Bikram Tysons Blog

Monday, April 15, 2013

A warning to the faithful: This may be yoga heresy…

I once had a long-time student issue a warning before class.  “Carrie,” she said, “I have to tell you.  Today, I am not here to concentrate and meditate.  I just want to burn calories.”

And I’ll tell you what - I don’t care if you decide to practice solely to justify eating a double bacon cheeseburger after class.

A cop out?  Many would say so.  Yoga, in its popular, modern form of aerobic exercise, has been lambasted recently because classes that make people sweat supposedly omit the ultimate goals of enhancing self-awareness and building compassion.  And if our intentions are “wrong,” our yoga practice is taking us down the wrong path too.  In other words, all of us “narcissistic” modern yogis who practice with the intention of losing weight, sculpting abs, or eating cheeseburgers are completely missing the boat.  And I am seriously sick of hearing it.

What brought me to my mat for the first time?  The cute guy in my Italian class.  Yes, I went to my first Bikram yoga class because I had a crush, but I walked out with the love of my life (and, no, I don’t mean the guy).

So to all of the “experts” who belittle those of us who get on our mats for less than spiritual reasons, what gives you the right to judge?  Because here’s the sneaky little truth about yoga: the higher goals – the enhanced self-awareness, the greater compassion, the inner strength, the equanimity WILL come. What does it take?  Woody Allen said it best – 80% of success is showing up.

Anyone who is fortunate enough to teach this healing art has seen it.  The student who on the first day can’t even look at herself in the mirror, and then, one day, is practicing in the front row with laser-beam focus.  The guy who always looks dejected but then, all of a sudden, tells you with an ear-to-ear smile he touched his toes for the first time in his life.  The lady who literally cried tears of pain in her first class but comes back the next day.  And the next.  And the next.  And learns in that process that she is more courageous than she ever imagined.  That’s right – these yogis merely showed up on a daily basis to a Bikram yoga class and, in that deceptively simple process of 26 postures, were able to fundamentally alter who they are.

Maybe those people came because they made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.  Maybe they came because they wanted toned arms.  Maybe they came because they wanted to check out cute girls in spandex.  But look at the journey they took.  Who are we to judge why they took that first step?

So, let’s have a little faith – in the power of this yoga, in the strength inside each and every individual.  Come as YOU are, with all of your imperfections, with all of your “base” intentions.  You’ll get there -- as long as you show up.  And if saying that means I should be burned at the stake, well, at least I like it hot.

Want to share your stories of what got you on the mat and how far you’ve come?  Please share a comment to this post!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Can Yoga Do Harm?

After a recent New York Times article on the dangers of yoga, a lot of you have asked, "Can I get hurt doing yoga?"  The simple answer to this question is, yes, absolutely.  Can you get hurt lifting weights at the gym?  Yes, absolutely.  Can you get hurt playing tennis?  Yes, absolutely.  Can you get hurt getting out of bed in the morning?  Yes, absolutely.  Any type of physical activity brings with it the possibility of injury -- that is a simple fact and a risk most of us are willing to take given the manifold benefits of exercise.  However, for those of you who were disconcerted by the article, I would like to respond to a few of the author's particular points from the perspective of a Bikram yoga practice and then give a few tips to keep your practice as safe and beneficial as possible.

Many of the postures the author takes particular issue with, such as headstand or shoulderstand, are inversions that put significant weight on the cervical vertebrae.  We do not do these postures in Bikram yoga because they may not be appropriate for beginning students.  The closest posture we do to an inversion with weight on the neck is Rabbit Pose.  However, the hands firmly grip the heels, thus taking body weight and undue pressure off of the neck.  Properly done, no more than 20% of the student's body weight ends up on the neck in this posture.

The author makes the valid point that yoga evolved in an Eastern culture in which people sit cross legged or squat down instead of sitting at desks and in cars all day like we do here.  Consequently, many yoga poses assume very open hips and knees that many Westerners lack.  As such, lotus posture, for example, may be beyond the range of motion many Western yoga students have.  However, in Bikram yoga, the postures do not put excessive strain on the knees.  Tree Pose requires one leg be put in half lotus, but the extent to which the knee is pushed back is up to the student's level of flexibility.  Also, Fixed Firm Pose does stretch the knees, but students are given the option to simply kneel if that is as far as their body will allow them.

Specific to our practice, the author notes the heat of Bikram yoga can lead to overstretching of muscles.  I argue the contrary; the heat of Bikram yoga allows the muscles (especially for people lacking in natural flexibility) to stretch safely and more deeply than they would in a cold room.  Anyone who has played sports knows the importance of doing warm up exercises first to prepare the body for what's to come and to mitigate the chance of injury.  The heat in Bikram yoga works in a simlar way to warm the body and loosen the muscles, providing for a safer practice.  Overstretching can certainly happen in any environment, but that is likely due to a lack of awareness on the part of the individual practioner.

Additionally, the author notes many injuries arise from teachers physically pushing students into postures beyond where the student is ready to go.  For this reason, our teachers do not give physical adjustments in class.

Finally, the author gives some very troubling anecdotes of injuries suffered by yoga practitioners and states that hospital emergency room visits due to yoga injuries numbered 46 annually in 2002.  What he neglects to mention is that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "during July 2000-June 2001 an estimated 4.3 million nonfatal sports and recreation-related injuries were treated in US hospital emergency rooms.   If yoga were included in that figure, it would have accounted for approximately .00001% of all injuries.  A prevalent danger to be avoided?  Hardly.

