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bikram yoga

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"

 

 

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

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...

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