites are Camel and Rabbit because they make my back feel great and Camel gives me a head rush. My least favorite is Eagle because by then my feet begin to hurt me and I'm afraid to injure them in the beginning of class (therefore jeopardizing the Balancing Series) that I don't push myself as far as I know I can go. I it annoys me that I don't see myself being able to lock my foot behind my calf for years to come.
Oh honey two years ago i never ever thought i would be able to get my foot behind my calf muscle. It was miles away! But don't look so much as the end product but rather the process. How do you eventually get there? Working with what you can today is all that matters.
I think the practice is great. It is really helpful when you have enthusiastic teachers that know you by name. Those teachers make you want to push yourself in class. I'm just happy I've stuck with it for 4-months (the longest I've exercised consistently in my whole life)...I think that says alot about Bikram Yoga.
For sure. I hear you. And it really helps us to learn your names when we see you often around the studio! We love seeing you guys in, near or around the hot box. Enjoy!!
One of my intentions for this website is to connect with people throughout the world who practice Bikram and are doing the 30DC. My interview with Steve marks the first of what I hope to be MANY connections with folks outside of my hometown New York. Steve practices at the fabulous Bikram Yoga Pittsburg.