How to get the Most from Camel Pose

Camel is a physical and emotional experience.camel on beach

When you get to camel your spine is warm and strengthened and ready to bend back with all the openness and vulnerability it demands. Your mind is open and receptive. Camel builds deep courage and trust.

Physically Camel Pose creates maximum compression of the spine which stimulates the nervous system. It also improves flexibility of the neck and spine, relieves backache and helps degenerative spinal problems such as kyphoscoliotic deformities and cervical spondylosis. Camel works to stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands. It flushes blood through the kidneys, regulating blood pressure and reducing excess stress hormones

How to set up Camel

Knees and feet 6 inches apart so you have a good solid base. In the beginning it may hurt even to stand on your knees, you’re getting used to this in the yoga though! Over time we promise that discomfort will pass.
Hands are at back of your hips with fingers facing down and thumbs out. This might feel a little tight in the beginning, because you are gently stretching deltoids and pecs, opening your shoulders.

The teacher will tell you to take a deep breath, push your hips forward and drop your head back. Take that breath! It lifts your chest as you bend back and push forward.
Now pause for a second with hands on hips. Then go for your heels, one hand at a time. In the beginning leaning back to try and search for your heels may feel a little scary. Always do one hand at a time. Thumbs out, fingers inside your foot.

Keep the left hand on your back till you find your right heel. When you grab your heel then you can lean into the left heel and grab it with your left hand.

If you tried but you can’t grab yet, stay in the first part of the posture with both hands on your back. Head dropped back and pushing hips forward. By staying here you get maximum benefits until you can grab your heels. Try to get your heels every time you go to class though.

When you do grab your heels for the first time it’s a great feeling. Now the hard work starts!

Constantly pushing your stomach, legs and hips forward to the mirror rather than leaning back on the heels will work to create 360 degree back bending. This creates strength and mobility in your spine. It will massage the organs in your abdominal area and begin to stretch the muscles across the hips.
Squeezing your bum – your glute muscles – is the key to get your stomach, legs and hips forward.
Keep your neck and head relaxed and eyes looking back, even into your forehead to encourage maximum opening in the throat.

The dizziness you might experience as a beginner is completely normal so try not to get anxious. Keep pushing your hips forward and breathing. The dizziness will pass.

Challenging as it might be, try to stay in the posture for the full duration.

Coming out the Posture
Although it’s tempting to rush, don’t! How you come out of the posture is just as important. One hand at a time back to the spine, ease yourself up – head up last. Don’t fling your head up.

Coming out of a deep back-bend, don’t be surprised if you experience a flood of emotions, possibly teariness, relief, disorientation, euphoria, peace. Camel is a huge heart opener, so be warned – you might just burst into tears although you don’t feel unhappy.

After Camel you move into Rabbit to create the most perfect spinal balance.1

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The Thing I love most about Bikram Yoga

I’m Evie and I’m now 23 years old.

34559160_10215457397366269_4580146295456399360_nMy parents had been doing Bikram yoga for yonks and I never thought twice about going with them (lame!). They always talked about it around the dinner table, cracking in-jokes about their class and the teachers. Once I finished high school, turned 19 and matured a little, I swallowed my pride and went along to a class with mum. Four years later and I’ve been coming pretty regularly ever since. Now every Monday Mum, Dad and I get into our yogi gear, hop in the car and go along together to our 5.30pm class – and it’s my favourite part of the day!

Originally I started because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about and find out who this ‘Jodie’ was. The first class was definitely a struggle. I prepared by drinking my entire weight in water and asking Mum and Dad a million questions like “What if I faint!?”. Their only response was “You can lie down for the entire class if you want – just breathe and make sure you stay in the room”. Which I did, and to this day I still sometimes have to say this to myself before going into the room.

I love Bikram yoga because of the amazing benefits I can see and feel it has on my body and mind. I’ve dabbled in many types of yoga since my first class four years ago, and yet I always come back to Bikram. The heat allows me to really open up and helps my flexibility. It also makes me sweat buckets which makes me feel like I’m getting a really good workout. But the biggest reason I come back is for my mind.

I’m a bit of a worry-wart. I get stressed and anxious about everything. Going through a double-degree at uni my mind was constantly running at a million miles per hour. It would take me houuurssss to get to sleep at night. I would lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, my mind running through all the things I had done that day, all the things that needed to be done tomorrow, and all the things that could potentially need to be done in the future. After only a week at Bikram, there was a noticeable difference in my sleeping. I was finally able to close my eyes, switch off and think about absolutely nothing. I learnt how to do this whilst in class, during the hour and a half where I’m focusing so much on the heat, getting through the postures and listening to the dialogue, that there’s no room in my brain to be thinking about anything else!

