Archives

a low point
beginning yoga, home yoga, inner peace, practice lows

A Low Point

October 27, 2015

Why you sometimes hit a low point in your yoga practice, and what you can do about it

If I'm really honest, I'm feeling disappointed and a bit disheartened at the moment. This week my practice has hit a low point after my enthusiastic 'week six' experience last week. Not only have I not reached my feet (see my earlier post) but I felt drained and have just skipped three days in a row for which I feel a bit guilty. I'd love to just write about success after success, but I don't think it ever goes like that (except maybe in the movies - although even then there's usually a low point where all seems lost until the hero recovers his strength and determination somehow).

Of course I know that it isn't all plain sailing, and that ups and downs in practice are to be expected. You'd think after 15 years of practice I'd be sailing through the 'ups and downs' with ease by now, but that isn't the case. So why do we sometimes hit a low point in our yoga practice and, more importantly, what can we do about it when we do?

High Expectations

Part of it is our high expectation. We're obviously doing yoga for a reason, right? ...and that reason is often what keeps us going most days! Whether we want better health, more agility, strength, flexibility... whatever the reason, if that reason becomes an expectation then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment if we don't get it. Or if is doesn't happen fast enough.

Goals

Part of the issue is our tendency to think in terms of goals. When we think in terms of goals we set up a dynamic of judging ourselves, measuring ourselves against the desired result, and a dynamic of constantly 'seeking'. This brings an unsettled, restless, quality to our mind, which is in total contrast to yoga's aim of 'settling the mind into silence' (Patanjali).

High expectations + goals = restlessness (are we there yet?)

Are We There Yet?

This restless 'seeking' state of mind is the same one we experienced as children. When we're in this restless 'result oriented' frame of mind, we are constantly asking 'are we there yet? are we there yet? are we there yet?' rather than enjoying the ride.

If we don't stop this constant focus on the end result and bring ourselves present into this moment, we will miss a beautiful journey that we otherwise could have enjoyed.  ....and there's still no guarantee that we will ever reach the 'goal' anyway! I could get hit by a bus and killed before I ever reach my feet!

Hold Your Intention Gently

So am I saying goals are wrong? Of course not! We'd never get anything done if we didn't have goals. But there is a knack to teaching our goals without having them destroy our peace of mind. The trick is to hold your goal as an intention, then release your attachment to the outcome and be fully present with whatever arises in each moment. This feels like holding your intention very gently, like a butterfly, not grasping in such a way that could crush it, and maybe even letting your intention go... to fly on the wind!

Be Fully Present

"There is beauty in the acceptance of what is" - Vanda Scaravelli

Once again I remind myself of those inspirational words of Vanda Scaravelli. When we experience the restless mind, we are in an aspect of our ego mind. How can we tell? There is a 'pushy' quality to it. We're trying to control every aspect of our experience, and that 'controlling' aspect of our mind, is our ego at work.

Don't Struggle

For years I struggled with my ego, trying to 'get rid of it'! In fact, the part that was trying to get rid of it was also ego, slipping in through the back door! The key is not to struggle with anything, but to relax and allow the moment to be exactly as it is, warts and all!

Do A Reality Check

Once we relax and stop struggling against reality, we can do a reality check and see if there are any practical adjustments to be made. In my case, being new to Bikram Yoga, there could be any number of practical reasons why I'm feeling drained: maybe my body doesn't do well in the extreme heat, maybe my electrolytes need adjusting.

I addressed this by making sure my electrolytes are covered by diet and supplements, and this week I am experimenting with the heat. I'm going to try a few days doing the Bikram method, but in a more 'normal' but warm room temperature of 77º. At least this will give my body a break from the heat and I'll get a better quality of sleep (see my earlier post).

Release Attachment To The Outcome

In summarizing all of the above we could say it really all boils down to this one thing: releasing attachment to the outcome. Of course we have goals and intentions for our yoga practice, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it but we need to be careful when they are turning into expectation and attachment.

Savasana

The 'lowest point' in our practice is usually savasana (corpse pose). The time when we let go of 'doing' and relax. It is during savasana that our circulation returns to normla, our muscles relax and are open to receive more nutrients and prana (life-force energy), and we feel the benefits of the energy that we have accumulated during practice.

So when we experience a low point, maybe it is a savasana of the mind. Maybe life is calling to us to relax, let go, and receive, instead of trying to push the river. If (like savasana) we deeply let go into our low point, we may become aware of unimaginable inner treasures.

Relax and Enjoy The Ride

The answer when we hit a low point is to relax and enjoy the ride. When we stay focused on our presence in each moment, then the restlessness settles of it's own accord, we feel more relaxed, and have more energy available for our practice.

 

 

at peace
connection, inner peace, stillness

Everything Is At Peace.

October 21, 2015

Wouldn't it be great if every morning we are greeted with a message that reads "No alerts at the moment. Everything is at peace"?

Sometimes I wonder if cellphones are the worst thing ever invented. Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone and was one of the first people possibly on the planet to own a cellphone back in 1988.

