Me and Bikram

Bikram Yoga is one of the most intense, punishing physical workouts you will ever experience. Each class is 90 minutes long in which 26 postures are performed in humid 105+ degree heat. The format of every Bikram class is the same no matter where in the world you go.

I joined a Bikram Yoga studio in January 2014 and have quickly progressed from knowing little about Bikram Yoga to being a dedicated six-day-a-week practitioner and completing my teacher training certification in April 2015. If you're ready for a mind-body fitness regimen like no other and are willing to give Bikram Yoga a try, please stop by Bridge Hot Yoga and check out one of my classes. Namaste!

My yoga journey:
Opinions expressed are solely my own. Please consult your physician for medical advice before starting a yoga program.

January 16, 2014, 4:30pm - class 1 with Thayne Dibble - Today was my first class at Bikram Yoga Philadelphia. I told Thayne I was new, so she didn't push me too hard. She corrected my poses on a few occasions, but I quickly learned that Bikram Yoga is like throwing yourself into the water to learn how to swim. You learn by doing, watching others, knowing your limits, and doing what you can to progress beyond those limits. You will make plenty of mistakes in your poses, but that's the point of practice. My goal with the first class is to see if I could survive the heat. I stopped twice to recover from dizziness. The heat is intense and is in your face the whole time. If you're not standing in the right place, the vents blowing out the hot air can sting your fingertips if you wear nail polish. I notice nobody else is wearing any nail polish or makeup. Any makeup you wear will sweat off in minutes. I sipped as little water as possible as my readings suggested. Holy Jesus, the thermostat says it's 117 degrees in here! At the end of the class, I was exhausted and knew what to expect the next time I go.

January 20, 2014, 4:30pm - class 2 with Joel Pier - Joel is a senior yoga instructor who really helped push me a little further in my second class. Through his hands-on approach, he corrected my poses and gave me helpful advice on a few occasions. My legs are the strongest part of my body and I feel frustrated that I couldn't balance myself on one leg to do the poses. Every other student appears to do the poses with relative ease. This motivated made me try harder because when you're in a room with other people who are all doing it right, you want to do it right yourself. I also noticed that most everyone in the room was thinner and in better shape than me. This made me a little self-conscious of my belly, the source of most of the extra eight pounds on my body, but yoga is not about judging others. Your own anxieties about your body are self-created. I pushed myself a bit too hard twice, got dizzy, and had to rest for a few moments on my back. I then got back into the next pose with the rest of the class. Bikram Yoga is not going to be easy with a belly. That's why I need to get rid of it. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to display his weakest parts as motivation to achieve greater physical perfection: "He cut all of his training sweatpants at the knees to constantly remind him they (his calves) needed his attention, as they did their best to detract from what was otherwise a world-class physique" [source].

January 21, 2014, 5:30pm - class 3 with Chris Fluck - Chris's class was held in the larger studio on the top floor. I liked his dialog style during class, which was both informative and encouraging. At a couple of points, I was irritated with and exhausted by the heat, but I relaxed and calmed down and found a second and even third wind to continue doing the poses. I've always thought I was pretty flexible, but I've often compared my flexibility to that of others my age. Chris said that even professional athletes will have a difficult time with the poses, so there's no shame in losing balance. "You may lose balance, fall, and make plenty of mistakes in your poses, but that's the point of practice. Don't be afraid of losing balance. What's the worse that can happen?" he said. The point is to overcome your fears. My readings indicate that the intense heat of a Bikram Yoga classroom can help you stretch your muscles, ligaments, and tendons a little further each time you practice. Use your strengths to develop your weaknesses. Use your strength to develop your flexibility or use your flexibility to develop your strength. The 26 poses are designed to push your limits to develop both strength and flexibility. Right now, I suck, but I'm going to keep practicing to get better. I'm glad I chose this yoga studio over others in my area because every other studio cancelled their afternoon classes today due to Winter Storm Janus.

January 22, 2014, 4:30pm - class 4 with Kazim Saddiq - Kazim's instruction was consistent with the other instructors. I'm getting used to the heat now. I saw a few overweight people in class this time so that made me feel better that I wasn't the only out-of-shape person in the room. As luck would have it, someone took a spot directly in front of me, obstructing my view of the mirror. He was nice to look at, so all was not bad. I noticed the same girl in the front row from my previous two classes, no doubt someone dedicated enough to do this every day. I was a lot more confident with my poses today. I discovered that if I just focus and don't think about falling, I don't fall. It's when I feel I'm about to fall, I fall. I think I stumbled upon a zen moment.

January 23, 2014, 6:00am - class 5 with Noelle Burgoyne - Noelle has nice tones in her voice that made practice a lot easier this morning. I've never woken up at 5:00am to make a 6:00am exercise class so this was a first for me. The streets are really empty at night. I thought I'd meet a lot of weirdos during my one-mile walk, but I didn't. I kept thinking to myself that if I ever want to be proficient at my poses, I will have to lose a lot of weight because my belly is in the way when I try to do a lot of them. The strange thing is I'm really not that fat (I'm 138.8), but compared to a lot of people who are seen as athletically fit, I'm out of shape. When everyone you normally associate with is out of shape, it can be challenging, intimidating, and also inspiring to be in the company of athletically fit people. For someone like me who prides herself in looking the way she does, to be in great physical shape just a little over a year ago and then lose that gorgeous body she once had is truly a wakeup call. The 9 degree weather didn't bother me as I did my breathing in through nose and out through mouth technique all the way to my yoga studio. Noelle corrected my poses on two occasions and was as helpful as the other instructors. I think if I just come away with two useful bits of information in each class, I'll eventually get the hang of how to do all of my poses properly.

January 24, 2014, 6:00am - class 6 with James Pfeffer - James infuses an almost military-like style to the workout and I found his many tips and techniques to be among the most informative of all of the instructors. He walked over to correct or improve my postures several times. "You have a long upper torso and long arms, so you should try situating yourself like this," he said to me while demonstrating the technique. "Don't rush into it. It'll come in time," he said. His encouraging words and thoughtful guidance helped me think about my body alignment for my future workouts. "Why is this guy so good?" I thought to myself. I did a little research and found that James was a regional yoga champion. I'm amazed that there are such quality instructors here and all for a very reasonable price! It was 9 degrees outside with a wind chill that made it feel like -11. I did my breathing technique again so the cold didn't bother me that much.

