In Defense of Bikram Yoga

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Some people will love this post and some people will absolutely hate it.  Some people will only read the first couple of paragraphs and then click on to the next thing, claiming I am awesome, or that I suck, or that I have no idea what I’m talking about.  That’s okay.  I write this blog for you, but I also write this blog for me.

Lately I’ve been thinking that maybe I am simply stuck in my old ways.  I fell in love with Bikram Yoga over 10 years ago and am still one of the practice’s biggest fans.  I have tried other types of yoga.  I do practice other types of yoga when I get the chance, but Bikram Yoga is still one of my favorite things in life.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve watched as the community of Bikram Yogis has shifted and evolved.  There was no way that it couldn’t.  Change is inevitable and is not a bad thing.  I think it’s interesting to see studios embracing other types of yoga and hot pilates classes.  I am intrigued by, and can’t wait to take, the new intermediate classes that are popping up at studios here and there. For me, I believe all yoga is good yoga and that anyone that starts up a regular yoga asana practice is a brave, brave soul that is on the journey of their life.

That being said, I hope that beyond my lifetime there is still Bikram Yoga available and accessible to those who need it.  I hope that there is still a hot room where we can all get crazy sweaty and red faced, lined with mirrors so that we can grin at ourselves as we collectively create that pitter patter of rain as the sweat drips from, well…everywhere under fluorescent lights.

“Why should I care?” you might ask.  I’ll be long gone.  Who cares what happens when we are no longer here anymore? And I tell you this.  I was a mess before Bikram Yoga (Hot Traditional Hatha Yoga, the 26 & 2, or whatever the heck you all are calling it these days) came into my life.  I was also a mess for quite a few years after I established a regular practice. I had low self esteem, body image issues, and few positive relationships.  I had back issues, hip issues, chronic skin issues, allergy issues, and sciatic pain at 28 years old. I struggled to fit in anywhere and connect with anyone.  I had a brick wall built around me that need to be chiseled away at in order to truly live. And though I do not say that Bikram Yoga was the only thing that cured me of all of this stuff, it definitely had a major impact.

Taking the podium each day to teach class I am inspired how this yoga brings together people from every walk of life.  I look out at my students and witness every possible skin color and body shape imaginable.  There are students that barely scrape by financially week after week practicing next to the extremely affluent and wealthy.  Dog lovers practice next to cat lovers. Addicts next to trendy moms.  Someone dealing with the task of trying to lose 100 lbs. next to an Ironman Triathlete.  And all of them, to some degree, feel as if they have accomplished a great deal when they step out of the hot room because they have.

You might think that this is no big deal.  Every yoga class does this, doesn’t it?  Well, no. In most traditional yoga studios you will find that there are different levels of classes.  If you are just starting out, you take Level 1 Hatha Yoga.  If you are broken in some way you take Restorative.  If you are a rock star yogi, you can take a 2-hour Level 3 Power Vinyasa. There is a separation and grouping that happens, in which different folks show up at different times and head to separate rooms to which they belong at the moment.

In Bikram Yoga everyone belongs.  Every posture can be modified to start a student out where they are at that time in their life, sets them on the path, and gets them ready to be transformed in one way or another.  We all get to do it together.  The person trying to grab their foot for Standing Bow Pulling Pose is getting the same benefits as the person next to them rocking the standing splits in the same posture.  Though I love a good Sun Salutation I also know how impossible it would be for some of my students to accomplish a good Downward Dog or Chaturanga without possibly hurting themselves.

I embrace all yoga, but Bikram Yoga has my heart.  Sometimes when there is so much venom around a subject out there in the media you need to shine a light.  Bikram Yoga is a healing therapy for millions of souls out there in the world and I am grateful for the studios that keep it going and honor the sequence, the heat, and the techniques of this type of yoga. And if you haven’t tried it, I urge you to take at least one class.  Especially, if you are out there saying we are all crazy and that it’s too hot, and you should never lock your knee.  Be open to every method and recognize we all have different paths. If it’s not for you, cool. It’s tough stuff no matter where you are physically or mentally, but recognize it has value for those that it was meant for. I would not be who I am today without this practice and I certainly wouldn’t want to be who I was before it.  For me, it gave me confidence, love for my body and myself, and a community of people that are a constant inspiration.  For me, it made life great.

Originally posted to viewsfromthepodium.com on May 17, 2016


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