I didn’t seek out yoga; I was lucky in that it fell right in front of me at the most perfect time of my life.
I had always been interested in how it worked after hearing stories of life-changing, earth-shattering spiritual journeys other yogis had. But I felt a preference for more vigorous physical exercise, and I viewed yoga as an hour or so of casual stretching. That was, until I discovered Bikram Yoga!
Bikram has done something remarkable: It made me love myself. I have suffered 9 years of mental imprisonment by an eating disorder, which resulted in intense negative thinking and self-hatred. Bikram, completely unconsciously, has set me on the path to recovery.
I admired my determination to enter the Bikram room day after day, even though it was the most uncomfortable place on earth. I admired my body for how it would cope and adapt to the conditions of the room. I admired it, and thanked it, for the progress it made in each pose. Enduring such uncomfortable conditions would prove to me each day just how strong I was.
Every class I attend I get a moment of, “Wow, my body can do this!” It has taught me that life isn’t about being perfect; it is about striving to be the best version of me today. Yesterday or tomorrow do not matter because each day is wildly different. In every yoga class, my body will work fantastically in some poses and not so well in others. Life is like this. We have no idea what each day will bring, nor can we predict it. All we can do it accept what we have in that moment and work with it.
As a woman, seeing real women with real bodies is so important. Real bodies with lumps and bumps that are able to practice in the most beautiful way. The mirrors present in a Bikram room have played a big part in my self-acceptance. Being forced to stand and look at my body for 90 minutes gives my mind the opportunity to work deeply. My instant go-to thoughts of how fat and disgusting I look have time to be pushed out by the reality in front of me. My judgmental mind quiets.
I love to watch others practice, especially those who do not fit the yoga body stereotype. Watching these amazing bodies flow and bend so beautifully has created a completely new outlook for me. I have spent nine years fixating on external appearance and trying to get the perfect body, which in my eyes would have been as thin as humanly possible. Now I realise just how amazing my body is and what it can do, I want to nourish it, feed it and look after it in the best way I can.
My diet has changed. Apart from the fact that I am now constantly eating as opposed to reducing my food intake to as little as possible, I am filling myself with nutritious food. I can’t stop eating fruits and vegetables! And I can see it in my practice; I can feel my body respond to my diet.
Bikram has, in short, completely changed my life. It has guided me toward the best version of myself that I can be. I am now calm, stress-free, self-accepting and, most of all, happy. It taught me that true happiness has to be cultivated inside, and that this takes time. Without being constantly conscious of it, I am developing a patience and self-acceptance that I honestly never thought myself capable of.
All in all, I have learned that if we look after the inside, the outside really doesn’t matter—and it takes care of itself. I am now, finally, channelling my perfectionist tendencies that were once so damaging into something my body loves, and something that loves my body.
Author: Freya Burnett
Editor: Caroline Beaton