Bend It Like Bikram (a.k.a. Yoga Parenting)

I was a late bloomer when it came to fitness. For most of my teen/young adult years, my idea of exercise was walking from the couch to the kitchen to refill my snack bowl during commercial breaks. I became an accidental athlete as I approached 30, with a move from drive-everywhere California to walk-everywhere New York City. Before I knew it I'd joined a gym, trained for a marathon and fell in love with weight training.

After several marathons and the ongoing marathon that is life with two-under-the-age-of-six, I decided that distance running was no longer my thing and ventured into the crazy world of Bikram Yoga. Now, instead of lacing up my running shoes, I sweat through 90 minutes of crazy hot yoga three times each week.

Bikram is defnitely not for the faint of heart. The room is heated to roughly 103 degrees with 40% humidity.  If you aren't properly hydrated, ate too much before class or drank like a fish the night before you're going to suffer. On the flip side, with such extreme conditions in the room (not to mention the postures themselves), you have no choice but to focus on yourself, focus on your breathing and stay in the moment and stay in the room. Unlike the grunty, chatty, dance-music-blasting scene at your standard gym, there is a strict code of silence in the Bikram studio. The only voice in the room is that of your instructor - walking you through the poses, encouraging you to stay in the moment.

There are many reasons that I've fallen in love with Bikram Yoga, but I think the silence is the biggest part. When a posture is particuarly challenging, there is no screaming or grunting. There is no beefy personal trainer screaming at me to "feel the burn". I also like the fact that every class, no matter what studio I go to, follows the same sequence of 2 breathing exercises and 26 postures. Every day is different, depending on my mood, level of hydration or how much sleep I got the night before - but I always know what's expected of me. And I love that the teachers emphasize the importance of being kind to yourself - it's yoga practice, not yoga perfect.

This morning during class, it dawned on me that many of the things that have drawn me to yoga can help me in the ongoing marathon of parenting. With our kids, especially when they're young, we go through the same series of challenges, frustrations and tasks. We must feed, clothe and nurture them. Keep them from killing their fool selves and ultimately help them to become the best version of themselves possible. Every day is different, deepending on if someone is sick, how much sleep they (or you!) got last night and whether they've eaten too much crap from the 50 birthday parties we attend each month. But, more or less, the challenges of parenthood are roughly the same every day.

There is no immediate payoff - you don't get the perfect yoga body after a week and you won't know how your kids turn out for 18+years - but you have to put the work in to get the results. Screaming (at yourself or the other folks in the room) when things get tough rarely helps, and often makes a tough situation even harder than it has to be. But when the challenge comes, focus on yourself, focus on your breath and remind yourself that you don't have to be perfect. Each day you have the opporutnity to practice - to try again. So you yelled at your kids this morning - let it go. Missed bedtime when the budget meeting ran long? Try again tomorrow. Your five-year-old is in the midst of a 20 minute tantrum? Breathe. Keep your mind on the end goal, steady your gaze, calm your mind.

Now, don't get me wrong. Roughly 10 minutes into every class I wonder WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?  Every time I get a bad report from preschool, a 5:30am wake up call or end the day with yet another double meltdown I think the same thing. But, I'm learning that if I can slow down my thoughts and breathe I can make it through any posture - and any parenting predicament. It might not be perfect - it's usually not even pretty - but I know I can do it.
Riann said...

There is no Bikram studio in my area. I really miss it!

Nikkiana said...

I haven't quite mustered up the courage to try out Bikram yet... and I'm sure a large part of that is the fact that the nearest Bikram studio is 27 blocks away... and I'm lazy... but I did finally made it to the studio that's five blocks from me that offers a fairly decent variety of decent types of yoga and I imagine that studio is going to get hotter than hell this summer so, that might get me warmed up enough to get brave and try Bikram. :)

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