Nancy

Studio: FUEL: Mind to Body

My first Bikram class was over fifteen years ago at a studio called, Om on the Range. I instantly fell in love with the practice and bought a one-month package right after the class. But, the following day I found out I was pregnant and didn’t return until about seven years later.

I was introduced to yoga many years before that, I was in high school and my grandma took me to a yoga class with her when in Florida. She loved doing yoga - she was always ahead of the times. I am not even sure if I really liked it, but I loved being with her and that was enough. My second introduction to yoga was with my dad. One summer I was home from college and I joined my dad at the yoga class he attended every week.  I had a similar experience going with my dad, I wasn't sure I liked yoga…I was an athlete, I liked to run, swim, bike  etc…I didn't really understand the purpose of yoga,  but it was an opportunity for me to spend time with my dad. In my mid-twenties I did start going to yoga classes around the city…it was always just a good stretch for me to counterbalance all the other activities I took on.

About five years ago, an instructor suggested I do a 30-Day challenge. At first, I said no because I had never done Bikram more than two times in one week. The thought of doing 30 classes in 30 days did not seem possible - I could not imagine how I would stay hydrated! But I did it and it was life changing. Most importantly, I connected to the practice in a deeper way. Rather than it just being a great “sweat session” and good stretch, I made the mind to body connection. The day before I was to complete the challenge, I told my husband how unhappy I was in our marriage and that I was contemplating a divorce.

Needless to say, I did not sleep an ounce that night and did not think I would make it through my last class. I dropped the kids off at school and knew I needed to finish this challenge, even if I just laid in the hot room it would “count”. I was exhausted and filled with such anxiety about my future. It was such a powerful class for me, I felt strong and flowed through the poses refusing to give up. During the final Savasana, I knew something in me had shifted and it was time for me to take control of my own life, inner peace, and happiness. I did not know what the road ahead would be, but I felt strong.

The past few years have been a rocky road, but I have never looked back with regret. I have found so much peace and strength in the hot room. Bikram yoga was the first practice that I ever really connected to…it has been very healing for me, more emotionally than physically. I am thankful for all the amazing teachers that guide me each time and I am grateful for the practice.

Irene

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

I started practicing Bikram Yoga as a way to gain flexibility after years of running and cycling and lack of any kind of maintenance to counteract the tightness that comes from these activities. The practice has given me so much more than flexibility, thought that is one of the main reasons why I still show up on my mat week after week. It has given me peace of mind in ways I haven’t experienced in the past becoming a huge stress reliever in my life. It has become my meditation, helping me tune into ME and discover what is running through my mind. The yoga has made me a better mother, wife and friend as it constantly teaches me patience with myself and others.

My yoga practice is an everyday reminder for me that life is a journey - no one is ever going to arrive at perfection. The beauty of life is that in struggle and growth is where the perfection lies. With that, yoga helps me work to be the best version of myself, as well as part of something larger than myself. To be part of a community that aligns with many of my values and beliefs is something few people find, but I have found it here, on my mat, and at the studio.

Sarah

Studio: Burr Ridge Hot Yoga

Before I began practicing I was so judgmental of yoga. I thought it was too slow and soft and too “warm and fuzzy”.  Turns out, I was only right about “warm”.  The rest I had all wrong. I went to my first Bikram Yoga class, basically on a bet from a client of mine who was fit and strong and swore by it. Such poetic justice that my pride and judgment brought me to the very room that would slowly, but surely strip those characteristics away, all while transforming my body into a fitter, stronger version. I have practiced several times a week ever since.

I continue to practice this yoga because it is the ultimate act of self care. It is medicine for the monkey mind. After each class my brain feels like a sponge that has had all of the toxic thoughts wrung out of it. My yoga practice teaches me patience and acceptance ( I was never patient with myself and therefore rarely patient with others).It continuously reminds me how to let go and how to breathe. My favorite pose is CAMEL. It triggers feelings ranging from
euphoria to weepiness and everything in between. And you breathe anyway. My body is both stronger AND more flexible. It is humbling. Some days I can’t do a pose as well as I did it the day before. Other days I can stretch further than I imagined. The body is smart all on its own. The brain needs to take charge, and let the body take a back seat.  And every time I learn something new.  Every time. You might suspect that once you’ve heard the Dialogue 100 times, that you’ve got it down. The Dialogue is so incredibly nuanced and the individual instructors bring so many helpful tips, corrections and perspectives, that I will never stop clinging on to every word that is said in the hot room.

Ada

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

I started practicing Bikram Yoga in 2011 after I sustained a running injury that benched me from race training. I approached the practice as another form of cardio-exercise. I found I was flexible and thought I was crushing it as I folded easily into all my poses #winningbikramyoga #collapsedoesnotbikrammake.

When I came back to Bikram in 2016, I came to understand that I was hyperextending and collapsing into my poses and had to rethink and rework my poses to prevent long term injuries. I went through a lifestyle change that included adopting a rescue dog and turning to meditation to maintain inner peace. In the beginning I thought I was doing this to help my dog with some anxiety and fear aggression issues but in the end, I needed the help – she was only a reflection of how I was feeling. I canceled my LifeTime gym membership and committed to Bikram for the health of my mind, body, and soul.

I continue to practice Yoga because there is no end goal per se. When I was running, my goal was to do a sub 30 5K or finish a marathon. In Yoga, there is no end goal simply because even if one can accomplish the physical (and it’s not always the same for each class), there are inherent emotional walls we all struggle to overcome. Emotionally, Yoga forces me to be with myself, be patient with myself, forgive and let go (let that first pose go, try again). Physically, I have a love / hate relationship with hearing something new in class. I’ve had to learn how to properly lock my knees (will continue to be a struggle when I’m tired), tuck my tailbone in to do a proper triangle, and hug my legs so my knees face the front of the mirror, to name a few. I think as I work to try and be the best person I can be, this practice aligns with my goals to not be perfect, but to be the best person I can be, which is good enough.

