How did I first discover Bikram yoga? Full-body aches. Numbness in my right hand. Sharp, shooting pains. I was turning 40, and I could feel my body giving up on me like an old car. After looking at my MRI scan, my doctor told me I had an “80-year-old spine.” I was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 39.
I became a worker’s comp case suffering repetitive injuries from long hours on the computer and was prescribed heavy painkillers. Without understanding the side effects of cortisone, I received three injections to treat the chronic pain in my right wrist and elbow. All this did was exacerbate my condition to the point that it was unmanageable after the medication wore off. I tried all sorts of treatments: physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractors, massages, etc. I used speech-activated software to avoid typing and mousing, and I had a reminder every 10-15 minutes to stretch at work. Forget a treatment; all I could hope for was to manage the pain. At home, I couldn’t even do simple chores. As I weakened, even lifting groceries or turning a doorknob became a problem. I have always been an active person. I enjoy playing all sorts of sports (tennis, golf, swimming, dancing), but the constant pain in my bones and joints was taking over my life. I knew then that I HAD TO DO SOMETHING. Something had to change.
A light bulb went off when I was chatting with my best friend, Yeyen Gunawan, owner of La Vie probiotic drinks. She said to me, “You do yoga, and you love hot steam saunas. You should try BIKRAM HOT YOGA!!!” I was desperate, so the concept of sweating profusely by doing 90 minutes of deep stretching in a 105F heated yoga room with 40% humidity made me curious and eager to give it a try. The very next day, I signed up for the introductory package and committed to practice for ten consecutive days. It was truly an eye-opening experience for me. I immediately felt so much relief after only one week of practice. The numbing, tingling pain in my palm went away by the time I finished the 10th class. After three months, my chronic pain almost disappeared. I thought to myself; this is truly a miracle!
What has been my greatest struggle and greatest accomplishment? Since I have committed to practicing yoga daily, my greatest challenge is to stick to it regardless of my situation. During work and personal trips, I would often travel long international flights, which were very hard for my lower back, not to mention the nightmare of jet lag. However, as long as I had my iPhone loaded with Bikram’s CD, I could adapt and do yoga anywhere. I have had opportunities to practice in Armenia, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and many different cities in the US. Yoga was always a part of me, from boring hotel rooms to hot, steamy saunas to breathtaking ocean views.
The greatest thing about the 60-Day Challenge is the sense of accomplishment you get from putting a star on the board. Each star represents your determination, so when you see so many stars up on the board, you feel inspired, and to be honest, you start to get competitive. In my 12 years of practice, I have done five challenges, two of which I decided to make a little more interesting. In these, I did doubles for 60 consecutive days. I found the true challenge was not about doing the classes; it was time management – planning to fit in 4-5 hours a day to do yoga while still balancing work and home life. Of course, proper hydration was the key to the success of this entire process. Thanks to my best friend Yeyen’s La Vie probiotic drinks, I was well prepared! At the end of 60 days, I felt on top of the world – everything is possible as long as I set my mind to it!
Even when the studio was closed on “that” year, the 60-day Challenge prevailed. Rain or shine, wind or smoke, we were in the parking lot doing what we love. There were even Zoom classes that, though not the same, really made you feel like you were a part of a community of warriors.
What advice would I give to new students or those struggling with their practice? Be patient and trust the process. You made it to your first class! Take advantage of the Introductory Offer and come back the next day and the day after that. Make it a routine: just like you brush your teeth every day, do yoga every day, and be motivated! You will be surprised what you will gain is so much more than just doing yoga; it’s BEYOND THAT… AND IT’S ALL HERE, WAITING FOR YOU TO DISCOVER IT!