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Practice Makes Peaceful: Thirty Days of Bikram Yoga

kira86 于2010-09-20发布 l 已有人浏览
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I was terrified of Bikram yoga before taking my first class a few months ago. Even though I’ve

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I was terrified of Bikram yoga before taking my first class a few months ago. Even though I’ve practiced yoga regularly for about two years now, the idea of doing backbends and downward-facing dogs in such oppressive heat—Bikram rooms are kept at a minimum of 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity—sounded excruciatingly hard. But despite the difficulty of that first class, I made it through the entire thing in one sweaty piece. What’s more, I felt great afterward, as if I’d spent the last ninety minutes at a spa instead of doing asanas in a crowded room. My mind and body felt strong and rejuvenated. I mean, I practically skipped home. That’s a rarity.

Now that I’ve done it a few times since, I realize that not every session brings such euphoria. But a mild buzz is still surprisingly standard, and it makes me wonder how I’d feel if I did it regularly. Bikram’s Yoga College of India suggests that beginners practice every day for two months to see results, which sounds intimidating and possibly impossible. (I do have a life outside of yoga, after all.)

I don’t know anyone who’s gone sixty days consecutively, but I talked to a couple of practitioners who became full-on enthusiasts after completing thirty days in a row. Based on their experiences, I just might have to give this thirty-day Bikram challenge a try.

In the Beginning: Postures and Progress
Marique Newell, a writer based on the East Coast, and Heather Glass, a marketing expert out west, came to Bikram yoga separately, but both for the same reason: to give their bodies a much-needed break. Marique suffered shoulder problems due to years of swimming competitively and playing water polo, and Heather’s knees ached from frequent runs and kickboxing classes. Bikram was just what they were looking for: a form of exercise that challenged them physically and mentally without stressing out their bodies even more.

“It was unlike anything I’d ever done,” Marique shares. “I loved that it wasn’t competitive, like all the other athletics I spent my life doing.” She embarked upon her thirty-day challenge about a year into her practice. “I was over that beginner’s blush; I wanted to throw myself into it,” she explains. Heather had practiced Bikram before, but not with much regularity. But after she completed a few sessions in a row, she noticed a difference in the way she felt. “Even after just four or five classes, I could see improvements in my postures, and I started to notice that my body looked different,” she says.

Along the Way: Highs, Lows, and Lessons in Between
Both Marique and Heather experienced a great deal of changes in mind and body as the month went on. Their appetites were reduced, which happens fairly commonly among regular practitioners. Heather’s cravings shifted as well: “I felt less hungry … and craved sweets and other unhealthy foods much less—pretty much not at all, in fact.” But simultaneously, Marique’s and Heather’s energy levels soared after steady Bikram sessions. In fact, Marique often had trouble falling asleep; her body would be exhausted, but her mind was too alert to rest. Their yoga techniques became much more advanced as well. After thirty days, they were able to do postures they had struggled with on day one; Marique even completed an advanced class on her thirtieth day and felt terrific (albeit extremely sore) afterward.
 
As with any challenge, these two women have experienced some less positive and less rewarding moments as well. For Marique, that usually comes around the midway mark. (She’s done three challenges so far.) “That’s when I start to think, Why am I doing this again? I feel awful, my body feels so broken down, but I think that’s because you’re just flushing so much stuff out,” she explains. But with that fatigue and desire to give up came the biggest lesson that Marique learned from Bikram: it’s a journey, and it’s not always an easy one—and that’s okay. “I’ll feel different every day, and that’s not good or bad—it just is,” she says.

There are a million little factors that go into how a session suits you on a given day: how hydrated you are, how hot it is outside, how you feel mentally, and so on. The reality of Bikram—and of anything you challenge your body with—is that some sessions will feel amazing, and others you just need to get through. “It’s the idea of accepting and appreciating the practice for what it is,” Marique says. Realizing that fact helped her use yoga as a form of emotional release. As she puts it, “I walked away from the challenge feeling like I had lost a lot of emotional and physical junk on my mat. I had worked it out, sweated it out in the hot room, and it no longer served a purpose. I just left it and moved on.”

Day Thirty: “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”
Thinking back on day thirty, Marique says, “I vividly remember lying on my mat on the last day of the challenge and being so proud of myself.” She also had newfound respect and gratitude for her body and its abilities. “As an athlete for years, I focused on what my body couldn’t do any longer, like I wasn’t as fast in the water or I wasn’t as strong,” she remembers. “But yoga was much more about working with the body that I have and not looking for it to be anything other than what it is.” Without the competitive nature of other sports driving her to focus on her body’s limitations, she was free to focus on herself and the accomplishments her body made in just thirty days, and has made after years of practice.

Heather came away from her challenge feeling invigorated as well. “I have more energy than I have in years, and I just generally feel like a calmer, happier, more positive and well-balanced person,” she reflects. “I know I sound like an infomercial for Bikram yoga, but I can’t say enough good things about it.” She’s even thinking of giving up her gym membership if she continues going to yoga regularly in the next three months; considering that she’s gone to the gym for eighteen years, that statement alone speaks highly of Bikram’s benefits.

Who’s up for the Challenge?
Hearing how profoundly Marique and Heather were affected by their thirty-day challenges really makes me want to start one of my own. As if their stories weren’t motivational enough, they both encourage others to make commitments of their own. “Try it! If you can’t do thirty days in a row, commit to doing four or five days a week,” Heather suggests. “I think anyone who commits to at least that much will see huge benefits and amazing changes in her body and her life.” Marique warns people not to get overwhelmed to the point that they never even try it: “I think people are scared of challenges because they’re scared of failure, but in the end, you’re defining success and failure,” she advises. “Even if you end up sitting on your mat for half the class, you’re still there and you’re still in the room.” It all goes back to accepting and appreciating yoga for what it is and isn’t. When the present gets especially hard, keeping your overall progress in mind is vital.

I thought about that this morning as I packed my yoga bag to go to Bikram for the first time in a few weeks. Part of me feels scared that my technique has faltered in that time, but the other part of me is excited to face that challenge and work toward more-advanced postures. I think about the oppressively hot room, but then I think about what that room offers: an escape from everyday chaos, a few moments to breathe deeply, and a chance to do something really great for myself. “Go into the hot room and you have ninety minutes not to focus on anything but your body and the teacher’s words,” Marique says. Can you think of a better way to spend the day—or the next thirty days?

 

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