January 25, 2014, 1:00pm - class 7 with Justin Riley - Justin was even more military-like than James. I didn't get any corrections today so I'd like to think I'm actually doing my poses correctly now. I'm a little more flexible today than yesterday. I could actually see the back wall now when I bend my head backwards. That's a good start for me. I still have trouble sitting on the ground with my insteps flat on the mat. "Don't be discouraged if you can't do a pose today. Eventually, you'll be able to. It took many of us years to perfect a pose," Justin said. The class was larger than my weekday classes and there were lots of new faces. There were some really nice-looking guys in today's class. After class, I heard Joel, one of the other instructors, call out my name. We greeted each other and he gave me a big hug. I'm a regular now!

January 27, 2014, 6:00am - class 8 with Sandy Robin - Most of the posture corrections in today's class were aimed at me and I welcomed it because I want to get my poses right. Sandy helped improve my Triangle and Wind-Removing Poses. It was a little hard to hear her instructions since she didn't use a headset, so I'm glad she focused on me during class. One thing I've learned is it's difficult to do Bikram Yoga with big breast implants because you're asked to lie down on your stomach and press your shoulders into the mat for a couple of poses. Seven hours of partying on Saturday night made me feel sick on Sunday and severely affected my performance in class today.

January 28, 2014, 8:00am - class 9 with Andrew Cookson - I felt that Andrew rushed through the sequence a little too quickly in the second half of class. Like Justin, I didn't see him correct anyone's poses, especially mine. Nevertheless, I did get a userful pointer in class, which was to press my forehead against my knee to help stretch my leg in Head to Knee Pose. Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow Pose are my worst poses. My legs wobble too much! I also can't seem to get my insteps against the mat in the sitting poses because I have flat feet. I felt a little more balanced today so my legs were a little more stable than yesterday.

January 29, 2014, 6:00am - class 10 with Sandy Robin - I'm finding Sandy's instruction to be the most helpful of all the instructors so far. She's taking my inflexible, weak, wobbly-legged body and pushing me hard to get better results. In the Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, she noticed I couldn't stretch very far down. "Oh, we're going to have fun with you," she said, smiling, as she stood next to me, encouraging me to stretch and pull every ligament of my legs further and further out. Sweat dripped into my eyes and puddles of sweat and saliva dripped off of my face as I felt a burning sensation running up my legs. I felt better after the class because my body had emptied itself of all toxins and excess liquid. I'm almost touching my toes on a sit-up now. I'm now storing my own mat at the studio like other regulars there.

January 30, 2014, 6:00am - class 11 with Emily Jane - Emily substituted for Noelle today. The overall vibe was very dialog driven like Andrew and Justin. Emily corrected me on my last pose. After Sandy's class yesterday, I felt really worn out but I continued on. No pain, no gain! I really have to work on locking my knee in the standing poses. I don't seem to have enough leg strength to balance my body on one leg. This is ironic to me since I was once able to do leg presses of 750 pounds on a Universal machine. I saw two girls in class today with breast implants bigger than mine skillfully performing their poses, so I know I have a chance at being good at this. Some of you may wonder why I chose this yoga over other yogas or forms of exercise. It's because, from everything I've read, it's the most grueling, punishing form of exercise I could find and I just love challenges like that. As Bikram says, "The only way is the right way and the right way is the hard way."

February 3, 2014, 6:00am - class 12 with Sandy Robin - Another tough workout in Sandy's class. Hands down, she's my favorite instructor so far because she pushes me to be better than I am. Whether you're a beginner or a more advanced yoga student, she'll give you the personalized attention you need to improve a posture and help you take your practice to a new level. I stopped twice today due to dizziness, but that's because I pushed myself harder than ever before. For all of my hard work and eating right, I'm 135.6 today, a weight I haven't seen since August. Bikram Yoga works.

February 4, 2014, 6:00am - class 13 with Stella Rose - Stella is very much like Noelle. Very straightforward instruction, correcting me on a couple of poses. I pushed myself again, but not as hard as yesterday. I sweat my ass off in Hands to Feet pose. It's a very difficult pose for me because it follows the grueling Half Moon bends.

February 5, 2014, 8:00am - class 14 with Noelle Burgoyne - Noelle's voice is so soft and pretty. I think she's a good choice on days in between Sandy's grueling workouts. Noelle is very encouraging and I don't feel stressed out about trying a little harder in some of the poses. Every week I feel like I'm getting a little better.

February 6, 2014, 6:00am - class 15 with Noelle Burgoyne - Another great class with Noelle. I like her laid back style.

February 8, 2014, 11:00am - class 16 with Sandy Robin - There were 25 people in class today and even with a class this size, Sandy was able to walk around the room and help novice and advanced students alike. She's the best.

February 10, 2014, 6:00am - class 17 with Sandy Robin - After today's punishing workout, I walked by the front desk of my yoga studio with a look of pure exhaustion. "Good job, Clare," Sandy said, nodding. Her demeanor was calm and reserved and she resembled a Buddhist master who had sought and found enlightenment. One of the other instructors said that Sandy could do a pose for twenty minutes where most people would choke in one minute. "Thanks for kicking my butt every week," I told her. "I'm going to kick your butt every week," she said. "Cool," I said, smiling.

February 11, 2014, 6:00am - class 18 with Stella Rose - I was pretty tired going into today's class because I was out last night. Stella sped through the workout so I perspired but nowhere near as much as Sandy's classes.

February 12, 2014, 6:00am - class 19 with Sandy Robin - "You're doing very well, Clare!" Sandy exclaimed after my workout. "Thanks, Sandy! I try," I replied.

February 16, 2014, 5:30pm - class 20 with Robyn King - I did horribly in class today. I got dizzy and almost passed out three times. The class was packed with at least 25 people and felt frickin' hot. It was certainly warmer than the morning classes I've been going to. Robyn was concerned and asked me if I was okay. I nodded, but had to leave the room three times and put my head in between my knees to cool down. Normally, I would simply lie down to regain my composure, but I felt like I was suffocating. I did one thing right, though. I held my Standing Bow for longer than I ever did. I actually concentrated and stared at my eyes in the mirror and just froze my body. It felt good to be able to do that pose even if it was just a fluke.

February 17, 2014, 6:00am - class 21 with Sandy Robin - I was right. Morning classes don't feel as warm as evening classes. Still, there was one point where I had to rest longer than usual in order to continue. Sandy got on my tail again and helped me improve my Triangle pose. This is a very difficult pose to do if you don't have much quad strength. Bikram Yoga helped me get down to my pre-surgeries weight of 132 in 30 days (7.5 pounds lost overall). Oddly, I still have a little belly fat that's hindering me from performing each exercise to its fullest potential. The new focus is to get myself down to an optimal 128 without losing strength and endurance.

