After the fall, Yoga Journal gets it right! #Bikram #abuse #healing

YJ_June15Cover_PaulaI was approached in January 2015 by seasoned journalist, Andrew Tilin. He was in the middle of composing a feature story for the June 2015 issue of Yoga Journal magazine. How did he find me? He found me through my yoga blog and was particularly interested in speaking with me after reading the post Mourning my Bikram Yoga practice in light of rape allegations. After all, the purpose of the feature he was writing was to highlight how the yoga community was reacting to criminal allegations against celebrity yoga teachers, in particular John Friend and Bikram Choudhury, and I seemed like someone with an opinion to share. He emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in speaking with him; I responded with a big fat YES!

We spoke over the phone the first time for almost two hours. He contacted me a few weeks later, and we talked for two more hours. On both occasions, Tilin asked me lots and lots of questions about yoga and later about my experiences with abuse. I freely answered all of his questions without hesitation (but with a few tears occasionally). I don’t think he was expecting me to be so talkative and so candid. He often asked, “Are you comfortable sharing this?” And each time, I thought to myself, He must not have read any of my other posts. Of course, I’m comfortable sharing.

I don’t think the editors at the magazine expected me to share as much as I did either, because before they approved the final version of Tilin’s feature, a member of the editorial staff called me to do some fact checking and to verify that everything I shared was okay to print. In addition to the four hours I had already spent with Tilin, I spent close to two more hours talking with the editor. Needless to say, I exerted a lot of energy talking about stuff that I’m more comfortable writing about. If you’re an introvert, you understand how draining that is, but I feel like the investment was worth it. The published article unfolded beautifully! Yoga Journal and Tilin got it right! I have deep respect for, gratitude to and appreciation of the thoughtful and professional attention the journalist and the Yoga Journal staff took with my story.

The article isn’t about me. It’s not even about abusive yoga gurus, although Tilin pulls in data and a few experts to explain why and how abuse at the community level often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. This article, at its core, is about the capacity of the human spirit to overcome and let the light outshine the dark and it reinforces the power of going within to find peace.

Follow this link to After the Fall: The Ripple Effect from Accusations Against Bikram and Friend or pick up the June 2015 issue of Yoga Journal magazine and turn to page 80.

Namaste!
Paula Carrasquillo
Yogi. Author. Advocate.
http://www.paulacarrasquillo.com

©Paula Carrasquillo and Love. Life. Om. 2015

I made the funny pages! Well, sort of… #bikramrapecharges

From "Bikram Addict" by Eroyn Franklin, artist and writer

From Bikram Addict by artist and author Eroyn Franklin published to The Nib

A couple of months ago, a graphic artist contacted me asking for an interview. She had stumbled upon my yoga post written back in March 2014 about why I gave up Bikram yoga and thought, perhaps, talking to me would provide her with some insight and possible inspiration for a new piece she was working on related to her experience with Bikram yoga.

Yesterday, the artist, Eroyn Franklin, contacted me and shared her completed yoga-related article published to The Nib. She featured me in part of the piece (detailed above), which I was honored by and thrilled about. (I’ve never been a cartoon before…at least not that I am aware.)

To read the entire work and enjoy all of her graphics, follow this link or click on the post image above. I hope you enjoy her story and find her artwork and writing as unique and creative as I do.

Namaste!
~Paula Carrasquillo

Bikram Addict by Eroyn Franklin: https://medium.com/the-nib/bikram-addict-242333de3483

Yoga as therapy for victims of all types of abuse

I don’t compare or put a severity level on trauma. All trauma, regardless of the source, type, or duration, has powerful consequences and impacts a person’s identity and sense of self-worth. Also, I do not believe trauma victims are permanently damaged or destroyed. From those who suffer PTSD and abuse through military service/war to those who suffer from sociopath/narcissistic abuse as children, I absolutely believe recovery is possible.

I have tried lots of traditional methods and approaches to recovery. The one that works for me is yoga, and I started practicing yoga not aware of the impact it would eventually have on my trauma and triggers! I simply stumbled upon the healing and transformational power of yoga.

