Monthly Archives: January 2017

BIKRAM YOGIS ANONYMOUS

Step 1 – Admittance: I am a Bikram yogi. I am continually in love with, healed by, and captivated with this addiction. It is an incessant influence, a time-consuming preoccupation, but predominantly worthwhile addiction. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here now, having the gift of a yoga studio where I get to share my passion for yoga with others and, hopefully, give them something that will also change their lives. But the journey has had its ups and downs. In fact, I’ve come full circle with the practice.

Myself and most anyone who has practiced the 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises that were taught to us Americans by the now-notorious Bikram Choudhury and his guru, Bishnu Ghosh, has likely experienced both love and hatred for this practice, and skepticism about its founder. But I’m not interested in talking about the man today; I want to talk about the practice. That journey through being broken down, built up, humbled, empowered, opened, closed off, stretched, compressed, emptied out, filled up, never-the-same-again yoga revelation. Bikram was the first and only kind of yoga I knew for the first 8 years of practicing.

My feelings about this style over more than a decade range from “I can barely get through a class” to “I can still barely get through a class.” The challenge never changes. It is always hard, physically and mentally. Yes, over 10 years or longer, it never gets easier. But it does become different.

My original teacher was explaining how a posture works and said, “when you’re a beginner – you know, the first 10 years of practice…” Wait, WHAT? …. You’re a beginner for the first TEN years? I laughed in my head when I heard him say that because I considered myself at least intermediate-level by that point – but now, after 10 years, I’m beginning to understand.

There have been, and will be, many seasons of my Bikram journey – times when I hated Pranayama breathing (the first breathing exercise), another when I was tediously impatient in Half Moon, periods when I am in love with Standing Bow, and seasons when I deeply dreaded Camel. There are times when I fall from a posture and an unexplainable flood of tears comes to my eyes, and there are times when I laugh out loud. There are times when the postures hurt and times when the postures heal.

Step 2 – Faith: It was this last part of the journey that has really challenged me over the last four years. I had an injury. An un-diagnosable pain in my right hip. I went to all the doctors, physical therapists, Rolfers, acupuncturists and chiropractors. Finally, I took a break. I took a break from yoga for two months. It was something I thought I would never do. I had practiced for nine years, at least five to seven times a week. I rarely missed a day; sometimes I would even do two classes a day. Then I remember the day, as I was laying in savasana, feeling defeated from the pain and the lack of mobility that I once had, I realized that it wasn’t fun anymore, so I decided right at that moment, I would let it go… for a while anyway.

When I came back to the mat, I approached everything very carefully. Every posture. I made sure to really keep my core engaged and not overdo it in postures just to look a certain way. It felt a lot better but the hip was still not fully recovered. I started back in just a couple times a week and eventually added different yoga disciplines – vinyasa power flow and eventually Buti yoga. The new practices and new postures opened up certain areas and strengthened others. It turned out to be the perfect complement to my Bikram yoga practice, and I began to realize that the answer was, as Bikram himself would prescribe, “more yoga.” Well, not exactly… first I needed a break and then I needed more yoga, and different kinds of yoga. The thing about the 26 postures is that it is a lot of repetition, and if you are not careful or practicing with proper form with muscular support, then the repetition can be hard on certain joints. The bikram dialogue is designed to ensure that you do practice the postures correctly but, depending on your skeletal structure, your joints and the stress your life may have brought them thus far, there is the potential for repeated stress to occur and even potential injury.

Although I now have a love and appreciation for many different styles of yoga, I have an even stronger faith in Bikram yoga and a deeper appreciation for it. For all my ups and downs with the practice, I have always admired this elegant series – these 26 postures and the brilliance of their sequencing. The heat, the mirrors, the dialogue, they are added tools, which all work together to force out any opportunity for outside distraction. We are truly forced to concentrate and given the opportunity to be fully present. There’s really nothing else we can do. Just yesterday during a class, the dialogue made more sense than it ever had. Same words I’ve heard a thousand times but they were once again new to me. The words were all I heard… my mind was blank but for these words: “PUSH your stomach, hips thighs forward!” I did so, and it worked. Another layer stripped away. In final savasana, I had peace in my mind about something I’d been worried about all day. It wasn’t the first time these things had happened. They can happen any and every time we practice this series. No matter how many years we’ve practiced this yoga series, there is always something to learn, and it will always be a great accomplishment to finish the class.

So far, in my first 10 years as a beginner of bikram yogi, I have learned some of the greatest lessons and habits of my life. Habits that have helped me through every scenario – heartbreak, anxiety, worry, opening businesses, friendships, and marriage. I wanted to share just a few of these with you:

  • If you can, you must (Bikram Choudhury).
  • Don’t react or attach to the pain or the victory. Calmly observe it and let it pass by so you can give your full energy to the present.
  • Let nothing steal your peace. (Bikram Choudhury)
  • Don’t waste your energy on the things you cannot change.
  • Transcend discomfort by sitting with it, allowing it to be part of you as you move with it until it is no longer there.
  • If you are trying correctly, even if only able to do just a small step of the full posture, you will receive 100% of the benefits.

NEW YEAR’S GOALS – 2017!

It’s another year. Another opportunity for all the Re’s – Resolve, Reflect, Recommit, Reiterate, Renew, Repair, Re-do….

