Worried about the impact of her mom’s long work hours and stressful job, Kathleen’s daughter, Megan- an avid Bikram yoga student for 10 years- was determined to get her into yoga. Kathleen thought it would be a fun thing to do together and wanted to address a 45-lb. weight gain as she approached her 57th birthday. She’d always loved to exercise and was happier when she did. Why not?
Kathleen says, “I bought a yearly membership in December, but I was so afraid of the heat, humidity, and all the crazy poses that I didn’t attend my first session until January 15th! I didn’t even tell my daughter I was going because I didn’t know how I would do. Having been an athlete most of my life (the hard hitting kind, NOT the flexible type) makes me very competitive and I feared that I would fail miserably and not ‘score well.’ Talk about a lot of “head factors!”
“All my concerns surprisingly melted away in short order. All the teachers were/are so supportive and welcoming. It was very hard going at first and I was provided a lesson in humility. But I kept trying to do my best while focusing on making the smallest of improvements.”
Kathleen read Bikram’s advice in his book to come each day for 30 days, or even better, for 60 days. He spoke about it so compellingly that she just had to give it a try. She couldn’t do weekends, but she committed to doing five days each week for two months. She’s now proud to say she did nine weeks straight of 5 classes a week!
As Kathleen puts it, “Bikram is spot on! Those two months changed me and how I live. Work is no longer my primary focus and stress is a non-player for the first time in decades. I’ve slowly lost weight and improved my flexibility. (The first time I was able to grab my toes in Head to Knee pose I almost shouted out!) The heated room is now my sanctuary where I concentrate (meditation is still a bit of a mystery, but I’m open to it) on being the best me in the moment while surrounded by those of like mind and effort.”
Kathleen’s advice to new students? “Take it a ‘show up’ at a time and begin the journey. Do not beat yourself up in the trying! Find that support person who can share the joys and challenges that each session brings. Embrace the heat and breathe through it. And don’t worry about those sleek types next to you who can become a pretzel without the mustard. Remember, everyone is in there trying to get to a new place too!”
Jameson Clover says that before she started practicing, "All I knew about the Bikram method was that it took place in an irrationally hot and humid room, which is exactly what I was looking for! The yoga- yeah, whatever- but the climate is what, I thought, I was seeking."
Jameson is an ultrarunner, which is to say that she runs distances greater than 26.2 miles. She even signed up for her first 100-mile race...in Florida, in May! Florida is hot and humid, and Jameson wanted exposure to that type of weather in order to train. So she signed up at Bikram Yoga St. Johns, hoping the hot and humid room would help her prepare for the race.
"The yoga part of Bikram wasn't really on my radar- I was after the climate; but something strange happened and it happened early: I felt a pull to the room. I found myself craving it. The heat, the humidity, the buckets of sweat, the different experiences with different teachers, all of it...including the post-yoga kombucha. One of the great things about Bikram is the constant reminder that doing 1% of the posture, 100% the right way is still beneficial. This was perfect for me, because I suffer from a re-occurring ankle injury that limits my range of motion.
"Since I started practicing Bikram yoga, my ankle is stronger and more flexible, and that translates to strength and confidence in my running. The potential physical benefits of yoga were not unknown to me, but this is the first time I have seen it in my own body. But more than the physical, Bikram yoga has provided an endurance practice for my mind. After 50 or so miles, a run becomes more mental than physical: Your body can do it, but will your mind allow it? This is true for my yoga practice as well. I think this is why I crave the room: it is the focus and test of will, which is also why I love running.
"Bikram yoga provides a safe place for me to be patient with my body. I find joy in my (slow) progression through the postures, especially the ones in which my ankle is still a limiting factor. By doing the same routine each time, it is easy to track the smallest of improvements. Slowly, surely, my body is healing. Being an ultrarunner, I ask a lot from my body, I push it when it begs to stop; Bikram yoga is far from easy, but at the end it feels like I have given myself a gift. Give and take, I am finding balance.
Jameson's advice for new students? "What your teachers say is true. Really. Go slow, do it right, be patient, come often, but also, come without judgment. The body and mind is wonderfully powerful, if you allow yourself space and time."
When you see Jameson around the studio this month, be sure to say "hi" and wish her luck on her 100-mile race!
Studio leader, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.