At BYCF, we use physical training as a vehicle for emotional, mental and (sometimes) spiritual transformation.
It’s a facet of the practice that isn’t articulated that well or that often. Maybe partly because the transformation is deeply personal and private, and also because it unfolds subtly inside each of us over a long period of time. It takes a while to notice the changes…and even longer to understand them.
The transformative nature of the practice is, however, what keeps many of us committed to a serious, long-term investigation of the Bikram series.
Senior teacher Chris Fluck talks about using yoga to handle the shock and fear of witnessing life-threatening accidents as a young ironworker.
Carolyn Jensen used yoga to manage and control the back pain caused by years of grueling childhood gymnastics training.
Katelynn Ingersoll (who owns Bikram Yoga Philadelphia) trained to become a teacher after a city bus hit her while she was bike riding, breaking 19 of her bones.
The practice protected me while I navigated separation, divorce and single parenting of young children. I continued to practice daily during the two years that my only sister battled a brain tumor. It helped. A lot.
Many yogis use practice as a way to reinforce sobriety and recovery from addiction.
Practicing is a way of parenting ourselves, so that we can effectively parent our own children (if we have them) and do our life’s work in the world outside the studio.
This self-created safety is something we share with many traditions, for example ballet.
‘Ballet gave my life grace and structure. At the dance center, all the twists and turns were up to me, firmly within my power to master. It was a stark contrast to my life outside, which was spinning out of control. I was grateful to hide from the chaos for a little while at the dance studio, inside ballet, where there were rules and life was dignified.’ -Misty Copeland
2. Yoga reveals to each of us our own purpose. It chisels away the distractions and trains us to stay focused on a higher goal.
Next time you’re in class, look around! You’ll find yourself surrounded by
These aren’t people who spend idle hours in front of the Xbox or at the mall. Yogis know that our energy and our time and limited…and we allocate accordingly. Activities that don’t add value get pared away. That makes us very unusual. Our whole culture is built around adding low-value material-world activity. (Buy, buy, buy! Eat, eat, eat! Go, go, go! Drive, drive, drive! Hurry!)
(When the studio first opened, I ran an advertisement at the neighboring movie theater. For SIX MONTHS. Every day. At every show time. On every movie screen. NONE of the movie goers came to yoga. Not a single one. That’s unbelievable! Impossible! But no really that shocking, when I really think about it. I love the movies, but I hardly ever go. I go to bed early instead, so I can get up for yoga.)
This unwavering focus is something shared across disciplines, too. (You’ll find FBI, active military, secret service in our community, if you look carefully.)
“Know what’s important to you, and protect it at all costs. That’s the million-dollar question. What do you hold most dear? –Living with a SEAL: 31 Days of Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet
3. Try, try again. There’s always a second set. Persevere!
This is perhaps the most universal and most important lesson.
‘Move forward positively. You must take action on your own behalf to evolve, to grow, to transform. -David Garrigues
Ask around. Your fellow students have accomplished and survived exceptional things. They’ve beaten cancer, overcome joint replacements and spinal surgery, survived organ transplants, weathered the loss of loved ones, run up (and down) volcanoes.
It all starts with the decision to stand on your mat and TRY.
Every breath, every posture, every side, every set.
Especially on the days when it’s cold and dark. When you’re discouraged, tired, sad or lonely. Get up, get going, get to yoga.