When I first took on this challenge of going to 30 Bikram Yoga classes in 30 days, I imagined when it was over that I would be letting out a huge sigh of relief, while collapsing on the couch exhausted and a little bit shriveled from all the sweating.
Instead, I came home, greeted my cat and sat down to watch Glee (because they have new episodes on Netflix, finally) and toasted myself with a glass of champagne for nostalgia’s sake. Reflecting on my journey from my familiar spot on the couch felt just right; there’s no better measure for progress than going back to where I started.
Towards the end of week three, after taking a 6 a.m. class, which is still too painful to describe, my body started to rebel. I was also profoundly aware of the pressure of trying to make room in my day for more yoga; I didn’t want to even hear the word “yoga.” I kept saying to myself, “I’m never going to make it through another week of this madness.”
Then I remembered my rowing coach who’s a former Olympic rower and the first lightweight woman to break seven minutes in a standard two-kilometer race on a rowing machine (which is fucking incredible) and all the hell she put us through during winter training. I used to hate to run, especially early in the morning and she loved to make us run before the sun came up, occasionally with a jump-rope (read: disaster). One particular morning we were running a trail that had about two miles of incline right at the beginning when she came bounding up behind me (after my significant head-start) and said, “I just want you to think about cresting. Just think about making it to the top of this hill and don’t worry about whether there’s another hill or not. You also need to use your arms.”
While she trotted up the hill, leaving me far behind, she might not have realized that she gave me great advice for running as I grew to enjoy it enough to do a half marathon (with LOTS of hills), but it was also perfect for life in general. I’ve been hit or miss with my ability to stick with things over the years, yoga being no exception, and since that icy, hilly run, I’ve come a long way. During this 30-day challenge, I’ve wanted to quit for a variety of reasons a number of times. What’s surprising is that no matter what excuse I came up with for skipping a class, I never let it stop me. “I really want to just stay home in my cozy socks and watch a movie” is what I muttered to my cat as I drug myself out the front door pretty much every Saturday and Sunday, but I still did it.
This challenge has re-inspired me to chase life with more enthusiasm, love myself, and to just keep moving along knowing that I’ll make it to the top of the hill eventually, especially if I use my arms (or all my available resources). A phrase that I’ve heard often in Bikram classes is “the right way is the hard way and the only way around is through,” which only really sunk in after this challenge. I’ll be busy applying this one to the rest of my life as often as possible.
A few tips for surviving 30 days of Bikram Yoga:
- You will be using a lot of towels and owning fewer than seven is a set-back. You can always rent them from the studio, but the idea of using a previously used towel (especially a Bikram sweat-drenched one) is too much for me, kind of like hospital food and public pools.
- If possible, have someone who can help you stay motivated on the hardest days. Even though the challenge was very personal, it felt nice to have someone on my team who could talk me off the ledge when I needed it.
- Listen to your body and keep pushing your limits gently. With the constant stretching and strengthening, there will be many, many surprises and it’s important to take it slow and be aware of how different your body is every time you step into class.
- Let go of ideas about how you think you should “progress” both in class and outside of it. The only thing to worry about is just showing up and doing your best every day. This journey is about you intentionally committing to take care of yourself for 30 days; let the rest go and enjoy the ride.
A special thank you to my dear friend who kept his own challenge going on the East Coast; I’ve appreciated his support more than I can say. Also, thank you to one student in particular from the studio who was cheering me on for this (and the little tree air freshener for that Bikram studio smell that’s lingering in my car):