When I first started learning about the physical practice of yoga (āsana) I tried different styles, studios and instructors until I found the right fit for me at that stage of my practice. During these early explorations I tried Bikram Yoga a few times. The 105 degree heat, the 26 posture sequence and the militant-style instructors made me angry and irritable. I did not like it one bit! I think it was during my third class that I said “screw this” under my breath and walked out in the middle of class. Wasn’t a yoga class supposed to make you feel calm and refreshed? Many Bikram students rave about how the practice makes them feel so good---but I could never understand how.
About 20 years later (a few months ago), I felt it was time to mix up my yoga practice and decided I should explore some different styles, including hot yoga. The first class I attended was a modified version of the Bikram Yoga style and I loved it! What?! I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed the class. So, I signed up for a 10-day pass, then I signed up for another month and now I’m on my second month. I now go 3 days a week and I’m truly enjoying it.
This shift in my perspective on Bikram Yoga was a good learning experience for me on many levels that I believe could benefit you as well. So I’ve decided to share my story:
What’s Different About Bikram Yoga
A More Inviting Atmosphere - The studio that I am attending, YogaFuzn, is owned by a mother-daughter team and has a more inviting and feminine feel than the traditional Bikram Yoga studios I had previously experienced (old, tired spaces with little to no design aesthetic). YogaFuzn has beautiful hardwood floors, Buddha statues, colorfully painted walls and lots of natural light.
A More Nurturing and Educational Teaching Style - Bikram Yoga has had a reputation of having a “tough love” teaching style (I thought the term “militant” was more reflective of their teaching style) which may be motivating for some, but not me. Currently however I’m experiencing teachers that take a more nurturing and supportive approach. They explain the technical aspects and healing benefits of each pose and gently remind us to keep breathing and to focus on the present. They encourage us to do our best and they sprinkle in inspirational teachings from the yoga philosophy. AND at the end of the class while you are relaxing in savāsana they bring you a cold, lavender-scented towel! Such a treat!
A More Flexible Schedule - A traditional Bikram Yoga class is 90 minutes long. That is great, but with our busy lifestyles that can be challenging for most yogis. YogaFuzn offers 60 minute, 75 minute and 90 minute classes. The Bikram program of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises are all included, but abbreviated to meet the shorter time periods. The 60 minute class 3 times a week works great for my schedule.
What’s Different About Me
Even with all the positive changes, I realized that I also have changed. Having cultivated a consistent yoga practice for 20 years has helped me change my perspective:
I'm More Open-Minded and Less Judgmental - Especially concerning people and things that are different than what I’m used to. I am more tolerant and accepting.
I'm Less Reactive and Distracted - My meditation practice has really helped me hone this skill. In Patañjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga, the 5th Limb, pratyāhāra, teaches us to focus our minds on an object or task so that we can be less reactive to what may be going on around us. I can be in uncomfortable situations a little easier and with a calmer attitude. I’m sure this is why the 105 degree heat doesn’t bother me anymore. 20 years ago it drove me crazy!
I Have the Ability to Stay Present - Focusing on my breath helps me stay in the now. By staying in the present I can really feel the benefits of each pose and how they are healing my body inside and out.
How I’m Benefiting
One of the main benefits I have gained from this style of yoga is that it has eliminated my chronic back pain. I have had issues with my lower back for the past few years. Chiropractic adjustments, stretching and reducing my exercise routine would help temporarily. But as soon as I bumped up my exercise, it would hurt again. Since I have been doing the Bikram style of yoga I haven’t had any back pain and I’m exercising more than ever. This style of yoga focuses on strengthening and stretching the muscles along the spine which is clearly helping me.
I’m also challenged by the poses and motivated to perfect them. This has inspired me to stay committed and enjoy the practice. I see this motivation and commitment flowing into other aspects of my life as well. I simply have more energy and drive to accomplish more each day!
Finally, experiencing my perspective shift from hating to loving the Bikram style of yoga has made me realize that I have the ability to significantly change my perspective in other areas of my life. How empowering is that? I love how we humans are always learning and growing and changing!