As another busy holiday season of family, friends, travel and logistical coordinating comes to a close, I find myself sitting with the first few moments of stillness and solitude in weeks. I’m on a plane, of course, which means I am not exactly part of a serene picture of solitude (with baby screamos left and right) but I am, at least, forced to be still. So it is here that I finally have the space to give my attention to the things that have been off in the horizon for some time. That vague awareness that the party can’t go on forever, the vacation must come to an end, and the cookies and cocktails must be put back on the “sparingly” list. Per usual, I am more than ready for the my return to home and work, and for a fresh start to the new year.

Goals can be set any time but the spark of a new year or other momentous occasion is always a nice time. It feels like we leave the past behind and start with a clean slate. Just in taking the time to write down goals, we have set the intention, probably visualized the goal (at least briefly) and perhaps come up with a rough plan to make it a reality. I think that’s what they call Manifesting your Future. We don’t need to be woo-woo about it or even ceremonial but writing down a list, conjuring up some mental pictures, is actually fun and practical – it opens up the space to dream and gives us the confidence to walk out the door tomorrow with a plan. So there’s already one thing in 2017 to pat ourselves on the back for!

Sure, it’s a little obvious to do the typical New Year’s Resolution dog and pony show, and sure, we could be anti- and just revolt against resolutions entirely …. Or, we could take just a few moments to pay attention to what we want for our ourselves and what would make us feel really good in this next year. But even with this, let’s hold ourselves with grace and a positive outlook and remember, that we can set these types of goals any ol’ time, and we can also recommit to them at any point. One step forward is still a step in the right direction, and we’re not counting steps back. And for any hiccup or detour, we come right back to where we left off because every day, every hour, every minute is a fresh new day, hour and minute to do our best.

So, without further ado, here are my 2017 Resolutions:

  1. To live a simpler, less-busy life. Too much of the last 4 years have been just trying to stay afloat. I’m tired of hearing myself answer every “how are things?” question with “just really busy.” I want a more interesting answer to that question this year. And I want to have the brain space and time to ask an interesting question back and have a meaningful conversation. This is all part of my Simpler Life Initiative that I began back in 2013 before moving to Nashville. Well, that was the goal really – do what you love for work so it’s not really work, and live in a place where you don’t have to plan your entire existence around traffic and paying rent. I am part of the way there, and being in Seattle this last week was a good reminder of the wonderful quality of life I have in Nashville, but I can still manage to get myself all stressy and distracted and worried when it doesn’t have to be that way. So my goal is to be more light-hearted about my work, to remove distractions from the time I spend with friends and loved ones so that I can be more present, to unplug more frequently from technology and social media, to relax with reading and music more than television, and to make time to count my blessings each day to keep things in perspective.
  1. To be a good leader. I am profoundly grateful for the amazing people in my life and feel that I have a great responsibility to those who work at my businesses – to make sure they know they are appreciated, to keep organization and harmony, to give them the tools that they need to do their job, and to make the work place a peaceful and comfortable place to be. One of the peace-stealers to me and the rest of the work family can be my stress or distraction, other people’s stress, or emotional reactions / chains of reactions. It is my goal to remain calm and objective when conflicts arise in 2017. This again involves slowing down, not reacting in the moment, taking the time to hear all sides of the story, consider everyone’s perspective. Finally, just taking the time to check in with people – face-to-face, “how are you?” Doing real-life relationships.
  1. To seek spiritual nourishment and community. When I neglect this part of my life, I feel it. I know the opportunity is there but I get lazy. There will always be excuses I can find, other things to do, and maybe nobody to go with me but it is my goal to make time for this area of my life and my being, even if I have to go it alone. Come warmer weather, I hope to continue my version of front-porch pickin’ and talking about life (named Porch Church), which was another nourishment to my spirit that so easily fell to the wayside when other obligations arose. We have to make time for the good things, for the spirit-deep things.
  1. To do more for my community. I got a taste of volunteering and organizing service projects in East Nashville this last year, and I am excited to do more of that in 2017. The need is great, and the people who have needs us are so very close. They are across the street and in our back yard. I hope to continue to use the resources I have to benefit the community and the people whose lives can be changed by someone taking the time … by just getting an opportunity. Maybe yoga is an opportunity to change someone’s life. We are here, let’s see who needs us, and see how we also needed them.
  1. To refine my eating habits. Sure, they’re not the worst of eating habits but they sure do swing from one end of the spectrum to the other, more often than not. I’d love to make healthy eating choices because I want to, not because I have to. Because I know, deep down in my core that I feel better and more free when I’m not eating crap. And that I don’t really love all the crap anyway. And I want the right motives. To eat good, clean food – not just for the external results but for the internal benefits. To nourish my body, to give me energy for the work I’m doing, to enjoy all the amazing culinary creations, and to commune with others. To feel like my best, most alive self.
  1. To be a great hostess. Does this one sound a little like it may have come out of 1950’s issue Home and Gardens Magazine? Well then, perfect! I am 36 years old, and I think it’s about high time I kept some iced tea in the fridge, some gin and tonic on the shelf, and some snacks to be shared when company comes calling. You couldn’t step foot in my grandma’s kitchen without being offered food and drink at least 5 times. I want to carry on that tradition, and I would love in 2017 to create a space in my home to host friends and folks who stop by or who come from far and wide to visit Nashville. I want to be ready to host!

That’s all for now! Maybe more will come, and I’ll add them to the list. Because we can do that. Now tell me what your resolutions are!