Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class

My friend Matthew first suggested Bikram Yoga to me in the summer of 2010, but when he mentioned the heat I instantly thought, “No way I’m ever doing that!” When another friend, Ty, started practising, I couldn’t help noticing the difference it made in him … still, I was hesitant to try it myself.

The following July I was involved in a car accident that caused serious injury to my left hip. Three months of physiotherapy had done little to help, and I thought yoga could be a good alternative (I also hoped it would help solve a chronic ankle issue). So, one wet, cold evening in mid-October, I dragged myself to the new Cambie hot yoga Studio, where Renée signed me up and gave me some pointers on surviving my first class. Ty, who happened to be there that night, showed me to a spot under the fan and told me to keep breathing.

That first, unforgettable class was taught by Danny, whose upbeat, energetic style and sense of humour kept me going for the full 90 minutes; I felt amazing after! No pain anywhere, I was full of energy, my mind was clear and my mood was great! I felt like I’d found something that was missing in my life with Bikram Yoga. I came back the next day and fell into a regular practice immediately. What got me hooked was a combination of the yoga itself, the energy in the room and the positive vibe I got from everyone at the studio. Though I try not to miss a day, I typically do between five and six classes a week. It feels like I’m missing something if I take more than a day or two off.

What do you do to get through class on days you don’t really feel like practising?

No matter how I feel before a class or how I perform, I always know I’ll feel a whole lot better after. I try to keep in mind these words, which I’ve heard over and over again: “The only bad class is the class you miss.” When I’m having trouble getting through a session I try to remember to BREATHE – slowly, in and out through the nose. It works, as does clearing your mind, concentrating on what you’re presently doing and staying in the room. I’ve learned that no matter how I thought class would go, where I’m at that day is where I’m at that day; I just accept it and try to do my best. Sometimes, I still can’t balance on one leg to save my life, but I just smile and pick up my foot again. Proper hydration is also key; I never go anywhere without a water bottle now!

What benefits have you received from Bikram Yoga?

I’ve had a serious injury to almost every major joint in my body from one mishap or another. EVERYTHING hurt when I began at Bikram Yoga Vancouver. Shoulder pain kept me up at night; I couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep. Now I sleep great and am mostly pain free. My hip still hurts some, but not nearly as much. The flexibility is slowly coming back and I rarely limp anymore. I’ve experienced one or two ankle blowouts since I started Bikram Yoga 10 months ago, when normally that would’ve happened five or six times in that period. Also, the injuries have healed much quicker. In fact, it seems like I notice the physical benefits of a regular practice more and more each day. Whenever I injure myself now I head straight to the hot room – and find that the healing time is much faster.

Beyond the physical benefits, I recently went through one of the toughest emotional times I’ve ever experienced. The only place I felt OK was in the hot room. I didn’t have to talk to anyone, yet I wasn’t alone. For an hour-and-a-half I was able to focus only on what I was doing at that moment and clear my mind. Whenever my mind starts to chatter these days I’m able to stop, breathe and focus – both in and out of the studio.

I could go on and on about the benefits of Bikram Yoga that I’ve noticed, but one really stood out to me because it was something I never expected. I have “moderate high-frequency hearing loss,” meaning I have trouble hearing people with higher-pitched voices or who speak softly. In the past, if someone was facing away from me and talking, I would miss most of it. Hearing aids haven’t helped, and it’s always been a major source of frustration. When I first started practising I had a lot trouble hearing many of the instructors in the room, and constantly had to ask people to repeat themselves in conversations. In especially noisy environments, like a restaurant or bar, I could rarely keep up. Two months after I began Bikram Yoga I had my hearing tested; incredibly, my audiologist stated there was a slight improvement in my hearing. Over the next several months I started to notice a gradual overall improvement: I wasn’t asking people to repeat themselves as much (something that my friends noticed, too) and, bit by bit, I was picking up more of what teachers were saying in the hot room and turning down the volume on the TV. I was (and still am) completely blown away by this. While I still have trouble hearing (especially in noisy places), but it’s far less of a problem than it used to be. I can make out 80% to 90% of what most people say in almost any environment, where as before I was lucky to catch half of what was being said. You can’t imagine what a huge difference this has made in my life.

Russ noticed a light improvement in his hearing since starting Bikram Yoga. Have you experienced any surprising results as a result of your practice? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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