February 19, 2014, 6:00am - class 22 with Sandy Robin - My class had a couple of new recruits and Sandy got on their tails helping them with their poses. This lady deserves to be a Best of Philly yoga instructor.

February 20, 2014, 6:00am - class 23 with Noelle Burgoyne - I told Noelle that she and Sandy were my favorite morning instructors and she thanked me. I could finally put both hands together in prayer in Tree Pose. My biggest weakness is Fixed Firm Pose because I can't sit on the nonexistant arches of my feet so it is very difficult for me to lie on my back in this pose.

"When you begin to honor your body by practicing Hatha Yoga (Bikram Yoga), your relationship to that body changes. Now you have pride in it and begin to have faith in yourself. You can begin to let go of your bad habits. When you do yoga, you both love and like yourself. You realize that you can enjoy life better not doing the kinds of things that defile your temple (your body). Then you come to see yourself not as a slave to your bad habits, but as someone who has mastered them, and what do you get? More self-esteem - more than you can ever imagine."
- Bikram Choudhury

February 21, 2014, 10:00am - class 24 with Chris Fluck - Another good class with Chris. I like how he adds his own experiences to the Bikram dialog.

February 22, 2014, 9:00am - class 25 with Joel Pier - This was the most packed class to date. There were 32, perhaps 33, students packed in the little studio, which meant every space in the room was occupied. I don't like big classes like this because we're basically "on your own" a lot as instructor Joel Pier chimed, but he's correct in saying that we all know what to do, we just have to do it. Even with a class this big, Joel was still able to check on my postures and alert me to what I was doing wrong. While Joel's Bikram dialog isn't as textbook as other instructors, his strength lies in his hands-on approach in helping students correct their postures. I finally held my Standing Bow Pose for the entire required duration. Today was the first day I felt comfortable enough to wear my side string shorts rather than capris. I've always wanted a hot yoga body and now I'm finally achieving it.

February 23, 2014, 9:00am - class 26 with Sandy Robin - My Standing Bow Pose wasn't as good as yesterday. I finally attempted to backbend in Camel Pose today, but my hips weren't pushed forward enough so Sandy made me press my body against the front mirror so I could learn to keep my hips pushed forward. Camel Pose is one of the final five of the 26 postures and by then I was getting pretty tired. It took every bit of energy in me to finish the final four postures. I was ready to pass out in the final breathing exercise, which is normally easy. I emerged victorious as always. "Good job, Clare! Keep it up!" Sandy said to me at the end of the class. It always feels good to get positive feedback from my teachers. That way I know I'm doing something right. There were 43 students in class today, more than I've ever seen. Because I didn't go out drinking last night and I didn't have my kids this weekend, I decided to take advantage of my unique opportunity to go to class. I'm glad I did.

"You're holding an asana, shaking and shuddering, your every muscle crying out, and your mind is yelling at you to quit, to please bring an end to this mental and physical pain. That's when I come to your rescue by telling you, "Just try to kill yourself, honey." When I say kill yourself, I'm talking about overcoming the slavery of your own mind. Raised by parents who tell them, "Take it easy, honey, just do the best that you can," people get brainwashed to expect very little of themselves. Break free of the bonds that have held you back from achieving your true potential in life."
- Bikram Choudhury

February 24, 2014, 6:00am - class 27 with Sandy Robin - My Standing Bow still wasn't as good as Saturday. I kept falling out of it. Still, I didn't give up and that's just one pose out of 26. I think I did the others well. After class, a new student praised me. "You're really good," she said. I thanked her. Ajay, a veteran student of Bikram Yoga for the past nine years, told me she was going for teacher training this year. Someday I'd like to teach Bikram Yoga, too. I booked a flight to Portland, Oregon to participate in an ayurvedic retreat.

February 25, 2014, 6:00am - class 28 with Stella Rose - My Standing Bow was a little better than the previous two days. I tried to get both hands together again in Tree Pose like I did last Friday. I could finally lie on my back in Fixed Firm Pose. "Good workout, Clare!" Stella praised. Yay! I had a vegan cheesesteak for dinner last night from HipCityVeg.

February 26, 2014, 6:00am - class 29 with Sandy Robin - I did a wobbly Standing Bow and Balancing Stick today because I tried to push myself to make my poses look more correct. I kept falling out, but I never gave up. I went back into each pose. I know I can extend my back leg all the way eventually. The last few seconds of the pose confirmed this. I just have to get my standing leg to lock properly. Sandy noticed my determination today. I'm learning that yogurt isn't as bad as I thought it was. I've had it every day this week for breakfast.

February 27, 2014, 6:00am - class 30 with Noelle Burgoyne - Thirty classes, fourty-five hours. I've basically completed a college course on Bikram Yoga. I've improved my postures greatly since my first few classes. "Looking strong out there, Clare!" Noelle commented after class. Yay! "I'm getting a little better each day," I said with a smile. I had a chirashi bowl for dinner last night from Mizu. Good fresh fish! I'm still maintaining my weight of 132. My body looks really good when I do the Half Moon Pose. I can now proudly say that I am a yogini.

When I first started Bikram Yoga, many of my friends questioned my choice of it as a fitness regimen. Nobody understood why I had chosen the single most grueling form of exercise available to me when I could've toned my body using less extreme methods. My weight was getting out of control and I needed a strong kick in the butt to get myself back in gear, so I chose something that would make most people moan, ache, and cry in pain. I chose something that most people would back away from because they're too weak-willed to do it. I chose the hard way, the Bikram way.

"Many people cannot take the heat. They do not have the motivation nor self confidence to stick out a class. So people disdain what they think they cannot have."
- Dan Baker

"Burning Man has nothing on Bikram."
- Benjamin Lorr

February 28, 2014, 10:00am - class 31 with Chris Fluck - I treated myself to a sexy pair of Red Tiger shorts. My Onzie M/L shorts are just too big for me. I got my Standing Bow back. Yay! I thanked Chris and complimented him on his dialog after class.

March 1, 2014, 9:00am - class 32 with Joel Pier - There were 52 students today and each student's mat was just two inches apart. Joel, our instructor, said the class was even larger the other day at 56. Whoa! Even with a class this big, Joel walked around correcting people's postures. He stopped at me during Triangle Pose. "That's a good Triangle Pose, but here's how to make it better. Heel-toe your back foot towards me. That's it. That's where your foot should be," he instructed. He was happy to hear that I signed up for the school's Bikram Yoga retreat.