I was working as a Community Midwife in the UK at the time and bought it for security purposes. Since it was the size of a brick but only held a charge for about three hours max (on standby) I thought perhaps the idea was to use it as a kosh to ward off any potential assailants!

Since then cellphones have evolved beyond all recognition and our new personal computers - The Smartphone - does everything bar make you a cup of tea and a sandwich.  And it seems that the whole world and his dog owns one!

The insidious yet global invasion into our inner peace has gone all but unnoticed. We couldn't be any more enslaved if space aliens had landed and rounded us all up like sheep onto the mother ship bound for nebular 7357 or something (before you ask I just made that up).

With the constant incoming texts, calls, Facebook messages, alerts, notifications, reminders etc. it seems there is always something that demands you react or respond. Unless you have very strong boundaries (or have found the 'off' button) there is the potential for you to be pulled this way and that, like a leaf in the wind, every moment of the day.

All of this distracts you from you. It pulls you away from your peaceful center. You know, the one we work so hard to find in our yoga practice?

So you can only imagine how wonderful it is, every time I log in to write this blog to see a message on my WordPress dashboard that (quietly) reads:

 

"No alerts at the moment. Everything is at peace"

 

Now THAT's the kind of alert I love. Did I mention it was quiet too?

 

In the following TED talk Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses the impact that our devices have had on human connection..

week six
beginning yoga, bikram yoga, home yoga

Week Six – Bikram Yoga At Home

October 13, 2015

Week six and already there is significant improvement in terms of core strength and a quieter mind

 

One of the things about yoga, is that it is a very, very, slow process. It demands time, energy, determination... and tons of patience. It is therefore very encouraging when you begin to see signs of progress, no matter how small. I'm sharing what I've noticed in Bikram yoga so far so that you can be inspired too!

In honor and acknowledgement to all those brave souls who are doing the 'real thing' in a Bikram studio at 105º my home version is way 'cooler' at 97ºf.

Today is the first day of week six, so what am I noticing? Well first let me say I haven't practiced every single day. Last week was particularly tough in terms of feeling weak and drained. Every day seemed like a struggle and eventually I took a break. I had three days (not consecutive) where I just went back to doing Lu Jong in a room with normal temperature and (because I'm heating the room in which I also sleep) it means I also got a more refreshing quality of sleep.

Week Six Progress

Sometimes progress happens so gradually that we don't notice it, and it's on reflection when we look back that we can really see the difference. Here are some of the significant landmark changes for me, that I've noticed comparing week one to now:

  • In each pose I'm able to hold and count to 20 rather than barely managing 10!
  • The whole practice is a continuous flow - no more sitting down between poses!
  • I'm noticing my core strength has improved considerably. I'm still shaky in some of the standing poses, but this increased strength now allows me to relax my anxious mind and feel the stretch rather than worrying about being able to 'get through' the next 10 seconds!
  • While I'm nowhere near able to do all the poses 100% correct, I can still see progress. For example in pose number 5 (standing head to knee pose) I can almost reach my foot - up until now I'd only been standing on one leg, holding the other below the knee* (which is the only place I could reach to grab). I have no doubt within a few weeks I'll be able to grab my foot and THEN I can begin working on straightening the leg! (I have high hopes for this one)!
  • My mind is quieter. Between poses I'm able to relax deeply very fast - and in just three breaths or so I can feel life (prana) flowing into my body. This isn't consistent - some days the mind is very busy and I go through the practice in a very unconscious manner, but it's getting much better. The silent periods are getting longer, and the 'monkey mind' periods are getting shorter.

When I'm able to really pay attention and notice the life flowing into my body, those are the days that I seem to get the most benefit from yoga. It's as though the more we notice it, the better it gets!

Note to self - keep going - don't quit!

Over the past six weeks there have been many days when I have wanted to give up. Let's face it, this is probably one of the most challenging things most of us will ever do in our lives (professional athletes, gymnasts and mountain climbers accepted of course)!

The key is to be gentle on yourself and just keep going. No matter what, just keep going. It does get better. If you can see this much progress in only six weeks, imagine what it will be like in six months. Or even six years, but there I go getting ahead of myself again. Let's just get through week six first and aim for those feet! 🙂

Enjoy your week and whatever you do, keep being kind to your body and mind!

with best wishes,

Ruth

*Do not grab the knee to modify the pose it is wrong” Bikram Choudhury 

[note from Ruth "Oops!" - seriously though, I wondered why my hips were aching! Read more at "Posture Clinic: Standing Head To Knee Pose"]

"For those who are overweight, have arthritis or other conditions and challenges, round the spine and grab wherever you can below the knee." Rajishree Choudhury

See more tips for this pose at OhMyBikram.Wordpress.com  in "Posture Clinic: Standing Head To Knee Pose"

 

 

yantra yoga
five tibetans, lu jong, yantra yoga

Yantra Yoga Opportunity in London

October 8, 2015

Yantra Yoga teacher John Renshaw is offering his comprehensive Yantra Yoga class for beginners in London on Saturday November 7th and Sunday November 8th 2015.

This is a rare opportunity to learn this authentic Tibetan yoga, upon which  practices like the Five Tibetans and Lu Jong are based.

