Hey Tina. How did you hear about Bikram?
I had reached a plateau toward my weight loss goal and my vitalist (my go-to person for fitness training, nutritional guidance and motivation), Yves Bony of Bonifide Solutions, recommended an intro class.
Right on. Tell me about your first class?
I was quite intimidated attending my first class alone, unsure about withstanding the heat for 90 minutes (not a fan of perspiration), overwhelmed by the studio odor, somewhat claustrophobic about the closed door policy and minimal space between mats, and insecure about my fitness level. Given my like of Pilates and that I try something at least once, I remained open-minded. As we proceeded through postures I was shocked watching seasoned practitioners in the front row of all body types move so fluidly; perplexed at how such seemingly simple movements were such a challenge; stunned that the instructor did not demonstrate leaving me to be fully attuned by my own eyes and ears; and marveled that my whole body felt exercised without strenuous exertion. All the while I felt challenged, conversely I also felt a new energy surge throughout me. By the end, final Savasana, I was thankful it was over -- I got my Asana kicked at Bikram Yoga Park Slope -- and was pleasantly surprised that I was eager to return, the very next day.
That's astounding, you remember so much! I hardly remember my first class. Why did you come back?
In need of a new workout routine to drop pounds, I kept at it because as is said, I had "an immediate change after just one class". However, this solitary focus lessened and a passion for the practice itself grew more. Finally, I had found an exercise with results, astounding and unparalleled health benefits, that I truly enjoy, relish in, and fairly excel at.
You've nailed it. I totally agree. How about injuries? Are you working through any?
The control that at any time and in any posture "100% of your body's best effort is 100% benefit" plus the breath synchrony of yoga have lessened the affects of both my mild scoliosis and asthma; my spine strength and aerobic stamina have improved greatly. Mitral valve prolapse and neurogenic syncopae combined have prevented me from increased heart rate sports and activities all my life. However, I was determined to overcome my fear of running and any potential injury so my vitalist trained me to run. Two months after I began practicing, in a cardio warm up at a nearby gym before class at the studio, I fell on the treadmill. Although I felt immediate pain, my newfound inner fitness warrior, got right back on track, literally. Two weeks later with the pain not subsiding and in fact escalating to a point of not being able to move my foot, an emergency orthopedic sports medical office visit revealed a stress fracture. This was the fourth repeat injury to my left first metatarsal, same place but different deeper damage to the bone. For the next 14 weeks I wore an unattractive foot cast and adjusted to navigating New York City during winter with much of my weight distributed to one side of my body. I decided to continue with Bikram because in one of my classes an instructor encouraged, "whatever you have, whatever you're going through, bring it to the mat." I would sit and only do postures on my non-injured right side. And while it frustrated me at times to be imbalanced and not at full utility, I became fully immersed in the humility, oneness with body & mind, and patience that is the heart of the practice. I also did 8 weeks of physical therapy and I know the healing to just "be in the room" was supplemental.
Yes to your inner fitness warrior! Tell me, what do you like/dislike about the practice?
I love Bikram for its fluid intensity, discipline, health benefits, transformative properties, motivation for proper diet, aid to better sleep, and the marriage of soul, body & mind. I've become accustomed yet dislike the smell of perspiration-doused studio carpet. The thrust of my becoming a #BikramAddict was and continues to be as a means of managing stress. Yet, what's oxymoronic about Bikram is the stress-induced process to "be in the room" -- consistent time commitment, frequent delays of New York City transit, before or after work rush, just making it before door closes, possibly not getting preferred place down of your mat, yoga pose envy, agitation from shower wait time, pricey clothing, costs of hydrating drinks with electrolytes, class and studio membership high fees -- all in an attempt to de-stress and find physiological and mental balance.
True, it's not just "90-minutes" but really, a whole lifestyle we must make for ourselves in order to fit this practice into our day. I'm curious, why did you want to do the 30DC?
My decision to do a 30-day challenge was part whim, part opportunistic given a lighter workload, and part naivet from my enchantment with the practice. To my surprise, I was disgruntled the middle two weeks, days 8 - 21. First off, the humidity of an unseasonably warm summer made the room temperature feel unbearable. Then the obligation of every day, at the studio, overriding my social plans or mood for a day off irritated me. I hadn't planned for how depleted my body and energy would sometimes feel and be, nor the impact to my hair. I had grown my natural hair into a mid-length curly Mohawk and just prior to the spur of the moment challenge start I had straightened it. Even though my hair was short, maintenance of a sweat-drenched mane was frustrating after just four days. I was upset to cut off a year's growth to a near scalp crop. After the hair chop and between the 2nd and 3rd weeks, the underlying purpose of my challenge surfaced: to embrace becoming a free-of-fear me.