March 3, 2014, 6:00am - class 33 with Sandy Robin - Due to the snowstorm, there were just six students today, but that didn't stop my school from being open for class. I liked the smaller class today because that meant that Sandy could focus on helping me improve my postures more. She was critical of my Standing Bow and helped with my Triangle, Cobra, and Locust poses. During Seated Forward Bend (Paschimotthanasana), I was so mad that my knees weren't flat on the floor that I kept my big toes pulled with one hand and pushed my knees down with the other.

March 4, 2014, 10:00am - class 34 with Noelle Burgoyne - I still can't extend my leg in Standing Head to Knee. My Standing Bow still looks crazy. I can almost reach my outer heels in Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose. I'll probably reach them in another month or two. My legs aren't flat in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and Head to Knee. I'm pretty good at the other 21 poses, though. It seems to me that everyone in the room has poses they can do and poses they have trouble with. Not everyone seems to be able to do all 26 perfectly. I guess that's why this is called Bikram's Beginner Class. Everyone is just practicing and getting better each day. The upstairs studio is finally done. The little studio can get really crowded.

March 5, 2014, 6:00am - class 35 with Sandy Robin - There are certain people I like in yoga class because they greet me with a warm, inviting smile each day. There's this beautiful Indian girl who stands next to me in most of my classes. There's an older lady named Ajay who has a magnificent glow that radiates the room whenever she walks in. There are the occasional glances from fine gentlemen, beautiful in their own right, and I would like to think that perhaps one or two of them have been reading this blog and have joined this yoga studio because of me. On occasion, there are the one or two newbie smart-alecks who think they're queens of the yoga studio and the cream of the crop. Bikram will break them down and humble them. Bikram has certainly broken me down and humbled me. There is this notion that no matter how well I do my postures, there is always room for improvement because the yoga masters of yesteryear have perfected each pose and we're all simply trying to imitate what they did, sometimes well and sometimes failing miserably... but we still try! This is what Bikram is all about. You have to try. Never give up. This yoga is about learning how to overcome all of your shortcomings. As you get better, you gain confidence which radiates in all aspects of your life. You don't need a teacher to tell you this. It just happens on its own. My Standing Bow is better today and I'm still at a nice weight of 132.4 even though I had leftovers from a pork dinner for lunch and a Whopper for dinner.

March 6, 2014, 6:00am - class 36 with Noelle Burgoyne - There were two new girls in class today. One of them was extremely flexible but seemed to run out of gas midway into the workout because she overextended herself in the early poses. It's nice to show off how flexible you are, but an important part of Bikram is knowing how to conserve your energy throughout the workout so you can complete it. I defended Bikram on a Nightline video shown on YouTube, not to gain any favors, but to share my opinion that I only want to know the truth. A faceless troll called me naive and "fresh meat" for Bikram and I fired back. He responded, "I'm as faceless as you are. As far as I know you could be a fat old man and not that pretty woman in your avatar." The joke's on him because I am the pretty woman in my avatar!

March 7, 2014, 8:00am - class 37 with Ed Silver - Ed led our class in a very calm and serene manner, but I wish he did more posture correction like Joel and Sandy. You can only go so far by learning on your own using words as a guide. You need someone who can physically correct you if you're doing something wrong because you can really hurt your body in the long run if you keep doing the same bad things over and over again. I want to tell the students who extend their leg too quickly before getting a solid locked knee in Standing Head to Knee that they shouldn't rush the posture. I would love to be an instructor some day because I feel I can make a difference.

March 8, 2014, 9:00am - class 38 with Joel Pier - Fifty-plus people in the smaller studio feels too cramped. I'm glad the upstairs studio is now finally open for the larger weekend classes. While the floor looks shiny new, there is a notable problem with it. The boards that comprise the hardwood floor are uneven. I could feel it when I place my foot on one of the slightly higher boards. I found myself moving around my mat to readjust a couple of times during my workout. It's not a big deal, but with the long wait for the larger studio to reopen, you would think this wouldn't be a problem. I like the smaller studio more because the ceiling is nicer to look at during back bends. The lighting is also nicer in the smaller studio during final savasana.

March 10, 2014, 6:00am - class 39 with Sandy Robin - I could feel Sandy pace through our workout more quickly than usual. I hope she's all right. Ajay stood next to me in class today because her usual spot was occupied by new students. I like the energy she gives off in every class. "I've been doing Bikram for nine years and I hope to do nine more!" she tells us. Because of her dedication, she is one of my inspirations in class.

March 11, 2014, 8:00am - class 40 with Malea Diehl - Malea is one of the instructors in the Bikram Yoga retreat I'm going to this summer and was our instructor today. I wanted to take a class with her early on because of her reputation for injecting humor into her dialog. I almost didn't get my chance because I was ready to go to the 6:00am class but discovered that a substitute teacher stepped in for her, so I waited for the 8:00am class to make sure I was in her class. I'm glad I did because her dialog is very precise and complete and has humorous comments throughout just like the reviews said. She's not hands-on like Joel or Sandy, but she's one of the better dialog instructors.

March 12, 2014, 6:00am - class 41 with Sandy Robin - Wow, twenty-two students today! That's a record for the morning. Sandy was back to form with her wonderful dialog and hands-on approach. She helped me improve my Triangle and Locust postures. It was very warm in class today due to the good weather and the extra bodies, perhaps a hint of things to come in the summer. My left knee has been clicking today when I bend it so I decided to refrain from hard stretching and lying on my back in Fixed Firm Pose.

March 13, 2014, 6:00am - class 42 with Noelle Burgoyne - I'm still wobbly in Standing Bow, especially on my left leg. I could lie on my back in my second set of Fixed Firm Pose, so I'm back in business. Noelle helped me make a microadjustment in my Triangle Pose. I can almost reach the outside of my feet in Standing Separate Leg Stretch. I felt a little dehydrated today since I had food poisoning last night. Some of my friends and acquaintances still don't realize how difficult Bikram Yoga is. They talk about yoga as if it were something akin to calisthenics with a philosophical component to it. Make no mistake. Bikram Yoga is basically boot camp for the body, mind, and soul. Most people who aren't prepared for it will not be able to do it. It can make a strong-willed person end up in tears because it is mercilessly difficult. Sure, you can lie down and rest at any time during the workout, but if you put in an honest effort to do every exercise and get better each day, you will feel physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted like any good workout will do.

