My Bikram Yoga Testimonial

Almost one year ago I went to my first bikram yoga class. I remember being terrified the entire day leading up to the afternoon class and that by the time I was leaving the studio I realized I had found something special. As an athlete I’ve liked the idea of yoga- something that promotes strength, balance and flexibility, but the problem was I was too weak, too imbalanced and too inflexible to do most yoga classes. Coud I run 50 miles?  Yes. Could I “rest” in downward dog? No. Bikram was different because there are so many modifications of poses, none required the upper body strength I lacked, and there are no inversions whose risks have always seemed to outweigh their benefits. It was a great way to work on my strength, balance, and flexibility in a gradual progression in a supportive environment.

It’s been amazing to see how my body has changed with my practice. When I started I couldn’t go back in camel or fixed firm pose. I couldn’t see my toes over my head in standing bow and I couldn’t lock my knee in standing or regular head to knee. I remember the first time I touched my toes in camel pose the distance from my fingers to my heels felt like a mile, but my satisfaction with my new flexibility stretched even further. I gradually increased my leg strength so I could kick more strongly in standing bow and my shoulders began to open to allow for better alignment. I’ve started working my way from tree pose into toe stand- my body can do things that a year ago I thought only weirdly flexible “yoga people” could do. I’ve made great progress but I know that I have not yet reached the boundaries of my potential.

Although it is certainly amazing that I can now do backbends, the most amazing thing about my Bikram practice is what it has done for me beyond the postures. Bikram has become my safe space. When there was a shooting at the hospital I work at a few months ago, I was at home and could only frantically check my phone, the news, and worry about whether my friends and mentors were safe. I was scared, felt threatened (I also live close enough to the hospital to hear the sirens of the responders) and didn’t know what to do. I went to yoga. That class was hard because my head wasn’t in the right place and it didn’t change the horror that had happened in my community, but with understanding from my talented teachers and patience with myself, I am sure that practice was the best thing I could have done for myself that afternoon.

Part of Bikram’s therapeutic effect is the practice, but the other part is the studio. The studio where I practice, Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill, is full of some of the nicest, most welcoming people. Whenever I walk in the door I  am greeted by the smiling faces of the wonderful teachers and I adore the yoga community that has supported my practice. It is amazing how friendships can come from good suffering in a hot room. My experience with Bikram has also given me the strength, balance and flexibility to try and successfully practice other types of yoga. I can now do downward dog and enjoy the different ways that different forms of yoga positively influence my body and mind.

So what has Bikram done for me? It has made me stronger and more flexible. I am more balanced when standing on one leg and I am more balanced when I am tackling life. I have practiced breathing and laughing both in and out of the hot room. I have made friends and developed a new relationship with my body. I have found something to ground me when my world feels off kilter. As I prepare to move to Colorado I am tremendously sad to be leaving my Bikram studio but I am exceedingly thankful for the practice I have cultivated which will come with me wherever I go.