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.
"I've been practicing consistently for just over a year now, all because of you, your welcoming, inclusive studio, and the opportunity to be a karma yogi! Before that, I was an inconsistent, serial-Groupon-er in the Vancouver/Portland area. I've learned that being inconsistent made my practice harder on myself- pyschologically (I always had lots of reasons why I couldn't make it to class) and physically (I battled nausea a lot longer than I had to.) The secret for me is just showing up to practice frequently, ideally daily.
"I got into Bikram yoga expecting to improve a chronic knee injury and improve my strength and flexibility. All of these things have happened, and continue, to happen, especially now that I have a consistent practice. I have been most surprised by my seemingly sudden, new-found ability to automatically breathe slowly in and out during stressful situations that happen outside of the yoga room! I remember being in a work situation and I was all calm and breathing through it, and I literally wondered why I wasn't more upset, like I normally would be. It was at that moment I realized that I'd been practicing calm, full breathing while experiencing discomfort in class long enough that I had developed 'muscle memory' and it was automatic response. It was one of the strangest, and most freeing, moments of this year!
"When I began to practice regularly 3 or more times per week, I noticed a bunch of changes taking place. Decreased body pain, especially in my joints. I always say that Bikram yoga takes the 'old' out of my bones when my friends wonder why I practice. Cravings for healthier food and lots of lemony water. Serenity, instead of stressed, as a baseline for my mood for that day. Increased mental clarity and energy to be able to accomplish things.
"I've always enjoyed yoga, I'd take yoga books out of the library when I was a kid and contort myself in my first solo practice. Then I took my first Hatha yoga group class in college for credit. Yoga helped me be a better belly dancer and helped me through long shifts as a bartender. Later on, I didn't really think Bikram yoga would be very different from all the other non-hot forms I'd dabbled in, so I bought a Groupon (hahahahahahaha!)
"I went to my first class in a long-sleeve, full-legged bodysuit that I wore comfortably in dance classes. I was exhausted, dizzy, and queasy after the initial deep-breathing sets and pretty much just laid on my mat for the rest of class, trying not to run screaming from the room. It took me a month to return for my second try. It was still awful, but I kept on coming back, probably because the after-effects were so immediate and compelling.
"I often procrastinate. So when I saw "Do Later Now" on BYSJ's studio t-shirts, I was irked- and also knew this was exactly where I needed to spend my time, ha!
"Becoming a karma yoga cleaner at BYSJ gave me two wonderful (and unexpected) gifts. First, it has given me a sense of responsibility and belonging in a new, welcoming, beautiful studio/community. I'm pretty introverted and work with the public, so spending time in silence with other yogically-determined people was the perfect complement to my workday, especially practicing it early in the morning before I have to be 'on' for the public.
"My karma cleaning committment was the 'trick' I needed to play on myself in order to stop making excuses about why I couldn't get to class. Before I was a karma yogi, I'd change my mind about going for lots of reasons: not well-hydrated, didn't eat healthy food, need to clean the house, other people need me more, blah, blah, blah. Once I had to be there, I quickly realized that I'm better in so many ways, from the inside out, that I do everything in my life better when I do yoga that day too.
"Finding a studio that I could really belong to has led me to a consistent yoga practice and that has been ONE OF THE BEST GIFTS OF MY LIFE. Thank you, BYSJ!"
** Interested in becoming a Karma Yogi like Natalie? Email us!
Half Tortoise pose provides maximum relaxation effect by getting your head below your heart, sending freshly oxygenated high-speed blood rushing into and around your brain. It's said that 30 seconds in this posture is as relaxing as 8 full hours of sleep!
Among the numerous benefits of Half Tortoise pose:
How to do:
Sit down kneel-down position with your hips on your heels. Bring your arms over your head sideways, hands-palms together and cross your thumbs. Try to keep your hips on the heels throughout the posture. Exhale breathing and go down, arms and head together. Touch your forehead on the floor, the edge of your pinkie fingers on the floor, elbows locked. Stretch your arms forward so your shoulder blades come off the spine, still trying to keep your hips on your heels. Stay for about 30 seconds and stretch, breathing calmly in and out by the nose. Inhale breathing and slowly come up with your arms and head together. Relax on your back in savasana for 20 seconds.
“My first Bikram yoga class was in New York City about 16 years ago when a friend invited me to share in her new obsession. One day after work I jumped on the subway and made my way downtown to Chambers Street with just enough time before class to chug a Starbucks latte… I didn’t know anything about this hot yoga! Halfway through the standing series I ran out of the room and threw up in an aptly placed trashcan by the studio door.
“It took me a couple of years to gather the courage to go back, and this time I knew how to better prepare for class. I came hydrated, went to find peace and some relief from the stress NYC provided with unlimited generosity. I walked into class angry, grumpy, tired and walked out of class serene and sweaty: I was hooked!
“For me, Bikram yoga is primarily my mental health medicine. Sure, it keeps me toned and focused on healthy eating, but what it really does is reorganize my energy and keep my brain and body in balanced, optimal working order. One class solves a design problem, another class offers forgiveness or releases sadness, some classes cultivate joy or compassion, or sometimes it’s just the sweat that washes away the day.
“Recently I was surprised to receive physical healing for my body. This is what most people proclaim as their primary benefit! But, because I’ve never had injuries, I didn’t seek yoga to heal my physical body. This past winter (probably from the stress of driving in that dangerous winter weather) I experienced great sciatic pain. The pain disturbed my sleep, distracted my work, and was overall exhausting. During my 30-day-yoga-challenge, I worked through the pain, gently stretched the sciatic nerve, and used the meditation of class to help relax the spasms of muscles surrounding the nerve. The pain has gone away!
This past spring I ‘threw my back out’ from sitting in a 3-day conference. I could hardly move I was in so much pain. I came to yoga every day for a week and each day the pain was reduced and my range of motion was increased.
“What is magical is how Bikram yoga gives me what I need each class. Each day is different. Bikram yoga is unconditional in offerings and I am always finding more ways to appreciate and learn from my practice. As teacher Bill says: “You are your best teacher!” Using Bikram yoga to feel better requires that I listen carefully to how my body speaks to me. I am learning how and when I can be my own healer, or to work in concert with other modalities of healing.
“Here at Bikram Yoga St. Johns, we are all part of a community of positivity and joy! This studio is unlike any other studio I have practiced in. Here we are all equal, all included, we are all working together to be our better self, we are open, vulnerable and strong together. Being part of this community is one of the most special gifts I have received this year and I thank you all for being here with me! See you in the hot room soon.”
BONUS: Charlotte is our cuurent featured artist at the studio! Check out her colorful, joyful prints on your way to the yoga room today...
HHY Founder, Yoga Business Coach, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay Afif!