We have a nick name for Daniel here at BYC, we call him Superman… and now he really has gone and earned his right to the name (and the red cape) having just completed 111 days of BYC yoga. So here, in his own words, are what 111 days of yoga has taught him.
111 (+1) days of Bikram
What can I say about my experiences whilst doing 111 + 1 days of Bikram yoga?
There is probably close to a million and one things that throughout the duration I had come to learn and realise. Some of which are relatively minor in comparison to others, some things being a bit more of a breakthrough. There are things regarding specific postures, realisations that are more orientating around the mind and mental aspect yoga, and other things that are a bit more general. If I was to include everything, this would not only take forever to write, but would also take forever to read. Instead, I will only focus on the one thing that I found to be the most important and will hopefully improve others on their whole Bikram journey.
That said though, everything I’ve learnt is important, but maybe they are best left to be figured out in your own time.
So what is it that I believe to be the most valuable thing I had learnt? Simple. It’s the importance of BREATHING. Throughout the Bikram dialogue we are bombarded with directions to “breathe deep, fill your lungs, inhale, exhale every last drop”, so much so that it’s easy to take these directions for granted and totally ignore them. What I found was that by consciously slowing down my breathing and also synchronising my breathing with my movements, that my progression in both mind and body began to grow quickly. By slowing down, breathing deeper, exhaling longer, and overall controlling your breathing, you begin to slow down mentally. Things become clearer. Focusing becomes that bit easier. From there, synchronising your body movements with the rhythm of your relaxed breathing, not only lets you flow more naturally and gracefully in and out of postures, but also allows you to maintain that calm state of mind.
Don’t breathe to match the movement of your body, but move your body to match the rhythm of your breathing. I believe that breathing is the core to all progression. Want to focus? Control your breathing. Want to extend your postures? Control your breathing. Seeing rainbows and unicorns after first set of Camel pose? Control your breathing. Want to hold back from running over that parking warden who put a ticket on your car for going five minutes overtime? Control your breathing. Without control over such an automatic bodily response, how will you have control over the rest of your body?
Put simply, breathing (for me), is the core foundation to everything. Calm breathing leads to a calm mind. A calm mind leads to better focus and awareness. Improved focus and awareness leads to improved postures.
Physically the main improvement that I have noticed the most during the 111 days has been the extra range of motion I’ve gained through my spine. Be it laterally, back bending, forward bending, or rotationally. Back bending mostly.
When doing the Bikram sequence consecutively for so long, you become more mindful of how your body feels in each posture, when and where you need to push or pull through, how to breath in the posture. Because of this (and some great direction by the instructors of course), the postures have a bit more purpose instead of just bending over and sticking my ass in the air whilst sweating into my nose.
I’ve felt that my back bends in half moon, standing bow, camel, and in the belly down section have all improved over the 111 days, some more than others, to be honest.
Another thing that I feel has improved a lot is the strength I have in my legs. All the knee locking, engaging ones thigh, and balancing on one leg seems to really have made a difference. I’ve seen / felt this the most in triangle. Before, I would only be good for about 20 seconds in full expression until I start getting the shakes and loose balance. Now I feel I can last the whole set and still remain strong and still.
Favourite postures? All of them! Not really. Half moon, Triangle, Eagle, Standing bow, Rabbit, Savasana, gasping for air pose, grab my water pose, mat on rack pose, walking out the door pose, 20 minutes in the shower pose.
Least favourite. Balancing Stick. Oh boy is that posture my arch nemesis. I’d rather balance naked on barbed wire.
Mentally Bikram has helped me with focusing my attention both inside and outside of the studio. What has really helped is being able to maintain a calm state of mind. Away from Bikram I do Thai boxing, which includes a lot of training and sparring, which can get a bit chaotic. Sparring in particular as someone is constantly trying to hit you. With Bikram, without realising it, you are training yourself to stay calm and relaxed during the chaos and stress of not only holding a particular posture for a minute, but also doing that whilst in 40° heat. Indirectly, training that for 111 days now means that the level of calm I had during sparring has now been reinforced to a much higher tolerance, which in its self is a very weird thing to experience. I can only liken it to playing a violin whilst in the middle of a war zone. You manage to stay calm, focused and involved in what you are doing even though there is complete mayhem happening around you… I don’t play the violin by the way.
In the beginning I never aimed on doing 111 days. To begin with I was only going to do a maximum of 35. 35 days even seemed daunting in comparison to my usual comfort zone of 3 times a week. Very quickly it became a habit and a part of my routine. Once it became routine, the days flew by.
I think its human nature to be scared or reticent of what we don’t know and therefore its easier to stay where we are comfortable. However progress and growth doesn’t come from comfort. Our self preserving bodies are programmed to keep us in comfort, it may say: Your not fit enough, your not flexible enough, you don’t have the time, it’s too hot, it’s too long, it’s too late, do it next week. It’s all lies. If Helen offered a million pounds to whoever does 112 days I bet everyone will do 113!
Maybe change your perspective. Instead of the award being one million dollars (Dr evil voice), the real award is better health both mentally and physically, which you cannot put a price on….
I would like to thank everyone; staff, teachers, and practitioners at BYC for their help,
motivation and positive energy (there’s a lot of names). Practising alongside some great focused people, all from different back stories, is very inspiring. I would like to make a special mention to Helen, Carolina, Fed, Rachel, Andy, and Kat, for always doing great energetic sessions , and always giving extra motivation, help, and advice throughout.
Overall, doing the extended challenge has been a great experience. Learnt a lot mentally, progressed physically, and have gained a higher understanding. What’s exciting is that there is still more to learn and develop on. I would definitely recommend anyone practising to doing consecutive days.
…I have a confession. Sometimes I don’t need to dry my hands on my towel. I just squat down so I can breathe some of that cool floor air that drafts in…..