For full details and registration visit Tibetan Yantra Yoga For Beginners with John Renshaw.

Having done this weekend course I would say you do need to be fairly fit because doing yoga for a whole weekend takes some stamina if you've never done it before (which I hadn't)! If you're not in the best of shape you've got some time between now and then to prepare yourself!

Having said that, John is an excellent teacher and an advanced Yantra yoga practitioner, and this course is well worth doing if you can make it happen for yourself.

the first week
beginning yoga, bikram yoga

Bikram Yoga at Home: The First Week

October 7, 2015

So now you're fully prepared, what to expect from your first week of practicing Bikram yoga at home?

 

So now you're fully prepared: you have everything in place to heat your room, you have learned the postures, and you have a great mental attitude as you approach your new yoga practice with energy and enthusiasm... it will all be plain sailing from now on, right?

Well I say that kinda tongue-in-cheek. Of course if you are fully prepared then you have given yourself a great foundation, but now it's really down to business. The real challenge begins with actually starting the practice.

I wrote the notes below during my first week of practice, and it is possibly one of the most challenging things I have ever done. As I write today I'm now in week five, and what I can say is that there are easier days, and challenging days. Sometimes the body feels very strong, and at other times weak. Sometimes the body feels very flexible and agile, and at other times very stiff and unresponsive. As I continue practicing through the weeks I am encouraged by remembering the words of Vanda Scaravelli:

"There is beauty in the acceptance of what is"

 

Day One.

One of the good things about bikram is the heat (really). I’d heard that if you can just get through the heat, do two or three postures and then sit it out, then you’re doing good. For reasons I won’t go into here (see my previous blog about heating the room and temperatures) - in this first session at home I was in the heat for 5 hours!!

In a Bikram yoga center the whole sequence of postures takes about 90 minutes. To get through the routine following the book and the videos I'd found on YouTube took me two and a half hours! Hmm... something was off. I was okay with it, because I was learning, but something needed to change. I used iMovie to edit the videos so the timing on the videos would be different for day 2. I couldn’t hold my arms up for half moon pose as long as they did in the videos. One of the problems of learning at home is there's no-one to ask. Except for the books and videos, you're pretty much figuring it out on your own.

However, one of the benefits of doing yoga at home is that you don't have to keep up with everyone. I was able to take long rests between postures as I paused the video & sat down to catch my breath!

I was far too exhausted to do savasana (corpse/dead body pose) between every pose at the end but it felt good.  I was exhausted but glad I did it.

I noticed the room was 54% humidity and I don't have any way to control that. The room temperature reached a maximum of 97.8ºf. The heater had been on full for 5 hrs and I'm thinking maybe it doesn’t get any hotter than that.

 

Day Two.

I wake up and feel too exhausted to begin. Doing it anyway. The heater is in my bedroom. I put it on at 3:00am then went back to sleep. Woke feeling groggy and got up at 4:45 am so I went downstairs to cool off. I  came back in feeling more awake and began practice at 6:00am

Feeling very nauseous… I’m told that’s normal. Watching the mind try to control the experience… ‘take a break after each posture’. Still taking long breaks between postures… would be nice to do one long, flowing rhythm but the body isn’t ready for that. Can’t hold postures for anywhere near as long as the people in the videos... doing my own 'count to ten'!

It still took me two and a half hours to get through the routine.

 

Day Three.

Today decided to listen to Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class on audio…. no video… just to see if I can keep time within the 90 minutes… that means not so much rest between postures… oh well… here we go!

Taking a lot of concentration… but his sense of humor gets you through it. I’m a long way from Patanjali’s ‘mind settling into silence’… noticing many thoughts of ‘I can’t do this’ ... yet also a deeper, stronger resolve… I have a deeper knowing now that my current exhausted, unfit, unhealthy state is temporary, and that this body will respond with healing.

Still feeling nauseous. Still skipping the last few corpse poses. Managed to get through the timing (but had to sit down and miss a pose or two half way)!

Day Four.

Still with audio. It's better for timing - to get through the routine within 90 minutes. Can’t hold poses as long as the ‘official’ count (I also think I read somewhere that it is better as a beginner to get the posture as good as you can get it and hold for shorter time - increase the time with experience). Well that works for me, for now.

Still feeling nauseous. Can’t wait for the day when I notice some benefit to this. Later during the day I noticed I do have more energy (amazingly).

 

Day Five.

Stuck with 90 minute audio. Feeling irritable. Very tired. Can’t seem to get the rhythm for the pranayama (standing deep breathing) and I want to I'm sure the breathing is key and have read reports of other people, where everything fell into place for them once they got the breathing right.

Between my own mental chatter and the audio mp3, I'm a long, long, way from Patanjali's 'mind settling into silence'. ...and I'm getting irritable that my mind is so busy, but I suppose that's to be expected when doing something new.

 

Day Six.

Decided today to forego the videos and mp3 and see if I can do the whole routine in silence - just using the wall poster as a guide to  remind me of the sequence. I can still hear Bikram in my head which is a good thing I suppose at this stage - because I'm remembering tips for the postures.