Bikram has had such an impact on my life in so many ways. But if there’s one thing I want to thank all the teachers at Bikram for, it would be helping me truly relax and improve my mental health. I would be completely lost (and extremely stressed out) without it.

Evie Sumpter0

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How Bikram Yoga helped me get through the HSC

We chatted to Sally Bird, a regular at Bikram Brookvale.

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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Why You Want to Practice Bikram Yoga in Summer (yes you do!)

  1. You’ll take your practice deeper. Keeping up your practice is the key to maintaining all thebabs-on-beach-in-triangler headway you made during the winter. It’d be a shame to lose all that range of motion you worked so hard for! In fact, your muscles, joints and ligaments will already be lovely and warm when you enter the studio, so you will likely find you’re more flexible and can go deeper into the postures during the summer. Take advantage of the summer months to increase your joint flexibility, core strength and spinal mobility and make gains in your emotional and mental practice.
  2. You’ll encourage good habits. Practising in the hot room encourages you to stay well hydrated and to replenish your electrolytes regularly. This can be a great benefit during the hot summer months. Warmer weather often means you have a lighter appetite, which can take your practice to a new level by relieving you of that ‘full’ feeling and letting you go much deeper into the postures to help with digestive health.
  3. You’ll be in better shape for summer recreation. By adjusting to the heat in the yoga room, you’ll be in top-notch shape for any summer sports or outdoors activities you like to do. If you make time for your yoga practice, you may notice that you don’t mind the heat and have more endurance when you’re running, biking, pushing the stroller, playing tennis or playing other sports outdoors. Bikram Yoga will increase your strength, stamina, balance and coordination too
  4. You’ll energize your body and mind. Often the summer months can leave us feeling a bit “fried,” both mentally and physically. We’ve all had days when the heat makes us feel super-sleepy and we can’t be bothered exercising.  Yet we know that yoga energizes the body and mind and provides us with so many health benefits. Committing to a strong summer practice will keep you from that sluggish summer feeling and give you quality time spent focused on your Self.
  5. You’ll manage the silly season better Sydney in summer is party time. There’s more barbeques, parties, drinks after work. from Melbourne Cup through to Australia Day. It’s great fun! Your body will thank you though if you continue to detox and cleanse by maintaining a regular practice. You may take it a little easier in the room, but you are still getting benefits. Putting less pressure on yourself can have surprising results (see reason #7)
  6. You’ll acclimatise to the heat outside. Practicing yoga during the summer months helps acclimatise you to the season’s heat and humidity. Your body learns to cool itself more efficiently and effectively through sweat. If you practice often enough, you may notice that outside weather doesn’t feel as hot as it used to, that you don’t need your air conditioning as much, and that you don’t mind being outside as much when it’s sweltering.
  7. You’ll surprise yourself. That relaxed ‘can’t-be-bothered’ attitude can transform into a relaxed and therefore enhanced practice. We all remember a class where we came in expecting very little and walked out feeling amazing? Same sort of thing applies here.
  8. You will tone up for the summer. Burning 500 – 800 calories per class will get you buff in all the right places.  You will look great and feel more comfortable and confident all summer long!

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The one thing that can help your Yoga practice!

Sometimes it can be frustrating as a beginner or even as a regular practitioner to feel like you aren’t moving forward in your yoga practice.

It can be physical, mental and emotional walls we face. I personally believe that we need to understand the fundamental parts of the body that need to connect and work together. The “core” or what ancient yogis harnessed and mastered over time are called “bandha systems”.

This is what we are essentially trying to tap into and use. By understanding the importance of our core stability in our yoga practice we become increasingly in control of our long term health, longevity and wellbeing. Learning about your body and mind can have a ripple effect into your discipline as a yoga practitioner and can help to change your attitude and approach to life holistically.

At the end of the day it’s important to feel we have a choice to be in control of our minds and bodies. We have a choice to be responsible for our own health and wellbeing. For ourselves, our family and our community.

And this starts from going back to the core.bikrams16library-177-of-181

love Kash

Kash Bazil

Bikram Yoga Teacher and Core Devotee1

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The Story of the Tin Woman who fixed her broken knees (and broken heart)

This is the story of Kassie who has a lot of challenges in her life. Kassie sees herself as a bit of a rough diamond. She’s 53, works in child-care, is a divorced mother of two and grandmother of one.

How did you hear about Bikram Yoga?

I was introduced to it by a gym instructor.

When did you start Bikram Yoga?

I started in 2006 at the age of 42 because I had a very, very busy mind and no flexibility. I was a bit of a gym junkie and I needed to try and learn to be still. My 32 year marriage had ended and I was devastated.  I needed to sort myself out, I was broken.

