Students of Traditional Hot Yoga experience many life changing results when they commit to their practice. Weight loss, relief from allergies, anxiety, aches, pains, managing disease, healing injuries, the list goes on and on. This page is dedicated to the students of this yoga who have stayed committed to their yoga practice. I hope these yoga stories encourage you to keep up YOUR yoga practice, remember why you started, and get you back to the hot room again and again.
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Westheimer
First Class: 2015
I went to a non-Bikram yoga class in high school once but never made it back on to a mat until December 2015 when a cute boy invited me to a Bikram Yoga class. Some people hate their first class, but I was instantly in love. I was in the middle of a fifty pound weight loss journey, attending the gym every day and running frequently, so it was great to be challenged by something so different. My perfectionist brain wanted to ‘figure it out’ and my determined (i.e. stubborn) personality wanted to prove to myself I could do something so difficult – because it IS difficult. I practiced irregularly for about six months without ever actually understanding the changes that were taking place in my life. For me, at that time, it was all about mastering something new.
I stepped away from the yoga for a few months to train for a half marathon where I was eventually injured. After about six months out of the hot room, I returned with the hope of simply healing an injury. After attending four days in a row, I somehow got sucked into a Thirty-Day Challenge. I had done four already… what’s another twenty-six, right? Those thirty days turned out to be some of the most emotional, therapeutic, and transformative days of my life. I was hooked. There was no looking back.
Thirty days turned into sixty which evolved into ninety and from there, I was all-in. Bikram Yoga was forever my ‘thing’ and I could never picture my life without it. I had learned so much about myself: mind and body. Everything about me was changing, for the better, inside the hot room, but especially outside of the hot room. My anxiety was tamed, my body was brand new (I had lost a little bit of weight, my body was toning up and muscles were visible, my skin was clear), I had all the energy in the world, I did not get sick anymore, and I was the happiest I had been in years. The physical benefits were well known but the mental benefits completely surprised me; everything that used to seem unmanageable or like the end of the world was suddenly so simple and beautiful. I was bulletproof. The studio was my home, the people were my family. Nobody could steal my peace.
My love and passion for Bikram Yoga grew exponentially over my ten-months of daily practice and before I knew it, I was registered for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. I completed my year-challenge (386 classes in 365 days) while I was at training in the Fall of 2017. Teacher Training was one of the best experiences of my life and I will forever be grateful for that decision. There are not enough words to describe that experience and the incredibly impact it had on me. I will forever be a new person because of it. Coming home and teaching for my studio family and for new students have been some of the best joys I have had. As a student, I continue to fall in love with the yoga each day (even the days I do not want to be there!) and push myself. As a teacher, I constantly gush about the yoga and try to make anyone, and everyone, come to a class – we all want to save the world and for people to feel the way we know they can after a Bikram Yoga class.
It is so amazing how life can take you to places where you least expect it. If you had asked me a few years ago where I would be today, I would have never, EVER imagined this. Bikram Yoga changed my life… all over, inside out, from the bones to the skin, fingertips to the toes. I am so incredibly happy and thankful for everything it has done for me and I can only hope that as a teacher, I can help someone else feel even a fraction of the same way.
My favorite Bikram quote is, “Give me thirty days, I’ll change your body. Give me sixty days, I’ll change your life.” Those words are so simple but so true. If Bikram Yoga can change your life in sixty days, imagine what it could do when you fully commit yourself and your life to it.
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Geneva
First Class: 2005
I started Bikram Yoga during a trip to London and immediately fell in love with the practice. I had foot injuries following over 20 years of intense running and was looking for another exercise that would give me the same kick as an hour run. I had practiced Ashtanga Yoga and was mostly bored, but this was different. When I returned home, I could not practice regularly as there was no studio in Geneva where I live.
My sister lived in Ireland and I pushed her to also try Bikram Yoga since there were several studios in Dublin. She loved it so much that she left her high profile banking job to attend Teacher Training in Acapulco in 2008. After she graduated, the stars aligned and her husband got a job in Geneva, where she decided to open a studio in town.
Since December 2010, I practice every day or so, and cannot get enough of it. It brings me joy in every single inch of my body and mind and soul. When my sister got pregnant she struggled to find teachers and since I had a mandatory sabbatical from work, I attended Teacher Training in 2012 in Los Angeles.
I enjoy each class I teach as if it was the last one. I practice each class as if it was the last one, every day. I do not have the words to describe how it works, but I cannot imagine life without it. I now understand when Bikram says that this yoga can change our lives. The conditions of our life might not change, but the way we live and perceive it is dramatically different. This yoga is my passion. And I will always be grateful for it’s place in my life.
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora
First Class: 2014
When I set foot on my mat for the first time I wanted nothing more than to kill time. It was January and I was as cold on the inside as the outside. I was the determined resuscitator, exhausted, yet unable to quit administering CPR to an expired relationship. The right man wasn’t presenting himself, so I clung shamefully to the wrong one. I was looking to recover my dignity, to dust off my battered heart, to find a new way forward. Bikram Yoga offered me no choice, but to put my thoughts elsewhere, and with a flat rate for my first month of classes, I was incented to show up often. Putting myself at the mercy of the hot room seems safer and a much better use of my time than putting myself at the mercy of the wrong man.
I am competitive. I attended eighteen classes in thirty days. I showed up in snowstorms, in bone-chilling cold. I felt rushed to keep up with the dialogue and to master the postures. I forgot to breathe. I hid in the back. I couldn’t look at my face in the mirror. I looked at what others around me would do and I told myself I needed to work harder if I’m ever going to get there.
I don’t remember when exactly I allow myself to slow down. But I do attribute the moment my practice transforms to this single act. I start to understand yoga is not a race to perfection, and neither is my career, nor my parenting, nor my relationship with the amazing man I meet not long after I begin my yoga practice. Yoga is a metaphor for life, a journey that starts with accepting, owning and expressing who we are and what we show up with every day.
