“Bikram Yoga is a gas station,” Bikram Choudhury declared in one of his lectures at the Teacher Training in Acapulco. He was on a mission to help us understand the vast ‘horsepower’ within all of us, of which (according to him) we use a mere 3%. While the number is more of a ballpark than a precise calculation, we can agree that this yoga GIVES you energy AND brings out a latent power to be the real you. These statements are exciting to ponder, and I can touch upon what they mean, but what exactly does this look like in practical terms?

Because of COVID-19, I have had the time to read over many things, including my old teacher training notes from 2001. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 20 years now since I graduated from Bikram’s Teacher Training in Los Angeles!

Addressing the question above, I realized an amazing example of this latent horsepower that revealed itself during Covid-19. Strip away the undesirable circumstances and chaos that threaded through all our experiences this last year, and notice how many of us had to learn how to concentrate while working from home with kids, dogs, and dirty laundry staring at us! How many of you had to study a school subject you’d long forgotten to help your child through a Zoom class? How many of us had to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for loved ones every day, seven days a week? 

Without any notice at all, the yoga practice that kept us sane, healthy, and inspired was taken away – all of it! No place to go, no teacher or friends to see, no heat to dissolve our stress, no time to ourselves. How many of you within a short time resigned to trying an online class, rolling out a mat in your living room, jammies on, disciplining yourself to “lock the knee” in the absence of anyone holding you accountable? 

I can’t see you reading this, but if I did, I’d imagine you nodding yes, that you did some if not ALL of these. Let’s take a moment and acknowledge that latent power in you that SHOWED UP:

  • A heightened concentration necessary because otherwise, no work would get done. 
  • Bulldog determination and limitless patience to acquire skills in areas you probably have no interest in to help your child through academics. 
  • The self-control to put food on the table all the time.
  • And compassion and love for yourself, knowing that even a midnight yoga class would make the day go better tomorrow.

Regardless of the circumstances that brought on these challenges, look at how you chose to respond to the circumstances. Look at all you made happen! THAT is the latent power of the real you! I’m sure if someone would have told us in advance that these things were required in a pandemic, we’d all say, “I can’t.” Well, you can, and you did. This unconscious “faith in action” is your realized self, putting you in high gear to perform superhuman talents that, for the most part, lay dormant inside of us. Congratulations on using more of your horsepower!

This past weekend, we held our traditional 60-Day Challenge party. Instead of hosting at the studio, we met on Zoom with about 30 of us sharing our experience and stories of doing 60 classes in 60 days from home during a global pandemic. 

  • “If you take this yoga seriously, it works. I no longer need medical attention on my spine,” says one.
  • “I’m not sure what I was doing before online classes; my understanding is so different, and for the first time, I can do cobra pose,” says another.
  • “I was zombie-like in doing the poses before, and now I’m more interested and doing things more effectively.”
  • “It’s been the foundation I turn to in such unstable times, and it’s kept me sane.”

Hear once again the latent power building and rising within each Challenger! You can even listen to their experience for yourself, whole and unedited:

Bikram’s more current class recording points out the number one problem in a human being: we always underestimate ourselves: “too fat, too busy, too sick, too poor,” to realize all that we are capable of. Could it be that for many of us, all this time, we’ve been too comfortable, too entitled, too structured, and too numb to notice that what we have in front of us is precious, deserves priority, and is the cornerstone of your very best life in the very best ways? It’s a little uncomfortable to see, let alone admit – but for me at least, it did. 

In one of our first indoor classes, a member shared with me, “I’m more motivated because it’s more precious.” It took a minute to resonate with me. It’s fascinating that she – like so many of us – recognized the power of this very choice. We are no longer numb to the privilege of having this practice available to us – out springs some latent power to pursue yoga to greater depths! How often do we fail to recognize something of such great value, taking it for granted out of ignorance? Isn’t that what self-realization is all about?

Recently, CNN aired “Postpartum Pandemic” hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He interviewed many professionals that were an integral part of how decisions were made from the first whispers from Wuhan in late 2019 to where we are today in this pandemic journey. I LOVE this kind of stuff. I know that there is always more than what meets the eye on any subject, and hindsight can be a glorious teacher. These doctors and officials could share their truths, their insights without any imposing consequences. We can begin to dissect more of how things happened.  

Beyond all the “should have/could have” drama, two things made COVID-19 beyond what it might have been for our country. First: our divisiveness. Without unity, there ensued no coming together on steps to take as a nation. In hindsight, 2020 gave startling clarity of the potholes in our nation and the devastation THAT ignorance brought upon us as a whole. Second: as the former CDC director Robert Redfield states: “the reason our mortality rate was greater than other countries is not because doctors don’t know how to take care of their patients. The reason is, unfortunately, that the American public is less healthy. One-third of us meet the criteria of being defined as obese. 96% of all deaths in this country had comorbidities.” Whoa!

Dear members, at minimum, let’s go back to the first step we take in this yoga path to nurture our bodies’ health. Ninety minutes isn’t a long time to fulfill the body’s oxygen need head-to-toe, inside and out. Without it, we decay fast, with no defense against environmental toxins as serious as COVID-19. That’s the basic lesson we should hold onto AND SHARE. Only then can we access the larger realm this yoga yields to, like awakening more of your latent power. 

So again, congratulations on the potency of your growing awareness! With things now returning to more vigor and liveliness as our studio opens again to more normal class sizes, it could be easy to let this power fade. Consider staging your own “Postpartum Pandemic Special,” if you will: reflect on your shifts, insights, thoughts, and actions since late 2019. Keep that which brings previously unseen harmony and ADD them to your post-pandemic “normal” life. 

For me, I avoided a home practice for a good while by justifying that I had no space and no heat. In the far corners of my psyche, the truth is I knew that it would bring up a feeling in me that I didn’t want to visit – that I’m alone. One day, I had the strength to start and sit with my “lonely visitor.” Not only did I realize how small the dark side of this inner companion was, but I also began to enjoy the alone time. Yes, I learned more about my postures, but I did so in communion with an introverted friend, and together, “we” began to embrace something bigger IN each moment. All of this experienced within a silence in and around me that I now look forward to each morning! 

So, amid chaos and misfortune, ask yourself, where did you find serenity despite no yoga practice? What hobbies did you discover that afforded you some respite? Where did you get lost in the beauty of even the most mundane task? What conversations did you have that left you feeling more revealed, more vulnerable, more light, more ‘aired out’? Let these reflections stir in you, and distill them down, owning the more realized self that blossoms.

“Everything created has a right reason and purpose. Understand that with everything and everyone, and you’ll have a successful life. If you ignore this, you will suffer.” So says Bikram in my notes from 20 years ago. As yogis, we learn to view things from perspectives of love and light. In our poses, we recognize that if we suffer, “we must be happy.” The poem below was written in the context of owning the underpinnings of what one day brings. In our COVID-19 day (over 365 of them), regular routines were stripped away, and you deep-dived into a presence you could not avoid, whether you liked it or not. If what Bikram says is true – that everything has a ‘right good reason’ and purpose – then this time can bear blessings. An unforeseen struggle to growth and growing IS power. 

Look to this day

For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

From the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa