Yogastha kuru karmaniBhagavad Gita, 2.48
Blogging and bikram are two ways I use to get out of my head and back into the present moment. They make me feel so much better.
Nevertheless, I’ve been struggling to do either lately as I watch people suffering. In the news, we have regular updates on covid-19 and systemic racism as the #blacklivesmatter campaign brings centre stage the violence which has to stop. I am hopeful that we are witnessing a move towards a better society, a society of inclusion, equity and tolerance.
What can I do? Is the question I’ve been asking in lockdown, and after fretting a while, I decided to turn back to yoga because I wasn’t helping anyone feeling anxious and waking up with an aching body, least of all myself, in how to answer that question. Krishna advises Arjuna in the Baghavad Gita, as quoted above, that we must situate ourselves in the present moment, before taking action.
So, for the past couple of days I have been groaning my way out of bed at 6.50am and doing Bikram on Zoom with my Bikram community. Already, it is making a difference and, as I give thanks once more for the gift of yoga, I realised that I have been doing Bikram as a regular practice for four and a half years and wanted to blog about it here. Bikram and blogging help me make sense in what can feel sometimes like a senseless world.
My yoga journey
I started yoga back when I was about nine or 10 years old and attended my first class when I was 14 years old and here in the UK it was just called yoga. It was based on the Hatha tradition and immediately I loved it, and I have done yoga on and off ever since.
My journey to Bikram began in 2012 after surgery and chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I was tired and aching and sore, and I thought I would never get back on the mat again. Then, I discovered yin yoga.
I began slowly and ended up doing a lot of yin everyday. When I got stronger, I dusted off my old New Book of Yoga on Sivananda, and I would mix up Sivananda and yin and practice in the sunshine in the park under the trees.
In January 2015, I was freezing and missing the summer sun. Doing yoga indoors by myself was no fun at all, so the idea of a hot room and a community of people was too tempting not to try. Bikram was hot and sweaty, hard and infuriating, but at the same time like the traditional Hatha yoga in my Sivananda book, and I was off my head with joy. It felt like a coming home.
Then, almost without noticing, or perhaps I did notice and have just forgotten, I committed to a regular practice and was trotting along most days to feel the heat, and after a couple of years, even early mornings didn’t feel like a big deal. When they introduced yin yoga at the studio, my life was complete. Bikram followed by yin is just fantastic.
Then in March, lockdown happened, and I remembered how hard Bikram is without the heat, so I thought I know I’ll try Inferno Pilates, but honestly after a few classes, even though the teacher is so much fun, I realised I just don’t enjoy hot pilates in the same way that I enjoy hot yoga.
For me, when I take a yoga class, I go on a whole journey and end up somewhere else to where I started mentally and physically, and each time I roll out my mat (metaphorically speaking, I just do it on the carpet at home) I have a sense of coming home to myself in a way that just doesn’t happen in an exercise class. So, I focused on yin and dropped Bikram because yoga is yoga to me.
Several weeks later, I realised like I had done back in 2015 that yin alone is not enough, my body is used to the yang of Bikram, and I know that I build my own heat even without a heated room, and my fluffy slippers, which I did wear one morning during the floor sequence when my little piggies were cold.
This morning was a massive struggle to get out of bed and even though I yawned enough for the teacher to notice, it felt great to be practising in a group of like-minded people even if they are on a tiny screen. I can still feel the energy of those lovely peeps as we’ve been practising together for a long time now, and thankfully I can still do everything, even after two months break. My muscles remember all that time I have spent working on myself and so I can still put my head on my knee, though I will be honest, it was a bit of a strain and pulling my foot over my head in standing pulling bow pose is a real challenge, which I am grateful for every single tiring time. I can feel the heat building inside of me and I work hard to achieve that pose, and then once I let go, I feel better, and ready to contribute to the world in a balanced way.
And, it starts by realising that in as much as I like to think that I have some wisdom now that I am getting older, sometimes I just haven’t got any, at all, and sometimes my assumptions are wrong, and I need to listen and learn from others, whilst remembering where we have been and where we all need to go.
In human-computer interaction, there is a practice known as ideation in which we question everything we know using what yogis call a beginners mind with empathy, so that we are open to designing a new way of being, one which reflects what is right for everyone involved.
So, after bikram and blogging on the question What can I do? This is what I know where to start: I must remember that some of my assumptions are wrong so I need to listen with my beginners mind, open my heart, and then, with empathy, listen some more.