Jen

Studio: FUEL: Mind to Body

Six years ago I moved from the city (Chicago) to the burbs. I had recently left a demanding job in television, where I’d spent twelve years of my life, and was embarking on a new chapter of freelance work and being mom to a Kindergartner. I felt lost and lonely in a new town, where I knew nobody.

As I stumbled along, trying to find my place, a city friend offered a safe haven. She had just opened up a Bikram Yoga studio in a burb near mine, and thought it might be just what I needed. Not being a yogi, at all, I was hesitant. Not being in shape made me even more concerned.

I remember walking into the studio my first day, worried I was wearing the wrong thing, nervous I wouldn’t be able to do any of the poses, and afraid the 105 degree room would be too much to handle. As I walked into the hot room the heat consumed me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I laid out my mat and towel and was confronted by a wall of mirrors. For somebody who always tried to avoid full length mirrors, this was terrifying. I could feel the tears welling up and I wanted to run. But, something inside me told me this was everything I needed at this moment in time, and I had to be brave.

For 90-minutes I did my best to follow along, do as many poses as my body would allow, and fought hard to not let my mind take over. None of it was easy. But it wasn’t supposed to be.

Now, almost six years later, I am a regular at the studio where I took my first class. I am grateful every time I walk in there. And, I am stronger every time I leave. Doing this yoga has changed my body, and my mind. It has made me appreciate what my body is capable of. It has helped me cope with sometimes crippling anxiety. It has taught me to find more compassion and less criticism for that person in the mirror. It has shown me that no matter what, I am enough.

Has it gotten easier? Not at all. But, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The change is in the challenge.

Ed

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

A friend of mine, who is East Indian by birth, invited me to attend a yoga class, around 2005, in Ottawa, Canada, of all places, during a business trip. As a long-time gym-rat and retired weekend sports warrior, I thought it sounded like a way to fend off getting in shape (round being the shape). It was quite a challenge, mentally and physically. I’ve never been very flexible and I was definitely lacking stamina that first class. But I was intrigued. I started attending Bikram Yoga in Naperville for a year or so. My record was 5 classes in 8 days (including a New Year’s Eve class that ended at midnight).

Going to yoga a couple times a week seemed to give me more energy overall, my core strength improved, and I lost a fair amount of weight. Even though it was usually an ordeal, I enjoyed it and found the “filling station” bit to be pretty true. It seemed like a good way to “reset.”

Why do you continue practicing yoga? Well, I stopped after a year or so the first time. The primary reason was the time it took to get to the studio and back (not to mention the 90-minutes and mandatory shower time). Then about five years ago, Bikram You Aurora opened it’s doors and it was only five minutes from our house! My wife and I tried a 30-day trial. I was hooked and it wasn’t too long before Eileen was also fairly regular. Our daughter Kelly (aka “Bendy”) joined for a while. For the last year, it’s been a family affair – with Kelly going 5-6 times a week, me on pace for my second 200+ class year in a row, and we drag Eileen with us as often as possible. The broadening of our class offerings, such as Inferno Hot Pilates, Next Level, and Hot 26 Plus, has been a tremendous boon to the studio and the variety has increased our interest even further. In addition to the physical and mental aspects of the poses themselves, the studio is like a little community, with uniformly positive, inspiring instructors. Pilates has added a whole new dynamic, with the music, before and after chit chat, and encouragement of making noise in class! At this point, I couldn’t imagine NOT doing yoga and Pilates several times a week. We’re going to Arizona for a long weekend soon… and we already have our temporary studio picked out. The time commitment is significant, but it’s the best of vices, and as they say “it keeps us out of trouble.” And Thursdays is usually Subway night after class, because, darn it, we earned it!

Bee

Studio: Be Yoga Andersonville

When it rains it pours! That was my life in the beginning of 2013.  Everything in my life was falling apart. Sadness and a broken heart were breaking down my immune system.  As much as I tried to stay healthy by going to the gym and spending more time at a driving range to get good oxygen, nothing really helped!

Of course, my doctor loved giving me more prescriptions. Taking six pills daily was a lot for me. I became even more ill from the side effects from those pills and the doctor continued giving me more pills to take. This was not how I wanted to live my life.  I tried to stay positive and find ways to heal myself from a few serious car accidents, several tumors in different organs, etc.  I regret having breast surgery in 2008 because the tumors never went away.

Someone was telling me about benefits from Bikram Yoga. On April 6th, 2013 I decided to give it a try. I had no idea what yoga was all about, but I was willing to try anything to be healthy again. At the beginning of my practice, the first breathing exercise was the hardest because I couldn’t bend my neck at all due to chronic pain. The first eighteen months of my practice I was just a regular student who came to the studio once or twice a week thinking of it as an exercise. I started to notice changes in both my body and my mind. An hour and a half in class was an hour and a half that I was learning about myself more and more each day.  I started to understand life, reality, and to let go things that I had no control over. It was such an amazing feeling to experience “freedom” from letting go of things that I had been holding on to for years. Late 2014, I became more serious about my practice. After all these years I ‘ve learned to be more patient with myself, as I feel that I am not as young and strong as I used to be. I’ve learnt to accept who I am as I try to practice in a present moment.

Yoga has become a big part of my life that I cannot live without.  I’m getting healthier and happier each day. All tumors have been benign and stable. Chronic pain didn’t bother me much anymore. I no longer have to take medicine. Yoga makes me so strong that I can face and handle any difficulties in my life. It teaches me to be present, accept reality, and be positive. Yoga heals my broken heart, my broken past, and lightens up my life.  With a positive mind, I am getting stronger and healthier more than I could have ever imagined!

Katie

Studio: FUEL: Mind to Body

Eleven years ago, I remember wanting to try yoga. I can’t remember exactly why I was searching for a yoga class (was I injuring myself with the running I was doing? Did I want to stretch more? Was I looking for a way to quiet my mind?) but I was hooked on the idea that I should try yoga. So, I found a class at the community college near my house (perfect I thought, it’s close and inexpensive and they have a class that fits with my schedule).  I signed up, went to one class and never went back. It was cold in the room (I’m a naturally cold person who has poor circulation – my hands turn purple in winter time and throb with pain), and we weren’t doing anything that I perceived as useful or “hard” (I’ve also been pretty flexible my whole life).

