By Hanna Newman, BYD Co-Owner
By Hanna Newman, Co-Owner of BYD
This past Monday BYD hosted 25 women from various Duke sororities who came together for a women’s empowerment-themed Bikram Yoga class. In preparing to lead this session I did some research on women’s health and body image. I was shocked to find that over 90% of women are dissatisfied with their body appearance. However, it makes sense when you realize that only one in twenty women naturally have the body type that the media portrays as ideal. In a society that financially benefits from us trying to ‘fix’ our bodies to fit a certain image, it is a radical act to love oneself.
Showing up is the first empowering act we make when coming to yoga class. In simply setting aside that time for self-care, you’re declaring yourself worthwhile. Then we ask you to focus on yourself for 90 minutes while your hair is messy, you have no makeup on, and you’re half naked. On top of all of that, we ask that you not judge yourself. In reality, this self-acceptance is one of the most challenging things we do in class. Bit by bit, you’re reconditioning yourself to be less attached to your appearance. You leave class feeling great about yourself because of what you’ve accomplished, rather than what you looked like.
By Karin St. Pierre, Bikram Yoga Durham student
He pulls us into focused stillness with the first ring of the bell. The room shrinks and envelops us, safe and dark, a mother’s womb. Somehow, the ceiling fans know to swirl in silent circles, sucking up air and delivering the sour smell of the carpet like a summons. The monster heat retreats, our thumping hearts slow to normal. Mats, soggy beneath us, are body-sized sign-in sheets: proof of attendance. Again, the bell. Our bodies are corpse-like, heads resting heavy on the unforgiving floor, hands and feet open at our sides. But our minds roam back and forth between embracing and resisting his words to —“let everything go”— knowing that daylight and reality will soon surge back into the darkened room like flood waters. With the final ring, an end-of-the-day school bell, the service is over. Relief. Regret. We carry both from this holy space, this blessed cave.
By BYD student, Laura Frey
As a yogi with a regular practice I am beginning to understand the importance of stillness during class. I am trying to avoid unnecessary physical and mental movements such as:
- playing with my hair
- drinking water
- wiping sweat
- cracking my toes between postures
- exaggerating the set up for a posture
- giving stink eye to the teacher when the fans are off during 2nd camel
I believe these moments have nothing to do with sweat, hair, joint issues, etc., but rather they take you out of the moment. The moment you are struggling in. The one you want to pass. The one where your legs are shaking. The one where you can’t find balance. No one likes these moments. We instinctively want to get past them. We want to avoid suffering. So we move on, fumble out and play with our costume or our hair…
I think rather than fleeing the moment we should stay in it. Breathe deeper. Focus more intently. Stare at yourself in the mirror. Will the energy of the room to permeate your body and soul and exit your skin as solitude. As though you are breathing a physical matter that can calm your body. Absorb it and use it.
I think once you block everything out and focus through the struggle or uncomfortable feelings that pop up during a Bikram class you will experience something great. This all of course permeates your life outside of the hot room. Things that may have bothered you before such as traffic, people, situations can’t touch you. You will feel bullet proof.
I have been fortunate to have so many great examples around me in class. When I feel someone exuding stillness I tend to grab it. I want that feeling. When there are several of us locked in like this it always spreads throughout the room. It’s contagious. And when the room has stillness we all love it!
This isn’t to say we’ll never fall out of a posture and make a grumpy face. It happens. This is yoga practice, not yoga perfect. So, for next class work on just one of your fidgets. If it’s shifting your weight back and forth, stop it. Focus. Jump back in. When you quit letting your energy leave you for unnecessary distractions there is more energy for the asanas, the meditation. Ultimately you leave the hot room, the studio feeling marvelous.
This is just my observation as a new yogi. Work on your fidget list and see how you feel. We all have different lists. It can’t hurt and it just might help.