I am more able to access the silence too and feel much better. One of the things I love most about yoga at home is the silence and solitude.

Still taking breaks between poses but feel much better about the day and  am happy that I was able to practice the whole sequence without the constant input from mp3 or video. I'm more able to find my own rhythm in the postures.

Day Seven.

Ta-da! Day seven and the end of the first week is in sight! Today my knees/legs feel noticeably stronger. In corpse pose (savasana) I felt the tops of my thighs touch the floor.  To me that means my legs are getting straighter, and my ‘anterior flexors’ (I think that’s what they’re called) must be stretching and relaxing!

 

Well that's the first week completed.  There's still a long way to go before I can even imagine doing the whole sequence 100% without stopping in between poses for a rest, but I feel invigorated, stronger, encouraged and I know it will only be a matter of time, persistence and patience.

Enjoy your week and whatever you do, keep being kind to your body and mind!

with best wishes,

Ruth

bikram yoga
bikram yoga, home yoga, preparation

Bikram Yoga At Home – Physical Preparation

September 30, 2015

Bikram Yoga at Home Takes Mental and Physical Preparation...

 Bikram Yoga at home takes both mental and physical preparation to figure out how we are going to heat our yoga space and if we will be able to heat it enough. In an earlier post Bikram Yoga at Home - Mental Preparation,   we covered mental preparation, the postures and the correct sequence. In this post we take a practical look at what's needed in the physical environment, because it takes particular care and attention...

Disclaimer: Bikram yoga at home

First I just want to add a disclaimer upfront: I am not a yoga teacher, nor am I qualified in any way to teach Bikram or any other form of yoga. The 'solutions' described below are not ideal, but are the best I could do in my circumstances, to allow me to practice some 'form' of Bikram Yoga. In following any method or suggestion presented here you do so at your own risk. I am just someone who practices yoga at home and wanted to figure out how to do bikram yoga at home. I'm sharing this information in case it helps others but please be sensible. Whenever you do yoga at home you need to be your own teacher and guide and listen carefully to your own body. Always be kind to your body and mind!

Let's also say up front that doing Bikram Yoga at home is not the easy option and may not be the cheapest either! If you live near an official Bikram Yoga Center then that by far (in my humble opinion) would be your best option. Bikram Yoga is a form of hot yoga (it's creator Bikram Choudhury claims it is the original hot yoga). If you went to a Bikram Yoga Center the room would be heated to 105ºf with a controlled humidity of 40%1 although in a YouTube video (see My Interview with Bikram Choudhury)  Bikram says that in specific situations the room can be even hotter!

Can Bikram Yoga be done at home without the heat?

Can Bikram Yoga can be dome at home without the heat? My answer would be a cautious yes. The reason I'd be cautious is because all yoga should ideally be done in at least a warm room where your muscles will be warm. I know from personal experience (sprained ligaments, muscles and tendons) that doing any yoga when your body is cold, is a sure-fire way to hurt yourself!

Bikram Yoga is a sequence of 26 hatha yoga postures. Hatha yoga has been around for thousands of years before hot yoga came on the scene, so of course it isn't necessary to have intense heat in order to practice hatha yoga. Bear in mind though, that hatha yoga did evolve in India, a hot country and (given that we don't want pulled muscles or any other kind of injury) it is best to always make sure you are practicing in a warm room where your muscles are more relaxed.

Having said that, from my limited experience so far, the heat does seem to enable me to go deeper into the postures than I have ever done, and that is an important consideration. I would say if you can't heat your room to the Bikram standard then at least get it as warm as you can.

Choosing Your Yoga Space

Wherever you practice you need enough space to be able to lie down. Width-wise, you'll need enough space to be able to extend your arms out fully at your sides, and length-wise you'll need enough space to be able to extend your arms fully over your head. When standing you'll need enough height to be able to extend your arms fully over your head. I've heard people say you can do yoga practically anywhere but that hasn't been true in my experience. I've stayed in caravans, and hotel rooms that are too small to practice yoga. If you've ever stayed in Amsterdam you'll know what I mean- space is very limited there!

Having said that, while it is lovely to luxuriate in a large space, remember for Bikram Yoga at home - you are going to have to heat this space, and the larger the space the more difficult that will be. So you'll want to choose a space that is just big enough to perform the postures, but not so big  that you can't heat it. You'll also want to avoid high ceilings and huge windows so your room heats up faster.

 

What Equipment Do I Need?

The goal is to heat the room to at least 105ºf. How to do that at home? Figuring out what I needed was a process of trial and error over the first week. The first consideration was where would my yoga space be? Where I'm living now, the only space I have for practicing yoga is my bedroom - so that gave me an added challenge of how to heat the room I'm actually sleeping in, while I'm sleeping!

There are then some things to consider about which heating system you choose. Your home heating system may not have the capacity to heat a single room to the required temperature (I'm not a heating engineer so you'd need to check) and you certainly won't want to heat the whole house that much. Imagine the bills, not to mention the environment! So you'll probably need a separate heater for your yoga room. If you have a dedicated yoga studio in your home, you may consider the options for a fixed unit in that room, which can provide additional heat just to that room, over and above your home heating system.

