Yoga Tip: Flexibility – Ebb & Flow – The Making of a Yogi Part 10
In my late twenties my body had stiffened from years as a gym rat … playing pick-up basketball or running every day (including Sundays) and weightlifting … the result of maintaining my regular workout-fix was a seemingly fit body … tone, low body fat, great second wind, decent stamina, stiff brittle hamstrings & a lower back screaming for change … every morning was a Sisyphean struggle to get out of bed. Typically I would roll fetal-style onto my knees at a glacial pace & move hips back and forth until the stiffness released. One morning in Singapore was so painful that I didn’t think I’d be able to get up from the floor. I knew that I had to do something. When I got back to the States, I ignored the pain and continued my daily routine of going to the gym for another year. I had just made up my mind that it was normal to wake up with nasty pain and living with an ever-stiffening body. Then my girlfriend suggested I try yoga.
Back then I didn’t know about heated Bikram yoga. When I met Bikram in 1992, I got a week intensive of 2 1/2 hours classes twice a day which was extraordinary and life changing. But then my practice was sporadic because I didn’t have a Bikram studio nearby. I had to heat my own room. Eventually I started teaching Bikram classes on the second floor of a converted schoolhouse just so that I could practice. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Those first years practicing Kripalu yoga helped me release enormous reservoirs of pent-up emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, desire that helped my lower back and opened up my heart. I learned so much about the depths of yoga off the yoga mat: Chanting, pranayama, the guru-disciple relationship, the spiritual values, living in community with hundreds of yogis at Kripalu Center. With all my dedication to yoga practice I couldn’t sit still for more than 30 minutes without experiencing back pain, my shoulders were so stiff that I had not made a dent in correcting a dent in the pigeon-chest posture I had developed from childhood, my hamstrings were still locked up. In short, though I was tapping into a lifestyle with tremendous spiritual and emotional depth, my body was still living inside a straitjacket.
Opening Yoga Passion represented a huge shift in the relationship with my body. In these first two years I have taught approximately 1500 yoga classes & I have seen many miracles in our humble yoga studio. For me, the biggest shift occurred 3-6 months after I returned from Bikram’s 2-month teacher training. During this time I went out of my way to take as many classes as possible to maintain the momentum of doing 2 classes per day from the training. The transformation has been extraordinary. I own a new pair of shoulders. Just ask anyone from the training. Every teacher in LA was shouting at me to bring my hands back in Half Moon & keep my arms up in Balancing Stick & squeeze my shoulders together in Half Tortoise. At times it felt like I wearing a neon sign on my back that read, “Yell louder next time!” While my Half Moon is not textbook perfect, it is so radically improved that teachers from training have gone out their way to comment on the dramatic improvement. My hamstrings, hips, and spine feel soooooo much longer.
Approaching my 40th b-day my overall body posture is completely realigned. On occasion I can actually sit in full lotus (something completely inconceivable 10 years ago). Is there room to improve? Of course. But that’s the fun of making a lifelong commitment to my yoga practice. The majority of individuals who are drawn to teach Bikram HotCore yoga DO NOT POSSESS “LONG LITHE YOGA BODIES” splashed across Yoga Journal. Many of us come to Bikram HotCore yoga because we have already tried conventional methods of rehabbing through chronic conditions or injuries. So we tend to understand on a personal level the extraordinary efforts necessary to rebuild a stiff injured human body. It is this empathy which helps us serve people of every age, body type, & level of readiness. And we know it is possible to gain flexibility over time (even if we’ve never experienced before). In other words I am more flexible now that I have ever been (even as a small child, I was stiff). In the heat & 26 postures Miracles happen daily. Join us & experience the miracles for yourself. Once you will earn your newfound health and vitality … hopefully you will remember the pain and misery of inhabiting a stiff body … so that you remain committed to your practice … the benefits are so wonderful.