Thursday, January 28, 2010

Home practice, for a change

"Don't look so sad, don't look lonely!"  - Bikram, on the class CD

Today I practiced my yoga the old-school way; at home, in my bathroom, with just a little heat from the overhead heat lamp and steam from the shower.

It was just a silly chain of events that kept me from getting to the studio for a normal class.  I slept in pretty late this morning (since I was out late celebrating my birthday last night!), and I couldn't go to the noon class because of an afternoon appointment.  I had a late lunch and planned on going to the 6:30 class.  Then at 4:29pm, one of my friends texted to say that she'd gotten me tickets to Avenue Q for my birthday, tonight at 8pm.  Hooray!!  I love Avenue Q!  I saw it with the original cast on Broadway in 2004 when it had only been out for a few months, and it's remained one of my all-time favorite musicals.  So this was totally excited, but it dashed all my plans of going to 6:30 class, and it was way too late to get to the 4:30.

I pondered this situation for about 3 minutes, then decided to take action.  I turned on the heater in the bathroom (which probably brought it up to a balmy 71 degrees), put on some leggings and a fleece sweater, grabbed my mat, ran a hot shower for 5 minutes to steam the room up, and pulled up Bikram's class CD on my iTunes.  I like listening to Bikram's instructions and chatter, and using the CD meant I'd have to do a full 90 minutes, no slacking!

I had a fun little practice.  I broke a sweat (just a little), I did all my good compression and extension, I carefully created tremendous stretching sensations (though the range of the stretching was a lot smaller than usual), I got my heart rate up, and I moved my spine in all directions.  I give myself -5 for lack of heat, but +2 for motivation and +2 for creativity.  I'm counting it as a class, because my personal goal for this challenge was to do my 26 and 2 at least once every day, and I did get that done.

My roommate came in halfway through and nearly died laughing when she saw what I was doing.  I re-enacted my most creative moment for her: in full locust pose, I stuck my left arm out over the tub and opened a door to put my right arm in the cabinet under the sink.  Here is a picture.

Silliness aside, I liked "roughing it" for a day because it made me feel connected to all the awesome yogis who practice this way all the time!  The home practice, or "bathroom Bikram," has a long and proud history.  This is how a lot of people learned the series back in the day, before it became a big popular thing with studios in (nearly!) every state.  People learned from the book and practiced on their own, without much heat, with only Bikram's picture to keep them company.  Then they went to meet Bikram, took heated group classes for the first time, started teaching others, went back home, and opened up studios.

Plenty of people - hello, readers! - still practice this way, when they can't get to a studio regularly.  I'm always really impressed by anyone with a consistent home practice.  It seems like it must require a special kind of discipline, to just get up and do your yoga every day without a teacher to motivation you.  It strikes me as a very authentic way to practice, because when you're alone in your home there is really no one to impress; your practice is completely for you.  It's also a very traditional way to practice; as I understand it, the big group yoga class is a relatively modern invention.  When Bikram first had the idea of teaching yoga to many people at once, his guru told him that it would never work (though he later changed his mind).  Plenty of other traditions still suggest that you should practice your yoga on your own, and just check in with a teacher now and then for corrections and tips.

So today, I'm paying tribute to all the noble bathroom yogis around the world.  You may be the only person in the room when you practice, but you shouldn't feel too left out, because you're never really alone.  There is always someone else in the world doing exactly the same thing, listening to the same words and practicing the same postures, at the same time you are.  You are connected to the history of Bikram yoga, as well as its present and its future.  Rock on, yogis, and just try not to hit your head on the cabinet under the sink...


Danielle said...

Your happy, smiling face is absolutely priceless. :)

Anonymous said...

Welcome to my world. I live in savannah ga, no studio. So I built a room in my house with special heaters and humidifier to keep the right temperature. I have been listening to that cd for over a year with about 15 other practitioner of bikram yoga. 6 days a week. I had a dream a week ago that I beat up bikram because he lacks self realization

I do love the yoga, and crave the heat.

catherine said...

Whaaaaa?!?!?! You wore leggings? "No pant in my class! Yoga is for the shorts!"

Loving this picture. I wish my bathroom cabinet were organized enough to get an arm into! Way to take action, girl!!


Rebecca said...

I love it!!! That is me at my new house in no-where, VA. I've got it all planned out since there is no Bikram ... yet. Thanks for the post. I am inspired.


thedancingj said...


Bill - That is awesome. That's what I call dedication, and very resourceful, too. Sounds like someone from your group is going to have to get to teacher training eventually and open up a bigger space! The dream about Bikram is hilarious.