During a traumatic event and/or periods of perpetual trauma, our ability to physically move and act is hindered. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that everyone who suffers from trauma holds trauma in their physical bodies…in their muscles…in their connective tissues. The combination of focused breathing and movement that yoga requires has been proven to release that internal tension and “free” a patient slowly and gradually over time.

To add to its credibility as an effective tool, yoga is gaining the spotlight in the integrative health field. Non-profits like Boulevard Zen and Yoga Hope have provided yoga as therapy to DV survivors and to survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing respectively. Many survivors of cancer also have yoga as part of their recovery programs in hospitals and institutes. In addition, med students are even being encouraged to become yoga practitioners and teachers, so they understand the power of yoga in order to recommend yoga therapy to their future patients.

If I had not seen and experienced the positive results in myself and in others whom I have personally met and been in contact, I would not feel confident enough to share and encourage others to give yoga and meditation a try. To just consider it.

But it does require a commitment of at least several weeks of consistent practice. Recent studies conducted with older generation veterans concluded that after just 8 weeks of a regular and consistent practice of transcendental meditation (TM), vets with PTSD experienced a 50% decrease in their symptoms and triggers. That’s huge to me, considering TM requires zero movement of the physical body beyond the rise and fall of the lungs, pumping of the heart, and the flow of oxygenated blood to all our organs.

So I feel internally motivated to make an effort to influence and persuade folks who happen to find this blog to try yoga. I am starting to put together Introduction to Yoga and Meditation videos to share on this site very soon. I can’t wait to offer these to you.

For now, check out Yoga and Meditation Therapy for Survivors of Sociopath Abuse on this site.

Namaste!
~Paula

How yoga and meditation specifically helped me in my recovery from sociopath abuse

It’s been 32 months since I first stepped onto a yoga mat. I began my practice 8 months after I escaped the sociopath and a few months shy of my 40th birthday. These are just a few of the benefits I directly attribute to my regular, on-going yoga practice:

>>Within 3 days of beginning my yoga practice, I stopped taking my daily over-the-counter pain relief pill for a knee injuring I had sustained 10 years prior. I am able to walk, skip, climb stairs, and carry my son with ease.

>>Within 3 weeks, I stopped binging and purging. I had been suffering from bouts of bulimia for nearly 20 years following struggles overcoming teenage dating violence/abuse at 18.

>>Within 2 months, my blood pressure (BP) became normal and stable. During my pregnancy in 2005, I suffered from preeclampsia despite the fact my BP was historically low all of my life. For the 7 years that followed my son’s birth, I struggled to maintain consistent and healthy BP levels. Not anymore.

>>Within 4 months, I lost weight and no longer suffered from daily bloating and monthly menstrual cramps.

>>Within 4 months, I was able to successfully quit drinking, which was my number #1 self-soothing “solution” in the aftermath of sociopath abuse. I have been sober for over 2 years as of June 2014.

>>Within 6 months, I quit my antidepressants and my anxiety levels decreased. It’s been 2 years, and I remain my normal, moody self. 🙂

>>Within 12 months, I stopped using topical remedies or injections to control my psoriasis outbreaks. Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition that manifests on the skin as a result of internal inflammation (often due to anxiety). I was first diagnosed with psoriasis at age 11. I haven’t had a severe outbreak in over 18 months nor do I sense any onset of psoriatic arthritis, a common secondary condition for individuals who have experienced chronic psoriasis outbreaks over the course of several years.

>>Within 12 months I noticed a considerable reduction in my PTSD triggers. My self-assessment is that I became 90% trigger-free after 24 months of consistent practice.

You can surely see that with each consecutive “cure” and relief of one ailment above, a new door was opened to address another area of health concerns in my body, mind, and spirit. A true domino effect of healing at every level of consciousness and awareness from the first day I stepped on to my mat to the present.

More importantly, yoga gifted me with the tools to maintain my current healthy and mindful state of being with increased self-esteem, self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion.

How did yoga do all of these things for me where traditional medical and mental healthcare options and therapies failed me?

I believe yoga has been so effective for me, because yoga works from the inside out to re-wire, re-program, and undo all of the conditioning I have subjected my body and mind to over the years, the least of which was the conditioning of my body, mind and spirit in the aftermath of sociopath abuse.