For me, since I travel and don't have a designated yoga room, a mobile heater was the best option.  I already had a 2000 watt CED Convector Heater that I used for heating the room for my yoga practice (the question became whether it could provide enough heat for Bikram Yoga). Mine's an older model so I needed a timer to control when the heat comes on and goes off (the newer models have a built-in timer).

Why a timer? So the heater can start heating the room while I'm still sleeping, and it is ready for me to begin yoga practice when I wake up!  I settled for an AMOS Digital Timer Plug Switch which was pretty simple to set up and use. I also like that I can over-ride the auto setting at the push of a button. On those rare days when I oversleep I can over-ride the timer and keep the heat on until my yoga practice is complete!

You'll also need some way to monitor temperature and humidity. I got an LCD Temperature and Humidity Meter which shows temperature and humidity, while the clear display is big enough for me to see at a glance from across the room during yoga practice.

Heating Your Yoga Space to the Right Temperature

Everyone's needs will be different. If you have the space it would be best to have a dedicated yoga space, separate from your living and/or sleeping area. You could then put the heater on and wait until the room reaches the required temperature before going in there.  You need to consider the size of the room, and the capacity of your heater. So far I haven't  been able to get the temperature of my room above 96ºf which isn't up to the Bikram standard but it's the best I can do at this time, and that's okay with me. I'm happy with the practice and am seeing some progress already. (I'll post soon about my first experience of 'Bikram Yoga')!

During the first week the humidity in the room fluctuated between 54% and 38%. I noticed it does change depending on the weather outside and when I started it was early September in the north of England. It seems to have evened out now at between 40% to 45% but it's too early to see a pattern over time. I haven't found a way to control humidity so I'm open to suggestions in the comments below - but I'm not worried too much about it. We can't always control our environment, and I'm pretty confident that our bodies can adapt greatly to changes in our surroundings. Having said that on 'high humidity' days, it is important to listen to the body and rest when needed. (Getting the balance right between knowing when to 'push' and when to rest is an important part of yoga anyway, which I'll write more about in future posts).

Self-Care and Adequate Ventilation

Adequate ventilation is essential. This is where you really do need to be your own best friend and take care of your body. Check the temperature and humidity and make sure your room is well ventilated. My problem was slightly different. The room was actually drafty - the heat was 'escaping' under the door, and around a poorly-fitting window that doesn't close properly.

During savasana (corpse-pose) on the first day I could feel a lovely refreshing cool breeze coming from under the door (you won't get that in a Bikram class where the floor is heated)! So now I use pillows at the bottom of the door to keep the heat in, and I'm aware the room is still well ventilated and I can breathe easily. It is important that you be aware and make sure you have adequate ventilation for your Bikram or hot yoga practice.  Getting the balance right between heat, humidity and ventilation isn't easy but it is important.

If, like me, you are also heating the room you are sleeping in, pay particular attention to your hydration and energy levels. I set the timer to have the heat on for two hours before waking. Then when I get up, I leave the room for 30 minutes and drink some water before returning to begin yoga practice. In this way I get some relief from the heat. I can feel my energy levels improve. On the rare days where I've overslept I definitely feel 'drained'  and it affects my practice. Normally I try to keep my 'exposure' to the heat to a minimum: 2 hours to heat the room, and then 90 minutes of practice.  Three and a half hours in total. You'll also want to make sure you have water to drink during your practice. Your own self-care is vitally important and you need to find the way that works best for you.

Cost

Although it will vary for everyone (depending on the capacity of your heater and the size of your room) it can take hours to get the room up to the right temperature. You need to consider how long your heater will be on, and how much extra that will cost you in terms of your electric bill! In winter I would have been using this heater anyway to warm the room for yoga, but I wouldn't have had it anywhere near this temperature (and I wouldn't normally have had it on in September).

I haven't yet had an electric bill, so I can only estimate what the difference will be for me. Electricity rates vary between service providers and between countries, so you will have to make your own estimates of what the difference will be for you. My guess is it won't be quite as much as the $99 monthly subscription to a Bikram Class, but  it could be close!

Non-slip Yoga Mat and Towel

With this yoga you will sweat! Bikram and other hot yoga is always practiced on a towel, on top of a yoga mat. Over the years I'd had different yoga mats and recently I'd just been practicing yoga on a thick rug, not a specially designed yoga mat. After the first day of sweating with Bikram Yoga I realized this wasn't going to work. I'd have to go ahead and get a specially designed non-slip yoga mat and a towel.

The towel was easy, I found a Susama towel on offer on Amazon (which has been great so far) but what about the mat? I'd had mats in the past and given them away because they were supposed to be 'non-slip' and weren't... I found a 6mm thick non-slip mat by Fitness We Trust that sounded promising. Then I read in an Amazon customer review that yoga mats sometimes have an oily substance on them for shipping! Who knew? So when this mat arrived the first thing I did was wash it in warm soapy water... best thing I ever did. Now I have a truly non-slip mat!

Is doing Bikram Yoga at home really possible?

