I discovered Bikram Yoga more than 15 years ago, on a business trip to San Francisco. I was already a regular Vinyasa practitioner, looking for something new. I entered the studio of the Bikram Yoga College of India, and my life was changed. From my first class, I felt invigorated, challenged, opened, and supported in a way that I had not experienced before. I started looking for Bikram studios everywhere I travelled; though the series is the same, each studio has a different vibe, and none have disappointed. I've practiced in over a dozen states, and always feel the sense of loving community. Very young, bendy practitioners and older or less flexible people alike find solace and physical intelligence in the hot room. Because there wasn't a Bikram studio yet in Rochester, I purchased mirrors, a couple space heaters, the Bikram CD and book, and developed a home practice.
I went through a violent separation and divorce in 2001-2003, and my home practice grounded me. Then, in 2004, after a year of inexplicable physical symptoms that left me unable to walk, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which was primary bone--the disease was located in the marrow of all my long bones, my skull, and most of my vertebrae, but not the spinal column itself. My left hip was fractured. I underwent two surgeries, multiple hospitalizations, and a year of chemotherapy and other treatments; I was not expected to live. My body was an inescapable house of pain.
I needed to learn to simultaneously release myself fully into and transcend the pain. As often as I could-- sometimes even just for seconds at a time--I did mental Bikram, envisioning myself doing the postures physically.
It took a long time, but I was able to restart a gentle Bikram home practice in 2006. Today, although I have severe arthritis in my spine, had a hip replacement, and experience other bone damage as a result of the cancer, I attend classes in studio three or four times a week, and am able to do almost all of the postures. My surgeons and other doctors are amazed.
Due to Bikram yoga, I am healthier now than I have ever been. My pain level, while not zero, is more tolerable than it has been in the past decade. The postures work! The sequence works. Listening to the dialog and entering into my own inner conversation with my emotional, muscular and skeletal systems, I have found both buried treasure and buried insult. Using the breath as directed, I am learning to let go of that which I no longer need, and finding joy in the process. I am completely alive in a way I know with certainty would not be true without Bikram, and without the teachers at Bikram Rochester studio. I have the resting heartbeat of an athlete. I try to breathe calmly through turmoil. I have found peace, acceptance of my perfectly flawed body, and an amazing community of fellow practitioners.
This yoga practice is a gift and a blessing, aspirational and attainable. What are you waiting for?