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!