Yoga and meditation may be a great fit for you, too, if you are open to alternative and integrative solutions to healing, recovery, and/or management of a number of other co-occurring conditions and ailments.

Regardless of how flexible your body is when you begin practicing yoga, the healing benefits begin with your first practice as long as you do two things:

1. Focus on your breathing by paying attention to your inhales, your exhales, and when and if you stop breathing.

2. Maintain proper alignment of each pose by following the teacher’s cues and only going as deep as your body permits you to go…today.

Restorative yoga, Kripalu, Iyangar, or viniyoga styles are great options for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia, trauma, cognitive dissonance, and/or addiction. Beginner classes of most styles are also good options. Ideally, find a teacher who understands trauma and/or has yoga as therapy training.

If you have more questions about the types of yoga to try, feel free to contact me directly.

Namaste!
~Paula

A little science behind why I recommend yoga to survivors of sociopath abuse

If you have been reading and following my blog or Facebook page, you know I love yoga and have a regular practice. As a reader of this blog and others like it, you also understand that the toxic love we experience as a result of sociopath and emotional abuse results in layers of imbalance within our body and our minds. These imbalances are a direct result of the two major players that keep us in the relationship long after the abuse begins: the betrayal/trauma bond and cognitive dissonance.

Unfortunately, these major players don’t magically disappear once we are physically outside the relationship. In many cases, these two players become stronger and more powerful (probably because we expect answers that we never receive), leaving many of us overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, depression, and despair.

How do we bring balance back to our lives? How do we align our logic with our hearts? How do we end the ruminations, the blaming, and the shaming and stop allowing the doubts to creep into our conscious thoughts?

I believe yoga and meditation offer the most natural and holistic approach to bringing ourselves back into the balance we desperately need and deserve.

Yoga helps to align our conscious proprioception (body alignment and awareness of our physical bodies within our surroundings) and our unconscious proprioception (those conditioned patterns of thinking that we’re often too busy to observe also called “samskaras” in yoga philosophy).

When we practice yoga, the skeletal/muscular/neuro proprioceptors (sensory nerve endings throughout our bodies that naturally ignite when imbalance is sensed) are activated and nurtured. This concurrent activation of proprioceptors in our body and mind silently work to bring us back into balance.

Poses like tree pose and warrior 3 and twists and lunges…really all of the postures/asanas, because they all require us to pay attention to our body balance and alignment…work to balance both our conscious and unconscious proprioceptions.

Do you find that as amazing as I find it?

So committing to a regular yoga practice can naturally cure our addiction and our cognitive dissonance. Other ways yoga tackles imbalances and disease:

>>Internal organs are massaged

>>Nerves are toned

>>Respiration, energy, and vitality are restored

>>Mind relaxes and anxieties are released

>>Self-acceptance is encouraged

>>Body is purified from the inside

But you worry. You have fears. You’ve never tried yoga. You aren’t flexible. You think you’re too fat or too short or too uncoordinated to do yoga. Many believe yoga is just about moving our bodies and being flexible in our joints and in our limbs.

I’m here to tell you that none of those things matter once you’re on the mat.

First, yoga isn’t a sport or a competition of any kind. If you fear doing yoga because you think you won’t be good at it, ask yourself this:

“Can I breathe and move at the same time?”

If you answered “Yes” to this questions, then you will be fantastic at yoga.

At the heart of yoga is breath awareness. Yoga requires that we come into total and complete awareness of how we breathe, when we breathe, and when and if we stop breathing. Combine this mental and thoughtful awareness of our breath with movement of our limbs and core and one is doing yoga.

It’s that easy.

Regardless of how flexible your body is when you begin practicing yoga, the healing benefits begin with your first practice as long as you do two things:

1. Focus on your breathing by paying attention to your inhales, your exhales, and when and if you stop breathing.

2. Maintain proper alignment of each pose by following the teacher’s cues and only going as deep as your body permits you to go…today.

Restorative yoga, Kripalu, Iyangar, or viniyoga styles are great options for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia, trauma, cognitive dissonance, and/or addiction. Beginner classes of most styles are also good options. Ideally, find a teacher who understands trauma and/or has yoga as therapy training.

