Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …
A good friend of mine, who I was visiting in Vancouver, took me to Julia’s class at the Kitsilano Studio in September of 2011. I weighed 308 pounds but was already on my way to transformation – about half a year prior to that I’d adopted healthier habits and started taking better care of myself. I’d even been doing some Hatha Yoga back in France. I decided to trust my friend and give Bikram Yoga a try.
During my first class I was unable to think at all; I was so disconnected I didn’t even think of suffering or leaving the room. Julia told us newcomers to take it easy and try and end the class with the will to come back, which encouraged me to try at least one set of most of the postures. Unfortunately, the excess weight I was carrying prevented me from doing certain poses; for example, I lacked enough flexibility in my back to properly execute the floor series.
At the end of the class I lay there, my body half naked and sweaty, my mind far, far away (probably on the moon); my friend came over to me and gave me a deep hug. I didn’t realize how intense the experience had been until I was under the shower, where I started crying – a lot. I think they were probably tears of joy, though; my body understood way before my mind did that this yoga was exactly what I needed.
When did you come back for your second class?
I returned with my friend the next day – in fact, we practised for four days in a row! My second class was way more emotional than the first – for both of us. We cried together at the end, like it was some kind of spiritual awakening. The last two classes I did at Kits were different; I was getting more used to dealing with the heat and tried to focus on certain physical aspects of my practice, like dizziness, headache and heart rate. Jacob told me that I did a great job, never complaining … however, as he said during class, you shouldn’t complain: this is what you paid for!
Back in France I waited a couple of weeks to think about my whole experience with Bikram Yoga in Vancouver; finally, I came to the conclusion that it was better than the fitness I was doing at home. Bikram Yoga was a more “balanced” workout for the entire body – and for the mind, too. Yoga means “union,” right? Doing Bikram Yoga reunited my body and my mind. In our European culture – and in the way people do sports in general – we give too much precedence to mind over body. When I started practising yoga I began listening to my body for the first time, not only in the hot room but in terms of what I was putting into it (i.e., nutritionally), too. Bikram Yoga helped me to listen to my body more; my body taught me how to make it healthier.
Now I try to get into the hot room at least twice a week; that frequency has allowed me to see a great deal of improvement in my health. I practise in Bikram Yoga studios in Paris and Belgium, and, when I came back to Vancouver in early April for a visit, I did a wonderful challenge of 10 classes in nine days at Bikram Yoga Vancouver’s Cambie, Kitsilano and West End studios. For the first time in my entire life I saw myself changing right before my eyes; after showers I found myself asking, “Are my towels getting bigger or is it me melting?” In fact, I have lost about 50 pounds in the last six months, all thanks to yoga and better food – no diet, no medicine, no surgery …
Besides Bikram Yoga, did any other lifestyle changes contribute to your weight loss?
I changed a few things … besides discovering coconut water I started eating more fruits and veggies, less meat and less processed food. But I didn’t do anything too extreme or restrict my portion size too seriously. I just tried different things and observed how my body reacted – in everyday life and in the hot room. In terms of exercise, I try to cycle and swim for 30 minutes once or twice a week, but prefer to save time and energy for Bikram Yoga; I need the spiritual dimension of yoga that I can’t get on a bike.
In your opinion/experience, is Bikram Yoga a good option for those looking to lose weight?
Yes, for a few reasons, the first being the sweat. Sweating not only helps you shed water weight, it also purifies your body, ridding you of all the toxins. When you have too much weight you become unbalanced, and that creates discomfort. Bikram Yoga really brings that balance back quickly. You also lack flexible, and gaining that back quickly through Bikram Yoga is so rewarding – you feel better being in your body. It’s addictive; your body wants that great feeling you get after every class more!
I also think there are taboos around being overweight, which make it difficult to accept yourself as you are. You become used to judging yourself and get frustrated with your body’s lack of flexibility and balance. You place a great deal of importance on how you look (and even more so on how you feel others think you look). Bikram Yoga throws out all of these feelings; to me, the major lesson of this yoga is learning to practise non-judgment toward yourself. It helps you to accept your body just the way it is, and it helps to reunite body and mind so you can start to lose the weight.
Have you experienced any other changes through Bikram Yoga?
I feel that I’m remembering I was strong, but I also feel more open minded and more aware of so many things and feelings. Most of all, I’m way more confident; bringing me to the hot room, in terms of self-confidence, has been the most precious gift I have ever received.
Any advice for people thinking about taking up Bikram Yoga to lose weight?
If you don’t have serious medical issues, you don’t need doctors or serious medicine to make your body healthier and your life better. You just need to remember that you are strong – way stronger than you think. Bikram Yoga can help you remember that faster. If you give it a try, it’s good to keep in mind the lessons of Patañjali: loving kindness, compassion and joy. Apply those lessons to your own body first; they will help you deal with your impatience. Impatience in transformation is the best way to get frustrated; frustration is the biggest brake to transformation. So have compassion for yourself and don’t make impatience a big deal. Just focus on the goal – and on loving yourself, just as you are, in the meantime. Remember that you have beauty and strength in you; maybe you just forgot it.
I’d also add a tip about Standing Bow, which many people who are overweight have trouble with. Six months ago I couldn’t even grab my foot from the inside (that’s why I’m not bending in the picture). Jacob told me to grab from the inside first, before trying to bend; now I grab my foot from the inside AND bend!
Are there any other goals you want to achieve through Bikram Yoga?
One goal: to share it as widely as possible, because I feel my transformation has been so spectacular and I’ve met so many inspiring people in the hot room. Maybe I’ll even go to Teacher Training one day – that’s something I definitely dream about!