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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

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!

 

 

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