For me, yoga is not a passing fad. I become certified as a yoga teacher later this summer. I love all of the gifts yoga has given to me and have a deep desire to bring those gifts to others.

To learn more about proprioception, read this!

Namaste!
~Paula

Back to Bikram at a non-affiliated Bikram Studio

After 5 months of searching, I finally discovered a studio that teaches Bikram Yoga but is not a Bikram Yoga affiliate/franchise.

If you read my post from January about mourning my Bikram Yoga practice, you know I gave up the practice after much struggle, thought, and consideration.

I am a survivor of abuse and work every day to bring awareness and help to others struggling in the aftermath of their abuse. When I discovered the abuse and sexual assault allegations against Bikram Choudhury, I had to consider their legitimacy based on the combination of multiple allegations and on what my gut and intuition was telling me.

And because the majority of studios that teach Bikram Yoga are affiliates and pay fees to Bikram, Inc., I could no longer reconcile giving my hard-earned money and energy to a man and empire that directly counters my ultimate hopes for this world.

Last week, my husband, son, and I were driving through Bethesda. I glanced over in the direction of the Bikram Yoga Bethesda studio and was shocked to see that the name of the studio had changed to Pure Om Yoga. I immediately grabbed my phone and messaged the studio through its Facebook page asking if they still offered Bikram-style yoga and if they remained affiliated with the Bikram brand and empire. Happily surprised, I received a response within an hour confirming that they still taught the same yoga but were no longer affiliated with Bikram, Inc.

Do yo have any idea how thrilled I was? Despite who and what Bikram is today, he created a series of poses and breathing exercises that helped me in many ways. Like with any style, there are teachers who exploit and harm through inflated egos and their need to be revered as gurus.

I just want the yoga without the guru and without knowing my money is lining the pockets of an empire that misrepresents all that I have come to understand and love about yoga and life on this planet.

I am a conscientious consumer. Every day and with each new experience, I become more and more aware of what I put into my body and where and with whom I interact daily. As information is provided to me, I will continue to make choices that resonate with my core values and beliefs. As a deep feeler and emotional person who has been harmed in the past by overlooking the seemingly insignificant misdeeds of those around me, I can never again compromise my core beliefs, as I have in the past, for the sake of convenience.

I visited Pure Om Yoga on Saturday and went back on Sunday. The anxieties I had been feeling a few months ago before I quit my Bikram Yoga practice no longer interfered with my conscience while on the mat and in the hot room. Where I was drained prior, I am invigorated today.

Outside of this explanation, I can’t express exactly how that “letting go” filled me with peace, joy, and hope.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Stick it out; don’t give up #healing #recovery #patience #sociopathabuse

The day I stepped onto a yoga mat for the first time I was a few months shy of my 40th birthday, suffering from depression, a lot of knee and joint pain, unknown post traumatic stress, and alcohol dependency.

Was I scared? Yes. I was scared shitless!

I didn’t know if I was going to hurt myself or help myself. I didn’t know if I was going to laugh or cry. I didn’t know if others were going to laugh at me or cry for me.

Nearly three years later, I am no longer depressed, I’ve been sober for 2 years, I laugh WITH myself, and I cry because sometimes it’s what I need. I’m no longer ashamed of my past mistakes or the abuse inflicted upon me. I’m no longer afraid to fail OR to succeed. The nightmares have stopped, and room was made to start my life over again from scratch–for me and for my family who never doubted me.

I realize now that the first step toward my current freedom was completely in my hands. The power to transform, grow, and heal was within me. Stepping onto that yoga mat back in October 2011 began my awakening.

But my awakening wasn’t instant. Nothing transformational is ever instant. We must work hard for it. With each practice, I learned to be more patient and more gentle with myself and to remain hopeful.

Despite occasional set backs and struggles, I stuck it out. I kept going back to the mat. I kept learning something new about myself and my abilities, both mental and physical.

I’m glad I stuck it out. I surely wouldn’t be in a place to write today if I had given up many yesterday’s ago.

If you’ve started on your transformational journey through yoga or some other practice that fits your needs, I want you to stick it out, too. Even when you don’t think there are changes happening, stick it out!! You rarely have the capacity to realize or appreciate the changes and transformations in the exact moments they occur. Life informs you days, weeks, or months later. So be patient. Stick it out.