Yoga’s greatest gift is self-love. Yoga teaches me how to be kind to myself. I learn to take my time in the postures. Sometimes I make remembering to breathe my sole goal. I am in the front row, staring confidently back at myself, proud of my strength and the beauty I can finally see. I find it ironic that I define what spills out of eyes devoid of makeup and hair dripping in sweat as beauty. My mantra is “I am enough.” I expect it may take forever to master the postures. And that fact is surprisingly okay with me.
This yoga, just like this life, is hard, can be overwhelming at times. It is easy to talk myself into not showing up, to tell myself 90-minutes is too much time. This month marks my fourth anniversary as a yogi. My practice is regular, consistent, but not as frequent as in the beginning, yet what starts as a way to kill time becomes some of the most valuable time I spend. Yoga continues to remind me who I am and insists I show up as myself in this world. It is a necessary tool for the rich life I am creating. It’s always known what I am just beginning to appreciate: I can warm myself up from the inside no matter how cold it is on the outside.
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Bend
First Class: 2012
The truth is I’ve done yoga since I was in my twenties. Most of it was Hatha Yoga with a stint doing Iyengar when I was pregnant with my son, twenty-four years ago. But life happened and I turned to active pursuits—specifically skiing and triathlons.
Throughout my forties into my fifties, I ran for miles and biked straight up hills and swam. My hips started to scream. My knees were wobbly from tight IT bands, my ankles became weak. About five years ago, I really overdid it. I snowmobiled over seventy miles in one day. This was one of those giant snowmobiles that fit two large people. I had to throw my weight from side to side to get the huge heavy machine to turn. By the time I got back to the cabin, I had no strength left. I had pulled or exhausted every muscle from my lower back to my thighs.
I remembered hearing that Bikram Yoga was healing, so I decided to give it a try. At first, I hated it more than enjoyed it. It took six months before I could stay in the room due to my pre-existing high blood pressure. It then another year before I would move away from the door or window where the temp was just a little lower. At the two year mark I moved to the middle of the room, but only under a fan. Not long after that, I could practice anywhere in the room even on crowded days with high humidity. The point being, it wasn’t easy, but I stayed.
The hot yoga was the cure for what ailed me. The heat helped my muscles to relax, stretch and release toxins. The difficult poses helped strengthen my muscles and joints and provided a degree of cardio as my heart rate raised in poses like Balancing Stick and Half Locust. My high blood pressure is lowered for hours after a class. Also, my practice is continuing to improve with thanks to the Next Level 90 Intermediate Classes. The hip openers in this class are a true help for my aging, hurting hips (I turned 60 this year) and it’s a lot of fun. The positions were laughably impossible when I first started the class, but now I find myself getting into the same positions that seemed unattainable. Intermediate Class has also helped me in the beginner class, as well, as I can finally get my toes around my ankle in Eagle Pose or reach further back in Camel.
As a professional photographer, I’ve had the opportunity of photographing classes, and now I have a clue as to what it must be like to be a teacher. The energy of everyone holding in poses is palpable. Standing in front of a class during Savasana is magical—a combined relaxation that is delicious to experience. It’s easy to understand how it is a privilege for teachers to lead a class.
For the past year, I’ve gone to no less than three classes a week. Something new has happened. It’s mental. The yoga has reduced my stress and helped to realign my mind. The practice has become a necessity, almost an addiction, because of this. If I miss going to yoga for more than two days, I start to get cranky and my life doesn’t work as well. I am so thankful for the practice and for my yoga community. It is the grounding and support I need to help make sense out of the rest of my world.
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Nashua
First Class: March 2017
I walked into my first Bikram Yoga class in March of this year. My thought was, “I’ve done hot power yoga for years… how different can this be?” The simple answer is… VERY. Even though I struggled through that first class and kept asking myself what I had gotten myself into, I came back for more… and more… and more.
Fast forward to September 7th of this year… I was lying on my mat in final savasana soaked with sweat after a 90-minute class. I was training for my fifth marathon and fighting yet another nagging running injury – a strained calf muscle. In that moment I had a sense of clarity. It was as though the universe said:
“Why are you running a 5th marathon? Why are you fighting another running injury? You’ve already run 26.2 miles four times. How many times do you need to do it? What exactly do you have to prove? You are happy here on your mat. This is where you belong….”
The following Monday I went in and signed up for the ninety day Bikram Yoga challenge, committing to practice at least four times per week for ninety consecutive days. The idea thrilled me and horrified me. This wouldn’t be easy…. but everything about this felt right, so I jumped right in with both feet.
During the first week of my journey I discovered Inferno Hot Pilates. If Bikram Yoga doesn’t fulfill your physical exertion quota for the day, follow it up with an extra hour of Inferno Hot Pilates after. You will feel like your glutes are detaching from your body and your abs are experiencing human combustion… Yet, I loved it.
During the first thirty days, I practiced twenty-three times. I could already feel and see the changes. My knee pain stopped. My hip pain stopped. I slept better. I ate better. I felt better. My skin looked better. My body looked better. Slowly but surely, my body was healing from the inside out. All the tightness and pain and inflexibility were starting to go away.
I really got to know myself when I stared at myself in a mirror for ninety minutes every day. I didn’t speak or have my phone. I didn’t look around the room. I just looked at myself and essentially meditated while I moved through the postures and breathing exercises. There are no shortcuts and there are no secrets. I couldn’t cheat or exaggerate. Everything is real and in the moment and right in front of my face.
A big part of Bikram Yoga is Savasana, in which I taught my mind to go from intense focus and determination to complete tranquility. This carried over into my ability to sleep. Suddenly, I could lay down day or night and essentially “put myself to sleep.” Through the practice of Savasana, I had developed this new control and ability to completely shut down my body and mind.
