Everyone goes through a few ridiculous phases in life. It might be a “I bought these new shoes and now I’m going to wear them literally every day” phase, or a “frosted tips are awesome” phase (HAHA boys in high school), or a “I only want to eat grilled cheese” phase (been there, done that).
Perhaps one of the most intense phases I ever went through in life was my Bikram yoga phase.
Bikram yoga, for the uninitiated, is done in 105 degree heat and 40% humidity. Classes involve a set series of 26 poses, so no matter where you go the class will always be the same. Ever curious, I decided to try a Bikram class in February 2011. I immediately decided that I wanted to take on a 90 day challenge.
For 3 months, my yoga mat bag became a permanent fixture on my shoulder. I went days without ever showering in my own apartment because I was always taking showers at the studio. I started rearranging my schedule just to take class with my favorite teachers.
On day 87 of my 90 day challenge, I hit the biggest mental wall I’ve ever hit in my entire life. It hadn’t been a slow burnout, but rather, like throwing a match over kerosene. I was done. And I was so done that I wasn’t even sad that I quit with just 3 days left to go.
Thus ended my brief yet passionate affair with Bikram yoga.
Over the last few months, though, I’ve found my body craving it again. I want to get back in that “torture chamber” (Bikram Choudhury’s actual words, as many instructors will tell you) and relive that feeling of walking out of the room after 90 minutes, light-headed and soaked in sweat, but absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, though, Bikram yoga isn’t exactly friendly for the unemployed budget.
When I heard about Mind Over Madness Yoga, the opportunity to do yoga in the middle of Times Square for free, I reserved my spot ASAP. A Bikram class, outdoors, with a few thousand other people? YES, PLEASE.
So I went. I laid down my yoga mat in the middle of Broadway, the heat wave sun beating down on me, and had a truly amazing class.
I wasn’t paying attention to the noise, or to the people watching from the sidelines, or even to the yogis all around me. It was just me and the instructor’s voice coming through the speakers, telling me when to move on to the next pose.
Those of you who have done any coaching or courses with Molly are familiar with the idea of being present, of taking a few minutes out of your day to tune out all other distractions and just do something for you. I have to be honest here – I’ve never quite succeeded at this. No matter what little ritual I’ve tried to instill into my life, I would go through the motions but constantly be thinking of other things. Somehow, though, in the middle of Times Square, one of the most overstimulating places in the world, I really felt peaceful. I cannot remember another time in my life when I have felt so singularly focused on just being there. Throughout the entire class, I just felt like, “Yup, this is where I’m supposed to be right now.” It wasn’t overwhelming joy, it was contentedness.
In the days since that Times Square class, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the experience, as I am wont to do about, you know, everything. I thought about my 3 favorite poses and why I like them, and I realized that each one represents something different, a unique value I can strive for outside of the hot room.
1. Standing Bow Pulling Pose. I love this because it’s so graceful looking. A lot of yoga is really great for flexibility, but not every pose requires you to be flexible while also looking so awesome.
2. Triangle Pose. The shape of this pose in general, combined with the fact that it targets so many different muscles, really makes it exemplify strength and power.
3. Camel Pose (see main photo). My favorite part of camel is the crazy sense of release that I get when I come out of this pose. Instructors have often said that camel targets an area of your abdomen that deals with emotion, and that this pose sometimes makes people feel a lot of things. I’m not sure if I buy into this because I think my enjoyment of this pose might be strictly physical, but either way there’s a really great feeling of catharsis that comes along with it. Like how right after you vomit you feel completely amazing (gross, but you know what I’m talking about). Camel pose is totally uncomfortable, and then when you come out of it you feel AMAZEBALLS.
These are 3 things I’d really like to incorporate into my life: grace, strength, and excising all the bad stuff. I certainly have at least the beginnings of all 3 of them. I exhibited strength when I quit therapy, and pushed out some bad memories when I used some Fierce Love-inspired confidence to replace a bad birthday story with a better one.
(I don’t have a great example of grace, mostly because I’m the kind of girl who spills on herself constantly, but I’m sure there’s a situation that I’ve handled gracefully in the last few months. Or at least, I hope there is.)
I don’t know when I’m going to be able to incorporate Bikram yoga into my life again, but I hope it’s sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, I’m going to really try and center my life around these three values that I picked up from my Times Square class.
Grace. Power. Catharsis. That’s a recipe for a kickass woman.