March 14, 2014, 10:00am - class 43 with Chris Fluck - Did I walk into an advanced class today? Nobody looked more than ten pounds overweight! The class was packed with students, including an instructor I had earlier this week. Chris gave me a couple of tips that helped me with my backbend. I always like standing in the center of the room in front of the mirror in each class. Being in this particular spot means all eyes in the room can see me, so I better bring my "A game" every time. The caliber of today's class was especially good, so it forced me to push myself to keep up with everyone. I made strides in several of my postures, but I can't call myself an expert or even an intermediate yet. My body is looking real nice in my criss-cross bra top and side string shorts, but there are others who have better body shapes in part due to the fact that they're over twenty years younger than me. Even so, I'll never let my age stop me.

March 15, 2014, 9:00am - class 44 with Joel Pier - Joel's dialog was very good today and he spent extra time helping every new and intermediate student in class. I like how he pushes everyone hard to be more than what they presently are. He complimented me ("Nice, Clare!") on the first part of my Awkward Stance, but told me to straighten my back more in the second part of the stance. I finally got the name of the redhead I've been saying hello to every day for the past month. She's really nice. She thanked me for writing a glowing review of the yoga studio on Yelp and asked for my opinion on a new instructor she hadn't had yet. There were thirty-six students in class today. We were in the larger studio on the fourth floor, but it still seemed crowded with that many students. One of the newer students threw out her back and was wheeled off the premises on a paramedic's stretcher.

March 17, 2014, 6:00am - class 45 with Sandy Robin - Sandy's approach was very disciplined today. She had a hawk's gaze as she surveyed the room at every moment, correcting postures along the way. She and Joel are still my favorite instructors overall. I think I got my balance for Standing Bow back. I didn't try to dip my body as low as I usually do, so I was able to hang on for quite a bit longer than usual. I feel like I'm almost ready to do Toe Stand. There's this new student named Julie in my morning classes who appears to have tremendous flexibility, almost as if she were a natural at Bikram Yoga. I'm very impressed with her Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow poses. There's another girl named Kate who does a really superior Full Locust. You can't help but say "Wow!" when someone does a pose with grace and beauty. It's been a long time coming but I'm finally starting to read Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class book. This is an ingenius book because it makes you feel as if you are taking a Bikram Yoga class that is taught by Bikram himself! During the instructional portions of the book, the pages are divided in half to show the ideal situation as well as what the average person will most likely do.

March 19, 2014, 6:00am - class 46 with Sandy Robin - I ate so much food and drank so many drinks on Monday night that doing Bikram would've been bad for me on Tuesday. Perhaps that's not the case, but I felt like crap on Tuesday. Whiskey will do that to you. I also had to renew my membership, too, and didn't have the money to do so until today. Remarkably, I had no corrections today from Sandy. Either I'm doing something right or I'm not doing things terribly wrong. My chin still hurts from my four year old accidentally jumping up and hitting my jaw with his head last Saturday causing my teeth to go through my tongue. The floor exercises where I was told to lean my chin on the ground were especially painful. The morning classes are getting more crowded these days with more people wanting space in front of the mirror.

March 20, 2014, 6:00am - class 47 with Noelle Burgoyne - I attempted my first Toe Stand today. Unfortunately, my hands landed behind me rather than in front. Noelle helped me get my posture correct going down. Her one-on-one guidance is where she shines as a teacher. She was impressed that my foot was completely flat during Toe Stand. "You must be remarkably flexible around your foot," she said. I don't think so. I just have really flat feet! Not only that, but I probably tore every ligament off of my ankles by turning my feet 90 degrees from my ankles multiple times when I was a youth. It's amazing I could leg press 750 pounds with these bad feet!

March 21, 2014, 8:00am - class 48 with Joel Pier - You worry all week about that extra pound you gained. Thankfully, you make conscientious decisions about what to eat during the week. Except last night when you enjoyed a huge Chinese buffet with your kids. You have a drink with friends afterwards and get home late. And then you go into Bikram's Torture Chamber one more time, the 48th time. You see and feel that little tummy on you and notice all of the women around you with their perfectly lean shapes. You give your workout everything you've got. You do it for Joel, your instructor today. You do it for Bikram. You do it for yourself. Exhausted, you leave the yoga studio and things start feeling better all of a sudden. Without any expectations, you step on the scale... 131.8... and you realize that you being fat was all in your mind.

March 22, 2014, 11:00am - class 49 with Sandy Robin - It was ungodly hot in the upper floor studio today, but I survived it. My body felt like shutting down at several points, but somehow I found the energy and enthusiasm to continue. Sandy stuck a yoga champ next to me in the front row. That forced me to work harder. During Camel Pose, I honestly couldn't backbend. I could sit up on my knees and shift my head back, but that's it. I was that dizzy and exhausted. I believe that the weekend classes are much warmer than on weekdays because people who come on weekends are usually the once-a-week students who want to feel as if they are getting their money's worth. "Oh, yeah, hot yoga! I was sweating my brains out!" I could see some of them brag to their friends at work. My partner and I shared a burger and fries after class and spent a nice afternoon relaxing in the park.

March 24, 2014, 6:00am - class 50 with Sandy Robin - After 50 classes, I now feel qualified to provide a self-assessment of my skills. I am by no means an expert or even an intermediate. I'm still a beginner. Mind you, I might be much better than most beginners, but I'm still a beginner. I'm not quite flexible enough to stretch my leg out flat in the various head to knee poses. In fact, I still can't extend my leg out properly in Standing Head to Knee. At times, my Standing Bow looks like a contorted mess. My Full Bow doesn't look very round. Sandy pulled my upper body back during Full Bow today. I wonder if my spine will ever back bend. I just started doing Toe Stand and I'm wobbly. My Camel sucks. What I do do well are some of the more difficult postures and that includes Half Moon, Awkward, Eagle, and Triangle. Unfortunately, I am by no means consistent in the quality of my postures across practices. Sometimes I wobble in Eagle or feel dizzy in Triangle. It all depends on how hard I push myself up until a specific pose. You would think that you would turn into some sort of expert after 50 classes of anything, but there are people in my classes who've been doing Bikram Yoga for more than nine years and still require adjustments to their poses. "This yoga is hard," Benjamin Lorr says in his book. "It is the toughest offseason workout you'll ever experience," quoted a professional hockey player in Lorr's book. The most important lesson I've learned in my first 50 classes is you can't overexert yourself in the first few postures, otherwise you'll have no gas left for the rest of the 90 minute workout. Other equally important lessons include don't do yoga unless you're well hydrated the night before, don't bring your problems into the yoga studio, and try to free your mind of all distractions during your practice.