Not long after trying that one class, I was talking with my now-husband’s best friend and he suggested I try Bikram Yoga (he lives in San Francisco and practices with his wife). I told him I wasn’t interested in a class that was all “clear your mind”/ meditation focused. He said that Bikram classes were heated and that you left feeling like you had “a workout”. That all sounded good to me so I researched it, found that a studio had opened not far from where I was living and began to plot when I could go in for my first class.

I decided to try my first class on a day I had off from my job (a Monday in January during cold Chicago weather). It was packed. We were mat to mat and I ended up in the front of the room. I remember feeling sweaty and hot but also excited to try my best; I think I was running on adrenaline.  I left feeling like I had one heck of a workout. I went home and lounged around for the rest of the day. I had purchased the intro week, so I knew I would be back (I hate wasting money!). The next day I was sore all over (that good kind of sore).

I continued to go to class on the weekends. It felt good and it was helping me lose weight (I was planning my wedding).  In hindsight, it was probably also helping me manage stress.

I’ve now been practicing for ten years. I’ve practiced through two pregnancies (I always found taking Bikram class while pregnant to be easier than doing normal, everyday tasks while pregnant). It makes me feel good (it helps me sleep). It helps me manage stress (it helped me cope with my brother’s illness and eventual passing). I know that no matter how I’m feeling, I will feel better after class (feeling dead tired because your kids keep you up all night? No problem! Go to Bikram! It’s the new sleep) It gives me something that is mine (as a stay at home mom of two with a husband who travels a decent amount for work, I rarely get a chance to be selfish). It gives me something to work towards and be proud of myself when I accomplish a goal.

It gives me a chance to connect with other yogis I wouldn’t encounter in my everyday life and share a laugh and an encouraging word or two. It helps me maintain my calm, easy-going demeanor (I’ve noticed that I don’t sweat the small stuff or get anxious/worked up about stuff like those around me do; some might say I’m blasé about things). It helps me maintain my weight and overall health. It’s so much a part of me now, that it helps me be me.

Jan

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

I was intrigued by the concept of the hot room after my daughters had taken some classes. I practiced for a few months, had some issues with my knee (likely because I was still running then) and stopped going. I ended up going back six months later and now…. ten years have passed. Since I can’t run any more, it’s important to me to keep up with my practice. It’s the toughest workout I’ve ever done and as I’m aging I want to continue practicing because of the balance, strength, focus and concentration the yoga brings to my life. At sixty-five years old (young?) and three years post knee replacement, I think my practice is stronger than ever.

I know when I was contemplating my knee replacement I couldn’t find anyone who knew anyone who had gone through with it and kept up with yoga. I think people need to know that:

1) you can keep your practice

2) it will get better!

Britt

Studio: Bikram Yoga Cape Cod

When I was 15 years old, I had two rods and four bolts fused onto my spine to correct scoliosis. Following the surgery, my orthopedic surgeon, recommended that I try yoga. So, I went. I found my body to be stiff and painfully tight. As much as I could see the importance, I couldn’t get myself into a regular practice.

Seven years later, I washed up on the shores of Cape Cod. I was twenty-three years old, a little lost, and a little broken, both physically and emotionally.I drove by a Bikram Hot Yoga studio one day and decided to find out what all this mumbo jumbo was about. I still had the voice of my orthopedic surgeon ringing in my ears, “Go to yoga.” I read about the benefits of the practice through a thorough Google search and I knew that it was what I needed. So, I decided to try.

I showed up to the hot room and found I couldn’t sit on my knees without being in pain. I couldn’t put my hands together in half moon. I couldn’t put my back on the mat in fixed firm. The healing I did physically from back surgery was nothing short of fantastic. Yet, my greatest victory comes from what this practice did for my mind. I learned to sit with the hot loneliness instead of run from it. I learned how to take time to learn about myself and how to be still. I learned how to reset.

ADHD. Empath. Highly Sensitive. Manic Depressive. Child of an addict. Or, whatever other labels we can find to describe the funky bag of demons who hang out in my brain clubhouse. No words or labels can correctly describe what I am, which is a giant ball of energy. I found that I am a force to be reckoned with.

Bikram Yoga has taught me how to take all of my energy and creativity and turn it into something positive. I learned how to manage my emotions, not let them run me – how to breathe effectively to calm myself down, how to stay still even when it is hard, and how to make my mind and body work together.

This practice has given me so much. One day, as I laid in Savasana, I thought to myself, this is what I want to do. I want to teach this class. If I can help heal one person as much as I’ve healed from this, I would call it a success.

A long time ago, a teacher encouraged me to push through what was hard. To not have expectations before I entered the room. To be kind to myself when it isn’t going well. To be gentle to myself when I was healing. This could be my platform to help others. I wanted to teach. I told no one. I continued to practice and let yoga be a positive force in my life.

I practiced up until my first son’s due date. He was 10.1 lbs. and no, I didn’t have a C-Section. So yes, THANK YOU YOGA.

There is a lot of misinformation about practicing hot yoga while pregnant. Everyone should make the best decision for themselves with their doctor. In my research into the matter, multiple health care professionals gave me the same information. That what a woman should do while pregnant is contingent on what she was doing daily prior to getting pregnant. No woman should try hot yoga for the first time while pregnant. But since I was fresh off the thirty-day challenge, doing the Pregnancy Series and stretching in the room would be fine – as long as I was listening to my body.

I felt the best in that room when I was pregnant. It was so soothing to my muscles and I felt better there, in the heat, than anywhere else. That was the best lesson of all. I became very aware of my body – what feels good, what doesn’t. The practice gave me that.

Postpartum depression came for a summer at our house. Yoga once again, helped me climb right out of that dark hole and find the sunshine. I climbed so high that finally, it was time to stop dreaming and start doing.