At the end of ninety days I had taken sixty-five classes (including eleven Inferno Hot Pilates classes) for a total of five classes per week. The changes I experienced during this time were monumental. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this practice. All I can do is spread the word and hope more people get out there and experience the incredible benefits.
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga North Texas
First Class: 2011
“DWAYNE!!!” I screamed for my husband from the shower, the pain evident in my voice. I had bent over to shave my legs and couldn’t stand up. My back was totally locked up. It hurt. Bad. I was only 34 years old — too young for this kind of back pain.
Diagnosed with scoliosis after a screen at school in 6th grade, I have struggled with back pain basically my whole life. But it was getting worse. Desperately googling things to make me feel better, I came across the idea of Bikram Yoga. I was terrified to try it because I honestly thought it was crazy to exercise in a room so hot and humid. I was a healthy woman outside of the back problems, but I was still irrationally worried about cardiac arrest. However, desperation can lead people to do crazy things, so I went to my first Bikram Yoga class on February 24, 2011.
I had read enough about it before going to know I needed to commit to 30 days before making a decision as to whether or not I liked it. So I didn’t just go to one class. I planned on going as many times as I could in that first month which ended up being about four times a week. By the third class, I was hooked! Was it a hard work out? Heck yeah! Was I good at it? No! I couldn’t even lay flat on my back for Savasana (Dead Body pose— basically laying flat on the ground) because my back hurt so bad. But I also felt GOOD!
Things that were locked up were slowly but surely loosening. I started to gain flexibility. And most importantly, the pain started to decrease. I’ve been regularly practicing four times per week for almost six years now and can’t imagine my life without it. My husband is fully supportive of the time I spend going because I no longer complain about my back hurting— what a change! In addition to the decrease in back pain, I’ve also experienced an increase in flexibility, patience, and happiness. Bikram Yoga has truly changed my life.
Home Studio:Burr Ridge Hot Yoga
First Class: 2014
I was pregnant with twins in the spring of 2012. Despite doing all that I could to ensure a healthy pregnancy, they came early at 24-weeks gestation. The babies were one pound. My son passed away shortly after birth, but my daughter survived. She fought hard in the NICU for five and a half months, through respiratory distress, congestive heart failure, open heart surgery and many other difficulties. It was a challenging time.
When she finally came home it was very hard for me to enjoy my role at home as a mother. I was suffering from PTSD. I was so happy that my baby survived and was finally home, but was silently suffering from anxiety and depression.
I started attending Bikram Yoga classes in South Naperville in 2014 when my daughter turned one as a way to lose baby weight. I had no idea the profound effect it would have on my life. It just felt right from the start. It did help me to lose some weight, but after a couple of months I noticed that I started to feel better overall. My mood was happier, I was much calmer and did not feel so much anxiety. I began to realize that the positive mental effects of the 90-minute moving meditation was something I could not live without.
I became very passionate about the yoga as I continued my regular practice and wanted to share it with others, taking the leap to attend teacher training at the Raja Yoga Academy in May of 2017. Now, as a teacher, I get to share this wonderful yoga series with my students. I am so happy to be able to do what I love every day.
Home Studio: Fuel Mind to Body Yoga & Pilates
First Class: 2014
How did I find yoga? It found me!! My yoga story starts with a phone call from my dad. He had unexpectedly passed out and needed medical attention. At the hospital we discovered he had a brain tumor and needed emergency brain surgery. He survived the surgery, but would have to relearn how to walk. The man that saved his life was a Dr. Choudhury.
During this I became a ball of stress. I had sleepless nights, IBS, and began to take medication for my anxiety brought on from endless worry of how my dad would recuperate after the surgery. Also, around this time I had fallen and tore my plantar fascia and had to wear a walking cast. Because of this, my legs were two different sizes due to atrophy, causing me to stop my daily running routine.
My sister in law and my best friend both told me to try Bikram Yoga. I hadn’t been exposed to much yoga at the time. I researched Bikram Yoga and saw the name Bikram Choudhury. Reminding me of my father’s doctor, I took it as a sign that I needed to try it. After my first class I was hooked. I even woke up for the 6am classes just because I couldn’t wait to do it again. These classes healed me. My IBS went away completely. Yoga gave me the same endorphins that running had in the past. It enabled me to strengthen my weak leg and it slowly regained it’s strength and muscle tone as I worked each day in the hot room.
I put 100% effort into my practice. I love the type of people that practice this yoga. I instantly made great friends at my home studio and look forward to going there as often as I can. Yoga breathed fresh air into every corner of my life. My only wish is that I had found it sooner.
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora
First Class: March 2016
I attended my first Bikram Yoga class 34 days after losing my daughter, Iris, at 16 weeks of pregnancy. Iris was my fourth child. Her sister, Nelle, had been stillborn less than six months before that. I went into the studio that day with a lot of self-loathing. Two uneventful pregnancies with my older sons, followed by two unexplained second-trimester losses was unfathomable. I hated my body. I felt like it had failed me. I had pregnancy weight to lose and no baby at home. I was still intensely grieving the daughters that I had very much wanted and loved.
I had done yoga before, but never tried Bikram. Previously my practice had been a “yoga sculpt” class that I had taken for years. The instructor was gentle, but cognizant in helping her students push and grow. It was an early-morning Friday class and once my son had entered kindergarten, the time no longer worked for me. Then I was pregnant with Nelle and enrolled in a prenatal yoga class at the time that I lost her. Once I was medically cleared after going through labor and delivery with Iris, I wanted to give it a try. It appeared like it would be punishment and I wanted to punish myself.
Ninety minutes in the Bikram class in heat of over 100 degrees with stifling humidity. The intensity and focus required allowed me to forget my pain, if only for ninety minutes. If I didn’t focus on the practice of yoga, I would have fallen over. For 90-minutes it was only about my limbs and spine and strength. The sweat that dripped from my body was particularly cleansing. I left the class feeling lighter.
