Bikram Yoga: Class 9

I woke up this morning, looked at my clock and it was 7am. If I wanted to make the 7:30 class (I hadn’t been since LAST Saturday), I need to get my butt out of bed. My mind was yelling “Come on, get up! You need to exercise!”. My body was screaming back “Screw you, asshole!” Alas, I did get up and I did make it to my 9th class.

I had 3 glasses of wine last night. I will NOT be doing that again the night before a Bikram class. It was a hard class today… I struggled wasn’t “feeling it”. It was kind of the same story in last Saturday’s class… and once again, I had 2 cocktails the night before. Are we seeing a pattern here?! That, and the fact that I’ve been only going once a week, are surely affecting how I feel in class.

In my defense, I think I’m coming down with something too… so all of these things combined made today’s class a challenge for me.

So, I walked into my 9th class and was immediately hit with the heat. It felt hotter than normal… I was like “ugh”. Truth be told, even though the room is supposed to be heated to 105 degrees, I dothink certain instructors like the class a bit warmer than others. That, and how the heat feels to your body will vary with how you feel, how hydrated you are, etc. So, in my experience, variation is expected… but it’s always hot. 🙂
Today’s teacher was one I’ve never had before, and even though I struggled through class… I still benefited hugely, because I heard her say things about some of the poses I’ve never heard before. It doesn’t mean the other teachers didn’t say the same things (the entire class is scripted), it just means for some reason, this teacher got it across more clearly I suppose.
A few simple things I learned today:
  • In Standing Deep Breathing, not only should your knuckles be under your chin, with your chin always pushing into them, your thumbs should be touching your throat so you can feel your breaths.
  • I can get up higher on my toes in Awkward pose!
  • In Cobra pose, the object is to put so much pressure/compression on your lower spine that you actually cut off the blood flow to that area of your body. You should be squeezing your thighs, butt and pushing hard with your hands to arch your back as much as possible. That way, when you release the pose and rest, all the freshly oxygenated blood rushes to that area.
  • When resting on your stomach (in the floor series, after poses like Cobra), your big toes touch and your heels fall out.
  • In Camel pose, your hands should not be applying pressure on your feet (or holding you up). Rather, you hands should be holding you down. You should be pushing your hips so far forward, that if you were to let go with your hands, your whole body would spring up.
  • In Rabbit pose, only 10-20% of your upper body weight should be put on your head. The less, the better.
  • When I let my mind wander during class and during Dead Body pose, the class is harder. You need to stay focused and meditate on your poses… not think about good ideas for your blog, what chores you need to do or how much you wish the class was over!
  • Not every class will make your feel good. Some classes will be harder than others. Some poses you could do last time, will be too challenging this time. It’s okay. Baby steps!

So, in addition to what I’ve learned, I also wanted to share the three poses I find most difficult and how I’ve progressed in each.

First, Camel Pose:

Photo courtesy of

For the first four classes, I could not even come close to getting both my hands on my heels. This pose may lookeasy, but if you have tight shoulders it certainly isn’t. Then on my 5th class, I had the honor of taking a class with the owner of my studio — who is a Master Teacher and also teaches during the Bikram Teacher Trainings, Diane Ducharme.

After I was able to reach back with just my right hand (I would do the right for the first set and just the left hand for the second set), Diane watched me and was like “lean back further… you’re right there!”. I didn’t feel right there. Not at all! But I did it, and low and behold, I felt my fingers brush my left heel! OH! THERE IT IS! So I kept struggling until I was able to get a grasp of it. I almost cried. I know this sounds silly, but it was such a break through for me that it caused me to have an emotional reaction.

At class 6, I was determined to try again… and what a pleasant surprise — I was able to grab my heels on both sides! It takes some effort, don’t get me wrong… as my shoulders are really tight. In today’s class, I did the best Camel yet. I grabbed both heels and pushed my hips really forward. I felt my shoulders pull back and sort of turn out. I knew I had reached the next level of this posture for my personal practice.

My true arch nemesis is Standing Head to Knee Pose:


I have not really progressed with this pose, even after NINE classes! But I am not giving up… I keep trying. In the picture above, these are the three ‘stages’ of difficulty with this pose. Most beginner to moderate yogis focus on the first stage. I cannot even do that. In fact, the very first thing you do is balance on one foot (with your knee locked) and pick up the other foot in your hand, with all fingers interlaced – holding the bottom of your foot. I even struggle with this.

I am better when standing on my right leg than my left. I can actually hold the foot and even begin to straighten my leg a little. I can’t hold it long… but at least I can kinda start it. When standing on my left leg though? I’m lucky if I can just hold my foot for most of the pose. More often than not, I can’t.

Lastly, the most painful pose for me is Locust Pose:

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Honestly? This pose sucks! First of all, I cannot even lift my legs ONE INCH off the ground and it is still excruciatingly painful! Why? Well, try this: lay face down on the floor, with your mouth pointing straight down. Put your arms, palms down, under your body. You entire arms should be covered with your torso… including your elbows, and your fingers are spread with your pinkies touching.

How does it feel? For most people, it is very painful on your elbows (at first). Not me… it kills my wrists. In fact, for the first few classes, I could barely even put my body weight on my hands like that without wincing.

Now… try to live your legs into the air! What? Huh? Exactly. People can do it though! For me, what I’ve been focusing on is just loosening up my wrists. So, at every class, I get my arms under my body as much as I possibly can and then when it’s time to lift our legs, I just press my hips into my hands to help stretch my wrists. It hurts.

I am seeing some progress though. I can now get my palms completely flat on the floor and when I apply pressure, it doesn’t hurt as much. Again, baby steps.

So, my next class with be the “Big 1-0”. I wonder if I’ll have any breakthrough moments during that class? I hope so!

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