Tell us about your first Bikram Yoga class … when did you go and why?
My first Bikram class was in 1995 or 1996 with "Sasha" at his studio on Spadina Avenue in Toronto. It was just an old office with a bunch of space heaters and humidifiers, and with no change rooms or showers. My roommate at the time suggested we try it and, having just given up karate and started a desk job, I thought it was a good idea. Going in blind, I had no idea what I was in for. I felt like a tube of toothpaste that had been stamped on after my first class, but I continued to go fairly regularly for a few months until it was apparent that class times didn't fit into my work and social schedule, nor did the practice fit into my budget. After a few years dabbling in Ashtanga yoga between 2002-2005, I started at Bikram in Guelph in April, 2011, almost 15 years after my first hot yoga class in Toronto.
What are some of the most important benefits you receive from Bikram Yoga? Has it helped to improve your life in any way?
Many, both physical and mental. Several years ago I suffered a tear in my right Achilles tendon which immobilized me for approximately 5 months. I lost a tremendous amount of my right calf's muscle mass, as well as nearly all of my calf strength and flexibility. Since going to classes more frequently I've noticed huge improvement in both strength and flexibility, and that my calf is slowly rebuilding itself. This injury also put my body completely out of balance, with one side practically useless and the other compensating for it. This was felt throughout my body, not just in my legs. The balance is returning. There have also been huge improvements in the quality and length of my sleep which, before, was patchy at best. An old left knee injury has all but disappeared, as have issues associated with my right rotator cuff. My posture has improved which has greatly decreased my frequency of visits to the chiropractor. My diet and eating times have changed, and this (together with several of the postures) have improved my digestion, as well as been instrumental in practically eliminating occasional acid reflux issues. All these things and more, combined, have definitely lead to a much improved overall feeling of well-being. In a nutshell, life is better.
What keeps you coming back?
The benefits mentioned above keep me coming back. I want to maintain and improve on them all, and gain new ones. The practice has been nothing but good for me, so I will continue for as long as physically possible.
What do you find most challenging about practicing Bikram Yoga?
The most difficult parts of the practice for me are the mental challenges, not the physical challenges that it presents. Physical obstacles are unavoidable, and will change over time, hopefully for the better. So I accept that what I can do today is all I can do. My brain is another matter. At first, my biggest hurdle was stopping myself from thinking, "*Sh_t, when will this be over?!?!" These days it is keeping my mind quiet, and stopping it from flying off in a million directions which are unnecessary and unhelpful while in class.
What’s your current favorite posture/What is your most dreaded posture?
Frankly, I don't have a favourite posture. Some I enjoy more than others, like the Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, and the Standing Bow Pose, but there are no postures that I really look forward to. Because of my leg injury and its after effects, I find most of the balancing postures very difficult, especially Standing Head to Knee and the Toe Stand (which I simply cannot do at the time of writing this).