The studio had a challenge for new members to complete 15 classes within the first 30 days. I completed the challenge – and that included being gone for several days on a family trip to Arizona. I even sought out a Bikram studio while on vacation because at that point I needed it.
I was unapologetic about needing yoga: needing that time to focus only on myself and my practice. I focused on my postures, making adjustments, corrections, improvements. I would make time for the ninety-minute class three or four times week. I began to recognize that taking care of myself was a necessary component of being a functional human being both at home and work. This evolved into taking better care of myself in other ways. My daily routine became a ritual of carefully considered improvements, to both my mental health and physical health.
In September, six months after I started yoga, I had a particularly difficult class. It marked one year since losing Nelle. I didn’t want to go, but I forced myself. Tori Hicks was the instructor and she constantly offers encouragement and corrections during the dialogue. During Standing Separate Leg Stretching pose (Dandytamana – Bibhaktaeada – Paschimottanasana), she came over to me and kept saying “lock your knees, lock your knees, there you go – you got it!” The exertion caused a cramp in my leg, so I had to sit out the next posture, but then I picked myself up and kept going.
I was fine until we reached the first savasana. Two minutes of silence and focus to prepare for the second half of class. I started crying, and could not stop. I mindfully tried to keep my sobs quiet so as not to disturb the other people in the class. After savasana is the floor series, so no one could really see me. I sat out several more postures as I attempted to get control of myself, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t. As I continued to lay on my back, Tori came over and said “you’re fine, you’re doing great.” She probably thought that pushing me in the one posture had caused frustration on my part. She brought over a tissue and gave my hand a squeeze.
At the end of class, as I was leaving she started to say “We all have days in the hot room that are hard…” and I said “No, that’s not it.” We sat together in the lobby of the studio and I shared the story of my two daughters. I was keenly aware of how close she sat to me, so that her shoulders pressed against mine, like she was holding me up. She started to say “It’s ok” but then corrected herself “It’s not ok, but you are here. You came today. You took some time today to take care of yourself.”
I haven’t attended a class in about one year. I became pregnant again, and delivered my “rainbow baby” (a baby born after loss) in August. The demands of an infant and breastfeeding have kept me away, but I know I will go back. I am itching to go back: to be in that room that was my saving grace for so many months.
Home Studio: Fuel Mind to Body Yoga & Pilates
First Class: 2014
I tried a Bikram Yoga class in February 2014. Did one class and didn’t go back. The friend I convinced to try the class with, did. She kept going. I went a different direction. That year, I entered therapy to figure out my marriage. Did I want to stay or go? In therapy, I worked very hard and was still stuck; I was stuck in fear, anxiety, and grief. I could hold space for myself and practiced self-compassion. I was exploring the depths psychologically and emotionally. There was a missing piece, however. I had yet to explore myself from a somatic and sensory perspective. My horse, Tess, taught me I held fear in my body. Horseback riding taught me I lacked balance, strength, and softness as well. I had gained 15 pounds, reached pregnancy weight, and felt sluggish, bloated, and disembodied. Both my parents developed Type 2 Diabetes in older age. I knew I was heading towards pre-diabetes. It felt inevitable.
Fast forward to July 2015. Sitting next to my friend, who continued with yoga, at the Glenview Fourth of July parade, I knew I had to make a change in my life. Physically, I did not feel well. I was too young to feel so old! She told me to come back to yoga. She spoke of how much she loved her community and how yoga had changed her. I went that week and haven’t stopped.
There is a Buddhist saying, When the student is ready, the teacher will come. I was ready for yoga to be my teacher. The first year of practice, yoga helped me slow my mind, connect with my breath, and rejoice in the millimeters of change in my body! As I gained physical strength and balance, I noticed increased emotional strength and balance. As I began to trust my breath to support me in a pose, I noticed I began to trust my breath to support me in life. Making the commitment to come to my mat again and again, taught me to trust myself, embrace change, and begin again.
Last year, my ex-husband and I decided to divorce. I credit my yoga practice for keeping me balanced and flexible in all the changes that I experienced. During the most turbulent times of the last two years, I found solace and compassion in the consistency of the 26 & 2. The yoga was faithful, it was always kindly waiting for me.
I am so grateful for the yoga practice, as it taught me to be comfortable in the discomfort. I love my yoga practice for teaching me change is more than possible. Oh, and by the way, I lost 18 pounds! 🙂
Studio Owner/Director: Bikram Yoga Wilmington
First Class: 2009
I began practicing Bikram Yoga after having undergone a failed back surgery. My physical therapist suggested that I try yoga since I was still in considerable pain. I initially laughed at the thought, envisioning candles and meditation and such. But I was in a bad way so not knowing what to expect, I found a nearby yoga studio and gave them $20 for 2 weeks of classes.
Turns out it was a Bikram Yoga studio, so wearing sweatpants and walking in with a chai latte for my first class probably wasn’t the best introduction. 90-minutes later I emerged, red faced and dazed, not entirely certain what had just happened.
I’m fruga,l so I came back the next day… and everyday for 2 weeks. And ultimately the next 60 days in a row because my back felt so much better from practicing everyday. I had such profound healing benefits from the series so quickly I was sold. But I had no idea what this yoga would give me in the long run.
You see, I have Crohn’s Disease. I’ve had it my whole life. They say there’s no cure. It’s a torturous thing, and those affected suffer in silence. Nobody likes to talk about digestive problems.
For the first 34 years of my life I couldn’t eat most fruits or vegetables. No nuts, grains, coffee, red meat, wheat, dairy. I was in and out of the hospital and had to constantly juggle medications and their various side effects. It’s not like that anymore. You see, 5 years ago I became symptom free. Diet independent. I can eat whatever I’d like. No meds. No docs. I can have spinach and peanut butter and apples for the first time in my life.
