Wow! How blessed we are to live in California with sunshine and warm temperatures. The little things we can take for granted pop up as blessings when we don’t have them. I just came back from a two week trip to Chicago with no sun and temperatures in the 30s. It was weird to feel and hear the cold wind blow when nothing was moving. Not a tree, bush or blade of grass. “It’s because everything is frozen”, says my sister. Oh, yes, right – Wow!

I had family business to tend to, but I also taught and gave a talk at a nearby yoga studio, Meadows Hot Yoga. I’ve practiced there before whenever I head back to visit my sister. While they do other things like Pilates, Vinyasa, and express hot yoga classes, they also do the 90-minute 26 and 2 that we know and love. I so enjoy the owners and they have great teachers and a nice community too!

During my trip, I created a routine that allowed me to practice yoga as time allowed! BYSJ, we have something so special in our home. We also have something solid in our commitment to this practice that is Bikram Yoga. After I taught, I found myself talking about the gifts an authentic Bikram class gives us and reminding the students in front of me of how unique and important this practice is in giving us our best life.

The Gifts of a Working Body and Breath

Bikram Yoga is a beginning yoga class! Seven billion people on the planet can do it! Never too old, never too sick, never too late, never too bad to do yoga and start from scratch once again. Maybe we yawn at that phrase as we hear it often, but listen into it and you’ll feel its power. This yoga is accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime! I recall a comment from Earl Nightingale in The Strangest Secret, about the gifts we’ve been given: a brain, a spine, a working body, breath. We take for granted these most valuable blessings because they are free! So, too, we underestimate the value of what we have now in Bikram yoga. This class enables you to be your best you, requiring nothing more than you having a body! That’s it!

We can forget that this yoga is a healing modality. It’s intended to stretch your body head to toe, bones to skin, inside out on a cellular level. Ninety minutes to work your entire system, getting optimal circulation so you can move freely, think clearly, and live happily. If any of this is hindered, life is limited, trouble ensues, and your hopes and dreams are dulled. Use yoga to be whole and to live the full expression of the ‘you’ that you were intended to be from the moment you were born.

Bikram tells us over and over again, year after year, lecture after lecture, that yoga helps a “junk body, screw-loose mind, and lost soul.” Practice this yoga for a while and you’ll realize how true this statement is because you feel energized, aware, and inspired.

I’ve heard this quote from Bikram’s guru a zillion times, yet in the last year this quote has deeply resonated with me. How relevant it is, nearly a hundred years later! Think about it. In all honesty, what more could we want?

Understanding the Dialogue

Then there is the dialogue! I recall having to memorize each word of the dialogue verbatim at teacher training. At times, I would scratch my head with confusion, as these words didn’t make sense! “All over equally the same.” “Hands-palms touching each other.” “Grab elbows over each other.” “Momma give me money.”

But give it time, patience, reflection, and experience, and you’ll come to know not just how much the words make sense, but the power IN them when said the way they were designed. Our teachers at BYSJ work hard to keep up on the dialogue. It’s natural to forget and start putting in other words, but, over time, it’s no longer even recognizable as Bikram Yoga.

The dialogue is essential in providing a stimulus to activate a response. I’ve heard many times in my years as a teacher and practitioner how the dialogue is boring, harsh, monotonous, silly, abrupt, pushy. But as I told the students at Meadows Hot Yoga, it’s set up to keep you safe, give you information, and challenge you. The challenge part, in my opinion, is the key to achieving your desired results.

You’ve heard our teachers say, “It’s not how much you do, it’s how you do it.” Emmy Cleaves will tell you to be precise, follow through on good form, be consistent, come often, and do the work with intensity. The challenge is in the intensity.

“You’ve got to take your toes off the cliff just 1/16th of an inch,” says Jim Kallett, admired teacher of 30+ years and Bikram’s confidant. The dialogue is arranged to give you, the student, the best chance to push enough, entering into a struggle that – when held – overcomes obstruction in the body, in the mind, and in the soul. The result is freedom. You’ll open up to a willingness to be uncomfortable, and in doing so, you’ll grow.

The Cosmic Mirrors

And the mirrors! “Look into the eyes of your best teacher.” Craig Villani uses this phrase as he begins teaching class, reminding you of the power within each of us as we look in the mirror for about ninety minutes. Cosmic mirrors, giving us a glimpse of knowing that this class, his class, his way, is the path to self-realization. Yes, the mirrors are great for self-correction, for seeing what we can do to refine and improving our postures, but what else are you looking at? From my experience you’ll look IN more, getting familiar with what you see, what you feel, and what you think. You’ll come to accept it all, even what you don’t like. In time you’ll surprise yourself, by changing your perspective on even one small thing. In that moment, you’ve begun the journey of transformation.

Bikram says, “Number one problem in human life is that we underestimate ourselves.” In fact, in one of his very first lectures at teacher training, he talks for hours on the amount of horsepower in a human being. He goes on and on with mathematics, gram counts, anything to get you (the tired exhausted teacher-to-be) to understand the enormity of who you really are.

Building Character

Healthy spine, healthy life. Use it or lose it. Our hectic world can dismiss the impact of such simple statements. Don’t be fooled with fancy promotions resulting in empty promises. Character is the only legacy you’ll leave. Lectures, books, courses, therapy, and self-study are useful, but they won’t facilitate true change unless you do the work. It starts with toes and heels on the line and continues by showing up each day. Rinse and repeat to a dialogue built in your best interest. This sequence will impact you forever, until the day you leave this earth. It is beyond comprehension because it’s infinite and not definable in this world. But, you’ll know, really know, that it’s the one thing that will deliver a life that you’re proud of.

Michele with the teachers at Meadows Hot Yoga.

Michele with the teachers at Meadows Hot Yoga.

Thanks Meadows Hot Yoga for giving me space to reflect and share outside my normal surroundings. It reminds me of all the riches I have that I too can take for granted. My life is blessed with – and because – of this practice.