"Give me 30 days, I'll change your body.
Give me 60 days, I'll change your life." - Bikram ChoudhuryMy yoga practice has been
One day after finals, I was once again re-starting my yoga practice when one of the instructors and owners of the studio, Karen, said something that would forever change how I practice yoga. I was having a particularly difficult class. It was shortly after finals and the excessive amounts of coffee and minimal amounts of sleep were wrecking revenge. I felt terrible. Second worse class ever; my first day back after blood poisoning will probably go down as the worst ever. I'm laying there miserable and frustrated with myself and Karen was talking to the class, although she may as well have been speaking directly to me, about finding the time to fit in yoga. She acknowledged that life is busy, but she encouraged us to find a time that works and schedule that time for you. Do something for you. Take the time for you. And in that moment I realized she was right. I have time during the day to fit in a yoga class, but my long absences were due in part to me putting everything and everyone ahead of myself. That's not always a bad thing, but you deserve to make some time for just yourself. And so I made a pact with myself to do just that.
Conveniently, my yoga studio starts a studio wide "Bikram Yoga Challenge" around the first of the year. And this year, I decided to complete it. This post is a recap of that challenge. The things I learned. The things I experienced. The struggle. The success. If I had to sum up the challenge in one word it would be this: doable. So if you're on the fence, go for it. You'll be amazed when you cross that finish line.
Acclimation: Days 1-10
I firmly maintain that the first 10ish days of the challenge are the hardest. Depending on the consistency of your practice, the ramp up was pretty difficult, both physically and mentally. The first couple days I felt like I'd been run over by a bus and making the commitment to go every day felt foreign. Most of these issues go away after those first 10 days. And best of all, the commitment to go doesn't feel like a commitment at all. It's simply part of my day. Of course there are days when I'd rather not go, but it's not an option. It's just something I do.
Bikram Yoga is different every single day. I'd have one of my best classes and the next day I'm struggling through every posture. Some of it's weather (the room isn't hermetically sealed so humidity can play a factor) and some of it's what's going on internally that day. Did you eat? Are you hydrated enough? Slept enough? The list of variables is endless. When I finally accepted that every day is different and there really isn't a need to judge one day from another, my overall stress with the class itself drastically decreased. Instead of focusing on the comparison I started to focus on what my body was trying to tell me that day.
Needs v. Wants
One of my instructors encouraged us to figure out the difference between "needs vs. wants." "You want to wipe the sweat off; you don't need to." I try to keep this in mind during each class. Do I really need to sit a posture out or do I just find it frustrating? Do I really need water or is it just a distraction? You'd be surprise how much less miserable class is when you learn to ignore the "wants."
I really do have more energy, even immediately after class. I'm still having a hard time waking up in the mornings, but I think that's more attributable to my erratic schedule in general. My coffee consumption has drastically decreased. I still make myself a travel cup of coffee every morning, but I can't remember the last time I actually drank the entire cup. For some reason I just do not want it. For a self proclaimed coffee nut, this has been really strange.
Clearly I am infinitely more toned today than I was 30 days ago. I knew that I'd tone up, but I really didn't expect the change to be so drastic.
In terms of postures, I have drastically improved as well. I was already fairly decent at most of the postures, but after 30 straight days I can go deeper in each posture, for longer periods of time. One day I held standing head to knee for the entire minute, touched my forehead to my knee, held it there until "change", and came out of the posture in a completely controlled manner. I seriously wanted to shout for joy.
Standing Head to Knee Progression. Source: Bikram Yoga Dallas
It was little moments like that that really made the challenge worth the effort. Meeting new people and becoming friends with the other students was also something I really enjoyed. There's such an awesome camaraderie between everyone doing a challenge.
Favorite quotes I heard during the 30 days:
On the Challenge, "You just have to take it one day at a time; hell, sometimes you have to take it one posture at a time."
On Looking in the Mirror at Yourself, "It's not enough to suffer for 90 minutes; you have to watch yourself suffer."
Instructor: "Camel stimulates the nervous system, so whatever you're feeling right now..."
Random guy: "DEATH"
Instructor: ."...is perfectly normal."
On Bad Class Days, "I've seen better days, been the star of many plays, Ive seen better days...and the bottom drops out." I may or may not sing that to myself after bad classes. And by "may" I mean I absolutely do.
So where does one go after completing the 30 Day Challenge? The 60 Day Challenge, of course. Bring it on Bikram Yoga.