We can do anything we put our minds to as long as we are equipped with the right information, are well prepared, and pay attention to our self-care. In the introduction to his book (Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class) Bikram himself talks about 'if you are practicing this at home'. I definitely got the impression that the book is specifically geared towards people who are learning at home.

If you are considering doing Bikram Yoga at home this post gives you an overview of some of the practical things to consider. In my earlier post (Preparing for Bikram Yoga at Home) I gave information and links on learning the postures the right way. If you can think of anything I've missed that needs to be taken into account, or if you came across specific challenges from your own experience, write them in the comments below and I'll add them here.

Above all, whatever you do, be kind to your body and mind!

with best wishes,

Ruth

PS Do you need a mirror? In his book Bikram emphasizes a full-length mirror so you can see yourself and how you are progressing in postures. I don't have one (yet) because I can't figure out where it would go in my room, but you might want to consider one!

 

Final Checklist - Things To Consider Before Doing Bikram Yoga at Home:

  • read the book Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class
  • learn the postures the right way
  • choose your space wisely
  • consider your heating system
  • get a temperature humidity monitor
  • ensure adequate ventilation
  • estimate your cost
  • get a non-slip mat and towel

 

 

  1. Source: Bikram Yoga Basics at http://www.bikramyoga.com/Studios/BikramYogaBasics.php
beginning yoga, bikram yoga, five tibetans, home yoga, lu jong, yantra yoga

Do We Ever Really Make A Choice?

September 26, 2015

A series of synchronistic events led me to make a choice to do Bikram Yoga...

Before I get into how I prepared the physical environment (see my previous post Preparing for Bikram Yoga at Home), I wanted to share a bit about the decision process. When did I decide I wanted to do Bikram Yoga at home, when a week earlier I hardly knew anything about it? What convinced me? This led me to ponder how we make choices, and do we really ever really make a choice?

Bikram’s book had clear instruction. That was important especially with practicing yoga at home. I felt inspired that I could see a way forward for me, and I also now know from my own experience that my body has a powerful capacity to heal (so does yours even though it may not always feel that way).

Even so, it might appear as though I just got up one morning and impulsively decided to do Bikram Yoga. True, the actual decision was fast, once I’d arrived at the choice point, but that point came as a result of an unfolding process. For some years now I have been living synchronistically, paying very close attention to 'coincidences' and life’s flow: where am I being guided and led? And where is life blocking, saying ‘no, not that way’.

Following the Trail

Some years ago I read The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, and was coming more and more into the awareness that we are indeed living in a conscious, alive, and aware holographic universe of which we are part. The Universe is constantly informing us, and we it. It is a two way communication. Various experiences had led me to this place (many of which I’ll share over time) but for the purpose of this post I just want to draw attention to the fact that nothing happens in isolation.

Like a flower opening, there is a constantly unfolding process, which we can become aware of if we pay attention to it. As a result of observing this process I can see the many synchronistic events that gradually led up to my ‘decision’ to do Bikram yoga.

It seems funny now, but on reflection (when I first started yoga) I didn’t really believe that I could make progress! I never thought in terms of my body and how it could (and would) change. Even though I’d read about how Vanda Scaravelli only began Yoga when she was 55 and at age 40 (the age I started) I had an idea that maybe I could be like her. Maybe I could be fitter and healthier when I’m 70 than when I was 36? I loved this idea, but that’s all it was. An idea.

Limiting Beliefs

Actually practicing yoga, and experiencing myself practicing yoga, was a different story. I soon came up against the stark reality of just how inflexible and limited my body was. The reason I mention that here, is because I didn’t at that time question the permanence of ‘my inflexible body’. Yoga to me, at that point, drew my attention to just how much I couldn’t do. It is only now, with hindsight and experience, that I can see just how easily we accept our own limitations without question.

Approaching yoga from that limited standpoint was tough. It became a chore, a range of movements that I went through in the name of 'keeping fit and healthy'. I believed that ‘arthritis’ was here to stay and didn’t expect any ‘progress’, nor did I see much (no surprise there then)! Even though I'd had minor surgery to remove a small piece of loose cartilage from a knee joint, this reinforced my limited belief that ‘my knee won’t bend’. When in fact, it was the very thing that had restored the potential for a full range of motion.

I’d had a ‘locking’ knee since a fracture when I was 14 years of age, so I had lived with (and reinforced) the idea that ‘my knee won’t bend’ for a very long time. At one point it was true that my knee really couldn’t bend, but now things were different. At first it still couldn’t bend simple because it was stiff after 26 years of limited motion, and the supporting ligaments had contracted and withered, but all of that could be worked on. Now the only limitation remaining, was my mind.

In the fifteen years between then and now, the thing that has changed the most has been my mind. A multitude of synchronistic events has led me from one trail to another, each of which has challenged another limiting belief and led me to a different experience of myself. (I might add here that I don't see this as hopping from one thing to the next but rather a progression to the next important step, like when we complete first grade we move to second grade).