And if you haven’t started, start today by telling yourself that you’re worth it and you deserve joy, peace, and a chance at an awakening and new beginning.

Namaste!
~Paula

Mourning my Bikram Yoga practice in light of rape allegations

My introduction to yoga was through Bikram Yoga, specifically Bikram Yoga Rockville just around the corner from my home here in the DC Metro Area.

If you’ve followed this blog or my other blog, you’re already aware that Bikram Yoga, in a very real and profound way, changed my life.

I didn’t start practicing in October 2011 because I thought I would grow spiritually or eventually begin to heal from past abuse and emotional pain. On the contrary, my motivation was more materialistic and vain. I joined the Bikram Yoga studio because I wanted to get physically fit and maybe heal a knee injury I had been living with for far too many years.

Within days of practicing Bikram Yoga, I was able to stop taking Advil. I could even walk up and down stairs without fearing I’d topple or lose my footing.

Within a few months of starting, I turned 40 and discovered at my annual doctor’s visit that I had lost weight and lowered my blood pressure. There was no doubt that I was gaining energy, too. Soon, the emotional and spiritual benefits of my practice would be evident to myself and to others in my life.

A little over a year into my practice, the accusations that Bikram Choudhury, creator of the Bikram Yoga series and founder of the Bikram Yoga empire, raped women (yes, plural) who had attended his yoga teacher training certification. On the heels of these revelations, past employees of the yoga guru soon came forward with disturbing allegations of their own, depicting Bikram Choudhury as a racist tyrant who ran his business “like a cult.”

Here is a list of recent stories covering the allegations:

Bikram Yoga Founder Accused of Sexual Assaults ABC News Nightline – February 26, 2014

Women Suing Hot Yoga Guru for Alleged Sexual Assault Come Forward, ABC News – February 26, 2014

Bikram yoga guru accused of rape hires former White House lawyer, The Telegraph – January 31, 2014

Bikram Feels the Heat, Vanity Fair – January 1, 2014

Women who accused Bikram yoga founder of rape speak out against the millionaire ‘guru’ after ‘he forced one victim into a yoga pose during an attack’, The Daily Mail – December 6, 2013

Bikram Yoga’s Embattled Founder: The Alleged Rapes and Sexual Harassment Claims Against Guru Bikram Choudhury, Vanity Fair – December 3, 2013

Bikram Yoga Founder Blasted For Alleged Rape, Sexual Harassment And Racism In Explosive Lawsuit, The Huffington Post – August 6, 2013

I can’t say I was completely surprised. Even before I stepped foot into the Bikram Yoga studio here in Maryland, I had perused the Bikram Yoga website. The images of Bikram Choudhury sweating and practicing and standing like a dictator before large numbers of yoga practitioners kind of repulsed me. Silly me, I shamed myself for being so judgmental and was determined to not let my unfair prejudices keep me from trying something that could possibly help me.

After I started practicing, I gradually started learning a little more about how Bikram Yoga studios are managed, how Bikram Yoga teachers are trained and how other yoga disciplines viewed Bikram Yoga.

Briefly, if you want to teach and promote yourself as a teacher of the Bikram Yoga series, you must go through the 9-week Bikram Yoga certification intensive taught twice each year. You have your choice of either going to Los Angeles or splurging and going to Thailand.

If you do not go through this specific training, you can not teach the Bikram Yoga series.

Fine. I get that. Seems fair.

But this is what bothers me a bit:

If and when you are able to open up your own Bikram Yoga studio, part of your membership revenue as a Bikram Yoga instructor and studio owner must be paid to Bikram, Inc. of which Bikram Choudhury is the “Boss” and CEO. This is the fast-food franchise model applied to yoga.

So even after you carve out 9 weeks away from your family and friends, pay between $11,400 to $15,500 for training (depending on your preferred room accommodations) and spend more time after training improving your poses and ability to teach effectively, Bikram Choudhury wants more of you if you decide to run a studio with his name “Bikram” on the sign.

You can’t teach Bikram Yoga without Bikram training and then you can’t call yourself a Bikram studio or say your class is a Bikram class without paying more money? It all seems very non-yogi-like to me.