With Bikram Yoga, I changed my own physiology from the inside out. I have reclaimed my body. I have my life back.It wasn’t easy. Or fast. But doable. So now I practice 5 or 6 times a week so I can maintain my digestive health and enjoy all the wonderful foods life has to offer. So I can sit and have a coffee with friends. So I have the choice.
I became a teacher and studio owner because Bikram Yoga works. I can say with the upmost sincerity that this yoga heals, bones to skin. Broken body, broken mind, or broken heart, it doesn’t matter. By simply trying the right way, in this practice you can find change.
Check out Billy’s blog at: rightwaybikramyoga.com – happy reading yogis!
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora
First Class: 2009
When I went to my first Bikram Yoga class, I was broken. But I was searching for ways to get myself back together. I couldn’t continue with my life as it was. I was depressed, taking Zoloft, Xanax, and my doctor had just told me that he wanted to put me on statins…I wasn’t even 35. I had just started practicing Vinyasa Yoga at a studio close to where I work, and I wanted to give it a chance, but I also wanted something closer to home. Before I attended my first Bikram class, I read the website and decided I was ready for anything. Everyone remembers their first class; the heat seems oppressive, and it is a struggle just to stay in the room. I stayed. I knew I had to keep going. I felt good for the first time in a long time, and it was all my own doing.
I had been practicing a few weeks when I had my first real breakthrough. It was during the floor series, and I was struggling, of course. During Savasana, the teacher came up to me, removed her microphone and whispered in my ear, “Look at your beautiful self in the mirror.” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I couldn’t even look at myself. I cried; it was okay because I was already sweating anyway, and I was quiet about it. But it was an important lesson for me. I had to learn how to look at myself in the mirror and accept who I was, all my shortcomings and my strengths in that given moment. I had to learn to really see who I was, my true self.
The rest is history. That first year, I lost 20 pounds and weaned off my medications. I was happier, and people noticed. I was able to give much more of myself, to my daughter, and to my students as a result of my practice. I read anything I could get my hands on about yoga. There were (and still are) times when my practice really is the only thing that gets me out of bed. My practice has saved me from myself so many times. It has helped me through bouts of depression and anxiety, a cancer diagnosis, and a difficult marriage and divorce. It has brought me together with others that I will always consider my yoga family. For that I am forever grateful.
Now I am 43, and I still have goals for my practice. I still want to be able to stick my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee Pose. I trust the process. I am ready to open up more and learn some advanced postures. Right now, I just want to work the kink out of my neck and shoulder, and, in the meantime, I will keep working on healing and finding inner peace. See you in the hot room!
First Class: May 2006
My first Bikram yoga class was on May 26, 2006. I remember a few days prior I was walking home from working out at a gym I belonged to. I was single, self-supporting and living in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. I saw a sign that said, “Bikram Yoga.” I read the room would be heated to 105 degrees. I was always the type of person open to trying something new, to be challenged. I had never tried yoga and was convinced it was not for me. I thought it was too slow and boring. I remember thinking, “I’m going to try this. What a great way to sweat off all of my extra weight. This is the something new I have been searching for.”
I took the evening class. I had no idea what I was in for. My mind was totally blown. People of all sizes, men and women sweating like I’ve never seen before. I never even thought a person could sweat that much. The teacher introduced herself. She was very kind and welcoming and made me feel comfortable. I stood in the back, watched the people in front of me and did the best I could. I was so intrigued by it all. Sometimes laughing at the seriousness of it, but yet wanting what the people in the class had. When I got home, I felt so alive. I felt great. I was experiencing my first yoga buzz.
I took the advice of the instructors and went back every day, literally. Gradually, my whole life started to change. I became obsessed. I brought friends to classes so they could try it, I read and studied both of Bikram’s books, I practiced when I was on vacation in different states and even in the sauna room of a cruise ship. I took a workshop with a senior instructor. I started to become a more loving person, my heart was open now after being closed for many, many years. I wanted to hug everyone, even dogs. I remember around the seventh month mark, the mind body connection really kicked in. I fell totally in love with Bikram Yoga. I started to love myself again after years and years of self destructive behaviors.
About a year and a half later, my husband was brought into my life. A year after that, I was blessed with my first son. I experienced the joys of motherhood and marriage all at once. Two years later, we found our new home and moved to the suburbs. A year later, my second boy arrived. I was advised by my doctors to not take Bikram Yoga while pregnant. I was considered high risk, due to being of advanced maternal age. But that didn’t stop me, I did Rajashree’s pregnancy DVD at home.
I truly believe none of these events would have occurred if my heart was not open. I was inviting all good things into my life from this yoga. Around six years in, I was starting to feel stuck with the practice and tried a different style of heated yoga, but still tried to get a class in every now and then. That was a blessing because I came back with fresh eyes. I was really open to what poses needed corrections and became aware that I was doing things incorrectly just to get into the pose. I am at the point in my practice where I am fine tuning a lot of things that I have been cheating on.
Some pretty awesome things I have noticed after practicing for a whole decade (I feel old) is that I look forward to the heat and sweat. I have flexibility and can maintain mental clarity for most of the class. I have figured out that you have to use the right muscle to get into a pose to obtain the maximum benefits, the right way.
I struggle the most with Locust Pose, Toe Stand, and Standing Bow. Some days, my concentration is really off and my confidence is low. I have to learn when to back off and slow down, and not be so intense. I have a gentle nature, kind of shy and free spirited. There are no words to describe the sense of pride I feel after getting into a tough pose or completing a class, for that matter. These days I am working on bringing more laughter and fun to my class. I would not be the person I am today if I haven’t found this yoga. I am grateful every day for it and look forward to many more decades to come! It will always and forever be a part of my life.
