Hello Dear Readers,
I hope that you have had a beautiful week since we last met. In my almost 30 years as a practitioner of yoga, I’ve approached many different styles and disciplines of practice.
I’ve settled on Bikram as being the practice most beneficial for so many reasons and I hope you enjoy my sharing these reasons with you.
Even when I don’t have access to a proper hot room, I use music that motivates me into a sweat and flow through my 26 postures as best I can.
So it was new and also surprising to me when I had my first class with Ambiya Binta and she talked a lot about pain. Encouraged us to go deep and not be afraid of the pain. And that pain is where we grow from. Wait whaaaaa? Looking at her, I didn’t doubt that she was VERY very serious and all I was hearing was “pain, pain, pain!” My inner voice does not always cooperate. Does that ever happen to you? You try to focus and your inner voice gets belligerent and sassy on you? So there I was trying to absorb what Ambiya was saying and my inner voice was saying “What you talkin’ ‘bout ladeee!?” – OK. Actually my inner voice was screaming that. I talked myself down to a quiet whine and continued to struggle and focus on where she might be leading us that day.
I remember my very first class at Bikram Yoga Takoma Park. I had been released to start practicing again after surgery for a complete tear of my rotator cuff. I walked into the studio with my exercise stick and cheerfully explained to Kendra Blackett- Dibinga that I “needed it, to practice”. She looked at me kindly and with interest (translation, quizzically- lol) and let me know that she preferred I do the class without the stick. She was pleasantly firm about this, but made the declaration as if it was ultimately up to me. Although my body considered practicing without my stick, exactly impossible at that time, her calm and kind, yet strong demeanor made my spirit really want to try so I entered that 105 degree room with no stick!
That first day back was killer pain but it obviously didn’t kill me.
My surgery at this point in time is considered an epic fail. Rotator cuff repair has no guarantees and I knew that going into it. And I still struggle. I come to tears. I feel pain. And miraculously it only makes me try harder. Through the heat, I know one day, I will move this shoulder freely. The lessons always transcend beyond the mat readers. The confidence I got from doing a class without that stick the first time was game changing.
Valerie Sjoberg, L,ac, at the Chopra Institute, was recently helpful in outlining physical pain as a teacher;
- Create a POSITIVE STORY from the pain.
- BREATHE and SOFTEN through the pain.
- LISTEN and OBSERVE during the pain.
- FEEL COMPASSION about the pain.
- LET GO of CONTROL over the pain.
Consider this, have you ever had an ‘aha moment’ or a breakthrough or revelation while life was ‘Pina Coladas on the beach’? No – Not really… So Ambiya is encouraging us to go there – to the pain, through the pain, for the pain – in order to grow in our asanas and as beings. Encouraging us, challenging us. I expressed shoulder movement like I had never done before in that class. I was quaking and shaking through Trikanasana, triangle pose. And when I got to what used to be one of my most beautiful poses (prior to my injury) to fully express – Ustrasana, camel pose (and that’s #21 of the 26), Ambiya was still encouraging us, praising us and then she said,
“The choice is yours. Do your best. You can do a perfect pose or a perfect Savasana – anytime. You can choose to do a perfect Savasana”
…and then she detailed what a perfect Savasana was really all about and how she knew if we were doing that correctly. It was a deep and beautiful, mind-tripping kind of experience.
Thank you Ambiya for the guidance!
You need to be in the community of a Bikram class at Takoma Park, Riverdale Park or Ivy City to experience for yourself and I’ll keep writing about it here.
The next day, when I felt the kind of soreness that is delicious to us as practitioners. The remembrance of the pain that I had experienced and pushed through that previous day, led me to a few new and wonderful discoveries about myself. I wish it for you too.
Until next week, with all my heart,