I sometimes wonder if, when someone found Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras after it had fallen into obscurity, did they think: What on earth is he on about? Which is what I have often thought when I am in the studio following the script in Bikram yoga, until I listen with focus and make an adjustment and then I think: Ah, that’s what it means. Consequently, I am beginning to think that Bikram Choudhury is a genius.
Here are my latest Bikram observations which I am taking off the mat to make positive changes one day at a time.
Practice, practice, practice
If you want to get good at something, you practice everyday. If you learn the piano you systematically practice scales in order to get them right. And, it is the same with Bikram, each day I practice the same sequence of asanas and each day I get better at them. Some days I learn something new about being in that pose and I feel different. Some days I don’t feel that I have learnt anything at all, and that is fine too. Overall though, I am achieving results. I am getting stronger legs and a stronger core. I sleep better. I feel better and my anxiety levels are going down.
On top of this practising, when I come out of Bikram, I tend to choose healthier food, I drink less alcohol and caffeine because my body doesn’t always want them. I am happily surprising myself with my choices.
Where else though could I practice more consistently to see the results I feel would improve my life?
I have everything I need
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.~ Rumi
I have tight hips and so I thought that I needed to practice extra hip-openers to get more open hips. However, practising has made me realise that there are enough hip-openers in the Bikram sequence – Vrksasana (Tree pose) and Trikanasana (Triangle pose) spring to mind. But, all standing poses, twists and backbends are hip openers. So, each day because I was thinking I had to do extras I wasn’t paying attention to what the poses were doing for me. I am doing enough. The sequence gives me everything I need.
In the studio, I have space on my mat, and someone guiding me through 90 minutes of asanas reciting the script with a group of like-minded people are around me inspiring and doing the same as me. Sometimes, I might think I need more space, or more light, or might heat, or less chatter. But I don’t really. I just need to let go of what I think I need and focus on what I have.
And, this is the same outside the studio, often I think I need to buy one more book or listen to one more lecture, or do one more course to achieve what it is I want. However, when I focus on what I have already done, or what I have already listened to or read, perhaps I already have everything I need to achieve what I want, I just haven’t understood that yet.
One of the teachers said to me that the script was a mantra which is really an amazing way of looking at it. She is so right. I thought a mantra was a short phrase like Om, which it can be. But, a mantra is also a sacred thing. It is an instrument of thought to focus the mind.
So, the script as a mantra helps me to focus my mind. Sometimes when I let go of the focus my mind wanders and when I look up I find that I am holding the wrong pose or drinking water and I am not in synch with the rest of the class. This is nothing to feel bad or wrong about. It just means that I am not getting as much as could out of the present moment because I am elsewhere.
So, when I return my mind back to the script, I am doing what I came to do. I am relaxing my body and mind by engaging in the present and working hard. Also, when I am focused, I don’t need anything to be any different. I don’t need anyone to behave any differently, or for it to be hotter or colder or less humid. It just is. I am working with this present moment and I am in the flow: The place where we find happiness and where we feel most alive.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I want to change myself. ~ Rumi
I have blogged before about staying on my mat and not wishing for things to be different. It occurred to me the other day that when I get annoyed on the mat or off the mat with people – it is always a reflection of myself- and then I read this Iyanla Vanzant’s post on Facebook:
We all have somebody in our lives who has the uncanny ability to push our buttons. We think it is the other person. Surprise, surprise! The problem doesn’t lie in the other person, it lies in us! No one can push our buttons unless the buttons are connected. Detach whatever fear, guilt, shame, or anger we have attached to the issue and people will be unable to push us.
– Iyanla Vanzant, Facebook post 23/4/16
And, after thinking about the above, I got chatting to a yoga friend who was telling me that she doesn’t try to do the poses which she might fall out of in case she disturbs someone else. And, then another yogi said that she gets annoyed when people don’t attempt poses properly near her because it puts her off doing her poses properly.
Often we look to others to change their behaviour so that we can change ourselves. But, as Iyanla said, other people are a mirror of ourselves, and so if someone is or isn’t doing something which affects us then it is really us who are affecting ourselves. We have handed over that power to someone else instead of digging deep and owning our own abilities. We need to be the change we want to see.
And, this is the same in life: Our suffering doesn’t help anyone who is suffering. Our shame, guilt, fear, self-consciousness does not free anyone else least of all ourselves. Only empathy and love can do that. However, we can only give love and empathy to others if we first give love and empathy to ourselves. Instead of us mirroring others, let us be the change we want see too, and then the mirror of others will give us what we want to see.
Refilling the cup
I used to think that I couldn’t take 90 minutes out of my day to take care of my body. I had so much to do. It was such a false economy. I have so much more time and energy to live my life after a yoga session. I am fitter and healthier and happier.
Bikram yoga might look like a bendy, sweaty carry on in a mirrored room far removed from mystical yogic meditation, but it is one and the same. It is a moving meditation which exercises mind and body in a way I am sure even Pantajali would appreciate if he was around today.
I am so grateful I found it when I did. Namaste.