Leaving the Bikram Box

I write a lot about how my yoga practice shapes and changes my life. Today, I want to turn that around a bit and share how my life has shaped my yoga practice.

To understand this, we have to go in the wayback machine to when I was fourteen.

What historical period do you want to visit?

What historical period do you want to visit?

By the age of 14 I knew how to play three instruments: (a) piano, (b) clarinet, and (c) guitar. That’s the order I learned them in. I ultimately landed on the guitar, and I had made the decision to be a professional heavy metal guitarist. Actually, if you think about it, heavy metal and Bikram yoga are not that far removed. In fact, I would argue that participating in Bikram yoga ia very metal thing to do.

You might be thinking you don’t like metal, but trust me on this one. If you regularly practice Bikram you got a little bit of the metalhead in you. One day I will blog about why I believe that to be true.Now, back to my guitar playing. I wanted to be a great guitar player. I took myself seriously. Being a great musician (or a lot of other things), isn’t just about who you study with (though that is important), it’s also about who you study.Get that?

Basically, I need a great guitar teacher, but I also need to be exposed to a lot of great players and not just guitar players. I found to truly learn and expand my musical understandings, this meant I had to go outside the metal and rock genre. What I learned is that the great guitar players within my genre listened to all kinds of music – classical, jazz, blues, and then sub-generes within those larger genres. So I would find someone in my area that I admired and read up on who they admired. That would often put me in a different genre. Then I would read up on who that guy (usually it was a dude – so goes the music scene) admired and go listen to that person and keep tracing it back as far as I could go.

If you’re an academic, it’s funny to note that I was honing my literature review skills at an early age. I find that amusing, but also it turned out to be seriously helpful when I was getting my doctorate.

Which brings me to my point: The skills I learned as a musician, the ways I learned how to think, examine, and explore my little box, served me in many ways outside the field of music. They have served me a thousand times over as an academic, and they have served me in my yoga practice. Here’s how:

When I started training for competition last year, I (of course) increased the number of times I went to class. As I went to class more, my postures got better. But at some point I hit a wall. I started to notice major flaws in my postures – particularly the ones required for competition.  Of course lots of people in the Bikram community offered me advice. There advice was generally good and helped, but I found myself becoming overwhelmed. I needed to find a way to filter it, to determine what mattered most, what I should focus on now and set aside for later. I can’t do it all at once. What to do?

Well, maybe I needed to go outside my Bikram box just like I went out of my metal box to become a better musician.

It started with a myofacial massage. I thought the massage might provide some assistance, but the therapist listened to what I wanted and immediately suggested I see a sports physical therapist. So, yesterday I did just that.

It was a brilliant idea. I told my PT how I wanted to improve. I demonstrated standing and floor bow along with head to knee. I thought I had hip issues. I thought right.

He asked me what I was doing on my own, what advice people had given me. He added to it and taught me how to prioritize it for the next month. He gave me strength and flexibility exercises specifically for my hips (and one for my left ankle only which I sprained about 10 years ago). He told me if I followed the plan I should see a difference in 4-6 weeks. Then he sent me off. And now it’s up to me to follow through. Of course I will follow through. In February I’ll go back and we’ll re-evaluate my postures and hips and go on to whatever I need to go on to next.

He doesn’t understand the postures totally. He doesn’t know a lot about yoga, and in some ways that’s good. He asks me questions about how the posture is supposed to be – more of this or less of that? And if I don’t know I have to go find out which just helps me know the postures better.  He’s far enough removed from the Bikram world that he brings a set of fresh eyes to the situation. It’s fantastic.

Also, I totally rocked a standing bow on my left side when he asked me to demonstrate it. Other people came over to watch. I held it and came out with control. It was super awesome! Then I demonstrated my right side which sucks. 🙂

Heavy metal, is there anything it can’t do?