Sally Bird

When did you start doing Bikram?
It was 8 years ago when I was 17 years old in Byron Bay, Australia.

And why did you first come?
I started practising Bikram yoga during my HSC. I was living out of home, working full time and studying most classes distance education to try to juggle it all. I’m extremely high energy and that turned into extreme anxiety quite easily with all the pressures, dead lines and fears of failure. Regular yoga always frustrated me. It never calmed me down because I was too in my mind and always thinking. Bikram yoga was intense enough that even when I was exhausted to the point where I forgot how hard outside the room was and just concentrated on trying not to die during class. It taught me to survive discomfort and to rest when I wanted to quit. Not leaving the room was a struggle for years but I learnt after time that if I stayed my mind would learn to cope and my body would follow suit. It definitely reduced my anxiety. As I learnt (and continue to learn) that I cannot control the heat but I can control my mind’s reaction to the heat I grow more confident in myself and my abilities, inside and outside of the room.

Do you do other sports/ exercise?
Yes, I run and I also do a little bit of jujitsu and Thai boxing.

Does yoga help with those?
I can confidently say I can land a head kick on a 6ft gentlemen with ease thanks to my flexibility aided by Bikram yoga.

You frequently practice more than once a day. What do you get from that?
I’m results driven and curious really. I just want to see what will happen and if I can do it. I practiced four classes yesterday, morning and afternoon doubles. That was mostly because it was a Monday and every Monday after a big weekend I remember my first ever Bikram yoga teacher, Norma, giving me a hard time in front of the entire class when I was 18 and half drunk from the night before in a 6am saying “for everyone jagger bomb you had last night Sally I want you to practice one extra class this week!” Now I don’t know what you did when you were freshly 18, but I personally used to indulge in a solid 5-10 jagger bombs on a Friday night and dance until the lights came on in the club at 3am. Only once did I made the mistake of going to her 6am class after a night out just because I was still awake and lived around the corner from the studio and thought it would be a fun idea. #facepalm

What do you like about the Brookvale studio?
Oh where to begin. I love the Brookvale studio! I’ve practiced in London, Bali, LA, all over Sydney and in Byron and hands down Brookvale is the stand out. I had heard all about “the mother ship” from other studios and was over the moon when I met Jodie and all the beautiful instructors at this studio. I was thinking just the other day in class this is the one studio where I don’t have a favourite teacher. Normally I kind of end up aiming to attend the classes with teachers whose practice I gravitate towards but every single teacher at this studio offers something slightly different, they all care so much and make every single class worth it.

What changes do you see in yourself when you practice yoga regularly?
I notice I tone up quickly when I’m consistent and my flexibility improves dramatically. The cardio is also super impressive, I notice how much easier my runs become. I work away for at least 6 months of the year though so my practice is a bit of a yo-yo.

Overall, what’s the best thing about Bikram yoga for you?
The way I feel after a class. Getting there is hard some days, when I’m tired or angry, but I always feel sooo much better after a class.0

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How to do Rabbit pose (sasangasana)

Rabbit is one of the hardest postures to do, initially because you cannot see what you are doing!

Sometimes, we give up in our heads before we’ve even started a pose because we find the posture difficult. We decide that it will be hard and so we don’t give ourselves the best chance. There is one simple way to change this.

It is by paying 100% attention to the setup, the start of the posture. This gives you focus, stills your monkey mind (your own worst enemy!) and gives you the instructions necessary to execute the posture to the best of your ability on that day.

Once you understand Rabbit’s set up you will get so much more out of this fabulous posture.

By the time you arrive at Rabbit your spine is very warmed up. Joints are more mobile and comfortable, ready to take on one of the most radical and effective postures of the 26.

Benefits of Rabbit

Rabbit extends the spine and compresses the organs in the front of the body. It does a tremendous job of increasing the mobility of the whole spine, feeding the nervous system and relieving tension in the neck, shoulders and back.

Rabbit is one of the best postures for insomnia, depression and anxiety.

How to set up Rabbit 

Sit down on your heels. Knees together. Hips on your heels, ankles flat on the floor.

The GRIP

  • Flick your towel over your heels so that you have a dry strong grip.
  • Grab your heels over your towel, thumbs outside, fingers inside your foot.
  • In the beginning this grip can be awkward because your shoulders and wrists are a little tight. Don’t worry, in time these things will loosen!

THE CHIN

  • Tuck your chin in to your chest and hold your stomach in.
  • Keeping your hips down on your heels, slowly round into yourself. Think of your back curling round, nose to belly button.
  • The second you see your stomach keep looking at it. HOLD IT IN!
  • You are trying to get your forehead to your knees and top of the head on the floor.