"No, not that way"

I began with hatha yoga, which I practiced for 7 years. Then when I tried to sign up for Sivananda Yoga training in India I met with block event, after block event. I was jumping through hoops trying to get on that course and it wasn’t happening! I experienced lost application forms, difficulties trying to connect with someone, unanswered calls, I even got to India and at the visa office was told NOT to do any yoga training (since my visa wouldn’t allow it)! It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a ‘flow event’.

When I returned from India I was staying with a friend who told me he’d just done the teacher training for the Five Tibetan Yogas (Sometimes called the Five Tibetan Movements, Five Tibetan Rites or simply the Five Tibetans). That first morning, as he was leaving for work, he handed me the whole coursebook and said ‘take a look if you like’. While he was out his phone rang and I answered it. It was from a friend of his who’d also just completed the teacher training too. She was home most days so we agreed to do an exchange, I’d give her some life coaching and she’d teach me the Five Tibetans (there are more synchronicities - too many to go into here - that also connected with Tibet and the Tibetan system).

Choose The Path In Front of  You

So I stopped practicing hatha yoga and for a while focused only on the Five Tibetans. Now I know some people feel the five tibetans isn’t ‘real yoga’, but it was the first time I experienced a sense of progress. I’d found something I could do that was appropriate for my level, and I actually felt I was getting somewhere rather than just struggling to go through the motions.

Doing the Five Tibetans daily over time significantly improved my fitness levels. Around 2011 I came across the Lu Jong method taught by Tulku Lama Lobsang and learned that too.  It is somewhat gentler than the Five Tibetans and my daily practice became a 'warm up' with Lu Jong and then the Five Tibetans. On days when I didn’t have enough time, or couldn’t do them both for some reason, I would at least do the Lu Jong just to keep the energy channels open.

By doing something daily for several years, I lost any thought of 'arthritis'. I might be a bit stiff in the mornings (who isn't!), but I always felt great after doing some 'yoga' practice, whether it be Lu Jong or the Five Tibetans.

I became fascinated with the whole subject of the Tibetan yogas, especially after seeing the movie “The Yogis of Tibet”. I learned that what they are practising is Yantra Yoga. Yantra is the original Tibetan yoga of which the Five Tibetans and Lu Jong are adaptations. In September 2013 I signed up for a weekend of “Yantra Yoga for Beginners”, with John Renshaw in London, and it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done!

I bought the book "Yantra Yoga: The Tibetan Yoga of Movement" by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and came home fully enthused, but my enthusiasm gradually waned and became disappointment (in myself) and disillusionment. I bought videos, and tried learning the postures, but didn’t feel as though I had enough structure to translate what I’d learned from the weekend, into a daily practice for myself. It’s like I had all the ingredients but needed the recipe - a bridge. Also I don’t live anywhere near a Yantra class and there are very few around.

Having a systematic method is a very important piece for those of us practicing any kind of yoga at home. How do we get correct instruction and how can we then translate that into something workable, a recipe, a method? For a while I followed the method for Tibetan yoga given by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche in his book “Awakening The Sacred Body”. I also took an online course, with a series of instruction videos, but felt as though once again I was going through movements but not seeing any progress.

Perfect Timing

So I was really on a kind of plateau wondering what would be next, when my friend recommended reading Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (see my earlier blog). As soon as I saw the clear pictures and instruction, I knew I had a recipe. And by now (compared to 8 years ago when I was trying to get on the Sivananda course)  I was different. I was fitter (thank you Five Tibetans), my mental attitude had changed, and I now had experience of, and total belief in, my body’s own ability to heal and change. Her suggestion dropped in with perfect timing, just when I needed it, like a ripe seed falling on fertile ground!

So was it really ‘my’ choice at all, or just the next step in an ever-unfolding process of evolution? Is Bikram Yoga now ‘the end’? I doubt it. I am still very much interested in Yantra Yoga, I just needed a bridge that could get me from my present level of fitness and (in)flexibility to the more advanced levels of fitness and flexibility required for Yantra. Maybe life stepped in and drew my attention to Bikram Yoga as a perfect bridge (and a good recipe). Who knows? For now, this is where I’m at… and that is constantly changing.

On a deeper level we might wonder if we ever, really, really, make a choice. If we are able to take a step back and watch the process of our lives unfolding, we might see a series of synchronicities as life just unfolds itself through us… and if we catch the patterns, we might even be able to predict what our next ‘choice’ will be!

 

Below is an excellent video with the voice of Alan Watts, on choice...

home yoga
beginners, beginning yoga, bikram yoga, home yoga, preparation

Mental Preparation is Everything

September 21, 2015

Bikram Yoga at home took more mental preparation than I thought...

Bikram yoga at home took more planning and mental preparation than any other yoga I've done. An important part of any yoga practice is preparation, and that seems even more important when we intend to practice at home. Aside from the physical considerations like space it was the mental preparation that made the biggest difference.

In addition to these basic considerations,  doing Bikram Yoga at home takes a bit more mental preparation because of the intense heat and how it affects our body and mind.

How I came across Bikram Yoga

During the past two winters I had experienced some problems with sprained tendons, which set me back in my practice, and so I made a mental not to myself to make sure I was warmed up properly before doing any yoga. I'd heard of Bikram yoga but didn't know much about it, other than I had the idea you had to practically be a gymnast or athlete to begin with. (Unlike me: a very inflexible 55 year old, weighing in at about 260 pounds)!