March 26, 2014, 6:00am - class 51 with Sandy Robin - Class felt different today because I wasn't in my usual spot in the middle of the room. Sandy suggested that everyone try changing places to get a feel for different parts of the room, so I relegated myself to the right side of the room near the window. As luck would have it, SuperHunk came in and placed his mat between me and the window. The beautiful Indian girl who usually stands to my left again placed her mat next to mine. "I'm following you," she said with a smile, to which I responded with a laugh. And so I started this unusual Wednesday with slight apprehension because I was no longer the center of attention. Maybe Sandy got bored with the complacency in the room or the configuration of the regulars. "We all love Sandy, our leader, so we just do as we're told. We'll probably all change back next Wednesday," an older lady with sagelike wisdom said. I nodded.

March 27, 2014, 10:00am - class 52 with Leo Eisenstein - Leo is a new instructor for me, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. There are two different kinds of instructors I've seen so far, the dialog instructor and the physical therapist. He was certainly more like the former, but he also gave us a lot of his insights during the dialog. He made us think. His "no pain gain" rather than a "no pain, no gain" philosophy was food for thought. Wasn't this in direct contrast to Bikram? I'd have to read Bikram's book again for the answer. I found Leo's class to be intellectually enlightening. It was similar to Chris' classes, but with less of the posture correction. Perhaps that was because most of the students in the class were advanced. Two Bikram instructors took the class with me, Noelle and Emily, and I can't help but feel a bit intimidated by their superior genetics and experience. They exhibited a stillness to their postures that I'm working towards achieving. They looked happy doing their postures. By stark contrast, I looked intensely disturbed. I reminded myself of maintaining a happy, smiling face, like Joel says, and I see fleeting moments of it, but I'm not quite comfortable enough with many of the postures to smile without looking maniacal. I stood in my usual center of the room spot again. I can't see myself in any other spot than that one.

March 28, 2014, 10:00am - class 53 with Chris Fluck - Class was packed with students today. I was able to hold my Standing Bow for longer than usual because Chris kept telling us to "kick." I think that little psychological trick enabled me to focus on balancing.

March 29, 2014, 11:00am - class 54 with Sandy Robin - Another weekend class with more of that murderous 120+ degree temperature! I wondered if it was just me or the studio. I looked at the thermostat and it read 52, which translates to 125 degrees Farenheit. Yikes! That's 20 degrees above what it should've been. I was suffering during some of the postures. Sandy propped open one of the windows midway into the class because she probably saw what the heat was doing to me and some of her other pupils. I could deal with 115 degrees, but 125 is just crazy. I felt woozy after my workout.

March 31, 2014, 6:00am - class 55 with Sandy Robin - I moved back to the center of the room, one spot over from where I usually stand. I figure I'll resume my usual spot tomorrow. The room was much cooler than on Saturday. I was able to finish the workout with no problems. I held my Standing Bow for the full 60 seconds. I pointed at myself in the mirror, triumphant. One of my clients I do consulting work for took my advice and came to his first class today. More people should listen to me.

April 1, 2014, 6:00am - class 56 with Stella Rose - I'm back to my center spot. The beauty of the front row, the row immediately facing the mirrors, is that everyone and the instructor can easily see what you're doing. I want to get these postures right, so I welcome the feedback and criticism from all of my instructors. When I'm in a class I enjoy, I'm fully engaged in it. This is how I felt about my arts and humanities classes in school. My Half Moon is deeper than it's ever been. I'm now at 130.6, nine pounds less than what I started at.

April 2, 2014, 6:00am - class 57 with Sandy Robin - Sandy sees the tremendous effort I put into my practice each day. Today was no different. "Raise the hip! Forehead to knee! Raise the hip! Forehead to knee!" she demanded, to which I would dutifully comply to the best of my ability. I'm almost able to do Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee with both of my legs straight! After class, Sandy gave me a tip to try at home to help straighten my legs in Balancing Stick. I thanked her. "You're doing very well, Clare!" she said to me.

April 3, 2014, 6:00am - class 58 with Noelle Burgoyne - I ate a big plate of fried Ipswich clams last night and felt sick this morning. I almost didn't go to class, but I knew that I would've felt worse not going than resting for a day. I entered Noelle's class with a mild headache, a queasy feeling in my stomach, and the remnants of a cold that just won't go away. I pushed myself again and again with each posture. I cried during Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee as I straightened my legs and raised my hips as much as possible. I want to go to Bikram teacher training someday, so I have to work on getting these postures right.

April 4, 2014, 8:00am - class 59 with Katelynn Ingersoll - Five hours of sleep didn't stop me from going to my yoga class this morning because I finally got my chance to take Katelynn's class. It was a chance for me to show her everything I've achieved from all of the fantastic instructors at her school. As luck would have it, my first posture, Pranayama Breathing, was a little too strong and she told me to relax my shoulders. She also suggested I sit lower in Eagle and raise my arms higher in Balancing Stick. There was something about my backbend today that felt deeper than it ever did before. I didn't realize until the last half of class that two of my instructors - Chris and Thayne - were present, too. Katelynn's voice is real low and calming and I like how she walks around class to see how we're all doing.

April 6, 2014, 9:00am - class 60 with Sandy Robin - Sandy asked me if the leg straightening technique for Balancing Stick that she recommended worked. I told her I thought my legs were still crooked, so she asked me to demonstrate and then examined what I was doing. She thought I was improving and said it showed in class. Balancing Stick is hard! After class, she praised me for my work ethic and said she noticed how much I was improving. Yay! For lunch, my partner and I went to Down Dog Healing Café for an amazing cup of kitchari mixed with their soup of the day and a delicious almond date smoothie.

April 7, 2014, 6:00am - class 61 with Sandy Robin - Standing Bow and Balancing Stick were difficult for me today. Everything else went well except for Camel. I still can't do a real Camel back bend. My mode of dress for yoga has moved from bra top and capris to bra top and shorts. I'm more confident showing more of my body now because I weigh a lot less than before. I look pretty good for a woman in her thirties or forties. The goal is to look even better.

