“If you like your life, don’t start yoga,” Bikram tells us. Sounds discouraging, but like the movie I went to see recently, I’m afraid it’s the Ugly Truth. You thought you were content with how you conduct your life, but now you’ve introduced yoga and everything seems to be falling apart. The truth is nothing has changed, but we start to see ourselves differently, watching what we do as if we were a witness to our own lives. And then we begin to question why we do what we do. It becomes a necessary obsession. Everywhere you go, there you are. All of us that are on this path know and experience an odyssey of sorts. Rest assured, something better is waiting for you. YOU. With practice, you’ll navigate your way through any travail.  

We have over 80 students and staff participating in this summer’s 60 Day Challenge. The benefits of doing yoga every day of the Challenge are far more than having a svelte body at the end of it. It affects your overall well-being. Another Bikram-ism (as I call them) is his razor sharp, straight to the point comment of coming to class with a “junk body, lost soul and a monkey mind.” Critical and harsh, but sorely true. Again, It’s the ugly truth. Yoga is the most compassionate yet punishing process that gets you to notice profound layers of what you truly believe,good, bad or indifferent. They are observations, clues to your awakening. High heat and humidity will cleanse the body, for sure. But come every day and watch the mind start to scream. Unfortunately, it’s part of the journey to get you where you want to go.It’s not my intent to bathe you in a bunch of psycho-babble here. However, I will say for myself, that my ego has a lot of vested interest in keep things status quo. Shaking things up a bit is a threat to it. Wayne Dyer, author, psychologist, and speaker, has a great definition of ego that I particularly relate to: “Edging God Out.” The exercises in my daily yoga practice are now mental affirmations that help me translate the truth, discerning that which stems from ego or that which comes from a more pure spirit – me. But, it doesn’t start that way. Initially, your mind will pull lots of tricks to dispel the changes you are after. “It’s too hot,” “the person in front of me is so distracting,” “this teacher’s voice is so annoying,” and other objections the mind has ready to resist encountering the real growth which is away from the ego and closer to your God, whatever that is for you. And I know that some days the mind just won’t shut up. That is true suffering, but it’s worth it. 

So here’s what I’ve recently noticed as being essential for riding through those questionable times: conviction. And, please note that I am not just talking to Challengers and regular practitioners, but also to another big group of students – beginners. And there are a lot of you – 1,700 so far this year. Many of you know that I love sports. I absolutely love hearing stories of individual athletes, teams, and organizations, and what it takes to perform at the highest level. I watched some of the Tour de France. I believe it was Stage 14 that saw Lance Armstrong in the middle of a controversy, questioning strategy with regard to a teammate that was 5 seconds off from taking the yellow jersey. I was glued to the TV set listening to Lance speak to the commentator about his view on things – brutal honesty, unshakable matter of factness, extreme detail in his knowledge, disheartened but absolutely clear. It was a moving take on things gone awry. And, it felt as if he finished that pose and was ready to move on. He had a race to attend to – and maybe win. This whole picture spoke to me of conviction.

It is my wish to give to all of us at BYSJ a bigger studio. We need it. While we love our studio, the things you don’t see are the things needing more attention. It’s the wear and tear of the daily yoga grind in a building that needs construction work. And, wouldn’t it be nice to have more than one toilet for the women’s bathroom?! No worries, as the expansion won’t be too over the top, but will be beautifully done, functionally excellent, and ultimately in keeping with the nuances that are so important to our community. This project has been in the works for more than a year now and we are at some critical stages. I can’t thank you enough for your trust in me as I work through this process. It takes more than faith. It takes conviction.

I watched the ESPYs last week, an awards show hosted by ESPN, with fans voting on their favorite athlete, team, coach, plays, etc. Every year a special award is given to someone who represents sport at its highest level. This year it was given to a coach from a small town in North Dakota, Don Meyer. In September 2008, he survived a car accident that destroyed his diaphragm, spleen and ultimately one of his legs. And, in the midst of the surgeries, they discovered cancer in his liver. However, he persevered and with the help of his Faith, Family and Friends (as he called it – “the three F’s”), he made it through this traumatic time so that he could provide more great service to college kids. While the video showed his life through the experience of rehabilitation, it wasn’t until he walked up to the podium and accepted his award that you fully appreciated the depth of his conviction. It was never an option for him to stay down. The moment he was able to come home was the moment he was able to coach again. He had an amazing sense of humor, humbled by this recognition, and clear about his path. He mentioned that John Wooden, UCLA’s famous basketball coach, shared with him something that his father had preached: “don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.” We are constantly put in situations that give us a chance to test how well we know our true selves. We have the strength. Do we really know that we have the strength? We have the intelligence. Do we know that we have the intelligence? We are love. Do we really own the love that is within us? 

Thank you to our new Bikram Yoga teachers that have just recently graduated from Bikram’s Teacher Training in Palm Desert. Nine long weeks of yoga, twice a day, providing an unsettling environment to provoke the ugly truth: self doubt, ego based decisions, highly critical self-expectations, and more. It took more than faith to get you through. It took conviction. It shows in how you teach. It feels fitting to have Challengers, regular practitioners, and new students under your tutelage, feeding off an energy that ignites our own sense of conviction. A great friend of mine that I highly respect as a family man, a CEO, an athlete and the most generous of human beings, states that conviction is “passionate certainty.” He states: ” It takes time, but conviction is the result of a passionate belief, whether in thoughts, opinions, or actions.” It all starts with facing the ugly truth.