Ultimately, the author states that the biggest danger in yoga is ego and lack of awareness during practice.  And, this is always a good lesson to learn, even if it took a provocative article that often overreaches to bring it to the forefront.  If we are unaware of what we are doing and push our bodies beyond where they are ready to go, even the fittest and most flexible among us can cause ourselves harm.  So before you compare yourself to the yogi next to you who has been practicing for 5 years, remember that this is meant to be a healing practice in which you simply do as much as your body can.  It's not a competition for perfection; yoga is meant to be a daily practice in which we use the physical body to access relaxation and greater awareness.  So bring that awareness to your mat every day, and come to simply try, breathe, and be.  Will you find healing and peace?  Yes, absolutely.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Change That Attitude to Gratitude...

The holidays are a stressful time of year, without doubt.  You have more demands on your time; family get-togethers mean that you have to admit that you are, in fact, related to your eccentric cousin; the mall is packed with people who think that walking 6 abreast at the speed of your average turtle is somehow acceptable; you're overwhelmed with to do lists; overwhelmed with gifts to buy; sleeping less; and eating more.  It's easy for all of those stressors to build up to the point that you break down.

How do you stay grounded during this busy time of year?  Making the time for yourself to do the things you enjoy (like practicing yoga) clearly helps.  But beyond that, try to be open to the simple joys in daily life.  Most of us seem to be hardwired to notice what goes wrong instead of all the things that are going right.  So, take a moment to step back, and not just notice the good, but to be thankful for it too.  When you do that, you are so much more likely to notice the countless ways you are supported in your daily life (and you're a lot less likely to be irritated by the crazy family and overzealous holiday shoppers who grab the last sweater even though you clearly had your hand on it).  Try saying a simple thank you today.  As the thirteenth century philosopher Meister Eckhart once said, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."

In that spirit, we want to say thank you to each and every one of our yoga students.  You guys mean so much to us, and you're the reason why we have the best job in the world.  So, to those of you who have been practicing for years, thank you - your dedication and hard work inspire us to get back on our mats every day too.  To those of you who just started practicing in the past year or so, thank you - we hope you see the changes in your postures, your bodies, your outlooks.  They may seem like little things, but we know there is so much hard work behind each one.  To those of you who have had a rough class but still come back to try again, thank you - your courage inspires us to do the same.  And to those of you first timers, thank you - you are so brave to take that first step on your mat and try something new.

We wish you all a holiday season filled with lots of love, yoga, and gratitude!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Lots of you have asked us what proper hydration is.  Indeed, the most important thing you can do to feel good during your yoga practice is to come well-hydrated.  If you ever feel tingling in your fingers or toes or get muscle cramps during class, it is likely because you are dehydrated.  We recommend that Bikram students drink at least 3-5 liters of water each day.  However, it is so important to supplement your water intake with electrolytes as well.  If not, you're just going to flush those crucial minerals out of your system.  So, it is important to make sure you're getting enough Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium in your diet.  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides many necessary electrolytes, but coconut water is a great natural source of these as well.  Zico is always a tasty choice, and not only does chocolate zico have extra magnesium, it also taste like dessert in a bottle!  Taste Nirvana Coconut Water has always been a fan favorite, and now you can follow the link to get it shipped directly to your door!  Try a coconut water before or after class - it will help your practice become even stronger.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Be a Good Yogi….

Yoga is about so much more than just turning yourself into a pretzel.  Ultimately, it is a process of self-discovery and of building self-awareness.  The more in tune you are with your own actions, thoughts, and emotions, the more you realize how your behavior impacts those around you.  To that end, consider how what you do in class affects those around you.  How do you feel when your neighbor chugs down a liter of water or takes a shower-asana while you’re sweating it out in Triangle?  What goes through your mind when someone walks in front of you to leave the room in the middle of Standing Bow?  How do you feel when someone starts a conversation in the middle of your meditation in final savasana?  So, be still, be calm, be focused, be considerate – not only will your practice be stronger, so will that of everyone else in the room!

A few specific points:
  • No talking in the hot room.  Keep the conversations in the lobby and hallways.
  • Stay still during the postures.  Take a drink or make any adjustments in between postures.
  • Try to stay in the room.  Take breaks as needed, but take them on your mat.  We understand that emergencies happen, and if you REALLY need to leave, please leave in between postures, not while other students are balancing.
  • Only take your mat, towel, and water into the room with you.  Anything else is just a distraction.
  • Remember, it’s YOGA!  Nothing more, nothing less.  Have fun with your practice – if you fall out of a posture, find your forgiveness, find your perseverance, smile, and try again!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our New Website

Welcome to our new and improved website!

Please take a few minutes to look around and check out all the new information and features. We’ll be using the announcements section of the homepage to keep you updated on any schedule changes, upcoming events, etc. So, be sure to check in on a regular basis!

Also, subscribe to our blog! We will use this to share tips about postures, let you know about exciting new Bikram Yoga products, and work to extend our online yoga community. Tell your friends!

Finally, a huge thanks to Musa Ghani and all of the wonderful people at Alesig Consulting for helping us put this new website together. And a big thank you and hug to Emma Murphy for the beautiful photos of our instructors and studio!