April 8, 2014, 6:00am - class 62 with Stella Rose - With tremendous focus, I held my Standing Bow longer than I did yesterday. I also did a respectable Balancing Stick. I raised my upper body higher in Full Locust than previous days. I could actually touch my heels in Camel. What I need to work on is straightening my leg in all of the leg straightening poses. I like how there is synergy among the 26 poses. Stella did a nice job of explaining the minute details of some of the poses.

April 9, 2014, 6:00am - class 63 with Sandy Robin - I'm starting to extend my leg in Standing Head to Knee. I need to raise my knee more. Standing Bow is looking good. I lose my focus when I dart my eyes around. I can almost touch the sides of my feet in Standing Separate Leg Stretch! Fixed Firm is looking good. If I move my knees together, it'll look perfect. I'm close to touching my feet in Camel. Another month or two and I might. I answered a bunch of questions about Bikram Yoga for a newbie in the locker room.

April 10, 2014, 6:00am - class 64 with Noelle Burgoyne - There were many new faces in class today and they all stood in the back of the room. Noelle recommended that the newbies all learn the postures by watching the people in the front row, which included me, so I made sure I did my postures as best as I could today. I fell out in Standing Bow, but I quickly got right back in. I received the kitchari kit I ordered. I'm tempted to make some soon.

April 11, 2014, 8:00am - class 65 with Malea Diehl - There were four instructors in my class today, so there I was standing next to the big leagues. Hopefully I'll reach their level someday. Our instructor, Malea, cheerfully described a 90-minute Bikram workout as having "the benefits of a salon facial, a chiropractic adjustment, and a therapy session to help tighten your screws." I totally agree. My knees ache a little when I go to bed every night. My legs wobble and the middle of my back aches a little when I walk. This might be normal since Bikram really works out your spine.

What everyone says about your face looking a whole lot better after doing lots of Bikram Yoga is true. Your pores get completely cleaned out. It's better than a facial!

April 12, 2014, 9:00am - class 66 with Joel Pier - Joel challenged me to reach back in the last part of Half Moon. On a good day, I could do it, but today was one of those "argh!" days. I held Standing Bow for a full 60 seconds again, the second day in a row. I smiled, pointed at myself in the mirror, and said, "Yeah!!!" It felt really good to no longer see my belly hanging down when I do this pose. It felt really hot in the room today and it was only the second time I've ever had to leave the room because I felt nauseous from the heat. I left during the floor series and missed Camel. I ended up drinking twice as much water as I normally do. I heard other students complaining about the heat, too.

April 14, 2014, 6:00am - class 67 with Sandy Robin - Sandy gave me valuable pointers with my Balancing Stick ("Drop your chest, don't curl your back") and Toe Stand ("Lift with your chest, not with your head"). I need to master these poses, or at least do the best that I can with them. I wonder if I will ever be able to stick my leg straight up in the air in Standing Bow, like the way Thayne does it. I started feeling fatigued again right before the floor series. Even so, I was able to complete my entire workout, but I felt so tired afterwards. The temperature monitor read 103.5, so it wasn't murderously hot. It might have to do with my recent low weight. My partner said she could see the bones on my chest now. I made some kitchari recently and had some yesterday morning and today for lunch.

April 15, 2014, 6:00am - class 68 with Emily Jane - Emily's class was fast-paced and full of Bikram dialog. It felt a bit warmer than usual and there weren't any corrections in class. Oddly, there was music playing before class, which was a first. When I started feeling fatigued again, I kept saying to myself, "There is no tomorrow! There is no tomorrow!" The Rocky films had some great motivational lines. I had more kitchari for lunch and dinner. I mixed a little Italian wedding soup in my dinner kitchari.

April 16, 2014, 6:00am - class 69 with Sandy Robin - Today's workout made a lot of sense to me because I was able to do all of the poses without feeling fatigued or missing a beat. I was able to touch my heels in Camel pose today! I didn't think I could do it, but I finally did it in the second set. I'm not sure how nice or poor my backbend looked. That's something I'll work on going forward. Today is my three-month anniversary at Bikram Yoga Philadelphia. I stepped on the scale and it said 130.0. That's 9.6 pounds less than what I started at.

April 17, 2014, 6:00am - class 70 with Noelle Burgoyne - I extended my right leg out in Standing Head to Knee and actually held it for the full duration in the second set. I finally felt like my left leg was "rock solid concrete" so I just went for it. My knee was still bent, but it's a good start. Noelle gave us a helpful hint about the importance of planting our feet properly in Triangle Pose: "For those of you who are going for teacher training, you should be able to do Triangle as if you were standing on a block of ice." Standing Head to Knee, Triangle, and Backward bending are the three poses you need to show proficiency in in order to be considered for teacher training. I was able to touch my heels in Camel pose again! Now I have to work on making my body look more square when I do it.

April 18, 2014, 8:00am - class 71 with Emily Jane - Another fast-paced class with Emily. A cute guy wearing a Penn tee shirt turned to me and commented on how large the class was today. I thought it was cool that he finally talked to me since I've seen him in class many times. After class, I spoke to Noelle about teacher training and she agreed that I should go for it someday. "I can see that you've got a fire in you," she said. As I was leaving the yoga studio, the guy ahead of me turned around and started a conversation with me. He was the handsome, well-built guy to my right in class. He introduced himself as Kevin and I discovered that he's been practicing for ten years.

April 19, 2014, 9:00am - class 72 with Joel Pier - I arrived to class only minutes before it started. All of the first row spots, the ones in front of the mirror, were taken. If you take a spot in the first row, you have an unspoken, unwritten moral obligation to do every pose to the best of your ability and with every ounce of energy you have in you. You cannot and should not slack off because the people behind you are depending on you for inspiration. When I am in the front row, I give it my all because there is no tomorrow. I wish I had found Bikram when I was in my twenties because all of this would've been a lot easier for me, but I believe I've done a really good job of climbing a steep hill in my mid-forties. Joel's philosophy, one-on-one instruction, and encouraging words continually convince me that he is one of the best instructors at the school. You can see the passion he has for helping people when he walks around the class correcting postures. I encouraged my partner to let Joel help her correct her postures.

April 21, 2014, 6:00am - class 73 with Sandy Robin - Sandy helped me with my Triangle, Locust, and Camel postures today. In Camel, I grabbed onto my heels and flexed my spine as much as I could to sail like the wind. In reality, I probably don't look like a sailboat yet, but then again I didn't know just how far I could backbend until I saw a picture of myself doing one in a club. My little brother says I'm almost as flexible as he is and he's in pretty good shape.