What? Really? That's wild. That's wild, and I love that you did it in the name of freedom. What were your intentions for this challenge?
My intentions for the challenge were to improve my postures, tone my body, and to de-stress.
What changes did you experience?
Within my 30-day challenge, I did a Double three times as well as participated in the Solstice Times Square. I had been having "yoga breakthroughs" here and there throughout my 6 months of practice up to that time, yet I accomplished or made great stride with adjustments to many postures within the 4 weeks of the challenge (Standing Forward Bend, Awkward Pose, Eagle Pose, Triangle Pose, Locust Pose -- I can finally get my legs up). I was blown away at the total turnaround in my stress level, in addition to a complete shift to how I now approach, better yet, refrain from stress. For the first time, I experienced and have been sustaining inner peace. Also, my self-awareness and recognition of the intentions of those around me has been heightened. It's nearing two months later and admittedly -- like many Black women in that we tend to be very attached to our hair and looks -- I have moments in which I miss my prior hairstyle and length. While I take solace in that "it's just hair" that will grow back, my mind quickly moves from wallow to the mental growth I gained in energy change from the sacrifice. I parallel the focus it takes to achieve posture flexibility and the simplicity of practice to life application of endurance through "opening up" and "adjustments" to perspective, including to be more detached from the superficial. Gone is the daily must of a fussy outfit and "beat face"; for everyday, non-occasions, to be presentable is now less time-consuming and I mostly wear easy looks and no makeup. However, I'm definitely becoming a "yoganista" as my penchant for fashion may be spent less on the day-to-day having transferred to expressive yoga wear, fit for the happy I have with my improved health, body, and capability. My core expectations for the challenge were met; in hindsight it was unrealistic to secretly think or hope I would perfect all postures or alter my body to be in ideal, "dream" shape. I am grateful for the unpredicted gains that exceeded beyond the surface goals in connecting me to deeper, emotional truth and meaning. I truly had a transformational shift to a more sound mind and the release of a spirit of fear. I feel whole as a Yogini. I no longer stress, I stretch.
Love it! To no longer stress, but to stretch. Lastly, tell me, which are your favorite/least favorite posture and why?
My favorite posture is Savasana, "dead ass", all pun intended. I love having "yoga break thrus" of when the body opens up either to gain ability of or deepen a posture; essentially the transfer of flexibility from "I can't" to "I can". I enjoy the floor series overall; Wind Removing Pose, Cobra Pose, Fixed Firm Pose, Half Tortoise Pose, Rabbit Pose and Camel Pose are postures I favor most. In general I am challenged with balance (notwithstanding repeated foot fractures) so that series continues to be a work in progress, particularly Standing Bow Pulling Pose. More opening of my hips will help in Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, Tree Pose, and Floor Bow.
I dig Savasana too. Without it, we would not be practicing Hatha Yoga. I know you're up to some amazing things off your mat. Could you share a little bit?
The profound impact of Bikram inspired me to not only explore other forms of yoga, but also to share practice with others in creating Yoga to the Curvy Curly (facebook.com/YogatotheCurvyCurly and twitter @YTTCC.) To be held on Saturday, September 15th, 2012, in Ft. Greene Park, Brooklyn, NY, Yoga to the Curvy Curly is a free, open to the public, 5-hour day event of yoga, well-being, and hair care activities for women of color to learn about and embrace the practice and encourage budding "yoganistas". It's to motivate those with the misconceptions: 1) "I am not flexible enough, not in good enough shape, and it's only for certain types of people" and 2) "I have naturally curly hair styled straight that sweat makes difficult to maintain". The event features two types of complimentary yoga classes that address weight loss, flexibility, de-stressing, energizing, meditation and overall well-being. The highlight is a "Bring It to the Mat" open circle, moderated, panel discussion with guest experts in yoga, nutrition, hair care, and beauty addressing the misconceptions and encouraging exercise and positive self-image. There will be themed information tables on hair maintenance regimen tips and wellness knowledge and services along with coconut water refreshment on behalf of the beverage sponsor. During non-class times, a step & repeat will be available for photo candids, "Strike A Pose" contest, and a deejay will spin. The event goal is to create a special outdoor "studio" that is welcoming and relevant to 'Curvy' body types and 'Curly' hair types.
Love! Thank you Tina. You are indeed a fitness warrior and yogini. xx