Teaching today, I noticed so many students owning more of the details of each pose: hands tight; foot placement clean; eyes single-focus; breathing under control at all times. When we first start a practice, we might view the poses as being simple. They aren’t easy, but they are packaged up so everyone can do them.
In a relatively short time, however, you begin to realize how complex the poses are – each one with hundreds of nuances that make the pose more intense and possibly overwhelming. Like anything that you choose to put your time and effort into, most things begin with some relative interest. This blossoms into more of a hobby and, if you like it enough, it becomes a passion. Once you’ve harnessed the energy of a passion, you’re well on your way to viewing the pursuit as tough, complex, and daunting. At the same time, you truly awaken to the journey before you! Unfortunately, in reality we often hit a snag or two, and struggle disrupts the blissful path we’ve imagined. Instead of accepting those snags as part of the process, we renege and decide that maybe we should just put our energy somewhere else.
Making decisions simple
One figure of speech that Bikram loves to repeat over and over again is that we are “jacks of all trades and masters of none.” It implies that by trying to learn many things, you give up mastery of any of them. This becomes true if we bail when the going gets tough. Truthfully, “struggle” is part of the process in anything we decide we want more of, as growth comes through struggle. Our ego gets the best of us and we justify moving on to something else. Of course, the “something else” is guaranteed, at some point, to give struggle, too.
The best way to deal with this is what your Bikram yoga teachers encourage: simplicity. In other words, just show up. That idea alone helps soothe any inevitable struggles: just come in and do your best. This mindset will get you through the tougher parts of class, and allow you to pause, sit, take a few breaths, and then get back “in the game.” Because the practice is the same set up day after day, over time your struggle in one spot subsides. Instead, you’ll struggle somewhere else! But just show up and take part in the class that’s there for you. Trust that class by class, you’ll feel better and get better. In the end, struggle becomes familiar (and not so scary). You can recognize that struggle is a necessary, but temporary, phase.
Lessons from Balancing Stick
There’s dialogue in the class for Balancing Stick that goes, “You have to make up your mind to use your 100% strength. If you’re late, it’s over.”
So many of you know the dialogue has some unusual commentary, and at first it can seem like nonsense! But the more you come to class, the more you realize that these not-so-everyday phrases mean something big.
Yes, Balancing Stick is a quick posture – ten seconds. There really is no time to do anything except decide and GO! If you are lucky, maybe you can do a correction in the pose. But most likely, once your arms are up and fingers interlocked, you are down like a “T” as in Tom and up again! In life, we often sit in decisions way too long and never really make up our mind. In this posture, the decision takes no time – giving you time to work IN and reap the benefits of the decision you made! The same goes for class: showing up means you made up your mind. Decision done.
In the simplicity of making up your mind to show up and be there, your energy is no longer stuck in making a decision. You have energy to devote to those 90-minute struggles. You’ve obeyed a call, and slowly with the ebb and flow of your class, your competence, confidence, courage, and skills grow! Like I experienced today, you feel the rise of the room as students flow in and out of poses with ease, grace, fluidity, and focus. In other words: you gain the keys to mastery!
Struggle: the birthplace of the Bikram series
Bikram’s decision to do this yoga started in his youth under the influence of his guru and his surroundings. Yet, he left the practice after winning yoga competitions to try his skill at Olympic-level weight lifting. It was then that over 300 lbs. accidentally dropped on his knee, crushing it to pieces. With the prognosis that he’d never walk again, he made his way back to India. Under the supervision of his guru, Bikram used yoga to heal his knee and regain the ability to walk (and even bounce enthusiastically in Awkward).
Let’s just think for a moment about Bikram’s struggles. He started over with the yoga with a shattered knee. He had to know that he would struggle, but also that the struggles were only a part of a bigger and better picture. Through the struggles, he knew that he would grow to something more – and he did. If it wasn’t for that experience, we might never have this series of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises.
Moved by witnessing the simplicity of a profound practice, I commented in class that, as a community, we are so much further along than a majority of people. Not because we intend to be, but because the yoga elicits a calling within that you honor, shielding you from many influences that can deter you from a more simple, natural life course. Congratulations, as you continuously release that which binds you and you open up to the BIG opportunities that await you! Simply show up and rise through struggle!