26 yoga postures in a hot room

Author Archives: Erin Bechtol

Overcoming Perfectionism

May 21st, 2017 | Posted by Erin Bechtol in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Overcoming Perfectionism)

(or What to Do When Your Body Doesn’t Do What You Expect It To)

Some days, it seems like everything goes right. We can hydrate appropriately throughout the day, eat nutritious meals that allow us to feel strong and energized, and balance our personal and work responsibilities just right to buy the time required to make it to yoga class. Ideally, this groove would last all the way through class, keeping us mindful and present through each posture, maybe even managing to keep our faces smiling and happy as we stretch and pull to our best ability. Maybe the poses don’t cause us any discomfort and we’re getting green lights from our bodies all the way throughout.

Other days, despite our best efforts and the good vibes we may seem to have in our lives, our bodies may not be on the same page. One day you may find that the poses you’ve been doing comfortably for weeks or years are suddenly not accessible to you anymore. And believe it or not, this can be a good thing.

Bikram tends to attract perfectionists (including myself) to the practice. Unfortunately, this means that some of us expect a certain depth and look to our postures that is not always possible. Our bodies are ever changing, growing, adapting to the situations we put them in, and this yoga helps teach us a very important strategy to guide us through our challenges: stop and listen.

Stop the stream of thoughts that tells you it’s too hard, it should be easier, it should look different, and other discouraging messages. Those ideas do you no good. Instead, use the struggle as an opportunity to tune into more important messages. Listen to the teacher, and—the greater, more vital lesson—listen to your body. Every day, in class and out of it, our bodies are trying to tell us what we need. But in the crucible of the Bikram room, we have few options but to listen. Instead of pushing as hard as you can go, allow yourself to hear what is happening in and around you.

When you find yourself in a pose that you just can’t seem to complete, it is a great chance to go back to the beginning and build your foundation. Let go of how far you have gone before into a pose, and put your energy into setting up the posture to the teacher’s instructions. You may find that you’ve developed some funky habits over time, or that you skipped over some key element that got you off balance. Focusing on the beginning can help.

Once you’ve got the setup, move one step at a time until it falls apart, then go no further. Back it up and do it 100% right, no exceptions, no pushing past it. Without doing the poses the right way, you are putting yourself at risk of other kinds of strain or injury as your body compensates for the parts that aren’t working appropriately. Remember that visible depth is not nearly as important as correct alignment.

We all struggle in class at some point or another, and the teachers in this studio have a wide range of histories and many years of experience. They are here to help you find your best practice, to guide you in creating the kind of body that will allow you to live a happy and healthy life. Don’t be afraid to ask around for advice on how to deal with what challenges you—chances are one of the teachers has dealt with it before.

Most importantly, keep coming back to learn how to listen and how to give your body what it needs.

Why I Do Bikram Yoga

April 21st, 2017 | Posted by Erin Bechtol in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Why I Do Bikram Yoga)

As a newcomer to the practice, it can be a little hard to understand the appeal of a Bikram yoga class. Admittedly, it sounds unpleasant: an intense workout for 90 minutes in 105 degree heat at 40% humidity could (and often does) bring even the strongest of us to our knees. But learning how to survive, and even to thrive, in the most taxing of conditions is well worth the effort.

I came to Bikram yoga in 2010 while attending university in Reno, Nevada. Balancing work and studies was difficult, and losing two of my closest family members within one particularly bad year compounded the stress. We all have those moments, unfortunately, when we question our ability to cope with loss, pain, and hardship. It just so happened that in that particular moment for me, an instructor at the university who also taught Bikram yoga encouraged me to attend a class, just to see what it was all about.

Bikram Yoga Corvallis

Some truths became immediately clear: this yoga was not the calm, peaceful retreat I had always associated with the word—it was work. When I first came to class, the rigid structure and heat were intimidating. I was so worried about where to place my mat, how I looked in the shorts I wore, how much I would sweat. (Spoiler: A lot.) But as soon as my knuckles hit my chin for the first pranayama breathing exercise, those worries were no longer important. All of my physical and mental resources were entirely engaged in making it through each pose. Even resting between poses took focus to truly relax before the next challenge would begin.

That is when it became clear that this hour and a half would not be time to think about my life or my school work or what I was going to do for dinner. During those first few classes it took all of my strength, concentration, and willpower just to stay in the room, let alone to try every pose to the best of my ability. But every day that I returned I found that my supply of strength and the power of my will had grown a little more.

It was challenging, but I felt compelled to lean into the discomfort, to push myself past what I saw as my limits and prove to myself that I could handle it. If I could handle being that hot, that tired, that out of breath, that sore, to struggle that hard, I could make it through anything.

And so far it’s been true. The peace that you find in the hot room is unlike any other. It can be difficult to find stillness, to relax and empty your mind in a world that moves so fast. We all have our share of concerns and responsibilities, but practicing this yoga creates at least 90 minutes where your only responsibility is to be present. The structure makes that easy. The conditions are extreme enough and the poses challenging enough to allow you to let go of everything outside the room. It even encourages you to step out of your mind and really focus on your body. Not on how it looks, but on what it can do.

Over the years and several international moves, I maintained my practice however I could manage, often establishing a routine at home to complete my asanas under relatively frigid—room temperature—conditions. While the poses still offer plenty of benefits on their own, it is also unspeakably rewarding to become a part of a community dedicated to bringing a better version of themselves into the world. Whether it’s a class of six or sixty, practicing together allows yogis to lift each other up, raise our spirits enough to where we might actually smile into our shins in standing hands to feet pose, or at the very least leave the studio a little lighter than when we arrived.

These days I practice to see what my body can do, rather than to focus on how it looks. I practice for the inside out, bones to skin healing that takes place in every class and the euphoria that comes stepping out after the final savasana knowing I’ve made it through. Most importantly, I come to class as often as possible because with regular practice, I hope to build a peace that no one and no circumstances can steal.