you learn more than you realize

I love following the public conversation around Bikram yoga. Not only because it’s deeply personal and important to me, but because it’s a highly polarizing topic and my love of philosophy and analyzing media lets me totally geek out (at heart I’m an academic). So of course I had to read this when it popped up in my Facebook feed (thanks, Yasuyo!):

Drugs, Sweat, and Fear: Bikram Yoga and Anxiety

I loved the epiphanies Ms. Spechler shares:

“One teacher, after admonishing us for wiping our sweat, said: ‘Stop responding to discomfort by reaching for things. We scratch. We smoke. We drink. Those are temporary solutions. Practice being still.’ Even now, whenever I feel jittery, I remember that advice.”

As a teacher, boy have I learned more than ever how very, very challenging it is for people to hold still. It’s how you can spot the experienced practitioners from a mile away–they’re a thousand times better at practicing stillness.

I have to admit that my first response, particularly after reading the holier-than-thou comment from the NYC yoga teacher, was something like this:

More wisdom from XKCD.

But after reading from the Orange Book, and thinking about it more, I’ve come to see a different and way more interesting aspect: Bikram yoga was the key. It didn’t solve her problems, it’s not a magical panacea….however much some of us may talk about it that way or wish it were so.

But Spechler tried, and it didĀ open the door. She learned important lessons about determination and taking action. Practicing Bikram yoga was a part of her path towards recognizing and confronting her anxiety. She has stopped practicing hatha yoga (the physical exercises of, in our case, the 26 postures & 2 breathing exercises), which often gets mistaken as yoga itself and not merely one of the eight limbs of yoga. But she’s still practicing and gaining from yoga–particularly raja yoga (using the mind to bring emotions under control, as she works to do with her anxiety) and vedanta yoga (applied knowledge gained through experience, i.e. the lessons she learned from practicing). TheĀ  yoga she learned in the hot room has never left her.

Self-realization, my friends, is a long and winding road. And who knows? Maybe somewhere down the road, that path will lead her back into a certain, sweaty chamber and help her a little further along….