THE MOVE

  • Adjust your grip now so it is strong.
  • Holding your stomach in, pull on your heels so that your hips lift up to the ceiling.
  • In the beginning, you may feel like this will be almost impossible. Like you are stuck in this position and nothing will move. Again, be patient because this will change as you practice regularly.
  • You will be surprised one day when you pull and your hips do rise beautifully towards the ceiling!

Now you must KEEP PULLING. This is the key to this posture.

Tips to help when you are in the posture

If your forehead is not touching your knees, walk the knees forward. In the start, this might be tricky. Your lower back feels tight, belly is in the way. Each time you come to class, you must try. Keep your stomach in and walk one then the other knee forward.

Keep your chin tucked into your chest.

Walking your knees forward starts to stretch your lower back gently. It’s relatively easy to stretch the upper back in rabbit, you want the whole spine to stretch.

There shouldn’t be too much weight on the head. Keep pulling on your heels to lessen that weight.

If you are practising a while, and rabbit feels more comfortable, bring your heels together. Both heels equally, and hold them tight.

And finally, one last time, the two key elements to make rabbit work for you – keep pulling on your heels and sucking your stomach in!

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The Story of My first 31 Day Challenge

When I did my first Bikram Challenge in 2006 I had been doing Bikram yoga for 5 years, coming a couple of times a week. I didn’t see myself as a sporty person, I certainly wasn’t a bendy person, I was just an ordinary, not very brave, mother of a 6 month old girl who wanted to get fit, toned and strong again and handle my new job (motherhood!).  I had no plans to do Bikram yoga every day for 31 days. But I am very very glad I did!  I wrote this at the time and unearthed it on my PC last week. So here’s how it happened and the story of my challenge…

Why I did a Challenge

The day before I started this challenge, I wouldn’t have believed I could have

Just before the Challenge

Just before the Challenge

done it.  Not only because of the logistics of physically getting to class every day (in fact that would be an excuse not a reason), but because I couldn’t imagine how I would cope with being in that hot room every day, every single day, not one break, for an entire month.

But when Jodie asked if I’d do the official challenge the school was running later in the year, I had to say yes, because she was giving me NO EXCUSES.  Jodie accepts nothing less than your best!  And so the seed was sown. Then that same day I mentioned it to a friend and she suggested I start the challenge that very day rather than waiting, I thought well, I’ve already done the 6am, I’m one class down.  The hardest thing in life is making a decision.

Once I’d committed to doing it, that was it, I was DOING IT.  There was no going back, there were no excuses, I was going to go every day for 31 days.  The first few days were pretty tough, not in the classroom but in my head.  I found it difficult to sleep, I think I was anxious about what I’d taken on. I was doing yoga postures in my sleep, and unfortunately it wasn’t savasana! 

I had no expectations about what to expect from the challenge.  I suppose secretly I hoped that I would lose weight and that my standing bow would be almost the standing splits.  Well anyway, I lost weight…..

I just went every day, there was no time to not look forward to going, like I did when I was going 2-3 times a week.  There was no option.  I couldn’t say, oh, I’m too tired, too busy, too lazy.  So that was good because it took the daily decision out of going.  In some ways it made the act of going to practice easier because I didn’t have to think about it.  And when I was in the class, the classes were definitely better, more consistently focused and stronger.

I saw some changes immediately.  My balancing poses for instance.   My balance just got better.  Interestingly in the last 3 -4 days of the challenge it all went pear-shaped.  Have no expectations.

Pranayama was better, I didn’t hate it anymore, it really felt like set up for class.

The Shock of Trying to do Things the Right Way!

Other things took a while.  I’ve never kept my heels together properly in the spine-strengthening series. And fortunately (in hindsight), Jodie pointed out this to me in no uncertain terms on day 2 –

“Why are your heels not together?” I think she said.  I think I apologized!

So now I had a focus and oh, man was that tough.  To keep my heels together for me, with my hips and legs the way they were, felt like trying to rotate them so that my knee-caps faced the ceiling, but without the pain.  It just felt weird.  But I persevered, despite the humiliation of no longer being able to soar like an aeroplane or curve my spine like a cobra. Like anyone’s looking at me!

Cobra was the biggest shock.  If I genuinely kept my heels together, I could barely get anything off the ground anymore, let alone my floating rib.  So for a few days, there I was on the floor barely moving, and then one day, I think Kaz was teaching and she got me to move my hands down a little, it suddenly clicked into place.  It was like my legs and hips went “Oh, you want me to do THIS!!” and I came up to where I used to be able to go, and my legs felt strong and powerful and my heels were still together!  YEAH!!

