On Sundays, please enjoy the Retro Throwback where I share my favorite posts from some time ago.
Today I am happy to feature a guest post from The Annoyed Yogi (follow on Twitter at The Annoyed Yogi). This is the first of two posts that I’ll have for you written by The Annoyed Yogi. Today’s post talks about The Annoyed Yogi’s introduction to all things Bikram. Enjoy!
Until a month ago the only yoga that I had ever done was DDPYoga (Diamond Dallas Page). DDPYoga is a great program that has changed many people’s lives. My DDPYoga dvd sat on the dresser, and on occasion I would pop it into the dvd player. However, in reality I was not motivated, and I needed something else. I was on my way to a comedy club one evening when I noticed this new place in a little strip mall. I found out that it was a brand new Bikram Studio. At the time, I had zero knowledge about Birkam Yoga except that it was “hot” yoga.
About a week later I woke up in the middle of the night. I could barely breathe and I felt like I was about to die. In high school I was an athlete and played multiple sports. I took pride in my body and made it a goal to stay in shape. Then I turned 21 and everything in my life became about booze, women, late nights, too many cigarettes to count, and a fascination with doing everything in my power to sabotage myself. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically destroying myself.
That morning I decided that it was time for a change. I called the studio. They told me to come in and they would go over everything I needed to know on this new adventure.
I walked in as a class was ending and saw the fit half naked bodies covered in sweat that began to emerge from the room. “What the fuck am I doing here”? Here I am Mr. Fat Body, Mr. Smokes a pack a day, Mr. Drunk every night for the last 7 years. I don’t belong here with these super humans. The doubt set in, the fear of judgment; fear that there is no way I am going to survive, that people are going to laugh at me.
I walked into the locker room and changed. “I’m here. I guess I might as well go through with it.” I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to do this as I watched guys change after their class.
When I walked into the hot room, it reminded me of high school wrestling, except there were a lot of toned, fit, and half naked women. I was outnumbered 4 to 1. At this point I wanted to run out screaming, get in my car, have a cigarette, and go home and drink.
I set out my mat and towel and laid on my back like everyone else. The room was hot but I felt like I could manage that. There were mirrors everywhere pointing back towards my almost decade of apathy and self-disrespect. That was a harder pill to swallow. Fucking great. Now I get to stare at my mistakes too.
The teacher walked in and read the new people’s names off the list as a way to identify us in the class. Now everyone gets to know my name. Even fucking better! “This was a mistake,” echoed in my head. “Run out before class really starts and no one will care.”
The teacher told us, “The number one goal for today new yogis is to stay in the room.” This concept seemed easy enough. I mean seriously who can’t stay in a room just because it’s a little hot. We stood up and came to the center of our mat and began the first breathing exercise. Piece of cake right? Wrong. Dead wrong. Holy shit was I wrong. By the 5thbreathe I was completely drenched in sweat. I was already getting dizzy, I was ready to quit. How did I get myself here? How in the hell did I go from being a person who cared about my life to someone who was lethargic, wallowed in self-doubt, and hatred? How was I going to stay in this room?
The rest of the first class is fuzzy. I remember gasping for air, feeling my muscles burn like they hadn’t in years, and I could smell the toxins in my sweat. As class reached the midway point I wondered how much longer I would have to suffer, how much more I could push this body, on top of the the fact that I felt like the world was caving in on my chest. I laid on my back for most of the rest of class minus a couple attempts at postures that seemed easy enough. I was fatigued, dehydrated, and defeated.
Class ended with a breathing exercise, the same way that it had begun. I sat up with what little bit of strength that I had left and I looked in the mirror. I saw a face of shame, of disgust, of hatred. It was the same face that had been haunting me every morning that I woke up. I also saw a face of hope. “I made it, I survived, I stayed the whole time.” These words I said at a whisper to the face in the mirror. That was the goal right? But it wasn’t about survival, this wasn’t Vietnam, this was a place that people came to heal themselves and begin to fight the inner demons through an outlet much different than anything I’d ever experienced. I felt like for the first time in years I had accomplished something for myself.
“To our new students, the best thing that you can do is to come back tomorrow. To reap the benefits of this practice return within 24 hours. Thank you for allowing me to guide you through your practice today, and for sharing your energy with everyone in the room. Namaste.” These were the final words from our teacher at the end of what was the hardest 90 minutes of my life. What is this “energy” shit she’s talking about? I feel like I just died. There is no energy and do you think I want to come back tomorrow? You lady are clearly insane.
However, the accomplishment I felt walking out of the studio that night was a long but forgotten feeling. It was all about me. I did that; I forced myself to be in that room. I forced myself in and out of strange poses and postures that I had never seen. I am the one who decided what I am and am not capable of. “I have the power!” I am pretty sure He-Man hasownership of this statement, but it’s true. I had forgotten that a long time ago.
Tomorrow came and went. So did the next day and the day after that. Soon it was ten days, fifteen, twenty, and then thirty. Somewhere in there I was asked by the owner if I wanted to do an official “30 Day Bikram Challenge.” My exact response to her was “no fucking way”. She laughed and told me to let her know if I ever changed my mind.
I had managed to do Bikram every day for 30 days because I kept the pressure off of myself. Committing to a challenge would have been the worst possible thing I could have done. I would have surely fallen. The added dimension of putting little stickers on a piece of paper to prove you did something is not valid to me. It proves nothing. If your end goal is that, and if smiley faces get you to where you are going, then I applaud you and I salute you for the drive and ambition it takes to get there. For me those things become a distraction, they become an “out” , they become “oh shit, I missed a day, no sticker, oh well. Let’s go get drunk.” I had to remind myself that I was doing this for me.
-One day at a time
-One class at a time
-One posture at a time
-One breathe at a time
I started telling myself these things at the beginning of every class while lying in savasana waiting for the teacher to walk into the room. This was my way of finding the motivation to push through class.
What I can tell you is that at thestart of my practice I was 6’5 258lbs. I smoked every day, drank every night, and was self-deprecating beyond belief. 30 days later, I’m still 6’5 down to 242 pounds (as of writing this), I’ve had 1 cigarette and, ¾ of a 1 beer. How long will this last? I don’t know, maybe it’s a fad. Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and go back to getting wasted every night and smoking until my lungs hurt. Who can really tell?
The point of this is very simple; it’s all about you, and your own self-motivation. What we do to change our lives is up to us. No one is going to turn your life around. Not even Dr. Phil. “What are you doing with your life?” his world famous question. I had to wake up feeling like I was about to die to honestly answer this question.
What am I doing with my life? Changing it. What are you doing with yours?
The Annoyed Yogi has been practicing Bikram for just a short period of time but has been a master of sarcasm since birth. Lover of standing bow pose pose and hater of most things.