I’ve now been teaching Bikram Yoga for two years. The good news is, my day dreams didn’t oversell it. I love working at the studio. I like to be the coach – the inspiring voice, a source of positivity.

It wasn’t easy getting up on that podium. I get better every day. I gain confidence with every class. I continue to learn.  Sometimes I’m brilliant. Sometimes I trip over my words. But, in the end, I just keep showing up.


Jillian

Studio: Bikram Yoga Westheimer

I went to a non-Bikram yoga class in high school once but never made it back on to a mat until December 2015 when a cute boy invited me to a Bikram Yoga class. Some people hate their first class, but I was instantly in love. I was in the middle of a fifty pound weight loss journey, attending the gym every day and running frequently, so it was great to be challenged by something so different. My perfectionist brain wanted to ‘figure it out’ and my determined (i.e. stubborn) personality wanted to prove to myself I could do something so difficult – because it IS difficult. I practiced irregularly for about six months without ever actually understanding the changes that were taking place in my life. For me, at that time, it was all about mastering something new.

I stepped away from the yoga for a few months to train for a half marathon where I was eventually injured. After about six months out of the hot room, I returned with the hope of simply healing an injury. After attending four days in a row, I somehow got sucked into a Thirty-Day Challenge. I had done four already… what’s another twenty-six, right? Those thirty days turned out to be some of the most emotional, therapeutic, and transformative days of my life. I was hooked. There was no looking back.

Thirty days turned into sixty which evolved into ninety and from there, I was all-in. Bikram Yoga was forever my ‘thing’ and I could never picture my life without it. I had learned so much about myself: mind and body. Everything about me was changing, for the better, inside the hot room, but especially outside of the hot room. My anxiety was tamed, my body was brand new (I had lost a little bit of weight, my body was toning up and muscles were visible, my skin was clear), I had all the energy in the world, I did not get sick anymore, and I was the happiest I had been in years. The physical benefits were well known but the mental benefits completely surprised me; everything that used to seem unmanageable or like the end of the world was suddenly so simple and beautiful. I was bulletproof. The studio was my home, the people were my family. Nobody could steal my peace.

My love and passion for Bikram Yoga grew exponentially over my ten-months of daily practice and before I knew it, I was registered for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. I completed my year-challenge (386 classes in 365 days) while I was at training in the Fall of 2017. Teacher Training was one of the best experiences of my life and I will forever be grateful for that decision. There are not enough words to describe that experience and the incredibly impact it had on me. I will forever be a new person because of it. Coming home and teaching for my studio family and for new students have been some of the best joys I have had. As a student, I continue to fall in love with the yoga each day (even the days I do not want to be there!) and push myself. As a teacher, I constantly gush about the yoga and try to make anyone, and everyone, come to a class – we all want to save the world and for people to feel the way we know they can after a Bikram Yoga class.

Celine

Studio: Bikram Yoga Geneva

I started Bikram Yoga during a trip to London and immediately fell in love with the practice. I had foot injuries following over 20 years of intense running and was looking for another exercise that would give me the same kick as an hour run. I had practiced Ashtanga Yoga and was mostly bored, but this was different. When I returned home, I could not practice regularly as there was no studio in Geneva where I live.

My sister lived in Ireland and I pushed her to also try Bikram Yoga since there were several studios in Dublin. She loved it so much that she left her high profile banking job to attend Teacher Training in Acapulco in 2008. After she graduated, the stars aligned and her husband got a job in Geneva, where she decided to open a studio in town.

Since December 2010, I practice every day or so, and cannot get enough of it. It brings me joy in every single inch of my body and mind and soul. When my sister got pregnant she struggled to find teachers and since I had a mandatory sabbatical from work, I attended Teacher Training in 2012 in Los Angeles.

I enjoy each class I teach as if it was the last one. I practice each class as if it was the last one, every day. I do not have the words to describe how it works, but I cannot imagine life without it. I now understand when Bikram says that this yoga can change our lives. The conditions of our life might not change, but the way we live and perceive it is dramatically different. This yoga is my passion. And I will always be grateful for it’s place in my life.

Sharon

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

When I set foot on my mat for the first time I wanted nothing more than to kill time.  It was January and I was as cold on the inside as the outside.  I was the determined resuscitator, exhausted, yet unable to quit administering CPR to an expired relationship.  The right man wasn’t presenting himself, so I clung shamefully to the wrong one. I was looking to recover my dignity, to dust off my battered heart, to find a new way forward.  Bikram Yoga offered me no choice, but to put my thoughts elsewhere, and with a flat rate for my first month of classes, I was incented to show up often. Putting myself at the mercy of the hot room seems safer and a much better use of my time than putting myself at the mercy of the wrong man.

I am competitive.  I attended eighteen classes in thirty days.  I showed up in snowstorms, in bone-chilling cold.  I felt rushed to keep up with the dialogue and to master the postures.  I forgot to breathe.  I hid in the back. I couldn’t look at my face in the mirror. I looked at what others around me would do and I told myself I needed to work harder if I’m ever going to get there.

I don’t remember when exactly I allow myself to slow down. But I do attribute the moment my practice transforms to this single act. I start to understand yoga is not a race to perfection, and neither is my career, nor my parenting, nor my relationship with the amazing man I meet not long after I begin my yoga practice. Yoga is a metaphor for life, a journey that starts with accepting, owning and expressing who we are and what we show up with every day.

Yoga’s greatest gift is self-love. Yoga teaches me how to be kind to myself.  I learn to take my time in the postures. Sometimes I make remembering to breathe my sole goal. I am in the front row, staring confidently back at myself, proud of my strength and the beauty I can finally see. I find it ironic that I define what spills out of eyes devoid of makeup and hair dripping in sweat as beauty. My mantra is “I am enough.”  I expect it may take forever to master the postures. And that fact is surprisingly okay with me.

