Halfway through my first class, it wasn’t just hot – it was hell. My brain was shutting down, it was all I could do to just breathe and stay upright. The half-naked bodies around me were doing this dance to a persistent mantra voiced by some North American beauty. I looked again at her, but she had become a blur – sweat was eating out my eyes. This was not easy, but I was a bloke and this was only yoga. “Take a deep breath and do it!” my mind grunted at me. But it didn’t get easier – it only got worse.
Finally the instruction came, lie on your back, the first ‘savasana’. Respite, well sort of, but not really – I had a heart that was still peaking from the strain, trying to break through the rib cage and seek shelter outside in the cold. The second half of the class became a haze of sweat, muscle strain and a voice that kept on demanding I do it again. Well I did survive, I walked out unsteadily, unsure about what the hell I had gone through – yet I was resolved to try it one more time. And as we walked to the car my friend told me she would never come back and she didn’t (well not for a few months anyway). But when she did she loved it just like me.
Several years on and now it is hard to imagine life without a staple diet of Bikram Yoga. Sometimes for breakfast, sometimes for brunch and then there is supper. Daily sometimes, and very rarely less than five times a week. After four years I got an eye for those more complex poses, and now my body is happily feeding on those extra stretches. And like so many of the 26 postures, I used to think they were impossible, but with practice and effort my body is slowly getting to approximate a likeness to those pictures on our wall poster. My resolution has been to work much harder on those postures I thought were impossible for my battered body, and millimetre by millimetre they are getting better.
After a couple of years of practicing I had a question for myself. How can I make sure I keep doing yoga for the rest of my life? The answer was simple, “Teach it.” So in 2009 I went to teacher training and came back and stepped on the podium. I now observe students in the room making changes for themselves, a rich reward we see so frequently as teachers. The changes I see are far too numerous to even start describing, but that smile as people walk out with their taller and straighter frames is a good start.
Yes yoga does change your life, I have seen it so many times. But there is that nagging frustration as a teacher that I see so many people try it out yet never take it into their lives. I was lucky that just before I began my journey into yoga I read a little book that had this piece of wisdom: “Do yoga for one year. Do it without judgement, just do it regularly. After one year make your call.” Yoga is very powerful, there will be changes. It is simple. All you have to do is keep doing the postures. And being a bloke, I always thought yoga wasn’t for me, “I’m not flexible enough, I can’t even touch my toes.” I now realise that the less flexible you are the more you have to gain, and it is far easier for a less flexible person to see and feel the difference.
I do a lot of yoga and also teach it, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to spare, but there are some bits of Auckland that I love. The food – the variety, with traditional dishes from all over the world. All those different restaurants remind me of our studio’s classes – sometimes we can have as many as 20 different cultures in the room at one time, a rich place to be. If I’m not eating or doing yoga, you will find me out and about around Auckland, camera in hand. To see my work, check out www.brucesimonsphotography.com
Well if you’re contemplating another class, come! The rewards will far outweigh your investment. And if you have a question at all about your yoga, ask and I will do my best to answer.
Bruce Simons (Studio Manager)
Bikram Yoga Teacher Training – Spring 2009
Centre for Contemporary Yoga Studies 200 hours – 2015