Name: Christi Kelliher
First Class: 2014
I started my Bikram Journey with a few glasses of wine and a Groupon. I had just recently finished reading a book called, “Hell-Bent,” and I remember thinking that it sounded really intense, which was right up my alley. And it was intense. Intensely hot, intensely bright and intensely difficult. I ended up going back 26 days out of that 30-day Groupon.
Right around my 1-year Bikram-versary, I wasn’t feeling all that focused. Nothing was really wrong, I just felt kind of adrift. Then it came to me. I would do a challenge. I always felt great after a 30-day, so I thought I’d feel incredible after a 60-day. The 60 morphed into a 90 and the 90 into 100. A 100-day challenge because it was a nice, tidy number and because I needed a defined endpoint. And after all was said and done, I was wrong. I didn’t just feel incredible, I felt like a new person.
What did I learn after 100 days? I learned that regardless of the amount of preparation that you do before class, it does not guarantee a “good” class. I think it was class 53 or 54 that I just picked up my mat after the standing series and left…the…room. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t keep still, I convinced myself that I couldn’t breathe. I barely made it to the locker room before I totally lost it. And guess what? The next day, I was absolutely fine. I also had a much better understanding of the word “humbling”.
I learned that sometimes you have to take your medicine. That gross medicine that tastes like dirt. The class that I didn’t want to go to. The teacher that I wasn’t in the mood to take. These were often the times that progress was made. That bad medicine will make you feel better, given time.
I learned that my body is more than just a sum of its parts. It is a machine. A 24-hour a day, miracle producing machine. I began to be more conscientious of the fuel I was providing it, because I had to. Better food choices, better hydration, better sleep habits. After a while, I stopped seeing myself as a mass of perceived flaws and only saw the ‘machine’. Bones and muscles that were capable of some pretty cool things. I began to acknowledge how fortunate that this piece of equipment was mine and that it deserved my respect. In losing my preoccupation with my reflection, I began to see the real me.
I remember the exact class when I realized this. When I looked in the mirror, under those glaring, unforgiving fluorescent lights, looked into my own eyes and I saw acceptance. And then I saw forgiveness. And then I started to cry. In that moment I realized that I’d never really looked at myself. I would avoid eye contact with my reflection at all costs. I always have. I’d just let my eyes kind of glaze over and lose focus as if I were seeing myself from beneath a veil. And just like that, the veil was gone. I am utterly convinced that that was the first time I saw ME.
Most importantly, I learned that I’ll never stop learning. As one of my favorite teachers likes to say, “If it makes sense to you, cool, keep it. If it doesn’t, throw it away. For now. Because at some point, it WILL make sense.” I try to remain open to possibility every day, both in and out of the hot room. The extreme discipline and structure of Bikram Yoga that initially drew me to it, has helped relax my need for it.
In the 150 hours that I gave to this yoga, I received something priceless in return. One wide awake, miraculous and ever-grateful ME.
First Class: 2013
I began a lifelong diet in 2008 that is low carb, allowing no processed foods..and only the sugar I have is found in fruit. I never weighed myself before I started the new diet and I have never weighed myself since I have adopted the new diet.
The following year I started walking in 5ks and volunteering at various races.
In September of 2013 I found a Groupon for a month of classes and finally gave Bikram Yoga a try. I liked it, but it was difficult and I did not attend too regularly.
I continued at this studio once or twice a week until March of 2014. One day I arrived there to find a sign explaining that the studio had closed and Bikram Yoga South Naperville was honoring the current package of the students attending this studio. I thought that was too far to travel for yoga, but I went there to see what it was like since my account information had been transferred there. I found South Naperville to be my preferred studio and decided I would find a way to make it there regularly.
I have liked the instructors and atmosphere of South Naperville and been attending classes five days a week since I arrived there for the first class.
In 2014 all the prescription medications I had been taking were discontinued. My blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar were all in the normal range without any medication. I had suffered from panic attacks for years and had been in weekly therapy. The attacks and anxiety subsided and eventually disappeared and after 15 years of seeing my therapist on a weekly basis…I now go and see her every three months. I had been on daily anti-anxiety medication and we had a goal to taper off of the medication. I now have been off the medication for several months and we attribute this to the benefits I have derived from Bikram Yoga.
In the Summer of 2015 I moved to Naperville and have been able to attend Bikram Yoga as often as six to seven days a week. It is the perfect activity for me.
Name: Carol Edwards
Studio Owner/Director of Bikram Yoga Aurora in Illinois
First Class: 2005I was introduced to BY in 2005 by my sister. Although I had never taken a hot yoga class before, I was well on my yoga path doing non-heated hatha yoga at my local gym, which I enjoyed, so I was looking forward to a new experience with the heat.
I was definitely uncomfortable during my 1st class. I couldn’t catch my breath, it was HOT, the sweat was stinging my eyes, and I couldn’t stay still or even keep my mind focused. Yet I persevered as I wanted to keep up with my sister. Afterwards I felt different than after any other yoga class. I recall thinking, “Whoa, there’s something to this, I got my cardio workout in, I just sweat buckets, felt exhausted yet exhilarated at the same time”, it got me curious.
I have to admit my beginning Bikram Yoga practice was what I now consider to have been “a seasonal practice”. I’d return to BY primarily for weight loss during the early summer and winter seasons to shed a few pounds. I was mainly focused on the physical benefits than anything else. I felt these benefits of my “seasonal” practice immediately, I have to admit, it took some time before I noticed all the psychological benefits this practice had to offer. My head just wasn’t in the game at this point.
In 2007, when my Dad passed, I decided to return to the practice to help gain peace, grieve my loss and find a place of escape from what I was dealing with instead of turning to substances for relief. At that time, I was a 20+ year smoker, suffered chronic lower back pain associated from degenerative disc disease, plus I had an enormous amount of stress at work, working for the family business. And with my dad’s recent passing, I knew the stress at work was only going to increase; I needed the yoga again. But this time, I needed it for the mental benefits more than anything.