It began to occur to me that perhaps a lot of my physical “problems” were linked to this little quirky thing, that maybe wasn’t so little after all. That just keeping my heels together would start to fix my continually pulled hamstring, my squint hips, my sore shoulder and neck.

How Things started to Change

Over the 31 days, I gradually began to feel muscles in the legs working to help me, and supporting my back as it used its huge muscles to raise my torso up.

Despite practicing for 5 years, I’d always hated, feared the belly-down series.  I felt like a lead weight.  Now in my challenge, I really did feel like I had Denise’s helium balloons lifting me up.  I could breathe in the postures, I wasn’t just holding on, waiting for that beautiful word “change”.

The dialogue became more important to me, because I really was there with a purpose.  I had 31 days to change my world!  And when I listened, I learnt so much.  Often in the past I realized I’d switched off, because I knew what I was doing (allegedly!) and just put myself through the paces, but I’m learning loads by learning to listen.  Here’s a few things I need to remember:

  • In back bending poses, lift your heart up to the ceiling and imagine your shoulder blades are being wrapped around your spine.  Think of stretching the front of your body, don’t just focus on the bend in your back.
  • In Locust pose, Alex reminded us that single leg lifts are warm-ups for the double leg lift pose.  If you can get one leg that high, there’s no reason you can’t get both up. That’s the theory anyway!
  • I’ve really started to watch my hips in poses like Eagle, Tree and standing separate Leg stretching (coming down), to make sure my hips are aligned. In fact also Standing head to knee.
  • Standing and floor Bow I realized that I didn’t really really kick back.  I heard “equal and opposite” but I was thinking more about the arm than the leg because I used to not think about the arm at all.  So I started kicking back and felt much more balanced and grounded in the earth, rather than flailing slightly above it!

Some Notes from my Challenge Diary

Day 2 “Class was strange – I was obsessed with my horrible doughy stomach – has it always looked that bad?….Felt intensely aware that I have 29 more classes to get through. Not a great thought!”

Day 5 “still feeling really tired, despite 12 hours in bed! Going to increase magnesium. I nevertheless had a lovely class with very good focus…”

Day 6 “Today for the first time I feel quite confident about the challenge. I think I’ve settled into it a bit and believe it is possible.”

Day 7 “Today I actually feel normal – better than, I feel great!”

Day 8 “I’m sleeping fine now.”

Day 11 “I noticed today that when I stand my head tips slightly to the left.”

Day 13  ”Tonight’s class was HOT. I mean I got through it and possibly my aches make my stamina less, but mentally, I found it really hard. Definitely hardest since start. My neck and shoulder was really aching this morning. I resorted to denkorub and was overjoyed with the improvement but in class I felt it aching, especially after half tortoise.”

Day 14  “Stiffest class yet…I was so stiff though, which was weird considering I was in a class only 12 hours before….I’ve felt very energized all day too.  Probably best yet. ”

Day 16  “I don’t feel like I’m much better in the poses, but I feel more able to focus on the poses and me, my body, in them – rather than just getting through the class.”

Day 17 “I have had a great day energy wise.  I feel bouncy and light and have been busy and inspired.”

Day 18 ”My body feels like it’s turned a corner.”

Day 19 “I feel completely comfortable with yoga everyday now. In fact I enjoy it and look forward to challenging my body and mind.  I think I’ll miss it when it’s over!”

Day 22 “My upper back, around my scapula, was aching a week ago, in fact on and off during the entire challenge.  Now it’s OK.  The shoulder/neck pain I always got after half tortoise, camel and rabbit – NO MORE!”

Day 25  ”I occasionally get this peace come over me in class…it’s the 90 minute meditation Bikram talks about.  It’s not easy.  I can’t try and do it; in fact, it’s the opposite.  I have to try and let go.  Don’t think just do. Don’t analyse, listen to the dialogue.”

Day 27 “Two in one day!  The thought of it was much worse than the reality. 6.00 was fine, so NOT hot.  Tonight however was sweltering and although therefore much harder, so much more satisfying.  My energy wasn’t great…but I didn’t pull my shoulder and I feel great now.”

Day 28 “Ugh. Had been expecting a good class but was worst in challenge.  Lay out of 3 sets.  Was just so not coping, it was weird. I expected after 28 days – Well the lesson is to have NO expectations.  It is all a journey!  I felt fantastic for the rest of the day of course.”

