Yeah, I know. That’s a big statement. Especially for me.
I can have some bandwagon tendencies. I jump on and ride along for about six months until a more interesting wagon rolls on by.
This is different. Bikram is a keeper. Yoga is a lifelong practice for me and if I ever stop doing it, someone needs to kick my ass back on to the mat because I’ve temporarily lost my mind.
When I was 11 years old, I broke my back. I crushed three vertebrae between my shoulder blades and I got whiplash in my lower back. I was encased in a metal brace and I had to use a wheelchair if I needed to walk further than a few steps.
In time I healed, but some issues remained. I had suffered nerve damage and had lingering pain. My left foot would drag when I got tired and the lightest touch to my lower back would cause spasms to shoot down my legs. I was generally stiff and sore but I just accepted pain was part of my life; I was grateful I could walk.
I exercised and tried to keep my back healthy. I went to the gym, spinning and kickboxing and lifting weights. My back pain was managable. It was mostly fine.
Then, at the age of 30, I walked into a Bikram yoga studio. It all changed.
I know people have all kinds of opinions about Bikram. Opinions about the heat, the unchanging routine or about Bikram’s posture trademarks.
I don’t care about any of that.
I care that I am now in my 30s and for the first time in over 20 years I have no back pain.
Bikram makes me strong – mentally, spiritually and physically. This yoga gave me back my spine, in more ways than one.
I was ready for a life with a “bad back”, I was prepared for constant ache and various restrictions. One of those things I shouldn’t be able to do, is this:
But here I am anyway.
It changed my normal. It changed what I could expect from life.
Go ahead and call it a cult and make fun of the Yoga Girl but when yoga is no longer cool, when the world has moved on to the next big thing – I’m still going to be backbending.
That’s why it doesn’t bother me that I have a hard time getting my forehead to my knee in Dandayamana Janushirasana after two years of solid practice. I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ll still be doing this when I’m 84; two years is nothing.
I don’t take complements well. I shrug them off and explain them away. But when someone praises my backbend, I do my best to fight that habit and simply say thank you. Because it’s the purest and most genuine way I know to express gratitude – to my spine, to this practice and to this life.
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