Bikram yoga

The Undaunted Mindset

A will finds a way.

– Orison Swett Marden

Like a crazy person, I’ve taken up Bikram yoga. I first tried it several years ago when I lived in California but I only attended a handful of times. For those of you who may not be familiar, Bikram is a yoga class set in a 105 degree set at with 50 percent humidity. You work through two sets of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises in 90 minutes.

To say it’s a challenge is an understatement.

The thing I find about Bikram yoga for those who are familiar is that everyone has strong opinions about it. I’ve yet to meet someone who has no opinion on the practice. I’ll be met with, “oh, I hear that’s dangerous” to “that guy is a creep!”

It was started by Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born-American yoga teacher and if you’ve seen the recent Netflix documentary about him, you’ll likely agree to his said creepiness. The one thing, however, that stood out to me the most in this tell-all/too-much-information documentary is that after all of the accusations and abuses alleged against Mr. Choudhury, the fact remained that all of the participants still deeply loved the practice separate from its creator.

And I think that says something.

For the longest time, advocates of Bikram would claim that an average individual would burn over a thousand calories per class. I’m not going to lie, it feels like it. However, a 2014 study from Colorado State University disproved the claim and found that, on average, women burned 330 calories and men burned 460 calories per Bikram session. (Sexist calories! 😉 You could burn almost the same amount of calories through a brisk walk for 90-minutes!

So why put yourself through this torture chamber? (That’s literally what my teacher called it the other day.)

I’ll tell you why I do it.

It has very little to do with my body, and everything to do with my mind. Don’t misunderstand, I truly appreciate what it’s doing for my body. I enjoy sweating and feeling like I’ve flushed my body out of impurities. It definitely makes me drink more water. Overall, my whole body feels purer. My abdomen is less swollen. I love the stretching and flexibility gains. I can tell it’s making my muscles stronger. But the thing I love, and when I say love, I mean LOVE, is what it does for my mindset.

For me, the lesson is all about mindfulness and learning to achieve mind over matter. I am a classic overthinker. If I want to, I could find something to worry about at any given point during the day. If I’m trying to accomplish something but I end up getting stuck in my head, I blow whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish. In Bikram, I’m learning to set my mind on my goal, settle into the present moment, and achieve my desired outcome. Which many times is, don’t pass out, don’t throw up, and don’t quit. I’ve learned when I set my mind right, and enter into that meditative mindfulness state, I can pass successfully through the class to the victory of completion.

It’s teaching me to live in the exact moment. And each moment that arises thereafter. It’s teaching me that when I set my mind to it and relax into that exact moment, I am much stronger and more capable than I imagined.

I’m not a hot weather girl either!

In fact, I hate the heat. When I first began Bikram the heat was my main hesitation. Now, the heat is the last thing on my mind because my mind has overcome it. Aside from the overall class, I’m learning how important my mindset is in each little individual pose. Because of the heat, your heart rate is already elevated. The simplest balance or pose can feel like you are running a marathon. When I allow my mind to panic, I break the pose and bend over desperately trying to breathe. But, when I make my mind up to calm down, focus and accept nothing less than completing the pose, I successfully hold the pose.

And when it’s all over, I can’t begin to tell you the positivity that flows through my body. I leave so proud that I once again challenged myself and faced a struggle and accomplished the goal I set out to do. I’m not even saying that I accomplished it perfectly. There’s been more than one occasion I’ve had to stop and lie down in the appropriately named “corpse pose” to lower my heart rate and recover a bit. But, I’ve never left the class. I’ve never given up. The more control I take of my mind the easier the class becomes.

I’ve met several people in recent years that are into endurance running. We’re not talking about some little marathon–we’re talking about 50 miles or 100 miles. It’s dumbfounding to me. But when you speak with them, they all say the same thing, it’s in your mind. Your body will continue to push itself if your mind is telling it that it can.

Now, am I suggesting that you sign up for Bikram? Or go run 100 miles? No, unless you want to. I’m telling you that there is something out there–some goal, some passion, some dream, and yes, maybe some physical activity you would love nothing more to accomplish. Then, you let your mind get the best of you. Then, the negative inner dialogue begins. That success is for other people, not me. I’m not good enough. I could never do that.

Your mind will accept that challenge.

That’s why I love the word “undaunted”. I think of that word when I settle into a state of mindfulness in my class. It’s defined as being “courageously resolute especially in the face of danger or difficulty: not discouraged.” How many times do we get discouraged and quit? How many times do we fail to have the courage and never begin? Imagine what you could accomplish with an undaunted mindset. One that courageously focused on your goals and regardless of any difficulty that arises, you remain steadfast.

Find your challenge and choose your passion, then mindfully become undaunted in your task. YOU will do great things!


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