I met Jo via her blog, Bitching About Bikram | (and changing my life). I’ve been a subscriber for long enough to know that I wanted to hear more about her Bikram story. Suffice to say, her words gripped me when I read through the A’s she wrote alongside my Q’s, collated specifically for this guest post.
Open, honest, and sensitive, take a read and please feel free to ask any questions. Namaste Jo!
NB: For authenticity, I have kept Jo’s answers in red as this is how she wrote to me.
Home Studio: Yoga Crossing (www.yogacrossing.com) in Waltham, MA
1. How did you get started with the Bikram 26+2 series?
My good friend (and Bikram teacher) convinced me to go when I was going through a really tough time. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for most of my life, even into my childhood. Over the last few years, things have been the worst they’ve ever been. So when my friend suggested Bikram again, I’d already gotten to the point where I was willing to try anything. My pal was positive that Bikram would help me, my mind, and my depression. I promised I’d look into it. I investigated and found that there was a studio 0.8 miles from my house. No excuses there! I set up a private lesson with the studio owner (too shy to go to a class to start!) to see what it was all about. I was petrified but she took me through it, piece by piece, and really got me to believe in myself and my abilities. I went the next day for my first formal class and I was hooked. That was one year ago and I still can’t believe all the positive changes in my life.
2. What have been your biggest changes and breakthroughs since you started, til today?
Oh, there are so many to choose from.
Physical changes & breakthroughs: Back pain that I’ve had for 10+ years is now gone (thanks, Triangle!). Weight loss. A drop in three dress sizes. A lifetime of self-loathing replaced with amazement (and maybe a little bit of love). More patience. My favorite posture breakthroughs have been: When I finally was able to reach my own foot for Standing Bow (without using a prop) I wanted to jump up and down in class!!! Seeing and pointing at the back wall during the Half-Moon backbend. The first time I was able to reach my feet in Camel. Those were all huge moments for me. I worked so hard for each and every one of them.~
3. What keeps you going back to the hot room?
The number one reason is that this yoga has impacted my depression & anxiety so positively that I can’t imagine ever giving it up. But it’s also the people – the relationships I’ve created with the teachers and students are so meaningful to me. I love the faces I see even if I don’t really know them. They comfort me.
4. Complete this Sentence: I would feel on top of the world if I could nail <this pose> for 60 seconds.
Standing Bow. Absolutely. I’m always so jealous of the front-rowers who get right in and hold it for the entire time. So beautiful and strong. I would feel like an absolute rock star if I could hold it for 60 seconds.
5. What’s your fave pose?
I. Love. Camel. I hated it for so long. I always felt so awful and dizzy and emotionally cracked open. Now I start by smiling and being thankful for the pose, knowing I’m going to feel whatever I feel, and I almost always feel joyful these days. Sure, sometimes I feel joy just to get out of the pose, but it’s still joy!
6. Least fave pose?
Eagle. As it turns out, twisting like ropes is extremely difficult when a person is overweight. My entire body KEEPS me from twisting like ropes. I struggle through it, but really I’m just waiting for Party Time so I can get a drink of water.
7. Fave line in the Bikram dialogue?
“…with your smiling happy faces.” It gets me every time! There’s also a point in Locust where they say “Go on, struggle harder, you can do it!!” I always believe them.
8. Do you set an intention before practice, or before attempting a particular pose? If yes, has it helped? If no, do you have plans to try this technique?
I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for a long time, but only have been dabbling. I’ve started smiling at myself in the mirror to set an intention for joy and love. It’s such a simple thing (and it even sounds a little hokey to me), but it’s really brought about a dramatic change in my practice. In the beginning, I spent months just loathing myself. Really looking at myself and hating what I saw. Hating what I couldn’t do, what I looked like, how defective I seemed to be. Then one day I caught myself smiling at something a teacher said and realized what a game-changer it was. How could I loathe myself when I was smiling like that? So I started smiling intentionally. Now when I fall out of a pose and I’m feeling frustrated, I take a moment and smile at my reflection before getting back in. It really helps soothe the emotional tenderness.
9. What do you most love about the Bikram practice and its community?
I love how universal the struggle is. No one in the room is ever having an easy class. We are working out our most personal struggles and we’re all doing it together. I love my home studio. Doing something this hard requires support and group energy. And the online community? Holy cow! I’ve found some of the best listeners, the best cheerleaders, the best people out there in the Bikram Blog-verse. It’s amazing to be struggling through a class and know that there are all these people who understand and have context for what I’m going through.
via Bikram Yoga Dallas- Yogis flying high at our @Lululemon Studio of the Month FREE Class taught by the lovely @ChristinaVeda!
10. What’s been your greatest spiritual learning from your practice?
That The Universe may not actually hate me. It sounds silly, but depression does weird things to a person’s mind. Going to class, even when it’s the very last thing I want to do, has opened my eyes to the good things happening around me and to me. I think The Universe may have been speaking all along, just very softly. And up until now I haven’t been able to hear it because of my own mental screaming and anguish. But Bikram has quieted my mind some and now I’m starting to hear those subtle internal messages. I can’t begin to understand the whys or hows of it, I just know that starting a Bikram practice was a profound turning point in my life. A truly life-saving turning point. It’s got me thinking that there might be a reason I’m on this planet after all.
BONUS Q: Any 2013 Resolutions?
As for 2013 Resolutions, definitely Bikram is on the top of my list. My practice has been super erratic over this first year – some months I didn’t make it in at all, and some I was going every other day. Lately I’ve been going once or twice a week. My resolution is to have a more full and consistent practice. This yoga has helped me so much and I need to start shifting my focus so that going to class is a real priority. By doing this, I’m hoping that I will start shaving away that part of me that neglects my health or feels I don’t deserve to take 90 minutes for myself. I think it’s going to be a pretty life-altering resolution! My second resolution is that I want to start making meditation a daily practice. I do meditate, but not that regularly and not for very long. I know how much it will improve my life and so it needs to become a daily priority – no excuses!