Postcards From The Heat

Bikram Practice: Twice is Nice

2 Comments 25 January 2010

“Do over!” children shout when they flub it. In the Bikram studio, we do most postures twice. The reasons are many but all come down to the desire of the child to get it right–or righter, anyway.

Immediately repeating a posture allows you to go deeper. If you have stretched a muscle once, it stretches more the second time. Likewise, in balancing stick, I always land in parallel faster the second time, having tilted once already.

Repeating poses also helps heal you and attend to your limits. One teacher describes the first set as “diagnostic”, determining how far to push the second time, when the purpose is progress. I often, particularly on an injury, move very slowly into a pose the first time, so I can gauge how far I can go in the second.

And I use the repetition for physical therapy. When I recovered from a broken bone in my foot, I could not do the second awkward chair: I could not bear the weight of being high on my toes with bent knees. So on the first set, I would go up textbook high, to reclaim flexibility. On the second, rising half as high, I bent my knees to a respectable depth, so as not to lose thigh strength. Though this is not the classic Bikram way, I split up the pose and managed to keep different parts of it alive until I could put it and myself back together.

Finally, doing it twice also allows you to be both master and learner. At a recent point in my practice of standing-head-to-knee , I started trying to bring my head down. I fell constantly, and never got to really savor holding my leg out in balanced stillness. So now, on the first set, I remain steady and indulge in that satisfaction. in the second set, I experiment with lowering my head, strive for progress, and almost inevitably fall.

There is really nothing repetitive in repetition. You never step in the same river twice, and my yoga practice is never dull. And furthermore, I would love in life too to request, “Do over!”

Yoga Lily

Postcards From The Heat

Official Yoga Geek, Of the Bikram Variety

No Comments 18 January 2010

When did I rise to the status of–or sink into the abyss of–being an official yoga geek? I first became aware of it a few weeks ago. I gave my toenails a French manicure and trotted off to class. Where I discovered that my picture-pretty tootsies looked fake and obnoxious during standing forward bend. I am no make-up disdaining granola chuck. I wear lipstick and have been known to … uh … refresh my hair color, but those thin white lines at the tips of my toes were lies all of a sudden. Dunno why.

But being an official yoga geek is more than nail-polish deep. When my ideal New Year’s Eve party is a Bikram yoga class, I realize I have gone over to the dark side–or the light side, as the case may be. I have two feet firmly planted in yoga geek territory. When I react to news that a friend has let a doctor place steel rods next to her spine by feeling that the surgery was not medical but criminal, I see that my worldview has changed.

When I injure a muscle or a tendon or some other delicate tissue and I go to class anyway and I refrain and push in various postures in various ways, trying to stimulate healing while preventing further injury, and the teacher notices I’ve skipped say, my beloved camel, and says, this practice is about healing yourself, learning how to heal yourself, and I know it to be utterly true, then my very world has changed, I have changed, and I know I can change my world, my life. That’s a new thought, a new place, a new person.

And there are some things I just don’t understand any more. Why is a person embarrassed if she can’t “do” the full expression of a posture, or falls out? Why would a guy just stand there on his mat doing nothing, not even the first one percent of a posture if he can’t do it the full expression, wasting 59 seconds of a precious minute of life? Why do people think the heat of the Bikram studio is crazy instead of seeing how profoundly hygienic all that sweating really is? Dunno. Don’t ask an official yoga geek.

Yoga Lily

ps – I will begin a 30-day challenge in my home studio tomorrow (Tuesday, January 19). You can read daily tweets about my adventures, thoughts, and pangs on Twitter under “ABikramYogaLily”. Wish me luck!

Postcards From The Heat

Those Voices in My Head? Bikram Teachers

2 Comments 11 January 2010

I hear voices in my head telling me what to do, when to do it, how, and why. But don’t rush to cart me away to The Happy Farm: It’s only the voices of my yoga teachers. I invite them to take the floor in my brain. I like their telling me what to do.

I surrender my own voice for ninety minutes a day. I let yoga take charge and silence my chattering mind.

Think of it. Ninety minutes during when I don’t hear myself think, don’t have to endure my boring old stories and don’t have to recite my worries. Instead I hear marching orders, setting me a-march toward my own health.

That’s another virtue of those voices: They always know what is good for me, the next right move. Yes indeed, if I separate my hips in eagle, my knees will snuggle together just right with no strain. And if I pull my scapulae down in half moon, my ribs will indeed open and my lungs blossom.

The voices are tricksy, however, in one small way: They are apt to jump suddenly from the physical to the mental. First they might command that I grip my foot, then launch into a harangue about living a full life, as in, “How do you expect to hold on to what you love if you can’t hold on to your own foot?” Or, “Reach that arm to the mirror. Try to touch that determined you. That you ahead of you is your future you, stronger, determined to get what you want.”

Such instructions are, of course, problematic. But even if I can not follow them, I like hearing them. They are so different from the messages my brain delivers. I wish those voices were in my head all the time.

Yoga Lily

Postcards From The Heat

The Front Row and Bikram Yoga Etiquette

No Comments 04 January 2010

On a recent evening, a teacher greeted a student, “in the front row now. Progress. Good for you.” The woman beamed.

The front row is for people able to do most of most of the poses, teachers explain, to demonstrate for people still trying to put them together. One studio even had a sign posted for a while, to the effect that: “The front row is reserved for the more disciplined and focussed students. Please observe etiquette.”

My first few years practicing, I never chose to put my mat in front. I even used to get to class early so I would not find spots only up in front. And if circumstances forced me there, I spent class looking at the floor or with my eyes closed.

Teachers will initiate a game of musical mats if a newcomers should happen to end up in front. One crowded day, the teacher asked for volunteers to vacate back-ros spots for newcomers. She asked and she cajoled–but no volunteers.

Then she looked right at me and asked me to be kind enough to move. She reframed promoting me as my helping her, but I could tell she was pleased to do it, to give me the compliment and tell me where I was supposed to be given my practice.

So these days, unless I am injured or very weak, that’s where I am. Close to the mirror, I concentrate better, with literally nothing between me and my yoga. It is easy to concentrate on my own eyes and tune out the room, but at the same time, I can choose to see the people behind me. My practice is far from perfect but it is slow and precise, and I feel good when I see a newcomer watching me and copying my every move. I feel like a giver, a helper, a teacher. It makes me feel a bit stronger for life.

One teacher exhorts us, “Come on, front row, show us how it’s done.” It’s an honor to be asked.

Yoga Lily

Bikram Yoga NYC opened its doors in August 1999 and became Manhattan's first Bikram Yoga Studio! Owners Donna Rubin and Jennifer Lobo had both been avid practitioners of Bikram Yoga in other cities and knew that no city needed Bikram Yoga more than New York!

Our blogger, Yoga Lily has been practicing intensively in our studios for more than two years. She was inspired to begin this blog by the myriad benefits the yoga brings her. Yoga Lily lives in Manhattan with her two daughters, an oversized German Shepherd, and a Russian Blue cat.

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