How did I first discover Bikram yoga?

“Ding dang dong…ding ding ding…” my iPhone alarm clock calls from across the room, making me jump out of my warm, cozy bed at 4:45 am. My first response is to snooze, just FIVE more minutes! Crawling back into bed, I start analyzing – IF I skipped the 5:30 am class, can I do 7:15? 9:15? Noon? 4:30? 6:30? 8:30? As a full-time working mom in the fast-paced high-tech corporate world, a demanding schedule for my active 14-yr-old daughter, juggling and prioritizing time to ensure I have my daily dose of Bikram Yoga has been the top-of-mind decision for me everyday since June 1, 2009.

Nearly eight years ago, I went through a very difficult period of my life. I found myself waking up at night with a sharp, shooting pain and numbing in my right hand, along with aches and pains throughout my entire body. I was turning 40 that year, and trust me, it was a rude awakening when I started to feel everything in my body deteriorating and starting to give up on me like an old car. I wasn’t ready to give up or give in to the news I had just learned from my doctor. Armed with an MRI scan, he told me I had an “80-year old spine.” I was diagnosed with arthritis at age of 39. After we exhausted all resources and options, there was only one thing I could do – “MANAGE THE PAIN.” There was nothing else he could do.

At work, I became a worker’s comp case suffering from repetitive injuries from working long hours on the computer. I underwent treatment for two years. Ignorant of the side effects of cortisone, I received three injections to treat the chronic pain in my right wrist and elbow. It was getting worse and the pain became unmanageable after the medication wore off. I was prescribed heavy doses of painkillers. I tried all sorts of treatments – physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, massages etc. I used technological help – speech-activated software to avoid typing and mousing, software that reminded me to stretch every 10-15 minutes at work. To say I was frustrated is an understatement.

At home, I also faced many challenges. I couldn’t even do simple chores. As I weakened, even lifting groceries or turning a doorknob became a problem.  My condition was not getting any better. In fact, it got WORSE!!!! Throughout my life, I have been active. I enjoy playing all sorts of sports (tennis, golf, swimming, skiing, avid gym goer, love to dance, etc.), 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.

Chatting with my best friend, Yeyen Gunawan, owner of La Vie probiotic drinks and the smartest woman on earth, a light bulb went off for both of us. She said to me, “You do yoga, and you love hot steam sauna, then you should try BIKRAM HOT YOGA!!!” I was ready and desperate to try anything. The concept of a heated yoga room at 105F and 40% humidity, deep stretching with 26 postures for 90 minutes, sweat pouring, made me really curious and eager to give it a try.

The very next day, I signed up for the introductory package and committed to practice for 10 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. I thought to myself, this is truly a miracle!

Excited to have finally found an answer, I was quite determined to learn more in depth what Bikram yoga was all about. So I picked up Bikram’s book and started to read. For those of you who know me, I am not into reading books – the last time I read a book was in college! To my surprise, I was so enlightened by every single word Bikram said in the book that I finished reading it in 24 hours. I wanted to know all the reasons behind the 26 postures, why the heat, the humidity, and “lock the knee”?! It was then that I decided to make a commitment to myself – I will do this yoga EVERYDAY…and FOREVER!!!

What has been my greatest struggle and greatest accomplishment?

Since I have made my commitment to practice yoga daily, the greatest challenge is to stick to it while traveling for work or on personal trips. Most of my traveling involves long international flights, which is very hard for my lower back, and dealing with jet lag is another nightmare all together.  Part of the work-around I’ve figured out is to be flexible and prepared, no matter where I am. As long as I have my iPhone loaded with Bikram’s CD, I can do the yoga anywhere and everywhere. One great thing about Bikram yoga is that I can find a studio almost anywhere in the world. 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 – from boring hotel rooms to hot, steamy saunas to rooms with amazing, breathtaking ocean-views.

Juni in Standing Head-to-Knee pose

Juni does Standing Head-to-Knee pose at the beach.

My 60 Day Challenge

The greatest thing about a 60 Day Challenge is the sense of accomplishment. You get to put a star for every class you did on the board. When many stars are up on the board, you feel inspired and to be honest, you start to get competitive. In my 7.5 years of practice, I have done four challenges.  The last two, I decided to do my own version of the 60 Day Challenge.  Since doing yoga is already part of my daily regimen, I figured that a true challenge for me was to do doubles for 60 consecutive days. I found the true challenge was not about doing the classes, it was the time management – planning ahead to fit in 4-5 hours a day to do yoga and still be able to balance work and home life – that was the true test. 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 with that!! At the end of the 60 days, I felt on top of the world – that feeling that everything is possible as long as you set your mind to it!

Juni in Balancing Stick pose

Juni in Balancing Stick pose.

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 special offer and come back the next day and the day after that. Make it a routine: just like you brush your teeth everyday, do yoga everyday, 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 JUST WAITING FOR YOU TO DISCOVER IT!