Over the years of practicing, teaching, and owning a yoga school, we’ve learned that many people have a complicated relationship with their hot yoga practice. It’s hot, it’s hard, we struggle, but we always feel so good afterwards. In the beginning of this relationship, once we get acclimated to the room and commit ourselves to a regular practice, we go into a honeymoon phase. We feel excited that our bodies feel so much more energized, balanced, and tension-free. We truly appreciate the clarity of mind and positive outlook because it’s new! Each class is an adventure because it seems like we’re able to accomplish something that we couldn’t do the class before.
But like any relationship, eventually the honeymoon phase begins to wear off. The changes and progressions we experience in yoga class become more minute, less obvious, than they were in the beginning. We begin to take all of the positive changes we’ve experienced for granted. Our yoga zeal slowly begins to slip away. Suddenly, we allow life to get in the way of our yoga, and we delude ourselves that these two things are separate entities.
Recently I complained to Josh that I felt like I hadn’t made any real progress in my personal practice in several years. My practice is and always will be focused and disciplined, and I always maintain a certain degree of consistency. But my honeymoon phase when I had nearly a daily practice before and after I attended Teacher Training in 2008, and then trained for competition in 2012, ended several years ago. Since then we had babies number two and three, I was away from the studio more and more, and my personal practice fell lower on my list of priorities. I fell into a maintenance practice of 2-3 classes per week. For the past 10 years, I have depended on yoga to help maintain some semblance of emotional balance and sense of wellbeing in my own skin. My yoga mat has been my physiotherapist and psychiatrist and my best friend. But a maintenance regime hasn’t been enough to make me feel really stoked about yoga or feel any new surges of progress in my practice or on my path of self-exploration. But still, something is better than nothing!
During the last 3 weeks in Vancouver, something changed. Jacob and Rea Lynch, fellow Bikram Yoga teachers, and future owners of Bikram Yoga Broadway, reached out to us when they heard about our adventure, and offered us a place to park on their city street. Through our many lengthy yoga talks, but mostly through just observing their lifestyle, we’ve been inspired to simply make getting our asses to class a priority as often as we possibly can. Jacob and Rea both have real world jobs, teach yoga, have 2 kids, and still manage to get themselves to class pretty much every single day. I watch them negotiate – one takes class at 9:30am, rushes to pick up PJ at preschool at 11:30am, then heads off to work, while the other waits until the kids are asleep and ducks out to teach at 6:15pm and then catch the last class of the night at 8:15pm. After returning at 10:00pm from a yoga class, Rea invites me to practice at 6am because it was the only class she would be able to make it to the next day. Jacob says that he has a deal with himself to maintain a high frequency: for every day he misses a class, he has to attend that many consecutive days. So Josh and I started tagging along, catching rides, and following their example.
It wasn’t the yoga, the studios, or the teachers in Vancouver that made the difference. We practiced the same systematic 26 and 2 that we’ve always depended on. The yoga rooms were actually hot and humid enough to make me suffer just a little, which I like (thank you especially to Christian at Bikram Yoga Commercial Drive for this!). Some teachers were inspiring and others were just so-so. I simply showed up to class as often as I possibly could, almost every day, regardless of time of day or other possible ways to spend my time. After increasing my frequency from 2-3 classes per week to 5-6 classes per week, I feel like I’m really getting somewhere with my practice again. I look forward to getting back into the hot room the next day. I’m feeling things, finding things, exploring areas of my body and mind that I haven’t for a long time. With increased frequency, I’m able to apply more intensity to my practice – both mentally and physically. My mind and body are in a place in which I can more effectively push my own personal boundaries and perceived limitations. Feeling excited about my yoga practice translates to being excited about self-exploration.
I know that during our travels I may not always be able to maintain such a high frequency practice. When we were free camping on the Sunshine Coast for 3 days, our focus was family, hiking, and biking. But that time away from my yoga practice made me appreciate and yearn for that post-yoga-bliss feeling even more. Like every relationship, our yoga relationship goes through different stages. Since we’ve been back in the city, I’ve taken class every day. Our time in Vancouver has reminded me to live what we learned from Emmy Cleaves and have been teaching our students for years – consistency, frequency and intensity are the keys to success in yoga – and applying these principles makes it possible to rediscover that honeymoon-like intense love and excitement!