You had a serious ski-ing accident last year. What happened?

I had such a bad accident I was off work for a year. I blew out both my knees’ ACLs, fractured both my patellas (knee caps) and tore the medial meniscii in both.  I really was a mess.

When did you come back to yoga?

So my accident was Feb 2015, and I was operated on very soon after. I came back in June 2016, 8 weeks after my second operation.

How often are you coming?

3 times a week

What was it like when you first came back?20160713_103847

Before the accident, I was pretty flexible and strong. I found it quite easy in the room, if I’m honest**. But coming back, I could barely stand up in the room. I couldn’t even lift my arms up, they felt like lead! But by the end of the first class back, I felt that I’d been hit by the yoga bus but I was back. I was smiling, I felt soooo good!!

So how were the knees?

I couldn’t do any kind of cardio at all, so yoga was really, really good because it was getting my heart rate up. In the beginning it was so painful even to put my weight on my knees, I would always start the pose correctly though and go to where I could go.  The teachers talk about “red light” pain and I followed their guidance and felt so safe to just move little by little to where I could. Some days were better than others but I understand from experience that every day is a different practice and I always feel so blessed to be walking in the room and know that long term, the knees are really getting better.  Plus I’ve been back 3 weeks and I’ve lost 3 kgs which is also helping my knees.

My specialists have told me that a lot of the pain is caused by the scarring and doing my yoga the pain would lessen.

The most important posture for you Kassie?

I did 12 months of rehab but I feel that I’m gaining more benefits from coming to yoga 3 times a week. The standing balancing postures are very hard for me but I know that they are the most important because they are rebuilding all the muscles around the knee, especially the VMO which stabilises the whole knee joint.

Did you find that stillness you were looking for?

I was learning the stillness before, but having the accident and feeling so blessed to be back in the room and back at work after a year in rehab at Delmar Hospital, 4 days a week, it felt easy to be still. That might not make sense but the accident put things in perspective, the ego went because I just felt so blessed to be in the land of the living!

Your mum has been ill for quite a few years. Tell me about that Kassie.

Mum’s been in a nursing home for 4 years in a vegetative state, she’s only 74. She was diagnosed with dementia at 50. That’s another reason I keep doing yoga. I’m 53.

How does the yoga help you handle what you are going through with your mum?

Mum can’t speak or use any part of her body. I feel like I’ve lost her but she’s still here. When I’m in the yoga room the outside world stops and I’m just there working on a particular pose. I really do understand now that it is a 90 minute meditation. I don’t think about the heat. I don’t think about the people around me, I’m facing my demons looking in the mirror just being in the moment.

What do you mean facing the demons?

I have a skin disease called vitiligo, it’s a loss of pigment brought on by a lot of trauma in my life. After the accident my skin got worse. Now that I’m practicing yoga again and feeling calm, my skin is improving.

Anything else you love about the yoga Kassie?

I met the man of my dreams here!!

Besides helping with your knee recovery, what has been the biggest thing Bikram Yoga has given you?

20160713_105904

My journey in this life is having faith in myself.  Learning to love myself, it’s
good to be different, but I feel different because of my skin and I’ve got to learn to accept my difference and be OK with it.  At home I avoid mirrors so looking in the mirror in the room is very confronting and I didn’t used to ever look in it. Now, I stare that mirror down!

 

 

 

Interview with Kim MacKechnie

July 2016

**Maybe you recognise Kassie from this backbending video we posted on Facebook. This was pre-accident.0

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Learn How to Love Triangle!

“Triangle is the key posture to bring faith back to the spirit” – Bikram

Of all the postures in the standing series, this one can be the most challenging. It requires determination and focus but the pay off? So many benefits!

Your overall strength and muscle tone will increase tremendously building equal amounts of strength AND flexibility through the hips, pelvis, shoulders and torso. Whichever quality your body needs you will feel in this tremendously powerful posture. Just do the best you can and remember to breathe.

Ultimately in any yoga posture, the more you are willing to work, the easier it will become.

8 important Points to help make Triangle easier

  • Take a big step, 4 feet minimum!

Many people especially when they start, don’t take a wide enough step. Look 20160706_163257how wide apart Brandon’s legs are in the pic on the right.