Then a friend of mine was thinking about starting Bikram Yoga at a studio near her house and she asked me if I knew anything about it. "Isn't that the hot yoga?", I asked. She didn't know so we Googled it! And it is. (According to Bikram it's the original hot yoga). So I was a bit dubious. I didn't know much about it but it didn't seem right exercising in all that heat, right? But my friend went along to the Bikram studio in her home town and came home fully signed up, and with a book "Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class" by the founder of Bikram Yoga, Bikram Choudhury. "You should get this", she said, "you'd love it".

It started with a book...

Well of course I was curious now, so I ordered a copy. At this point I wasn't intending to do Bikram Yoga as such, I just wanted to know more about it for my own mental preparation to see if there were elements to incorporate into my regular daily practice, but of course my friend was right. I do love it. 15 years ago I started with Richard Hittleman's classic "Yoga For Health" and then read Vanda Scaravelli's "Awakening the Spine" (I also have books on Tibetan Yoga but that's for a later post).

bikram yoga at home

Both are great books, but what I love about Bikram's book is the clarity of explanation and the pictures, especially the contrast between the 'ideal' pose and the 'real' pose. (Mostly I'm aspiring to progress from where I'm at to the 'real'... the 'ideal' is still a long shot for me)!

After reading the book I was inspired... and hooked. Not just because of the book, but something important in me had shifted.

As I read Bikram's book, I noticed something fundamentally different in me that when I was reading Hittleman's book all those years ago. Back then I was reading while thinking 'well I'll just have to do it to the degree I can'. I had accepted my physical limitations without question.

Now as I read I could actually see myself reaching those more challenging poses. I have enough experience to know, that my body can change, it just takes time, patience, and know-how. Already from Bikram's book I could see the 'goal' of the 'ideal pose', but I also had a map of how I could actually get there, and I am more mentally prepared in knowing that it will work if I just give it time.

Learning the right way

Bikram's emphasis for everyone is on learning the correct way. From my own experience I know that if you're doing a pose wrong you can be doing it wrong for years, if not for life! And if that is the case, not only will you not make progress, but also you will not gain the health benefits of yoga.

At this point I should mention that it would be ideal to go to a Bikram yoga class and learn with a qualified teacher in person. I'm not against teachers and have had some wonderful yoga teachers in the past. It's just that in my case there is no Bikram Center within traveling distance of where I'm living, and I already do yoga at home anyway. So for me this is a progression of my existing home yoga practice, but if you have the opportunity to get to a class I suggest you do so that you get started in the right way from the get go.

It is probably more important for people who are learning Bikram yoga at home to check, and keep checking, that you are learning and practising the right way. This means understanding what the pose is supposed to be about, and what you can do in the meantime to support your body in getting there.

Thankfully we have something now that we didn't have 15 years ago, and it's name is YouTube! Thank goodness for the kind and generous people who take the time and trouble to make videos and put them on YouTube.

In Bikram's yoga there is a carefully chosen sequence of 26 poses. It is important to know how to do each one correctly, and to do them in the correct sequence.  I did a search and came across a YouTube playlist giving more help and explanation about the 26 pose sequence (thank you to the people who made the videos, and to the person who put this collection together).

Although you do have to be careful. Get informed (read the book - Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class - at least twice) and make sure you are always doing each pose correctly. In the above collection the instruction for the 'awkward pose' is a good tutorial, but it is incomplete as far as Bikram's version is concerned. To do Bikram yoga at home in the right way make sure you have read the book and have all the complete steps correct within each pose.

After reading the book (at least twice) and watching all the above videos (at least twice) I felt I had enough understanding to begin Bikram yoga at home. But how was I going to remember the sequence? Fortunately the kind people at YogaVida (Tucson) have made a document available online, showing The Twenty-Six Postures of Bikram Method Yoga which you can download here (thank you YogaVida).

It is a good idea to print this out and stick it on the wall so you can see it from where you are doing your yoga practice. Of course it's only as big as you can print it (most printers are US letter or A4 size) but it does the job - one glance and you can see what's next in the sequence.

Enter Bikram himself...

Almost ready to begin Bikram yoga at home, just a couple of more things... what about timing? How long to stay in each pose? And do you break in-between or keep going from one to the next? Enter Bikram himself... well not in person, but you can get him teaching the full sequence on mp3 audio (you'll need vol.1 and vol.2 for the full sequence). It is invaluable to hear Bikram himself, not only for the timing, but for the tips he gives you to ensure you are learning each posture in the right way.

So far I had prepared myself by

  • being mentally prepared
  • reading Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class book
  • watching videos
  • putting up a wall chart and
  • getting the audio mp3 of a full class

 

So with my mental preparation all set I was almost ready.... but not quite. Remember Bikram Yoga is hot yoga? The next step in preparing for Bikram yoga at home is to find out what is needed and figure out how to prepare the physical environment - and I'll cover that in the next post. Stay tuned!

 

 

s2Member®