Bikram Yoga has helped to transform my life in so many more ways than just physically.

"Bikram Yoga has helped to transform my life in so many more ways than just physically." - Daniel Sheehan

My name is Daniel Sheehan and I began practicing Bikram Yoga over the June long weekend of 2015. I’d driven past the Pulteney street studio on my way into the city on a number of occasions prior to that Sunday morning in June and I had often wondered to myself, what exactly is Bikram Yoga? (Actually, I have to admit, I’d been considering to give it a go - while at the same time, putting it off for at least the last 5 years or so). This is an account of my first class and my Bikram Yoga experience that I’d love to share with you if you’ve got a few spare minutes to continue reading. Namaste.

My introduction to Bikram was an early morning class with Robyn. I’ll always remember the warmth and comfort from her smile that greeted me upon entering the studio, it quickly helped to relinquish the feelings of anxiety and nervousness that I had allowed to build up within, while driving into the city that morning before the class. Her friendly and caring nature was immediately absorbed, and it had me feeling welcome straightaway. After concisely having the class explained and what the next 90 minutes would involve, I was ready… or at least I thought I was…

I can still recall my first thoughts when I entered the yoga room… “This isn’t too bad; it’s not as hot as I thought it would be”. I sat my mat down and waited for the class to start. I was

surprised by the large number of people in the class, everyone had their own routine of preparing for the class and I remember being amazed at the flexibility/strength of some of the positions that a few of the fellow students were able to place their bodies into as they warmed up. At that moment I was inspired, excited but also a little intimidated to be trying Yoga for the first time. While I’d been waiting for the class to start, my heart rate had slightly increased and by the time Robyn entered the room, I already had sweat beading and I was suddenly beginning to realise that it wasn’t going to be like anything that I’d ever done before. (Funnily enough, the room is appropriately named - “Bikram’s torture Chamber” - as I noticed during my first few classes, until I’d learnt how to accept and persist with the challenges that the practice commands – “there’s only one way, the hard way” – “90mins of Pain or 90 years?” - drinking plenty of water beforehand helps immensely to deal with the heat as I also learnt earlier on in my practice. Foolishly, I didn’t hydrate enough before my first class.) I remember by the second set of the first breathing exercise I was already thinking “what the #*@” …

At this stage I was starting to feel some hesitancy towards my decision to take the class…. I was feeling unsure about myself and unsure of my surroundings. I was in a room full of complete strangers - who I must add looked to be handling it, without any visible signs of distress, a whole lot better than I was. I was struggling to coordinate my movement and breath with the dialogue, and I was feeling awkward and totally out of my comfort zone, but I was aware that I just had to trust the process and ignore the negative thoughts from within. I knew at that point I wouldn’t achieve anything by walking out of the class. I was open minded to the fact, that the only way to be fair and to reach an informed, non-bias conclusion about Bikram Yoga and as to whether it was right or not for me, was that it would probably take a few classes before that decision could be made. I was able to calm down. Robyn’s earlier advice - “Don’t compare yourself with others in the class” and to “just focus on yourself and do what you can” - registered again at this point and I was able to refocus and continue with the class. I continually reminded myself that even just staying in the room for the full 90 minutes was a huge achievement and persisting with the postures and the rest of the

class was an important step towards overcoming the challenge.

There were a few more “what the #*%@” moments throughout my first class but overall, I seemed to have settled down after the first water break and from then on, I was able to connect with the flow and enjoy the rest of the class. The feeling I had when I left the room after class was phenomenal, the buzz I felt was absolutely astonishing. I couldn’t wait to get back in the room, I was instantly hooked. From this point on there certainly, was no hesitation. On my introductory pass I attended every second day and before the 10 days had expired, I’d signed up for a 1-month pass. During this 1-month period I decided to give the Hot Pilates class a go.

What a different challenge that first was. It’s totally different to the Yoga but requires the same approach to the class. Focus on what you can do and don’t compare your ability and effort to others in the class. Do your best. I just couldn’t get enough of this place. By the end of this 1 month pass I was attending 4-5 Yoga classes a week and 1-2 Pilates classes a week. I then signed up for a 12 month pass and a month later began my first 30-day Challenge. At this stage

I was already attending 6 classes a week and had included 2 Pilates classes into my weekly routine. The hardest things that I found about completing the 30-day challenge were, understanding that the body was always changing and that the ease/difficulty of the postures change from day to day and the ease/difficulty from posture to posture also can change daily.

Towards the end of the 30 days, fatigue was setting in in a big way. The challenge was so much more than just physical. It was a huge test of mental strength and a test of my commitment to endure and complete the challenge. There were days that I didn’t feel like going to class but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way. I learnt quite a lot about myself and what I’m actually capable of from those 30 days. I realised I could achieve anything if I wanted it enough and was prepared to work hard for it. Just before the end of last year, I was able complete 70 classes in 60 days. It’s strange how some days, you feel fine and you’re ready to practice and you have a great class. Other days you can feel fine, but you have a horrible class and then other days, it can be the complete opposite. I’ve learnt not to have expectations of my practice. Each day is a new day and a chance for me to give my 100% to the practice, regardless of the results from performing the postures; it’s always about the effort.

In my practice I deliberately haven’t allowed myself to develop a favourite posture, position in the room or teacher. I feel that doing this may lead to me neglecting the advancement of my practice and may also encourage bad habits to form, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Everyone is at different levels in their practice and with different things happening in their own lives, but we all share the one common goal in the room – to give 100% while aiming to be the best version of ourselves. I love that about Bikram Yoga. The entire 90 minutes in the room is a chance to focus on you. It’s not a competition.

Bikram Yoga has helped to transform my life in so many more ways than just physically.

It has helped me to overcome the battle with my depression that set in immediately after my marriage broke down just over three years ago now. At the time when this happened, I was wiped out by a huge wave of emotions -anger, sorrow, abandonment, loneliness, despair, frustration and confusion- which I became entrenched in and enveloped by these feelings. They completely altered my outlook on life, and I developed a very frail and ill state of mind. I was in a very dark place and not seeing any way out of it. I’d gone from living a very happy life with a woman that I deeply loved and cared for, to feeling totally alone, unable to trust anybody and not even caring anymore if I was alive or dead. It definitely was a frightening time in my life and is a place that I never want to return to, nor should anybody ever end up in.

Through my regular Bikram yoga practice, it has helped to restore my wellbeing. I’ve regained

control of my emotions. I’ve been able to reclaim my determination and focus in life and I now have back my ability to remain positive, calm, grateful and happy to be alive. The environment here is so welcoming; the people I’ve met and practice with are all fantastic people and it certainly has been a life changing experience, one that I’m so thankful for.

Looking back to when I first started this journey and to where I am now, I can honestly say that although along the way, I’ve believed in and proved to myself that I can do it, I’m also quite surprised at the remarkable transformation that’s occurred…

Thanks for taking the time and allowing for me to share this with you. Namaste.

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