Day 29 “My balance wasn’t great tonight. Perhaps standing in the middle of the room – too much pressure to perform! Also, now I’m near the end of the challenge.  I feel more like I did when I went 2 days/week.  I know my postures have changed, but mentally I’m a bit back to normal.”

Day 30 “I’ve really learnt that, just because I’d done yoga every day for 31 days, it won’t make my practice any better than the person next to me, than the day before, it makes me understand ME more.  That’s all.  It’s the same leg you’re balancing on as the night before, so why is it stronger/weaker than then?  It’s the MIND.”

11 July 06

After the Challenge

Day 31 LAST DAY “So I walked out at the end of the class and just wanted to cry.  I never expected this emotion. It was like complete relief, combined with disbelief that I’d done it.  And pride.  But I felt like a shell.  Like I’d been holding it all together for 31 days, and now I could just LET GO. Which is I suppose, the thing I always want to be able to do.  So Bikram fixed that?! I sat in the corner outside and sobbed quietly.  I really wanted to sob loudly, but I waited till I was in the car to do that!

Gosh I felt different.  I think it was elation.  I felt this absolute sense of achievement, there was no question I’d done something I never thought I could do.  I felt calm, satisfied – peaceful.  I’d reached my goal!

In my diary there is a lot of talk about the pains I was suffering.  There was always something bothering me, but they all worked their way out, as long as I was aware in my practice.  Sometimes it was a pain from using a part of my body I hadn’t used much, so more of an ache.  Sometimes it was a genuine pain, but I really had to address what I was doing with my body in my practice to cause it, because I know it’s not the postures themselves causing the pain, it’s the way I use my body.  So for instance, in pranayama, I would raise my shoulders, not just my torso, and ended up with aching shoulders.  So for a while, I just didn’t bring my elbows up as high, while I retrained my body how to relax my shoulders and lift my whole body up more.

Today

Looking back I realise that doing this challenge changed everything about the yoga for me. I honestly never thought I could do Bikram Yoga every day, and I certainly never thought I could become a Bikram Yoga Teacher, although in my deepest heart, I realise that I really really wanted to. The challenge changed me to the point where, 3 years later I felt brave enough to see my heart and follow my heart. In November 2010 I qualified as a Bikram Yoga Teacher.  This yoga has really and truly changed things about me I didn’t know you could change.

Ten years on, I’m now 47 and my yoga practice has continued to grow and change me – physically, emotionally. I don’t practice every day, but I do make sure I practice 3 – 4 times every week. As I’ve got older it feels even more important for my overall health (back, hips, especially I feel if I don’t practice) and I can honestly say that I feel better now than I did when I was 28. No doubt! However cliched it sounds, we say it because it’s true – I am SO grateful that I have found this yoga. I don’t believe there is anything quite like it.

Kim MacKechnie

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My Back to Bikram Experience!

by Michelle SimpsonMichelle Simpson

One morning I woke with yet another headache. Every second to third day I was waking with screaming headaches.  I had been going to my physio on a regular basis over the past year which definitely helped but the situation was not fixed. This particular morning I had enough!  I thought, “this has to stop and I’m the only one that can fix this”.  On the spot I decided to go back to Bikram.

I had stopped Bikram when I became pregnant with my son and so it had been about 2 years since my last class at Brookvale.  I took myself along, signed up for the month and headed for the room.  As I approached that Essence of Bikram hit me and immediately a loud crazy voice in my head screamed “OH NO, what were you thinking?!?”.

I walked into the room and an even louder voice… “You have GOT to be KIDDING, did you NOT remember how HOT this place was!”

Day 1  I survived!  

It went surprisingly well. After the initial shock of the heat I focused on following and it was OK.  The most significant moment was doing the Locust Pose where you turn your arms towards the floor and lay on your arms.  I was in excruciating pain and couldn’t bare my own weight.  This was so significant for me as I used to be able to do this pose, it was a defining moment that I had to establish a regular practice again.

Day 2 and 3 OMG I was sooooooo stiff and sore, I was questioning taking myself back to the torture chamber but I was determined to do a few days in a row.

Day 4 was a turning point, I was starting to feel good and decided to keep coming back.  I hadn’t planned to do a challenge but knew it was good to do a number of days in a row getting back into Bikram so decided to aim for 5 to 7 days.

Day 6 I went into the class with such high spirits. After 5 days of Bikram I was feeling amazing.  Guess what happen on day 6?  I was able to bare weight on my arms in the Locust Pose!