Despite all the yucky sensations I was feeling and tasting, I kept paying my monthly dues and attending classes. I just loved my teachers and the other yogis at the studio.

But the rape allegations have stopped me in my tracks. I have only attended a handful of classes at the Bikram Yoga studio since January 1, 2014. Instead, I have been practicing yoga at home (YouTube is full of great teachers and free videos!) and at another yoga studio where I am participating in 200-hour yoga teacher training.

I’m struggling. After all, Bikram Choudhury hasn’t been found guilty. However, as an advocate who is determined to bring as much awareness to the forefront about pathological, abusive predators as I can, I MUST take a stand and believe that these women are telling the truth. Too much of what they say and the struggles they repeat about finally coming forward have me more than convinced.

As far as Bikram Choudhury’s responses and defense…his words echo classic perpetrator speak. I can’t deny what I hear and what I know about abusers. I can’t. I believe Bikram Choudhury is an abusive rapist and has hurt and harmed far more than just these few women brave enough to come forward.

Today, I am left to mourn my Bikram Yoga practice. I never revered Bikram Choudhury as my guru. However, I looked to my Bikram Yoga instructors for nearly two (2) years for spiritual guidance and support. I have zero regrets. I also know that there are predators everywhere–teachers teaching other styles of yoga throughout the world preying on the vulnerabilities of women and men. Nothing I do can stop that from happening.

But I have the power to disconnect from the negative energy in my life that simply doesn’t seem to be dissipating. If one day Bikram Choudhury releases the studios from paying the franchise fee, I may go back.

And if my information about the franchises is erroneous, please let me know. If there are Bikram Yoga-trained instructors freely teaching the 26-posture series without being obligated to pay Bikram, Inc., let me know.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

The Results of My 30-day Bikram Yoga Challenge

At the Sackler Museum Yoga exhibit, October 2013.

My son’s shadow at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Museum exhibit: Yoga~The Art of Transformation, October 2013.

A week ago, I completed a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge. The challenge began October 21 and ran until November 19. I actually started on October 23 because I hadn’t been to the studio in a while and didn’t know a challenge was happening. Needless to say, I was at a disadvantage from the beginning in more ways that one.

At the beginning of October, my day job responsibilities were taken away from me, which is a nice way of saying I was out of a job. Unfortunately for me, this coincided with the government shutdown.

Living in the DC metro area, even if you don’t work as a government employee, your life is directly affected by the government’s business. So for the first two weeks of my job search in October, I didn’t hear a word or a sound from any potential employers. Heck, I didn’t even hear crickets!

But I persisted. I was determined to stay positive, but it wasn’t easy. I was struggling. In all honesty, when I walked into Bikram Yoga Rockville’s studio two days into their first Turkey Trot Challenge, I was in a deep slump emotionally, mentally and physically.

However, instead of saying, “Damn! Another opportunity lost because I wasn’t paying attention,” I took it as a sign. I saw it as an alternate chance to move myself in a better direction. So I asked the owner of the studio if it was okay to sign up late. She said, “No problem!” and had me sign my name to the top of the challenge board where she drew in more grid lines to accommodate my late participation.

(I’m happy to also report that a few others joined me as late comers, so to say. I wasn’t alone. Hehe!)

But enough about why I started, most of you are probably more interested in what I learned as a result of doing the challenge, right. Well, here goes:

1. I don’t mind ending up in a hot spot.

Bikram Yoga is hot and sweaty. REALLY hot (105 degrees Fahrenheit) and sweaty. Many teachers of Bikram Yoga refer to their studios as “The Hot Room” and/or “The Torture Chamber.” Personally, I don’t find it torturous, but I have, in the past, found myself consciously avoiding the hottest parts of the room.

You see, not every spot is the same. Some spots are hotter and some spots are much “cooler” (if that’s even possible to say). I discovered that the hotter and more uncomfortable I was, the more focused and determined I was. My mind wondered to places outside the room far less when I was in a hot spot and when sweat was running down my face, than if I were in a “cooler” spot in the room.

The hotter my spot, the better my practice. Who knew!!

