By Noa Glow
Alexis is a longtime BYV student who can often be seen practising in the front row. While her journey doesn’t include serious injury or illness, this yogi (who certainly has a way with words) credits Bikram Yoga with helping her to grow – physically, mentally and spiritually – over the years. Many of you will likely relate to the fact that, as Alexis says, it’s often the smallest, slowest changes that bring the best benefits to our lives.
Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …
I took my first class four years ago with a guy I was dating who was really into Bikram Yoga. Proud idiot that I am, I pretended I’d done it before and didn’t raise my hand when Roxy asked who the newbies were. I remember that I kept wondering when the class would end … torture is definitely easier to endure when you know how long it will last! The only reason I stayed in the room for the whole 90 minutes was because my boyfriend was there – I didn’t want to look like a wimp!
What was it that finally got you “hooked” on Bikram Yoga?
It took a while before I became a “regular” but, when I did, it was for several reasons. First, I’d never felt so good as a result of any other activity I’d done in the past and, second, I loved the challenge. I wondered how other students managed to make it look so easy (and wanted to be one of them). I was also going through an emotionally difficult period, and Bikram Yoga gave me something to “sink my teeth into.” The hot room offered me a safe haven. I think that’s why I went back and stayed: Bikram Yoga was there when I needed it.
As a beginner, what did you find most surprising about Bikram Yoga?
Before my first class I thought Bikram Yoga would be easy, given my experience with Pilates, running, snowboarding and other sports. I had no idea how magical and complex it was. How could I? My attitude was snobby, proud, ignorant and immature. When the teacher asked us to pick up one foot for Standing Head to Knee, I thought, “Are you #@$%ing kidding?” Now I smile when I see the same “deer in headlights” expression on new students’ faces when they’re asked to do this posture for the first time!
How often do you practice Bikram Yoga these days?
About three to five times a week, though the frequency of my practice varies. I’ve yet to do a 30-Day Challenge, though I’ve attempted it a few times. One nice thing about Bikram Yoga is it really is “always there.” Even if I don’t show up to class for weeks, the yoga doesn’t change, and returning is comforting. I love sharing smiles and energy with my “yoga family” – friends with whom I get to engage in a positive activity though I may not necessarily have anything more in common with them other than Bikram Yoga. I was expecting a workout when I started; I never anticipated being part of a real community. What a bonus!
What are some of the top benefits you’ve received from Bikram Yoga?
The biggest benefit I’ve gained has been a key to managing my emotional health. I’ve always been a rather anxious person with a history of imploring others to give me guidance regarding this problem or that problem, of seeking the answers “without” rather than within. I never imagined I’d find the solution (or, at least, a big part of it) in a yoga studio – much less inside myself. What a remarkable concept, and truly something that needs to be experienced to be understood. Also, I was raised, and still am, an atheist (my father was a logic professor) and, in spite of this, Bikram Yoga has helped me see life somewhat more spiritually, without necessarily using religion as a means. Like most people, I’ve dealt with a few broken hearts, and there’s no doubt Bikram Yoga has helped ease the pain. My father died last summer and this was difficult for me – we were very close. During a family crisis it was very comforting to go to yoga. Yoga also helps me manage stress and stay focused as I work toward my master’s in information science at UBC and simultaneously nanny and tutor to help make ends meet.
What are some of your best tips for beginners?
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is it’s impossible to anticipate the outcome of any class. Sometimes I enter the hot room feeling “good,” but have a “bad” class (and vice versa). It’s cool to be able to go to the studio and really have a complete, unpredictable experience, totally isolated and removed from the rest of my daily activities and obligations. My best advice would be: look forward to, don’t anticipate, the outcome of attending class.
Do you have a favourite posture? Does any pose really challenge you?
I love the second component of Half Moon Pose: Backward Bending. For some reason this is “my” posture. I like to think it’s because I am fearless! My weaknesses are patience (feel free to give me a dirty look if I leave during class for “water” or “air” or “to go to the bathroom” because I shouldn’t do it – and I know better!) and hip flexibility. For this reason, although it’s a relatively “mellow” posture, I have trouble with Tree Pose and struggle with Triangle. But I’m working on it!