Day 7 was great and I decided “Well I’m at day 7, might as well go to 10 now” but the rest of the day I was exhausted.  I had the biggest energy slump since I started and struggled with the idea of going back the next day but I had already committed in my head to 10 days… so off I went!

Day 8 to 10  I was glad I dragged myself back as every day I was just feeling amazing and it was easy to go back each day (with enthusiasm).  I got to day 10 and it was basically…. “I’ve got this far, I might as well go for 14 days”.  The detoxing and the increased vitality I was feeling made it an easy decision.  I had not had a single piece of junk food, I was eating well and hadn’t craved anything sugary since I started.  Paul was a great support, encouraging me to keep going and chatting to me about food. In fact, all the teachers were awesome. Everyone was so supportive and I really felt welcomed back.

Day 11  After class – Yep another big slump day but… I still went back….

Days 12 to 14  Every day I was just feeling amazing, I was looking forward to each session and believe it or not I had to stop myself from going!  At that point I could have gone on and contemplated going to day 20.  I would have but by this stage I was so busy and things had got crazy as I hadn’t planned to do 14 days straight of Bikram so I had to do some serious catching up!

How would I describe the 14 Day Back to Bikram Experience?

I was really happy I had completed 14 days.  I felt fantastic and couldn’t believe how well, vibrant and energized I felt and no surprise – I had not had a single headache for 14 days!  For the next 14 days I continued going every second day and I’m still going regularly.

Reflecting on when I use to go a couple of years back compared to today, now I seem to be able to focus on the teacher’s instructions whereas previously it was over and over in my head…”it’s too hot, when are they going to open the window/door, when is the floor exercises, when is this going to end etc etc”.  It’s great knowing I can go to yoga and focus on what I’m there for (not saying there isn’t other chatter that cuts in every now and again but it is not usually heat related).

BikramsBrookie (147 of 53)Lastly, the whole month since I’ve come back for some unknown reason I’ve struggled with Standing separate leg head to knee pose. As Jodie would say, I have a relationship with this pose.

I have no idea why I struggle mentally and physically with it.  After a month of Bikram I decided I must just be trying too hard and, low and behold…our relationship is getting better!

 

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Balancing Stick (Tuladandasana)

BikramsBrookie (57 of 106)One of the great things about this posture is that it is relatively simple for a beginner.  But be warned – by simple, we don’t mean easy! One of the most challenging postures to do as a beginner, this posture builds mental and physical resilience, is a great calorie burner and will tone the entire body.

How to set it up?

Stretch tall in the set-up, keep your arms and head together and stomach in. Try to keep your arms and head together the whole time, just like Paula is doing.

Keep both legs locked to provide a firm foundation for the rest of the body. When you are doing Tuladandasana, anchor your focus to a point in the mirror. This will help you to maintain your balance. When you come down keep your eyes still. You are focusing through the mirror, not on it.

Benefits of Balancing Stick

The forward tilt of your torso sends high-speed blood pouring into the heart, especially the neglected lower region, cleaning out the veins and all the arteries, therefore strengthening the heart muscle. The same rejuvenating flood rushes into the brain as well.

Like standing head-to-knee and standing bow-pulling pose before it, bringing the chest parallel to the floor helps to stimulate and strengthen the heart muscle giving huge cardiovascular benefit.

Your lower legs and particularly the inner muscles of your quadriceps (front of the thigh) will become stronger and will develop higher endurance. It requires extreme concentration and mental focus to hold the posture for the duration. 10 seconds can seem like a very long time!  By perfecting balance and body control, balancing stick strengthens physical, psychological, and mental powers.

Imagine you are trying to stretch your shoulders forward to the mirror. This posture is excellent for relieving any stress and tension along your entire spine. Your body posture will improve as well, as the muscles of your lower back and shoulders will be strengthened.

In fact, this posture is one of the best exercises for bad posture.

As you become stronger and more proficient in this posture, every muscle will be contracted in your body as you learn to concentrate your mind for 10 honest seconds.

Bikram says “The hardest thing in human life is to concentrate, even for ten seconds.”

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7 Tips for your first Bikram Yoga class from a new student

The truth about your first ever Bikram class!adjusted IMG_0983

We get new students coming to try out Bikram Yoga every day, and many curious phone calls and emails.  We know it’s a big deal, your first class, so we thought we’d share with you a blog from one of our brand new students. Bethany took her first class last week, so she really is fresh out of the box!

After months of being stubborn and making poor excuses, the need to include some sort of yoga practice into my training became more and more apparent as the winter months progresses. I heard a lot of tales about Bikram before I managed to pluck up the courage to take a class.... read more

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