Today is International Yoga Day! (Of course, every day is “yoga day” around here.)
Too many people see yoga as a luxury item -- something to be disposed of when finances or schedules are tight. If there’s one thing I want you to know today, it’s this:
Practicing some form of yoga is not only essential to having a meaningful life, it’s absolutely necessary for a large number of us to practice if we’re going to create and maintain a peaceful, just society.
Practicing yoga is not like other forms of “self care” it tends to get lumped in with. Yoga is not like getting your nails done, taking a bubble bath or even having a massage (though I’m not knocking those things!)
Yoga is not about yoga postures.
When you practice yoga (raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, mantra yoga and hatha yoga-- which Bikram Yoga is one style of-- are the 6 main types of yoga) you cultivate Faith, Self-disicipline, Determination, Concentration and Patience within yourself.
If you’re doing hatha yoga, you’ll get pain relief, increased flexibility and strength and a litany of other physical health benefits too. You’ll improve the quality of your life. Which is amazing! But that’s not all you do.
The ultimate goal of any yoga practice is Self-Realization.
That’s Self with a capital “S.” Your highest Self, the greatest version of who you are. The word realize (v.) means "bring into existence," from French réaliser "make real" (16c.), from Middle French real "actual.")
Self-Realization means then, bringing your highest Self into existence.
When you practice yoga, you become able to pull the BEST version of yourself out of your pocket when you need it most:
If you keep practicing yoga, that Best Version of You appears more and more frequently. Eventually, the way you live begins to align itself with your full potential. You behave like your Self more often than not. Your Self is the part of you most in tune with nature. It’s the part of you which is connected to all other parts of you, which feels connected to all of humanity and even all of the cosmos.
Yoga comes from the word “yuj” meaning “to yoke together.”
When you access a place inside yourself where everything is united: mind, body and the rest of the world, that is Self. Because you become aware of the connection between you and all of humanity, Self is where your compassion for others lives.
If you still think that yoga is something to do:
How would this Father’s Day have been different for George Floyd’s family, if Derek Chauvin had been able to access the Best Version of himself for 8 minutes?
Yoga is not about yoga postures.
When you step on your mat today-- remember that the important work you are doing inside yourself has the power to change the world.
When you practice at a studio, you benefit from the watchful eye of a trained instructor. But when you start doing yoga at home, it’s up to you to make your own corrections and look out for any less-than-helpful habits.
Here are several common mistakes to avoid when practicing on your own:
Mistake: Tweaking your neck to see the screen
Why you do it: If you take an online class with video, especially if you are a visual learner, you’ll be tempted to look up at your screen. That might be to check your alignment, check out that cute puppy crawling on your yoga buddy’s savasana, or see if your technology is working correctly.
Mistake: Pushing too hard
Why you do it: Overexerting yourself during a home Bikram Yoga routine is something to watch out for, especially if you’re an experienced student. If you’re used to being strong and flexible in the hot room, you may tend to push yourself at home. Remember that your intensity needs to account for the fact that you’re not as warm. Take it easy.
Mistake: Getting kinda lazy
Why it happens: It can be challenging to stay motivated when you practice on your own. There are so many more distractions at your house than at the studio! And you don’t have the heat to demand that you focus on the present moment. You may find yourself “going through the motions” or even skipping the poses you don’t really enjoy. The problem with that is, the poses you dread the most are likely the ones you need the most! Bikram Yoga is a balanced full-body physical practice, and skipping the same poses repeatedly may aggravate asymmetries, tightness or injury.
Mistake: Allowing Interruptions
Why you do it: If you don’t architect an environment that supports your yoga practice, distractions will abound: kids, phone calls, Facebook notifications, pets, the list is endless! Without a reserved time and space for yoga, there is always something vying for your attention.
Why you do it: When you’re not joining others in-person, it can be challenging to hold yourself accountable.
Your exercise routine has most likely been turned on its head in the last few weeks. Gyms and yoga studios around the world have shut their doors indefinitely, and even many parks and trails are closed.
So, is it time to collapse on the couch with a bag of Cheesy Poofs and mope about not having an ab-roller?
Nah. It's time to do yoga.
Starting a yoga routine at this time will not only help you stay in shape-- it will also help you cope better with stress and keep your anxiety levels under control. The best part is, there's no equipment required for yoga! You can do it at home. All you need is a spine and your breath. (Some expert instruction is highly recommended though!)
In a recent American Psychiatric Association poll, 36% of Americans said the current pandemic has already had a serious impact on their mental health. The rate of coronavirus infection is still much lower than 36% of us, and we're taking that pretty seriously now. We need to take our mental health seriously, too. It is not going to get better on its own, and social distancing itself poses a threat to your mental health.
Look. Keeping your physical body healthy is important for sure. But taking care of your emotional stability and mental clarity is often put on the back burner during times of crisis-- which is actually when we need to keep our wits about us, the most!