2. I learned that I can trust my body when it tells me when to eat and when not to eat.

During the challenge, I ate what I wanted when I wanted it. I don’t eat a lot, but I did during the challenge. My body just needed it. I even ate Halloween candy, including chocolate, which I try to avoid because it has been known to cause me headaches in the past.

According to the calorie calculator over at everydayhealth.com, it’s estimated that I burn between 850 calories during a 90-minutes Bikram Yoga practice. Before the challenge, I wasn’t so sure that was true. But now I am convinced it must be true considering all of the food I ate without gaining or losing weight.

I am the type of person who eats to live, rather than lives to eat. (I haven’t always been that way.) So my body was telling me it needed food, so I helped myself!

3. I realized that what I learn about myself while on the mat translates into how I should be off the mat.

I like to be challenged. But whereas in the past I would become frustrated and upset if I didn’t meet my standards, I’m more inclined now to brush myself off and try again.

One of the yoga teachers at the studio mentioned in the early part of the challenge that if we can remain patient and non-judgmental in a 105 degree room as we try to balance on one leg while trying to touch our head to the knee of our other leg, we can remain patient and non-judgmental anywhere.

In the yoga room, when I fall out of a posture, I just try again. Not because I am competing with anyone else in the room or even because I’m competing with myself. But because I have a desire to honor my practice. Not giving up is honoring the time I invest in my yoga practice. I am patient with my physical limitations and know it takes time to build muscle strength and balance.

Why not translate that kind of thinking off the mat and apply it to my emotional and mental needs for strength and balance? So I did. After about day 15 or so, I repeatedly reminded myself of my yoga teacher’s message.

Today, I actively practice mental patience off the mat more than I had been doing before the challenge. When I start to feel myself becoming agitated with myself or with someone or some situation, I stop myself from diving into negative thought patterns. I step back and say, “Hey! This kind of thinking isn’t going to make the situation better. It’s only going to make it more difficult. Stop. Rewind. Start over.”

There is no shame in admitting defeat and trying again.

4. I love yoga!

After completing the challenge, I realize now more than ever how much I love yoga. I love the smell of the mat and sweaty room; I love the collective sound of the pranas (breathing exercises); I love how the mat feels between my toes; I love the taste of my ice cold water after eagle pose; I love the feeling I get coming out of camel pose (sometimes it’s relief, other times it’s nausea); I love meeting fellow yogis and learning more about why and how they got started on their yoga journey.

On the final day of the challenge just before my 30th consecutive practice began, one of my fellow yogis approached me and handed me a small, rolled up piece of yellow cloth. She stepped back to her mat, and I opened it.

30-day challenge banner

Vera’s gift to me

I immediately got emotional and walked over to her mat and hugged and thanked her. She just said, “You inspire me, Paula.” I cried some more, returned to my mat and finished out my challenge with my last moving meditation.

Her generous and thoughtful act truly humbled me. I couldn’t believe she had taken the time to create something so special just for me. As I walked to my car after practice, I thought about where to hang it in my home to honor her and to honor my challenge. I couldn’t wait to show my husband and my son, who were my biggest supporters and cheerleaders, not to mention they put up with my stinky yoga laundry every single day for 30 days!

Once inside my car, I reached for my phone to call my husband. But before I could call him, I noticed I had missed several messages from a staffing agency I had been working with over the previous three weeks. It seems I had gotten a job offer while I was in yoga!

5. I owe a lot to my yoga practice.

Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Most of all, I appreciate all of my family and friends who don’t tell me to shut up when I start talking about yoga. It’s been too much of a good thing to keep to myself. I can’t stop myself from sharing.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Why I’m Doing Another 30-day Bikram Yoga Challenge and How I Prepare and Remain Motivated

I am embarking on my second Bikram Yoga challenge. The first challenge was almost two years ago in February 2012, just a few months after I started my yoga practice.

Me in Bikram Triangle

Me in Bikram Triangle

To be honest, I never imagined I would be motivated to do another challenge. The first challenge was very beneficial but also tough on my body, mind, spirit and family life. Although I felt accomplished in a mindful and self-aware sort of way upon completing the first challenge, my ego also said, “Well, you did it. You proved you could do it. No need to do that again.”

So I held fast to that egocentric attitude until recently when I started feeling defeated by life and overwhelmed by my responsibilities.