Fast forward summer 2009; I decided to commit to a regular practice of at least 3 times per week. This routine was a game changer; I lost weight, my back felt better, my stress was under control and I was being asked “what are you doing, you look great!” Family and friends were noticing the changes not only in my body but also my attitude as well as my stress level. This encouraged me to continue on and keep improving myself. My thought was, this yoga was more than just about stretching, there’s something bigger going on here… that’s when the wheels started to turn. I had a dream. I wanted to share this yoga with my family & friends.
January 2011 comes and I decide to make a challenge for myself. If I can quit smoking and up my practice to 5 times a week, then I want to become a Bikram Yoga Instructor and open up my own studio to share this healing practice with as many people as possible. Through that commitment and determination, I did just that. September 2011, I resigned from the family business as VP & CFO and attended Bikram Yoga Teacher Training for nine weeks in Los Angeles, CA. Exactly two years later, I opened Bikram Yoga Aurora in September 2013.
Today, this yoga has helped me with so many physical as well as psychological issues. I no longer suffer from stress, my back feels 100% better, my body feels clean, I’m a non-smoker, I no longer crave sugar and alcohol as I once did and my attitude is positive. The greatest benefit from my practice is that no matter what I’m going through physically or mentally, I know that just showing up on my mat, having deep compassion for where I am today, releasing my thoughts for 90 minutes and just to “be in the moment” is so comforting to me. It’s my release, the natural way. I am forever grateful for this yoga practice; it has a profound effect to improve lives. In the end, it’s yoga that used me. I now know that yoga gives you what you need, not what you want. Just show up, get on your mat, let it go and will too will change for the better.
First Class: 2015
I’m just a mom with 4 kids. My oldest just turned 16 and got her drivers license last week. Like any 16 year old, she got her ticket to freedom and I’ve suddenly started to see her less and less. I also have a 5-year-old daughter with autism. Last week was also her last week of preschool and she will start kindergarten in the fall.
My youngest was developing normally and suddenly she just stopped talking and progressing. She seemed to distance herself from us more and more. I had hoped that it was a phase and that one day she would “snap out of it.”
I remember coming to a cross roads and taking her to get her hearing checked because she had become a master at ignoring us. It had come down to she’s either deaf (and that’s why she stopped progressing because she can’t hear) or autistic (she doesn’t listen because she’s in her own world). When the developmental pediatrician came out he handed me some information on autism and said, “She’s hearing at 100%” I broke down in the hall of Children’s Hospital and wondered where did I go wrong? What did I do? Who wishes that their child is deaf? (Beth’s Daughter today pictured below)
That was almost 3 years ago. Every year has new challenges, moments of heartaches and tears. Overall she can’t talk. She doesn’t acknowledge people. She has trouble sleeping and has a horrible diet because she hates the vast majority of foods. We spend a ton of money on different therapies, vitamins and organic food. Oh! And pull-ups! Because she isn’t potty trained.
I have spent so much time reaching out, talking, reading, researching, and doing all these things because I wanted a “normal” child. I have gone around and around so much that when things didn’t work out, I became more depressed and angry at myself, my husband, and the world. I truly had become an emotional, angry, jealous person because I wanted what other parents had. Let me say that living being angry is so hard!
About 7 weeks ago I decided to go to yoga. Honestly, I went because I wanted to lose some weight. I thought I would be just another number and disappear in the back – which is what I thought I wanted. During the first class I remember the instructor saying during Savasana to “Release, relax and breathe.” I thought “Seriously lady?” I also heard her say at the end of the class “Namaste” I thought “What on earth does that even mean? Is that just a nice way to say “f$%^ off?” (Good thing there’s Google!) I left afterwards and came back the next day because like I said – I wanted to lose weight.
The second class I had a different instructor entirely. Again, I heard “Release, relax, breathe.” This time my thought was, “Will you people stop saying that! Are you going to relax when I throw this water bottle at your head?” and suddenly I started to cry. When I got my act together I thought, “I’m going to tell the instructor Namaste first!” When that class was over and I walked out I suddenly felt different. Better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still have days where I catch my self crying- and that’s ok! I know deep down I need it. (Plus I can do it and no one will notice!)
I have noticed that I’ve become more thankful and less angry – more happy than sad. I’m becoming less and less hard on myself and my husband. I’ve stopped blaming myself. I’m starting to love the world more, love the shape I’m getting in, but more importantly I have found a deeper love and connection to my little girl. She is truly my heart and I wouldn’t change her for anything!
Having a child with a disability is hard. Some days are wonderful and some are heartbreaking. The difference between me now and me 7 weeks ago is that I’m able to stake a step back and see the beauty in things – not so much the negativity.
I know this is just my beginning- my start to something new. I know that I don’t know the instructors very well, but thank you. Thank you for being there for me when I needed you guys the most.
Namaste!! (I still giggle a little every time!)
First Class: 2002
In no way could the first 12 years of my Bikram Yoga practice be considered a consistent. I practiced yoga how I lived most of my life: spurts of effort followed by complacency. In year 13, I decided to do something profoundly simple: show up. At some point, I decided that I’ve done enough 30-day challenges followed by a month of 1 or 2 classes. My body felt great for a month and then I’d just quit. What would happen if I just kept going? In year 13, my yoga became one thing…showing up.
Showing up meant arriving and being fully engaged. Showing up meant focusing on right now. Showing up meant being accountable to myself. Showing up meant walking to yoga when I didn’t want to go.
After 6 months of showing up, neuroplasticity did its thing and my body just showed up. The daily decision became automatic. It actually was hard not to go. Reasons that used to stop me from going (feeling depressed, feeling fat, feeling tired) became reason to go.