This yoga, just like this life, is hard, can be overwhelming at times. It is easy to talk myself into not showing up, to tell myself 90-minutes is too much time. This month marks my fourth anniversary as a yogi. My practice is regular, consistent, but not as frequent as in the beginning, yet what starts as a way to kill time becomes some of the most valuable time I spend. Yoga continues to remind me who I am and insists I show up as myself in this world. It is a necessary tool for the rich life I am creating.  It’s always known what I am just beginning to appreciate:   I can warm myself up from the inside no matter how cold it is on the outside.


Barb

Studio: Bend Hot Yoga

The truth is I’ve done yoga since I was in my twenties. Most of it was Hatha Yoga with a stint doing Iyengar when I was pregnant with my son, twenty-four years ago. But life happened and I turned to active pursuits—specifically skiing and triathlons.

Throughout my forties into my fifties, I ran for miles and biked straight up hills and swam. My hips started to scream. My knees were wobbly from tight IT bands, my ankles became weak. About five years ago, I really overdid it. I snowmobiled over seventy miles in one day. This was one of those giant snowmobiles that fit two large people. I had to throw my weight from side to side to get the huge heavy machine to turn. By the time I got back to the cabin, I had no strength left. I had pulled or exhausted every muscle from my lower back to my thighs.

I remembered hearing that Bikram Yoga was healing, so I decided to give it a try. At first, I hated it more than enjoyed it. It took six months before I could stay in the room due to my pre-existing high blood pressure. It then another year before I would move away from the door or window where the temp was just a little lower. At the two year mark I moved to the middle of the room, but only under a fan. Not long after that, I could practice anywhere in the room even on crowded days with high humidity. The point being, it wasn’t easy, but I stayed.

The hot yoga was the cure for what ailed me. The heat helped my muscles to relax, stretch and release toxins. The difficult poses helped strengthen my muscles and joints and provided a degree of cardio as my heart rate raised in poses like Balancing Stick and Half Locust. My high blood pressure is lowered for hours after a class. Also, my practice is continuing to improve with thanks to the Next Level 90 Intermediate Classes. The hip openers in this class are a true help for my aging, hurting hips (I turned 60 this year) and it’s a lot of fun. The positions were laughably impossible when I first started the class, but now I find myself getting into the same positions that seemed unattainable. Intermediate Class has also helped me in the beginner class, as well, as I can finally get my toes around my ankle in Eagle Pose or reach further back in Camel.

As a professional photographer, I’ve had the opportunity of photographing classes, and now I have a clue as to what it must be like to be a teacher. The energy of everyone holding in poses is palpable. Standing in front of a class during Savasana is magical—a combined relaxation that is delicious to experience. It’s easy to understand how it is a privilege for teachers to lead a class.

For the past year, I’ve gone to no less than three classes a week. Something new has happened. It’s mental. The yoga has reduced my stress and helped to realign my mind. The practice has become a necessity, almost an addiction, because of this. If I miss going to yoga for more than two days, I start to get cranky and my life doesn’t work as well. I am so thankful for the practice and for my yoga community. It is the grounding and support I need to help make sense out of the rest of my world.

Jennifer

Studio: Bikram Yoga Nashua

I walked into my first Bikram Yoga class in March of this year.  My thought was, “I’ve done hot power yoga for years… how different can this be?”  The simple answer is…  VERY. Even though I struggled through that first class and kept asking myself what I had gotten myself into, I came back for more… and more… and more.

Fast forward to September 7th of this year… I was lying on my mat in final savasana soaked with sweat after a 90-minute class.  I was training for my fifth marathon and fighting yet another nagging running injury – a strained calf muscle. In that moment I had a sense of clarity.  It was as though the universe said:

 “Why are you running a 5th marathon?  Why are you fighting another running injury?  You’ve already run 26.2 miles four times. How many times do you need to do it? What exactly do you have to prove?  You are happy here on your mat.  This is where you belong….”

The following Monday I went in and signed up for the ninety day Bikram Yoga challenge, committing to practice at least four times per week for ninety consecutive days.  The idea thrilled me and horrified me.  This wouldn’t be easy…. but everything about this felt right, so I jumped right in with both feet.

During the first week of my journey I discovered Inferno Hot Pilates.  If Bikram Yoga doesn’t fulfill your physical exertion quota for the day, follow it up with an extra hour of Inferno Hot Pilates after. You will feel like your glutes are detaching from your body and your abs are experiencing human combustion…   Yet, I loved it.

During the first thirty days, I practiced twenty-three times. I could already feel and see the changes. My knee pain stopped. My hip pain stopped. I slept better. I ate better. I felt better. My skin looked better. My body looked better. Slowly but surely, my body was healing from the inside out.  All the tightness and pain and inflexibility were starting to go away.

I really got to know myself when I stared at myself in a mirror for ninety minutes every day.  I didn’t speak or have my phone. I didn’t look around the room. I just looked at myself and essentially meditated while I moved through the postures and breathing exercises. There are no shortcuts and there are no secrets. I couldn’t cheat or exaggerate. Everything is real and in the moment and right in front of my face.

A big part of Bikram Yoga is Savasana, in which I taught my mind to go from intense focus and determination to complete tranquility. This carried over into my ability to sleep. Suddenly, I could lay down day or night and essentially “put myself to sleep.” Through the practice of Savasana, I had developed this new control and ability to completely shut down my body and mind.

At the end of ninety days I had taken sixty-five classes (including eleven Inferno Hot Pilates classes) for a total of five classes per week. The changes I experienced during this time were monumental.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about this practice.  All I can do is spread the word and hope more people get out there and experience the incredible benefits.

Jeni

Studio: Bikram Yoga North Texas

“DWAYNE!!!” I screamed for my husband from the shower, the pain evident in my voice. I had bent over to shave my legs and couldn’t stand up. My back was totally locked up. It hurt. Bad. I was only 34 years old — too young for this kind of back pain.