  • In the set up, stretch your arms apart and lift your chest up

This engages your core. Your upper body support starts from your core – your whole pelvis is included. Think of sucking the whole area up. Not just in. Your pelvic floor will thank you in years to come. 🙂

  • Moving into the posture, when you move your arms, JUST move your arms, don’t let your whole torso collapse to the side. This way you will use your core from the start to support your upper body and your upper body strength will improve. But we’ll not lie to you, it’s going to be hard in the beginning.
  • Have a sneaky peak in the mirror at your arms. They should be in one line, that’s what you are aiming for. Why? Because that means you are really stretching down the side of your torso from the hip right up to your fingertips.
  • Gently push your knee back with the elbow. Keeping the fingers between your big and second toe will start this happening.
  • Can’t touch your toes? Quick check in the mirror to see if you are you sitting down low enough. You’ll get there with perseverance. If you struggle to get down, widen your step. 20150717_101930 (Copy)
  • Look up to the ceiling and TOUCH your chin to your shoulder. Tuck the chin in more to get this connection. Best remedy for stiff necks!

Now you are in the posture, keep your breath flowing and keep stretching UP. The upward stretch will naturally instigate the downward stretch.

  • The straight leg should be lovely and strong and locked out. Triangle builds strong legs. Bikram says you should be able to do this posture on ice! It will build tone and strength especially in the inner thighs. On the way to building this strength, you are going to feel things. Keep breathing and keep smiling.

Benefits of Triangle Posture

  • An excellent cardiovascular workout, with very little movement.
  • Increases stability
  • Tones arms, abdomen and thighs
  • Builds better overall body alignment through strengthening of the legs
  • Intensely stretches the side of the body
  • Lengthens the spine, opens the torso and broadens the shoulders which allows proper function of other physiological systems (cardiovascular, digestive etc.)
  • Reduce saddle bags
  • Good for frozen shoulder
  • Helps regulate hormone levels
  • Helps to build awareness of hunger, helping with eating disorders
  • Helps with: constipations, colitis, low blood pressure, appendicitis, spondylitis, menstrual disorders
  • Helps to balance adrenal glands and the production of the stress hormone, cortisol

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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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Why We fall out of Standing Bow Pulling

This posture probably more than any other, divides us Bikram yogis! Some love it – “my favourite pos
ture!”  – while others find it a constant struggle simply to balance.

And there’s the word. Balance.The first thing I’d say about standing bow is to forget about the balance. The balance is the result of form, balance does not enable form.

So some magic tips about form to get the most out of this posture:

The first thing you do in this posture is grab your foot at the ankle. If you are newer to Bikram this can be tricky, be patient and keep trying. As your shoulder flexibility improves and your hips open through the 26 postures, you’ll get there.

Make sure you GRAB, don’t just hold the ankle. Grip on for dear life. Because when you work out the kick, you’ll need to hold on or you’ll lose the foot!

Now bring your arm up in front of you, chin close to the shoulder to stretch the arm up. This energises your entire spine ready for the posture.

So now you are ready. One more thing – knees together for alignment and balance. And don’t forget always the locked knee is your foundation.

Bow is really very simple. You have to kick back and stretch forward. Mastering these two aspects will transform this posture. Everything else comes from your honest attention to these 2 actions.

But I hear you say, kicking is HARD. Yes it is! Probably 90%of the people in the room are not kicking, they are holding their foot and hoping they don’t fall out. When you get the hang of the kick, everything else truly starts to fall into place.

Second Problem: Falling out. Don’t be scared to fall out trying. Again, the goal is not to balance, the goal is to kick so your foot comes over the top of your head and your body is parallel to the floor, stretching your fingers forward as much as possible . When you fall out, you learn. If you are scared to fall out, you’ll stay in the same position for EVER.

Check that your weight stays evenly over your standing foot. Bring your body down so that your abdomen and chest are parallel to the floor, to encourage the kick and raise the heart rate. Getting your body down also encourages the weight to be evenly distributed rather than back in the heel.

Don’t just point at the mirror, charge your body forward towards it like you want to touch it. If you are charging enough and kicking enough, you won’t fall out. In fact, you could balance there forever! How?

You have to try very hard to concentrate on kicking and stretching. Look at your standing knee to keep it locked and forget about balance. Building concentration is just as hard as building balance, and probably much more valuable in life, but we very rarely hear somebody say, “I need to learn to concentrate more.”  All balancing postures are about your concentration.

Think of this posture as a backbend/spine twist combo, that gives you a sense of what you are trying to achieve.

And always remember, as long as you are trying your best, you are getting your maximum benefit from the posture!standing bow for real people

Some Benefits of Standing Bow Pulling

  • A very comprehensive Posture improves the strength of all major muscles
  • Stimulates the cardiovascular system
  • Increases your spine flexibility
  • Increases blood circulation to heart and lungs
  • Stretches your hip flexors
  • Opens shoulder joints
  • Reduces abdominal fat

Now head in the hot room and give it a go!8

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