Here are 4 major reasons you need yoga now more than ever:
When you practice yoga, you:
There is no time like today to start creating benefits like these for your mind and body. And thanks to technology, accessing yoga instruction from the comfort of your home is easy. There are many options out there, many levels and many styles.
Home Hot Yoga's online classes are open to everyone, no experience necessary. Heat is not even necessary (though it helps!)
Are you ready to start a yoga practice? Join any of our online classes here.
No level of experience, strength or flexibility are required to safely attempt a Bikram yoga class! However, online classes are a bit of a tricky way to start, especially if you are a visual learner, mostly because it's difficult to see the other students.
Our friends at Wellness Hot Yoga made this video to help new yogis have a better understanding of the postures, so you can feel better during and after your class! Thanks, WHY!!
The sit-up. It's not officially a yoga pose, but more of a transition move to get you from savasana to your next posture.
Official yoga pose or not, correct sit-up technique can make a big difference, especially if you have back pain (or if you want to have amazingly strong abs!)
Try it in class today.
Big change is coming.
At BYSJ, our mission is to get the most people feeling the best by providing a joyful, inclusive environment for the practice of yoga.
We named our yoga school "Bikram Yoga St. Johns" because we believed it was helping us achieve our mission. Bikram Yoga is the style of yoga we teach. It is a highly impactful, even lifesaving, yoga system.
We chose (and kept) our name for the last 4 years, because we wanted anybody seeking Bikram Yoga to be able to find us easily.
Bikram Choudhury is the man who popularized this yoga system in the West and worldwide. He has also been accused of some abhorrent behavior.
We do not condone or support any of this behavior.
We are sad beyond words at what has happened, and we hope that everyone involved finds peace and a healing path forward.
We want you to know that BYSJ is and always has been independently owned and operated, by us.
Like most, if not all, yoga schools who teach Bikram Yoga, we have never and do not pay any affiliation or franchise fees to Bikram Choudhury or any other person or entity.
This is a fact which has been misrepresented in the media for years. There is no worldwide Bikram Yoga franchise as many poorly fact-checked articles have reported.
Perpetuating the myth that Bikram yoga studios pay fees to Bikram Choudhury does not right any wrongs and does not bring justice to any wrong-doers. In fact, it only harms two groups of people: (1) small business owners, many of them women and mothers, and (2) the yoga students they serve.
To us, Bikram the yoga and Bikram the man have always been separate and distinct.
We now realize that, seeing multiple studios worldwide with the name "Bikram Yoga" on their doors, it can be easy to assume that we are part of a chain. (We're not, but that doesn't matter unless it can be communicated.)
We understand if people don't want their money to go to Bikram Choudhury, and we can see how, because of this, the name "Bikram Yoga St. Johns" may prevent them from coming to our yoga classes. (And most people really need this yoga!)
It has become clear to us that our name is now getting in the way of our mission.
So, like anything that gets in the way of us helping people, we are letting it go.
Our hope is that our new name will communicate to the public that we are a locally owned, independent business, and also convey a sense of what we stand for as a business and a community.
We are changing our business name. We are not changing our values, our mission- or our personalities.
You can help us spread the truth about who we are by sharing this video, but even better, you can help by sharing your own positive experiences with the yoga and with us.
We are not changing the yoga.
Bikram Yoga is still the most powerful, most inclusive, and most joyful system of yoga that we've ever encountered, and we intend to continue practicing and teaching it as long as we possibly can.
We are looking forward to offering this impactful wellness technology to everyone, under a new banner that communicates what we believe in:
We think we've found the perfect name, and we look forward to sharing it with you!
Stay tuned for the big name-reveal coming soon...
What duds you sport in the hot room can really make a difference.
Watch this video to learn the science behind shorty shorts, then read on for 4 tips to consider when choosing what to wear to your next class...
1. Bare skin is part of your body's cooling strategy.
Your body cools itself by way of the evaporation of sweat off your skin's surface. Therefore, the more of your skin exposed to the air, the cooler you will feel, even in a hot environment.
For the same reason you probably wear tank tops and shorts in the summer, clothes that leave (at least) your arms and legs uncovered are the healthiest choice for hot yoga.
2. Loose clothing traps body heat.
Ever tried sleeping in a hammock? You'll get COLD at night because the hammock's fabric sits snug against your skin. There's no space to trap your body heat in there.
Similarly, when you wear tight-fitting clothing in hot yoga, your body heat escapes, which means you will feel cooler.
3. Downsize your yoga clothes to super-size body positivity.
Look, we get it. Your whole life you have been sent the message (from the media, peers who are not your real friends, possibly even your parents) that your body is somehow flawed or not good enough.
Too many of us have accepted that messaging to the point that we try to hide our "imperfect" bodies-- even from ourselves!
You may have discovered by now: there is no hiding under the bright lights of the yoga room. You also may have noticed: you are the only one in class who bats an eye about the size of your thighs or a little hanging skin around your middle from those babies you brought into the world! So, who are you hiding from?
