Practicing Bikram has really relaxed me. When I was growing up, my parents and friends always admonished me for being overly high strung and easily irritated. To put it simply, I am naturally a hypersensitive person. If I perceive that someone is being short with me, I could easily be upset about it for the entire day without any sort of thought monitoring or vigorous exercise.
After a month of practicing Bikram, I learned how to let go of negative and irrational thoughts that used to race through my mind. Although I had learned how to cope with stress and difficult people through experience and such for well over twenty years of my life, I felt as if I was constantly searching for a peace that was missing.
From a practical standpoint, I believe that the peace also exists because the vigorous asanas, heat and discipline of Bikram yoga has left little energy for me to worry about what people think or me or trying to control everything around me. Believe me, after 90 minutes of cardio, strength training and flexibility training without any opportunity to talk, let alone daydream, there is very little energy afterwards to hold grudges and worry about dealing with other people.
“Sorry Church, You Just Don’t Cut the Mustard”
It is funny that I say that my peace has not come from my faith as a Christian. In fact, I believe that practicing Christianity as a religion and being entrenched in the American Christian subculture can be emotionally draining with its high’s and low’s of figuring out where a relationship with Jesus Christ and conformity to Christian principles fits into the context of navigating through an increasingly more complex world. I still acknowledge my Christianity, but I definitely would have to say that the discipline of Bikram yoga has really helped me achieve psychological wellness and increased faith. When there is peace, there is a connection to God and there is a higher tolerance of the community around me. Furthermore, my daily practice of the 90 minute moving meditation has given me opportunities to pray and examine myself more than ever.
“Envy is a four letter word”
The last issue I want to mention is envy. It is always going to be a struggle for the rest of my natural life. But when I am in the hot room – who do I have to compete with? The hot (no pun intended) career woman with the cute flowered shorts, big diamond ring and flat stomach? That tall handsome man who is probably an attorney at a big firm with impeccable standing bow pulling pose? By the way, these fellow students are fictitious hybrids of people I typically envy. My teacher? No! It is I. I must compete with me.
I listened to a New York Times webcast about Jeanne Heaton, a yoga instructor at Bikram Yoga Manhattan and I thought about what the director Raffael Pacitti, said to her when she first started practicing. You see, Jeanne was a recovering drug addict who wanted to hide her scars by wearing long sleeved shirts and pants to Bikram classes when she first started practicing. Raffael said in the webcast that it was time for her to unhide her scars and face the truth about herself in the mirror.
Towards the end of this afternoon’s class, I thought deeply about what Raffael said and realized that when I look in that mirror for 90 minutes, I can choose to just focus on a good workout, or I can grapple with the truth of who I am.
Who I am: Ms. Half Moon – cat lady, conservative bachelorette with a liberal attitude towards different people and persuasions, crooked tree pose, scared of falling, always looking for improvement and yes, sometimes I feel like a loser around many of the yuppies who share my practice.
The point is, I know that I will never fully “arrive” at enlightenment, but having the privilege of seeing the truth about myself for that hour and a half has and is continuing to help me achieve mental health and self control.