“Having means nothing unless you know how to use it,” Bikram will often say as he teaches class. In our physical Hatha yoga practice for 90 minutes we are paying attention to all parts of the body, learning what we have and how it is used. It might very well be that you are learning something about your body for the first time that you never knew before: what the pancreas does, that the kidneys regulate blood pressure, that most of your immune system sits in your digestive tract. All good stuff to know as our personal health is a lifelong subject to prioritize.

Similarly, Bikram will say, “use it or lose it.” You may not know that the Bikram practice originally started with 84 postures to literally maneuver and touch upon every cell in the body! This practice can take up to 4 hours to do! Thanks to Bikram and his guru, Bishnu Ghosh, the practice was condensed to what we have today with 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises which is sufficient enough to satisfy the entire body, keeping circulation moving throughout – in other words, you are using all so not to lose any. In my experience, I find that many students when they start a practice feel worse before they feel better. I attribute that to this idea: you start to use what hasn’t been used in years, waking up portions of the body you never knew were being neglected or shut down. It’s going to send you a message that something is going on here – something good – as you welcome back and restore an important part of you!

It’s easy to focus in on the physical aspect of our particular method of yoga. Bikram is recognized as being a rigorous physical challenge with the heat and how we teach from the podium. But those of you that take it like me, realize that those external surroundings are merely the stage we get to step upon to produce a far better product of mind, body and spirit that we would without it. For me, I will call those tangibles the backdrop that sets up the discipline that I need to keep me free to move into realms that get me not only to a far better place but farther than I would have gone without it. Confused? Well, take for example driving. It’s necessary to have stop lights and street signs and speed limits that set up a discipline in how we can all drive freely knowing those boundaries are set up for us! Without it, chaos and fear dominate and we don’t get very far.

So I am grateful to have such parameters that optimize and satisfy my physical needs. And what we might not realize too is that this “set up” or stage sets up an environment to seize characteristics of the mind: concentration power, determination, self-control (or will power), patience (or tolerance) and faith. Each one of these too, much like the body, can be neglected, and with enough neglect, we can lose them because we haven’t used them. And, honestly, it’s these attributes that make us conscious, aware, and available human beings, enabling us to live out our lives in the highest way. And these attributes cost us nothing – they are ours, FREE, but only worth something if we invest in something. Cool right?

Rajashree Choudhury, Bikram’s wife, Five time Indian Yoga Champion, Yoga Therapist, Speaker and Author, comes to Bikram Yoga San Jose this Saturday September 12 for a rare visit to teach us all a Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class. It’s with Rajashree that you will experience more of these mental qualities, or what is called Raja yoga, in this Hatha (Physical) yoga practice. You will hear her endlessly say “Don’t Give Up” in her compassionate tone. She emits a presence much like a saint would and yet embodies a tough as nails approach in the kindness of her delivery. You will come away feeling exhausted because she brings out the dusty, underused aspects of your mind that I stated above: concentration, determination, self-control, patience and faith. If you thought you believed in yourself, watch how Rajashree believes in you more and you’ll realize that you haven’t believed in yourself much at all. Rajashree embodies a charisma that will seep into not just how you are doing the pose but what you are using to do the pose on deeper levels that challenge your estimation of yourself. The good news is that you will be motivated and WANT to continue in this drive to remember your individual magnificence, giving yourself the ammunition to crush any of that self-doubt! Again, cool right?!

Don’t miss this chance to experience something new with something that is regular or even old to you. Rajashree is coming for you, in a rare appearance that isn’t a clinic or lecture but just a simple, raw class with all the goods you are familiar with, but with an added richness that will evoke earthquake type awakenings! So one more time…cool right? 

I can’t wait. See you there.