You see, in addition to having a regular 9 to 5 job, I have been writing non-stop on my other blog for 21 months. Over 320 blog posts in 90 weeks. That’s almost an average of 4 blog posts per week.

What I write on my other blog does not result in any sort of financial compensation. None. My compensation comes from the comments and messages I receive from readers who have been positively affected by the message I attempt to share and disseminate, a message related to an understanding of what domestic violence and intimate partner abuse looks like when perpetrated by emotional abusers. Sociopaths and narcissists.

Yeah, it may sound dramatic if you aren’t already familiar with my other blog. And you would be correct. Abuse and control is all about drama. My postings and writings are filled with reactions to that drama, and composing those reactions have been 100% draining. So when October began, I wasn’t surprised when I found myself in need of a break from my other blog and the emotions and feelings it stirred in me.

But a funny thing happened after I made the conscious decision to take a break from writing: I started to feel guilty!

I felt guilty for leaving people hanging. I felt guilty for not being as active as I once was. I have made some incredible friendships through my other blog and value all of the feedback I receive. Actively responding to comments and e-mails was never something I had to struggle with doing. But I found myself struggling, and that made me feel guilty.

Fortunately, I had enough humility (Thank you, yoga!) to reach out to my friends for support. Repeatedly, I received the same message: “Paula, take care of yourself. Put yourself first.”

It took a while for that message to sink in, but once it did, I immediately thought another Bikram Yoga challenge would be just the thing to get me out of my self-imposed slump. I was thinking about doing a challenge on my own but was thrilled to discover the studio where I practice is facilitating a challenge between now and Thanksgiving! (There are no coincidences, I’ve learned.)

I started my second challenge at Bikram Yoga Rockville on Wednesday, October 23 which ends the day before Thanksgiving. (The studio’s challenge actually started on Monday, October 21, so I have two doubles to look forward to completely. I’ll save those for the end.)

Like my first challenge, I had to prepare. Currently, my office is in my home with a more open and flexible schedule than I had during my first challenge. This simply means I have more options for which times I can attend class: mornings, afternoons or evenings. But a more flexible schedule doesn’t mean finding and maintaining my motivation is any less challenging.

Below are some ways I prepared and remain motivated.

In preparation:

  1. Setup a calendar reminder for each day, so I remember to eat. (I sometimes get really busy during the day and forget to eat lunch. If I wait too long, I can’t eat until after yoga. (Bikram instructors recommend that you eat a light meal 2-4 hours prior to your daily practice.)
  2. Get a pedicure. (Hey, it’s important to have clean and polished feet to present to your fellow yogis. Plus, it helps to keep your mat fresh.)
  3. Bathe my mat. (It’s kind of like a clean sheet thing–it just feels good and it’s healthy, for you and your mat.)
  4. Buy tea tree oil and a spray bottle. (A tea tree oil and water concoction will be sprayed on my mat after each use; it’s a green and friendly solution to keeping your mat fresh.)
  5. Pack a clean change of yoga clothes and towel in my car for spur-of-the-moment decisions to go to the yoga studio.

To remain motivated:

  1. Let as many people know your intention to complete the challenge.
    The more people who know, the more people will be asking you every day, “So, how many days are left?” You don’t want to answer, “Oh, I quit.” Do you?
  2. Get a challenge buddy (or 2 or 3).
    This can be done directly or indirectly. If you are new or simply don’t have friends at the studio, pick someone’s name off the board and follow/stalk his/her progress. It’s definitely psychological but effective.
  3. Don’t neglect your family.
    If you are married, in a partnership, or have children, they’re probably your biggest supporters. So, even when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed by the yoga, do things with and for your family. They’ll be more inclined to maintain their support throughout the 30 days. And remember to say, “Thank you, Baby, for respecting how much this means to me.”
  4. Keep talking about how the challenge is making you feel.
    Even if you feel like crap some days, share it. You would be surprised by how many people will tell you, “Well, just don’t stop. You’re so close.”
  5. Be lazy, eat right, drink lots of water, and sleep when you can.
    Do I need to explain this one? :)
  6. Encourage other yogis in the challenge.
    Through encouraging others, you encourage yourself and the entire room.
  7. Keep smiling.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

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