Today I am happy to feature a guest post written by Ash Kramer from Doctor Feelgood. Today’s post is part four in Ash’s journey to developing a Bikram Yoga practice. I wanted to say it was the conclusion, but is there ever really any conclusion to our journeys? Enjoy!
In the previous posts in this series, I outlined how I got into Bikram Yoga, covered the many physical benefits, and looked at some of the mental and emotional benefits too. While the most recent post was a bit of an overview of the emotional aspects, this post is a slightly scary one to write because it’s where I’ll dig deeper into the emotional side of my Bikram Yoga practice.
Although I’ve had some amazing physical changes (less stress, seriously improved overall health and wellbeing, becoming generally more relaxed etc.), there have also been some incredible emotional moments along the way. I’d even go so far as to call them transformational. Savasana is where I had most of my “moments.” Lying there trying not to think after Camel and Rabbit postures sometimes provoked a reaction that’s best described as an emotional release. That happened quite often in the early days of my Bikram journey but at other times, I simply got to enjoy relaxing in Savasana, trying to recover from the previous posture. On occasion however, very strange things have happened while I’ve been trying to just lie there and not to move or think.
Most of them are too personal for me to discuss here, but here’s an example of one that made a big impact on me.
As I mentioned in part two of this series, I blew out an old ankle injury by pretending to be a sprinter as I hauled ass back to the parking garage after a morning class one weekend. Of course I’m not much of runner, so this wasn’t my best idea but even worse, I was running in my slip-slops (flip-flops, sandals or jandals depending on where you’re from), which aren’t great for running on concrete, or any kind of running for that matter.
I was attending class every second day at that stage, so I was really hoping the ankle wouldn’t be too much of a problem. On my first class back, I realised that it was going to be a huge problem. In short, it hurt. A lot! It was messing with most of my postures, even the ones where all I had to do was stand there and breathe because every little move provoked some pain. As the class went on, this started to annoy me, and then it started to bug the heck out of me. My anger and frustration grew, and that bugged me even more because that’s not what’s meant to happen at yoga. What happened to my relaxed, stress-free state of mind? By the time we got to the floor series, I was fuming big time.
Kneeling down for Fixed Firm was like resting my ankle on a sharp spike, and yes I know I should have just backed off and relaxed but I’m pretty stubborn at the best of times, and that anger was driving me hard. I tried my best to get through the postures but I had to spend extra time in Savasana while the rest of the class worked through Half Tortoise, Camel, and Rabbit. The anger was now pretty much verging on sheer rage as I grew increasingly frustrated. The only thing on my mind was the pain, and maybe the burning desire to stand up, walk out and lift some weights or even punch a hole in a wall just like The Incredible Hulk would.
After spending most of the class getting angrier and angrier, my restraint was long gone. Yoga is an emotional process, and some would even say it’s an emotional detox, but today it was driving me crazy. Or, now that I think about it, the yoga was just the setting, and I was absolutely pushing my own buttons instead of just stepping away but at any rate, I didn’t seem to be able do a damn thing about it.
Then out of the blue, as a spasm of pain shot through my ankle during Head to Knee with Stretching, I had something of an epiphany. It occurred to me that being this angry in a place of peace was totally ridiculous.
Suddenly, it felt as if I’d taken a step to the side and could look at the whole situation with a clarity and calm that I’d never been able to find when I was angry. I knew without a doubt exactly where the anger and frustration were coming from, and believe me when I say that it had absolutely nothing to do with yoga or a sore ankle. There’s no way I’m going to get into the details because they’re more than a little personal but suffice to say that it was baggage that I’d been dragging around with me for a long, long time. Instead of being something I was unaware of, it was now as obvious and tangible as my mat, and as crazy as it sounds, I just let go of it, along with the intense emotions that had almost overwhelmed me.
After that, I was about as calm and mellow as I can recall. It seemed quite ludicrous to me after the fact, all the emotions, not to mention the reasons to be angry in the first place were gone. My ankle still hurt but so what? It’d heal.
Since that class, I’ve hardly been able to recognise myself, at least from an emotional perspective. I’m by no means perfect, and I’m not Captain Zen, but I am more mellow and unflappable that I can ever recall being, and not just by a small margin. Situations that might once have stressed me out, or driven me to real anger don’t affect me the same way. Sometimes they don’t affect me at all.
So, in addition to all the other benefits that I’ve outlined in the previous posts, in only 90 minutes, Bikram Yoga transformed me from someone who was often angry and on the edge to someone who’s chilled out in ways he could never really even contemplate. I’ve subsequently changed my career, left the corporate world, fled the big city and downsized big time. And I’m far happier than I was before I started yoga. Now that’s what I call a result!
I wonder how many decades of therapy it would have taken to get me there?
In fact, a question that’s occurred to me more than once in the intervening months is could I have gotten to this point without the yoga? Maybe, but it hadn’t happened in over four decades, so would it have? I’m not too sure because the perfect storm of circumstances that forced me to look at things I’d never even have considered before might never have happened. Just shows that the universe will often put exactly what you need right in front of you when you need it most, if only you’re able to recognise it.
Ash Kramer is a vegan health and fitness nut but he’s only slightly annoying despite all that. Bikram Yoga pretty much changed his life and now he can’t shut up about it. He’s a full-time writer and lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, which makes him one of the luckiest guys on the planet.