I have read inspiring testimonials of the dramatic ways Bikram yoga has changed lives. I am awed and amazed by these stories, and I believe them 100% after practicing Bikram Yoga for a few years. For me, Bikram Yoga has not healed any chronic injuries; I don't have any. It hasn't made me walk again. It hasn't cured any disease. I can't make any of these claims.
But I can say that Bikram yoga has changed my life.
Yoga has taught me to be more present in my life. Living in the moment is something that can easily be overlooked amid the stresses of everyday life. We plan, schedule, regret and worry, some of us more than others! In the hot room, we learn to breathe again. We learn to focus on one thing at a time (e.g. Lock the knee!). We temporarily let go of other thoughts, without looking forward to what is to come, or back to what we have done. We are encouraged to try our best without getting caught up in ideas of "achievement". Amazingly when we let go of what we don't need, we become more effective in the moment.
Through Bikram Yoga, I am also learning that I am a stronger person than I thought I was. I remember feeling so scared in my first class, and at times, overwhelmed by the prospect of staying in the room...but I did. After the class, I felt so energized and proud of myself. I knew that I could make it through another class. Much later, an instructor summed it up well for me, mid-savasana: Every time we willingly go into situations that are challenging for us, physically or emotionally, we get a little stronger. This has been so useful in my own life, and as a mother, and as a teacher. It's not about avoiding the difficult things; it is about embracing them as opportunities.
Even though we are strong, and focused, and present, we sometimes have moments when we don't feel like we are. This brings me to the last lesson I will write about today. At Bikram Yoga we learn patience, and acceptance of where our body and mind are for today. We learn that it is ok to fall out of a posture, as long as we have tried our best. We have to pick up the foot and get back in. What a powerful metaphor for life!
At first when I read the request for testimonials, I thought "I am sure lots of people have more dramatic and powerful stories than me." The more I thought about it, though the more I realized that I was missing the point entirely. It is not about comparing; we don't need to compare our postures to other people's postures, or our experience to others. I can say that Bikram Yoga has changed my life, in tangible and powerful ways, by changing me on the inside. The fact that yoga helps me to be happier, more present, stronger, and more accepting of myself in my regular life is a wonderful thing. I know that I have a lot more to learn. I am very thankful to all of the instructors and I really felt compelled to write this note, for you and for me.