I won’t sugar coat it. My 13th year of Bikram Yoga was hard, really f’n hard. Not just in yoga, I had money problems, marriage problems, back problems, self doubt, childcare problems, etc. I spent plenty of time on the floor during standing series. I cried in class at least 5 times that I remember, one of them embarrassingly audible. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because change is hard. I cried because I was discovering depths of myself that I never knew existed. I cried because I was now fully aware, fully engaged, and fully vulnerable. I cried because I knew I was going to keep going and that I was going to be leaving parts of me behind.
I assume any experience that runs over the course of a year feels like a roller coaster. Mine felt that way. Change came so slowly it almost felt immeasurable. Towards the end of the year, teachers and students started asking me what I was doing.
“Are you on a cleanse? Are you dieting? Are you lifting weights? Are you doing anything else besides yoga?”
No. I show up. Every single day that I can. That’s it.
Results include: a 20% weightloss, or 40 lbs., a healthy blood pressure, and a perfect EKG.
(Photographed by Mónica Félix)
Studio Owner/Director of Bikram Yoga Milton in Ontario, Canada
First Class: 2010
I found Bikram yoga in the summer of 2010 while I was on a verge of health disaster. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are just a few medical conditions I suffered since 2001, while following a strict food diet set out by a nutritionist from my family doctor and working out at the gym regularly. I was on 15 different prescription drugs. No matter what I did I couldn’t bring my blood sugar levels down to avoid further health complications. Sitting at close to 300IBS and having a verdict of my family doctor wanting to put me on insulin I thought of giving Bikram yoga a try as a last resort.
After my first week into practicing Bikram yoga I saw and felt the difference, not only my clothes started to have a looser fit, but I also slept better and smiled more. To date I have lost 80 lbs. and lead a happy and healthy life. I am no longer on any prescription drugs, having gradually come off of each one as I found I no longer needed them.
It took me only 3 months of practice to make a life changing decision to decide to go to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, which I attended in the Fall of 2011. I managed to get a chance to spend 9 weeks in Los Angeles, California among 435 other teacher trainees.
I went to Teacher Training just to learn Bikram Yoga from the source, Bikram Choudhury himself, with no intention of teaching at all, but to return to my regular job. I was told by the senior staff at teacher’s training, “After you go home, you will get the itch to teach,” and that’s exactly what happened.
I wanted to share this amazing practice that has changed me from the inside and out. I have taught Bikram Yoga in 4 countries at over 30 Bikram Yoga studios where I met some of the most amazing people. After traveling and teaching in most studios in GTA, and also the USA, Dubai, even in my home town of Karachi, Pakistan; I decided to share my passion of Bikram Yoga with the community of Milton, Ontario.
First Class: 2012
“After 3 months of Bikram Yoga practice I spent a night in the ICU due to an anaphylactic reaction to blood pressure medication I had been taking for 4 years. I was informed I no longer have hypertension. The only lifestyle change I had made was my yoga practice. For two years now, I have told myself I have to practice yoga because I don’t want to go back on my medication.
Bikram Yoga has transformed me – new friendships, improved mental and physical strength, patience and compassion – just thinking about it makes me emotional. I am truly jazzed about my one year transformation pictured here in Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose and will continue to work on elements that can get me one millimeter closer while relaxing and breathing within each posture. Yet my real transformation so far is my appreciation of my practice – most importantly the opportunity to let go and open my heart.”
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora
First Class: 2012
“What I am discovering is that Bikram Yoga indeed changes you in ways you would never expect. I’ve been thinking hard on how it’s changed me. And one of those outcomes is that for the 1st time in my entire residence in Naperville I feel as if I belong to a community. I’ve lived here for 15 years and never knew anyone and no one knew me. I had friends but no one that lived near me. Through this yoga and because of it, I feel I belong and that is a wonderful feeling.
I’ve felt disconnected from my community for most of my life. We lived in an all-Mexican neighborhood in the city and moved to the suburbs when I was very young. Growing up there was little or no diversity. With each passing year I grew up and developed a complex. I had issues with self and self-confidence due to issues of color and race. I never felt smart enough, pretty enough, and I was this quiet, awkward girl who felt insignificant and unnoticed. It’s taken many years to undue this damage. Some of it still lurks in the some pockets of myself and creeps into my life.
As an adult I moved to Naperville, Illinois and there I never felt embraced or even welcomed until recently. It is because of this yoga and the people I’ve encountered during my practice that I am changing. This yoga opened my body, eyes and heart to accept others and myself and to allow myself to be a part of a whole – to belong.”
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Red Deer
First Class: 2013
“I started practicing Bikram Yoga in May 2013 when I was looking for a new direction in life. As someone who has a little endurance and no flexibility at all and who doesn’t like high intensity work outs, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it, but I did. I used to practice 4-5 times a week and it helped me deal with my anxiety, taught me how to be patient, and how to handle my stress level. My self confidence was low and I was too shy.
But every time I came to the hot room and looked at myself in the mirror, I started to embrace the person in front of me. Slowly, I started opening up. Things that usually scare me and cause me stress, don’t have the same effect on me as I learn how to let go, trust, and believe in myself more each day. I didn’t believe it when teachers would say, “one day, your head will touch the floor, or your head will touch your toes”, but with constant practice, it did happened. As my postures improve, so has my self confidence and self love.”
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Marina Del Ray
First Class: 2013
“With each Bikram class I feel more comfortable in my own skin. When I first started Bikram, I had a hard time looking in the mirror. Now I practice in bike shorts and a sports bra and can look at my physical body and appreciate it for the life it gives me.
I’m usually the biggest person in the room. That won’t always be the case, but, for now it is. People say yoga is for every body. That Bikram yoga is for every body, and I’m living proof of that truth. I’m living proof that amazing changes can happen externally and internally in that hot sweaty room. I’m not where I want to be but I’m inching closer with each breath!