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30 Classes in 30 Day Challenge

30 Classes in 30 Day Challenge: Militant Yoga

By Ilicia Balaban

I am a goal oriented person and I love a good challenge.  Yoga has been a staple of my exercise regime and spiritual practice for years but I have not felt truly challenged by a yoga class in a long time.  Last Monday I decided to try my hand at Bikrum yoga. Bikrum differs from traditional hatha yoga in several important ways. The studio is heated to 107-110 degrees with 60 percent humidity, classes follow a standardized 26 posture protocol with two sets of each posture, breaks (including water breaks) are built in to the class so that the body can return to homeostasis, and students are instructed to stretch beyond their limits to the point that they feel like they are going to “break in half and fall down backwards.”

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I walked in to Simsbury Bikram for the first time. It was a shock to my entire system. All of my faculties were exhausted after that first 90 minute class. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually I felt as if the instructor had rolled up his mat and smacked me in the head with it. But, like I said, I love a challenge and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I signed up for 30 day introductory membership and have since decided to challenge myself by doing 30 classes in 30 days and I’d to take all of you on my journey with me with weekly updates.

I went through waves of love and hate with Bikrum. The first day my goal was simply to stay in the room and try my best.  The next few days I was on a high, so excited to get to class, ready to push myself as hard as I could, convinced that this was the day I would hold the posture for the full 90 seconds or touch my head to my feet. What I have found most interesting this week is the psychological transformation happening. I have always struggled with body image issues having been very overweight as a child. Because of the heat, participants typically don’t wear much clothing in the studio. Every day I spend 90 minutes in a room full of people, in front of a mirror in just my sports bra and shorts. Normally I would spend that time critiquing my body and then feeling bad about myself for wasting energy criticizing myself. I can’t do that in this class. If for even one second I begin thinking about my body rather than the posture I am holding I will lose my balance and fall over. Bikrum forces me to leave my baggage, my hang ups about myself at the door and focus 100% of my energy on the task at hand. Mindfulness and intention are the name of the game and after just one week, the fruits of my labor are becoming apparent in many different facets of my life, from my relationships to training my clients and how I feel about myself.  More to come next week as I continue on with my 30 day challenge…