All of the tenets of living a meaningful life are experienced in Bikram yoga. Much like life, it all starts with showing up in service of what matters to you. Showing up is often the hardest step in any journey, including yoga. You arrive at the studio at 6:00am. You summon the courage to enter a crowded, hot, humid room where you will remain for the next 90 minutes. You lift your gaze and face yourself in a mirrored wall, silently recommitting to holding this gaze throughout the practice despite awkward poses, shifting balance, physical discomfort, unyielding internal judgement. You will yourself to lean in. You are here because it matters. Your mind reminds you of all the reasons you should be home in bed, all the times you’ve tried before and faltered, all the important things that await you in the day ahead. You thank your mind for doing its job. You notice emotions, thoughts, sensations and let them pass like clouds in the sky. You are the sky. You remain grounded and solid, willing to just be where you are. You return to your breath, refocus, and gently shift your awareness back to the present moment. You make a choice to keep going. Because it matters.
At some point you become aware of changes in your practice, in yourself, in your life. You stop counting how many postures are left. You stop fidgeting. You stop clutching the reassurance of your self-doubt and allow the panel of critics in your head to fade to the background like music in a restaurant. You realize that you actually can tolerate the heat, the humidity, the internal and external adversity. You become aware of yourself balancing steadily, stretching more fully and flexibly. You feel a wave of gratitude for your body, and even your chattering mind. At some point you find yourself reflexively breathing into doubt and making room for the process; whatever that means for you for that day. You begin to view each practice and each day not as an endgame, but as another chance to make choices that move you in the direction you seek to go. The next thing you know the 90 minutes are up. Suddenly it’s too soon.
Much like life, yoga is about being aware that there are many factors and conditions that impact you on any given day. Some days you are able to move full steam ahead towards what matters to you, other days you feel like you can’t seem to launch no matter how hard you try. Each moment is an opportunity to resist giving in to our impulses to soothe, escape, control, and avoid discomfort and uncertainty. Yoga reminds us that we are constantly growing, changing, and transforming, and at the same time we still can remain rooted and strong, dedicated, and committed. Whatever arises in life can be faced with these same guiding principles. Before you know it, you realize that you are stronger than you ever thought you could be, and when something matters, you show up.
By Tina Kaminski, MA, MSW, LISW-CP