Diagnosed with scoliosis after a screen at school in 6th grade, I have struggled with back pain basically my whole life. But it was getting worse. Desperately googling things to make me feel better, I came across the idea of Bikram Yoga. I was terrified to try it because I honestly thought it was crazy to exercise in a room so hot and humid. I was a healthy woman outside of the back problems, but I was still irrationally worried about cardiac arrest. However, desperation can lead people to do crazy things, so I went to my first Bikram Yoga class on February 24, 2011.

I had read enough about it before going to know I needed to commit to 30 days before making a decision as to whether or not I liked it. So I didn’t just go to one class. I planned on going as many times as I could in that first month which ended up being about four times a week. By the third class, I was hooked! Was it a hard work out? Heck yeah! Was I good at it? No! I couldn’t even lay flat on my back for Savasana (Dead Body pose— basically laying flat on the ground) because my back hurt so bad. But I also felt GOOD!

Things that were locked up were slowly but surely loosening. I started to gain flexibility. And most importantly, the pain started to decrease. I’ve been regularly practicing four times per week for almost six years now and can’t imagine my life without it. My husband is fully supportive of the time I spend going because I no longer complain about my back hurting— what a change! In addition to the decrease in back pain, I’ve also experienced an increase in flexibility, patience, and happiness. Bikram Yoga has truly changed my life.

Nicole

Studio: 105F

I was pregnant with twins in the spring of 2012. Despite doing all that I could to ensure a healthy pregnancy, they came early at 24-weeks gestation. The babies were one pound. My son passed away shortly after birth, but my daughter survived. She fought hard in the NICU for five and a half months, through respiratory distress, congestive heart failure, open heart surgery and many other difficulties. It was a challenging time.

When she finally came home it was very hard for me to enjoy my role at home as a mother. I was suffering from PTSD. I was so happy that my baby survived and was finally home, but was silently suffering from anxiety and depression.

I started attending Bikram Yoga classes in South Naperville in 2014 when my daughter  turned one as a way to lose baby weight. I had no idea the profound effect it would have on my life. It just felt right from the start. It did help me to lose some weight, but after a couple of months I noticed that I started to feel better overall. My mood was happier, I was much calmer and did not feel so much anxiety. I began to realize that the positive mental effects of the 90-minute moving meditation was something I could not live without.

Cindy

Studio: FUEL: Mind to Body

How did I find yoga? It found me!! My yoga story starts with a phone call from my dad. He had unexpectedly passed out and needed medical attention. At the hospital we discovered he had a brain tumor and needed emergency brain surgery. He survived the surgery, but would have to relearn how to walk. The man that saved his life was a Dr. Choudhury.

During this I became a ball of stress. I had sleepless nights, IBS, and began to take medication for my anxiety brought on from endless worry of how my dad would recuperate after the surgery. Also, around this time I had fallen and tore my plantar fascia and had to wear a walking cast. Because of this, my legs were two different sizes due to atrophy, causing me to stop my daily running routine.

My sister in law and my best friend both told me to try Bikram Yoga. I ha
dn’t been exposed to much yoga at the time. I researched Bikram Yoga and saw the name Bikram Choudhury. Reminding me of my father’s doctor, I took it as a sign that I needed to try it. After my first class I was hooked. I even woke up for the 6am classes just because I couldn’t wait to do it again. These classes healed me. My IBS went away completely. Yoga gave me the same endorphins that running had in the past. It enabled me to strengthen my weak leg and it slowly regained it’s strength and muscle tone as I worked each day in the hot room.

I put 100% effort into my practice. I love the type of people that practice this yoga. I instantly made great friends at my home studio and look forward to going there as often as I can. Yoga breathed fresh air into every corner of my life. My only wish is that I had found it sooner.

Anna

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

I attended my first Bikram Yoga class 34 days after losing my daughter, Iris, at 16 weeks of pregnancy.  Iris was my fourth child.  Her sister, Nelle, had been stillborn less than six months before that.  I went into the studio that day with a lot of self-loathing.  Two uneventful pregnancies with my older sons, followed by two unexplained second-trimester losses was unfathomable.  I hated my body.  I felt like it had failed me.  I had pregnancy weight to lose and no baby at home.  I was still intensely grieving the daughters that I had very much wanted and loved.

I had done yoga before, but never tried Bikram.  Previously my practice had been a “yoga sculpt” class that I had taken for years.  The instructor was gentle, but cognizant in helping her students push and grow.  It was an early-morning Friday class and once my son had entered kindergarten, the time no longer worked for me.  Then I was pregnant with Nelle and enrolled in a prenatal yoga class at the time that I lost her.  Once I was medically cleared after going through labor and delivery with Iris, I wanted to give it a try.  It appeared like it would be punishment and I wanted to punish myself.

Ninety minutes in the Bikram class in heat of over 100 degrees with stifling humidity.  The intensity and focus required allowed me to forget my pain, if only for ninety minutes.  If I didn’t focus on the practice of yoga, I would have fallen over.  For 90-minutes it was only about my limbs and spine and strength.  The sweat that dripped from my body was particularly cleansing.  I left the class feeling lighter.

The studio had a challenge for new members to complete 15 classes within the first 30 days.  I completed the challenge – and that included being gone for several days on a family trip to Arizona.  I even sought out a Bikram studio while on vacation because at that point I needed it.

I was unapologetic about needing yoga: needing that time to focus only on myself and my practice.  I focused on my postures, making adjustments, corrections, improvements.  I would make time for the ninety-minute class three or four times week.  I began to recognize that taking care of myself was a necessary component of being a functional human being both at home and work.  This evolved into taking better care of myself in other ways.  My daily routine became a ritual of carefully considered improvements, to both my mental health and physical health.

In September, six months after I started yoga, I had a particularly difficult class.  It marked one year since losing Nelle.  I didn’t want to go, but I forced myself.  Tori Hicks was the instructor and she constantly offers encouragement and corrections during the dialogue.  During Standing Separate Leg Stretching pose (Dandytamana – Bibhaktaeada – Paschimottanasana), she came over to me and kept saying “lock your knees, lock your knees, there you go – you got it!”  The exertion caused a cramp in my leg, so I had to sit out the next posture, but then I picked myself up and kept going.