Catherine - I know! Because shorts would have been too cold!! I listened to that CD so many times before I realized what he was saying : "No pant! I don't like pant in my class!" "Legs and arms should be OPEN, slippery."

Rebecca - Glad you're inspired! Sounds like you just need to invest in a good space heater, and you'll be in business. :-)

tracik said...

As someone who has practiced at home I love this post! Such a different feeling when you practice this way. Funny pic!

ariella said...

yup i have one of those rooms... Summer in New England? No problem.

Winter in New England? Practicing in sweats with space heaters and a humidifier? Last resort.

It is funny though with a boiling hot space heater how much you will really never lose your balance to that side. Maybe I should just surround myself with space heaters in standing balancing series to make it "life or death" balancing.

Love the pic!

Meg VR said...

Savasana is definitely less relaxing when each one begins with the bonk of my head against the bathroom cabinet :-)

Also, my son says, "Mama, I don't like it when you pretend the bathroom is a yoga studio." Ha!

Anonymous said...

Two of the savannah ga practitioner are bikram instructors already. One is opening a studio here so while construction goes on, we practice together at my house. We listen to the cd because it is not an autherized studio, so they don't teach. The one girl is the teacher training roommate of the teacher training blog writer heat and humility that is listed as one of your favorites on your main page.

thedancingj said...

"Life or death" - HA! Ariella and Meg, you guys both cracked me up.

Bill - Oh okay, cool, that totally makes sense. Also, WOW, small world. I am seriously in LOVE with Christine's writing and have never managed to get in touch with her. I read that blog years ago and still come back to it sometimes - there's just something about her writing. I'm a huge fan. Please pass along my compliments through her roommate if you can!

Johan said...

Wow, my geek factor went through the roof. Immediately went, what there's a bikram class CD, I need to get it. Even though I have no intention of practising at home.

J, legs and arms slippery. Hilarious that make so much sense in a Bikram way. I think one of my teachers a year or so ago made a comment along those lines.

Ariella, that is a brilliant (and funny) idea. If only the local studio would agree to it. :-)

Catherine said...

This sounds like my day today. Work prevented me from getting to class. Or my desire to sleep won over going to 7:30am class.

If you are coming down to take advanced class, do you take beginning class beforehand? I am working second shift and I have mornings off, so I could meet you for class at HQ! let me know ....

thedancingj said...

Johan - You can buy the CD on Itunes! (At least in the US.)

Catherine - Yep, I always take beginning class before advanced. Email me!

hannahjustbreathe said...

I've never given the home practice a try, but it's on my list.

And may I just say that is one impressive bathroom set up you have going there! :)

Ladiladida said...

I'm so glad you are counting your bathroom bikram! Too many are too strict on their challenges in my opinion. If you do the 26 and 2, you are doing yoga. The heat is a tool, a compliment to the yoga for your safety. If you have been practicing, the warm balmy bathroom combines with a realistic and calm mind mind can do it safely! Add a space heater to your bathroom, a humidifier and stop up the tub when you run the show with the curtain open and the heat is no joke either! yeah, for the Bikram CD.

catherine said...

(I was kidding, of course, about the pants!) Got to bundle up... Hope you had a great birthday!

Bill, your setup is inspiring me to devote a space in the house I'm buying!
Ariella, winter in New England (and the Hudson Valley) = no fun! Love the advice about the space heaters. :)
Ladiladida - I'd never thought to plug up the tub! Thanks for the tip.

bikramyogachick said...

I need to try that someday. Just to say I am a member of the "bathroom bikram yogis"
LOVE the picture. Very creative to open the door and stick your arm in the cabinet!

thedancingj said...

hannah + BYC - Yep, it's fun for something different occasionally, especially if you've never practiced to the CD!

Ladiladida - Ok first of all, great name, and second of all, thanks. :) I like to think that I've mellowed out in my "old age" and gotten my priorities together - the yoga itself is MUCH more interesting than the rules and guidelines that we create around it.

Catherine - Thanks, it was a good one! Yoga, friends, sushi, and beer. :)

Shabs said...

Just been catching up on your blog, and I love this-it's so me at the moment! I'm traveling in South America for a few months, where there aren't many studios. So I'm building places with a studio into the itinerary every few weeks, but most of the time I have to motivate myself for home practice. I've been getting creative in bathrooms too!

I find this home practice much harder when it's done on a regular basis. There's less motivation to do it 'properly' or even do it at all. But I keep doing it (though not as much as I would if I have access to a studio) as I know I need it. Can't wait till my next studio visit's only about 3 days now-YAY :)

Thanks for the post. It's nice to read about someone else doing this :)