This photo was taken last summer, when I had been practicing Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class for 11 years.
If you're not familiar with Bikram yoga, I realize that might sound a little odd... Isn't 11 years a long time to do "beginner" yoga? Surely I could have moved on by now. And I'm an instructor, I own a studio! Surely I should be more "advanced," or at least "intermediate" in my own practice.
But. 11 years in, Bikram yoga continues to be so delightfully challenging both physically and mentally- that no other activity compares. I have heard the dialog (the scripted instructions memorized and delivered by certified Bikram yoga instructors) many thousands of times, yet I continue to discover jewels in it, instructions I have heard for years which I have only just become ready to understand and apply.
How wonderful to repeat the same series of postures thousands of times and still have so much to learn from and about them!
Part of the beauty of the Bikram yoga class is that I often practice beside students who have never done yoga before. We are given the same verbal instructions, we do the same postures, we both try our best, we both are tested and pushed to our limits in body and mind, we both soak in our sweat and feel our hearts pounding. We both receive maximum healing benefits by simply trying, one step at a time the right way.
I have heard Bikram yoga both criticized and praised as a "one size fits all" approach to yoga. And so it is. (Guess which camp I'm in!) Because: that brand new student next to me? Our struggles may take different shapes, but the prescription is the same. This group class was thoughtfully designed for the benefits of hatha yoga asana to reach as many people as possible, all at once. No matter your trouble- knee, back, stiff, weak, sick, stressed out (as Bikram says, "junk body or screw-loose mind") Bikram's beginning yoga class has something (and probably more than one thing!) you need.
It doesn't matter how flexible or fit you are or how long you have been practicing this or other types of yoga. Follow the instructions to the best of your ability with precision, intensity and frequency, and your life will have no choice but to improve.
One reason your life will improve is: the lessons you teach yourself in the hot room keep you curious and humble to your own potential. In class you actively grow your self, but at the same time your self is growing too (maturing, aging, birthing, ailing, healing, grieving, celebrating and everything else) which means that no two of your classes will be the same. While you repeat the postures and breathing exercises year after year, remain a "beginner" at heart and you will never get bored.
So that's why I've been practicing Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class for over 11 years, and I will most likely do so for the rest of my life. What a gift that I am only just beginning! If you have just begun or are waiting to begin (or have been beginning longer than me!) I look forward to beginning alongside you soon.
HHY Founder, Yoga Business Coach, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay Afif!