I was fine until we reached the first savasana.  Two minutes of silence and focus to prepare for the second half of class.  I started crying, and could not stop.  I mindfully tried to keep my sobs quiet so as not to disturb the other people in the class.  After savasana is the floor series, so no one could really see me.  I sat out several more postures as I attempted to get control of myself, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t.  As I continued to lay on my back, Tori came over and said “you’re fine, you’re doing great.”  She probably thought that pushing me in the one posture had caused frustration on my part.  She brought over a tissue and gave my hand a squeeze.

At the end of class, as I was leaving she started to say “We all have days in the hot room that are hard…” and I said “No, that’s not it.”  We sat together in the lobby of the studio and I shared the story of my two daughters.  I was keenly aware of how close she sat to me, so that her shoulders pressed against mine, like she was holding me up.  She started to say “It’s ok” but then corrected herself “It’s not ok, but you are here.  You came today.  You took some time today to take care of yourself.”

I haven’t attended a class in about one year.  I became pregnant again, and delivered my “rainbow baby” (a baby born after loss) in August.  The demands of an infant and breastfeeding have kept me away, but I know I will go back.  I am itching to go back: to be in that room that was my saving grace for so many months.

Helena

Studio: FUEL: Mind to Body

I tried a Bikram Yoga class in February 2014. Did one class and didn’t go back. The friend I convinced to try the class with, did. She kept going. I went a different direction. That year, I entered therapy to figure out my marriage. Did I want to stay or go? In therapy, I worked very hard and was still stuck; I was stuck in fear, anxiety, and grief. I could hold space for myself and practiced self-compassion. I was exploring the depths psychologically and emotionally. There was a missing piece, however. I had yet to explore myself from a somatic and sensory perspective. My horse, Tess, taught me I held fear in my body. Horseback riding taught me I lacked balance, strength, and softness as well. I had gained 15 pounds, reached pregnancy weight, and felt sluggish, bloated, and disembodied. Both my parents developed Type 2 Diabetes in older age. I knew I was heading towards pre-diabetes. It felt inevitable.

Fast forward to July 2015. Sitting next to my friend, who continued with yoga, at the Glenview Fourth of July parade, I knew I had to make a change in my life. Physically, I did not feel well. I was too young to feel so old! She told me to come back to yoga. She spoke of how much she loved her community and how yoga had changed her. I went that week and haven’t stopped.

Christina

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

My first Bikram yoga class was on May 26, 2006.  I remember a few days prior I was walking home from working out at a gym I belonged to.  I was single, self-supporting and living in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.  I saw a sign that said, “Bikram Yoga.” I read the room would be heated to 105 degrees.  I was always the type of person open to trying something new, to be challenged.  I had never tried yoga and was convinced it was not for me.  I thought it was too slow and boring.  I remember thinking, “I’m going to try this.  What a great way to sweat off all of my extra weight.  This is the something new I have been searching for.”

I took the evening class.  I had no idea what I was in for.  My mind was totally blown.  People of all sizes, men and women sweating like I’ve never seen before. I never even thought a person could sweat that much.  The teacher introduced herself.  She was very kind and welcoming and made me feel comfortable. I stood in the back, watched the people in front of me and did the best I could. I was so intrigued by it all.  Sometimes laughing at the seriousness of it, but yet wanting what the people in the class had.  When I got home, I felt so alive.  I felt great.  I was experiencing my first yoga buzz.

I took the advice of the instructors and went back every day, literally.  Gradually, my whole life started to change.  I became obsessed.  I brought friends to classes so they could try it, I read and studied both of Bikram’s books, I practiced when I was on vacation in different states and even in the sauna room of a cruise ship.  I took a workshop with a senior instructor.  I started to become a more loving person, my heart was open now after being closed for many, many years.  I wanted to hug everyone, even dogs. I remember around the seventh month mark, the mind body connection really kicked in. I fell totally in love with Bikram Yoga.  I started to love myself again after years and years of self destructive behaviors.

About a year and a half later, my husband was brought into my life.  A year after that, I was blessed with my first son.  I experienced the joys of motherhood and marriage all at once.  Two years later, we found our new home and moved to the suburbs.  A year later, my second boy arrived.  I was advised by my doctors to not take Bikram Yoga while pregnant.  I was considered high risk, due to being of advanced maternal age. But that didn’t stop me, I did Rajashree’s pregnancy DVD at home.

I truly believe none of these events would have occurred if my heart was not open.  I was inviting all good things into my life from this yoga.  Around six years in, I was starting to feel stuck with the practice and tried a different style of heated yoga, but still tried to get a class in every now and then.  That was a blessing because I came back with fresh eyes. I was really open to what poses needed corrections and became aware that I was doing things incorrectly just to get into the pose. I am at the point in my practice where I am fine tuning a lot of things that I have been cheating on.

Some pretty awesome things I have noticed after practicing for a whole decade (I feel old) is that I look forward to the heat and sweat.  I have flexibility and can maintain mental clarity for most of the class.  I have figured out that you have to use the right muscle to get into a pose to obtain the maximum benefits, the right way.

I struggle the most with Locust Pose, Toe Stand, and Standing Bow. Some days, my concentration is really off and my confidence is low.  I have to learn when to back off and slow down, and not be so intense. I have a gentle nature, kind of shy and free spirited.  There are no words to describe the sense of pride I feel after getting into a tough pose or completing a class, for that matter. These days I am working on bringing more laughter and fun to my class. I would not be the person I am today if I haven’t found this yoga.  I am grateful every day for it and look forward to many more decades to come!  It will always and forever be a part of my life.

Carol

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

I was introduced to Bikram Yoga in 2005 by my sister. Although I had never taken a hot yoga class before, I was well on my yoga path doing non-heated hatha yoga at my local gym, which I enjoyed, so I was looking forward to a new experience with the heat.