Revealing your body to yourself in the mirror for 90 minutes at a time will cause you to appreciate your body more-- not only for its physical beauty (and yes it has that!) but also for the amazing things it does for you every day as it carries you through your life.
4. Don't miss out on the gift of a teacher.
Your certified Bikram yoga teachers are highly trained and constantly honing our craft with continuing education. Of the gifts your teacher offers you are personalized verbal corrections.
We have had hundreds of hours of education (and thousands of hours of experience) in this yoga system, and you get to borrow our eyes!
However, we can only let you know to make an adjustment in a posture IF we can see your alignment! Baggy clothes get in the way of us helping you use correct technique.
You are the most important person in your life.
In the end, of course, this is all up to you. We understand there may be many reasons for every choice of attire.
Just like when we give instructions in class: our role here is to offer the information we know to be useful for practicing Bikram yoga, and you get to choose what you do with that.
Your Bikram yoga teacher will love you unconditionally, no matter what you wear to class!
I started practicing at BYSJ in fall of 2016 because I felt like my body and I were at odds. I needed a practice that allowed me to reconnect with myself. Since December 2015, I've been pregnant 4 times. The first three pregnancies have all ended with miscarriages. I was grieving the loss of those babies in unhealthy ways and I sought out yoga as a way to find my way back to peace.
Since practicing, I appreciate my body in a different way.
Like I mentioned, when I began practicing I felt at odds with myself. I was really self conscious and critical of my physical appearance, being overly critical of every lump and bump.
There's something a bit magical that happens when you stare at yourself for 90 minutes. Over the course of practicing I began to marvel at all the ways my body could move and how it carried me through the poses.
Even when it was hard, I learned that I could do hard things. This belief has carried over into my life.
I am proud of my consistency in practice. The yoga is hard, but I continue to come back because of the benefits. The best thing I receive from my practice is peace. My husband, Filip, has noticed a big change in my temperament. I used to have big, dramatic reactions to small things. I was filled with anger and would lose my temper quickly. I've always had a difficult time managing anger. Since practicing Bikram's I am much calmer, my reactions are less immediate and intense, and I am overall happier/ more optimistic.
My mantra in the room is just breathe. It's the only thing I tell myself I have to do. When it feels challenging to get to a class I just say, "show up and breathe." It makes it feel so manageable.
The effects of the yoga practice:
Physically, my posture has improved dramatically. I used to have a bit of a hunch, which I don't have anymore.
I have always suffered from pain in my right shoulder. This practice has really opened/loosened those muscles that were always so tight. Eagle pose works wonders.
But really, I practice for the mental benefits. It's the most important thing I do that keeps my mind peaceful; reduces my anxiety. I used to have crazy anxiety, I would need medication at times to manage it.
Since practicing Bikram's I haven't needed any anxiety medicine.
I practiced through my miscarriages. I would set up my mat in the back of the room and cry through most of the class. I was able to grieve my losses and let go of the pain through the yoga. It helped me get to a place where I could accept that perhaps motherhood was not going to be a part of my journey. Like I said, I could do hard things.
When I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time, I didn't want to live in the fear. I also didn't want to live in the hope. I just wanted to live in every moment. Fear represented the past. Hope represented the future. I really didn't want to place any of my energy in either of those places. I thought a lot about the impermanence of a situation. The only experience I wanted was the one I was currently in.
When I practice the yoga, the only thing I can think about is the current moment. Breathing through the pose, living through the pose. That's what I wanted for this pregnancy.
I am very forgiving with myself when I practice the prenatal series. I really listen to my own cues about how much I can do and what I need in the moment to take care of myself and baby.
Moving forward, postpartum, I want to continue to treat myself this way.
Diane Ducharme Gardner recently visited BYSJ and graced us with her wisdom, expertise and insight. Among the top "a ha" moments that students have been sharing they experienced at the workshop is this one: how to get into Camel pose!
How do you know it's right?
For any body!
Check out the video for the full demonstration of correct technique:
The key you'll want to remember is: when you hear the instructor say "go back halfway and stop in the middle," that does not mean bend back.
It means lean back halfway, using your strong thigh muscles, thereby decreasing the distance between your hand and the heel. If you approach the pose this way, almost anyone can grab the heels!
Once you have the grip on the heels (and don't lose it) you can push everything forward toward the mirror, causing the back muscles to engage and bend your spine evenly, creating 360 degree angle backward bending.
It feels so good when you do it right.
Even better, Camel pose boasts numerous benefits for your life outside of the yoga room, including:
Depth in any posture is a result of correct technique and time.
So it never matters how much you do, as long as you practice with consistent correct technique.
The beautiful thing about the instructions you hear in class is that they work for any body- stiff, flexible, injured, whatevs. But don't take our word for it. Now that you have seen a stellar example in the video, try following word by word with the correct technique in your next class!
A friend posted this great little meme on Facebook the other day:
First, I love this. As a language-learning geek, a mom and a bookworm, I love everything about it. But it also made me think about... yoga! (Surprise, surprise.)
So I want to share with you this:
Boss lady, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.