5 days after my mom died I decided to start a Bikram yoga practice as part of my self-care routine. Bikram is a form of hot yoga. It consists of the same 26 postures done in the same order with the same script over 90 minutes in a room that is about 105 degrees. The variable is you and what you bring to the practice each day. What did you eat today? How much did you sleep? Have you been sick? Did you drink a beer last night?
It is described as a “90 min open-eyed meditation.” This is why I chose it. The mental challenge of meditation along with the physical challenge of yoga in a room as hot as the devil’s mouth seemed like a good way to get my mind right – get centered – so I could proceed on the journey of living while grieving.
There’s a Bikram studio in my neighborhood and I joined with their “30-days for 30 dollars” unlimited trial. The studio is fairly small. One changing room for women, one for men, one shower for all and two bathrooms. There are two owners and a rotation of part-time teachers. There are just enough class time options to offer me the flexibility I need to be able to participate. There is no consistent schedule showing which instructor will be at each class and it seems to vary. Each day I show up and get to be surprised to find out who is teaching. This used to throw me off. Even though there is a script and every class is the same sequence done in the same order there is an energy that each teacher brings. One teacher can make 90 minutes of sweat dripping down your ass-crack fly by. Another teacher can make the class feel twice as long and twice as hot. And, perhaps most importantly, each teacher brings a message. They talk during the 20-30 second breaks or offer a different type of encouragement during the poses. These minimal times in the class where the teacher is off script is where I hear the messages I need. The universe speaks to me through all sorts of channels and there is no mistaking the synchronicities I have experienced in my yoga practices.
When I first started my practice I was diligent about practicing 4x per week. The first two weeks were brutal. I was dizzy. I was nauseas. I was SO thirsty I would imagine that I was “drinking” the air. Sometimes I would feel like I was practicing under a heated blanket and a claustrophobic panic would almost ensue. You can imagine my struggle with a teacher who’s energy seemed to extend this experience.
There was one teacher, in particular, that I liked the least. She is the kind of person who smiles when they say anything. Like she is so pleased with everything she has to say. And she was so calm – almost tired because she is so calm. This bothered me. Yet, she was the teacher who kept showing up when I did. I attended classes at all different times of day on all different days and still, there she was. The next week I would attend different classes on different days hoping to avoid her. Still, there she was, at most of my classes.
I noticed that she triggered the grief of my mother more than any other teacher. Yoga, in and of itself, brings up emotions. I found myself in tears most often with this one teacher. She would tell a story about her own mother – which made me think of my mother or she would make a comment directly to me such as,
“Oh wow! I haven’t seen a real old-fashioned hanky in years!”
It was my mom’s.
I took note of the pattern of grief and the synchronicities I experienced in all my classes but that somehow seemed more poignant in her class. I decided to embrace her as my teacher. Clearly, I needed to learn something from her or hear something from her. I also decided that her classes were an opportunity for me to communicate more closely with my mom. I used the meditations to ask my mom questions and to process the grief.
After about a month I started seeing this teacher less and less and hearing messages through other teachers more and more. Each class brings a message that I need. These messages bring me peace. They are a reminder from the universe that I am on track – on the right path – and that all is working in my favor. One night, after a few days of intentional meditation, visualization and journaling to identify specific components of my dream life as well as the fear that keeps me stagnant the teacher spoke about dreams. She highlighted the importance of dreaming big and going for your dreams and how fear gets in our way! Then she said matter of factly,
“Fear is the killer of dreams. Yoga is the killer of fear. Keep coming.”
That was for me.
I recently saw the teacher who I once avoided. I hadn’t seen her in over a month for some reason. Seeing her again and being able to take a class from her again now brings me great comfort.