I was definitely uncomfortable during my 1st class. I couldn’t catch my breath, it was HOT, the sweat was stinging my eyes, and I couldn’t stay still or even keep my mind focused. Yet I persevered as I wanted to keep up with my sister. Afterwards I felt different than after any other yoga class. I recall thinking, “Whoa, there’s something to this, I got my cardio workout in, I just sweat buckets, felt exhausted yet exhilarated at the same time”, it got me curious.

I have to admit my beginning Bikram Yoga practice was what I now consider to have been “a seasonal practice”. I’d return to BY primarily for weight loss during the early summer and winter seasons to shed a few pounds. I was mainly focused on the physical benefits than anything else. I felt these benefits of my “seasonal” practice immediately, I have to admit, it took some time before I noticed all the psychological benefits this practice had to offer.  My head just wasn’t in the game at this point.

In 2007, when my Dad passed, I decided to return to the practice to help gain peace, grieve my loss and find a place of escape from what I was dealing with instead of turning to substances for relief.   At that time, I was a 20+ year smoker, suffered chronic lower back pain associated from degenerative disc disease, plus I had an enormous amount of stress at work, working for the family business. And with my dad’s recent passing, I knew the stress at work was only going to increase; I needed the yoga again. But this time, I needed it for the mental benefits more than anything.

Fast forward summer 2009; I decided to commit to a regular practice of at least 3 times per week. This routine was a game changer; I lost weight, my back felt better, my stress was under control and I was being asked “what are you doing, you look great!” Family and friends were noticing the changes not only in my body but also my attitude as well as my stress level. This encouraged me to continue on and keep improving myself. My thought was, this yoga was more than just about stretching, there’s something bigger going on here… that’s when the wheels started to turn. I had a dream. I wanted to share this yoga with my family & friends.

January 2011 comes and I decide to make a challenge for myself. If I can quit smoking and up my practice to 5 times a week, then I want to become a Bikram Yoga Instructor and open up my own studio to share this healing practice with as many people as possible. Through that commitment and determination, I did just that. September 2011, I resigned from the family business as VP & CFO and attended Bikram Yoga Teacher Training for nine weeks in Los Angeles, CA. Exactly two years later, I opened Bikram Yoga Aurora in September 2013.

Today, this yoga has helped me with so many physical as well as psychological issues. I no longer suffer from stress, my back feels 100% better, my body feels clean, I’m a non-smoker, I no longer crave sugar and alcohol as I once did and my attitude is positive.   The greatest benefit from my practice is that no matter what I’m going through physically or mentally, I know that just showing up on my mat, having deep compassion for where I am today, releasing my thoughts for 90 minutes and just to “be in the moment” is so comforting to me. It’s my release, the natural way. I am forever grateful for this yoga practice; it has a profound effect to improve lives. In the end, it’s yoga that used me. I now know that yoga gives you what you need, not what you want. Just show up, get on your mat, let it go and will too will change for the better.

Amy

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

When I went to my first Bikram Yoga class, I was broken. But I was searching for ways to get myself back together. I couldn’t continue with my life as it was. I was depressed, taking Zoloft, Xanax, and my doctor had just told me that he wanted to put me on statins…I wasn’t even 35. I had just started practicing Vinyasa Yoga at a studio close to where I work, and I wanted to give it a chance, but I also wanted something closer to home. Before I attended my first Bikram class, I read the website and decided I was ready for anything.  Everyone remembers their first class; the heat seems oppressive, and it is a struggle just to stay in the room. I stayed. I knew I had to keep going. I felt good for the first time in a long time, and it was all my own doing.

I had been practicing a few weeks when I had my first real breakthrough. It was during the floor series, and I was struggling, of course. During Savasana, the teacher came up to me, removed her microphone and whispered in my ear, “Look at your beautiful self in the mirror.” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I couldn’t even look at myself. I cried; it was okay because I was already sweating anyway, and I was quiet about it. But it was an important lesson for me. I had to learn how to look at myself in the mirror and accept who I was, all my shortcomings and my strengths in that given moment. I had to learn to really see who I was, my true self.

The rest is history. That first year, I lost 20 pounds and weaned off my medications. I was happier, and people noticed. I was able to give much more of myself, to my daughter, and to my students as a result of my practice. I read anything I could get my hands on about yoga. There were (and still are) times when my practice really is the only thing that gets me out of bed.  My practice has saved me from myself so many times. It has helped me through bouts of depression and anxiety, a cancer diagnosis, and a difficult marriage and divorce.  It has brought me together with others that I will always consider my yoga family. For that I am forever grateful.

Now, years later, and I still have goals for my practice. I still want to be able to stick my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee Pose. I trust the process.  I am ready to open up more and learn some advanced postures. Right now, I just want to work the kink out of my neck and shoulder, and, in the meantime, I will keep working on healing and finding inner peace. See you in the hot room!

Claudia

Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora

What I am discovering is that Bikram Yoga indeed changes you in ways you would never expect. I’ve been thinking hard on how it’s changed me. And one of those outcomes is that for the 1st time in my entire residence in Naperville I feel as if I belong to a community. I’ve lived here for 15 years and never knew anyone and no one knew me. I had friends but no one that lived near me. Through this yoga and because of it, I feel I belong and that is a wonderful feeling.

I’ve felt disconnected fro m my community for most of my life. We lived in an all-Mexican neighborhood in the city and moved to the suburbs when I was very young. Growing up there was little or no diversity. With each passing year I grew up and developed a complex. I had issues with self and self-confidence due to issues of color and race. I never felt smart enough, pretty enough, and I was this quiet, awkward girl who felt insignificant and unnoticed. It’s taken many years to undue this damage. Some of it still lurks in the some pockets of myself and creeps into my life.

As an adult I moved to Naperville, Illinois and there I never felt embraced or even welcomed until recently. It is because of this yoga and the people I’ve encountered during my practice that I am changing. This yoga opened my body, eyes and heart to accept others and myself and to allow myself to be a part of a whole – to belong.”