April 22, 2014, 6:00am - class 74 with Stella Rose - Stella's class has some wonderful technical details in it. I encourage everyone to take one of her classes. I had just four hours of sleep, but I still managed to do the entire workout. No matter what obstacles try to hinder me, I'm not using them as excuses. I'm giving it my all every day. A friend of mine once said that every day could be your last, so why give a half-assed attempt at anything you do? Already I've attained the weight I want to be. From this point on, any more weight lost is just icing on the cake. I discovered that Bikram Choudhury was born on the same day as me (February 10), so it must be fate that linked me to him. Now every birthday will be Happy Bikram Day!

April 23, 2014, 6:00am - class 75 with Sandy Robin - Can I raise my elbows higher in Pranayama? Will I ever be able to see my foot over my head in Standing Bow? Can I look forward in Balancing Stick? Will I ever straighten my leg in Head to Knee? Can I keep my knees together in the last part of Locust? These are the details I'll need to work on in the coming months.

April 24, 2014, 6:00am - class 76 with Noelle Burgoyne - My spine has been aching from time to time recently. I wonder if this is a good or bad thing. The first time my spine ached, I walked funny. It's a feeling akin to "Holy shit! I'm hobbling!" I felt the same kind of ache this morning, but as the day wore on, it went away. When I was younger and did circuit training, I remember I had to fatigue and break my muscles in order to build them. I wonder if a similar thing is happening with spine training. Perhaps stretching the space between the vertebrae causes the aching, but over time the spine gets stronger.

April 25, 2014, 10:00am - class 77 with Chris Fluck - Amazingly, my spine is back to normal now. "The spine just repairs itself. Unless you have a debilitating condition, try to get some circulation in the area if you have little aches and pains. That's more beneficial than just lying in bed for a week," Chris said in class. He then gave some sound advice on weight loss: "Losing weight is about what you eat. After I reached a certain age, if I decided to eat a pint of ice cream one night, no amount of exercise, even two Bikram classes a day, is going to help me lose the weight I gained."

April 26, 2014, 9:00am - class 78 with Alex Meer - Alex did a pretty good job moving through the class even with the distractions of her daughters who were sitting and playing outside the room. The room wasn't as hot as it usually is on Saturdays, but I found myself slowing down on the Locust poses and not being able to do Camel. Even a couple of degrees of temperature makes a huge difference in my ability to complete the workout without problems. During Pranayama, my stomach vacuum looked better than ever. It's safe to say I lost a lot of the flat tire around my waist. There's still a little more to lose, but at least it's not hanging over my shorts like it used to. I now weigh 128. That's the lightest I've been since 2008. I went scootering with my kids on the Schuylkill River Trail in the afternoon.

April 28, 2014, 6:00am - class 79 with Sandy Robin - Sandy's pushing me more to get better. My elbows need to be higher in Pranayama. I need to raise my toes more in Awkward Pose. I'm not balanced right on my standing leg in Standing Head to Knee. I keep looking down instead of up in Balancing Stick. My arms need to be stronger in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. I need to lift my body up more in Toe Stand. My elbows need to be flat on the ground in Fixed Firm. Sandy pinned my legs down so that only my upper body could lift up in Floor Bow. It was painful, but a reminder that I need to raise my upper body more to make the pose look better. These are the little things I need to fix over the next three months.

April 29, 2014, 6:00am - class 80 with Stella Rose - Today was the first time in thirty classes that I broke out of Eagle pose because my focus just wasn't where it should be. My gaze was wandering a little too much on the new people in class. I also ate a little too much yesterday, so I didn't look optimal. If you dare to wear the skimpiest outfit in class, you had better be in optimal shape because nobody wants to see pork belly in a two-piece swimsuit! What you eat can affect how you look and how you'll perform in your workout the next day. How you perform in your workout can affect how you look and how you'll eat that day. How you look can affect how you eat and how you'll perform in your workout that day. Everything is synergistic. Doing Bikram is a huge time commitment, but it's worth it.

April 30, 2014, 6:00am - class 81 with Sandy Robin - What drives me to push myself so hard every day? It has a lot to do with my childhood. I had zero athletic ability as a child and, because of that, I was always picked last for any team. In college, I took a physical fitness test and the results showed I had a bodyfat percentage and aerobic fitness that was well within the upper echelon of athletes, but I suffered from poor bicep strength, flexibility, and resting heart rate. For six months, I visited a gym regularly to do circuit training where my goal was to add muscle to my tiny 5' 7.5", 111 pound frame. Like anything I do in life, I give it my all and pretty soon working out in the gym was an obsession for me. I grew to 150 pounds of solid muscle and had the build of a budding Ms. Olympia. Unfortunately, my genetics kept me from keeping the weight on. As soon as I stopped eating four big meals a day, I shrunk to a more normal 132 pounds. That's basically what I weighed for almost two decades. I gained weight after a series of cosmetic surgeries and held onto the new weight for a couple of years until I discovered Bikram Yoga and added more meatless options to my diet.

May 1, 2014, 6:00am - class 82 with Noelle Burgoyne - I felt I had a good backbend today and Noelle's positive comment confirmed it, however, today wasn't a good day for Standing Head to Knee or Standing Bow. Everything else was pretty good, including Camel. I got both legs to straighten in Seated Forward Bend (Paschimotthanasana)! All I did was just let go and it happened.

May 2, 2014, 8:00am - class 83 with Katelynn Ingersoll - The reason why I take the 8:00am or 10:00am class on Fridays is because I work at a bar on Thursday nights. I limit myself to half a drink every Thursday night so that I'm ready for my Friday morning class. As much as I like Chris' 10am classes that are filled with an encyclopedic knowledge of exercise physiology, I try to make the 8:00am class for a chance to take it with Katelynn. She has a soft, soothing voice and I like the fact that the class is filled with instructors who are taking it as students. The room seemed warmer than usual, but I endured by drinking more water than usual towards the end of the workout.

May 4, 2014, 9:00am - class 84 with Sandy Robin - I got sun poisoning from spending five hours bartending at an outdoor NROTC picnic yesterday, but that didn't stop me from going to yoga class this morning. The big studio was hot and humid as usual, more humid than I would've liked, but I knew I had to work through it. I felt really tired, drank more water than usual during the workout, and needed a refill before I started the floor series. "Not yourself today, Clare?" Sandy turned and asked as I followed her out of the room. I shook my head and smiled. "You're doing so well!" she said. I thanked her, but I knew that compliments like that had to be earned, so I willed myself to complete the floor series. I found that I just wasn't ready for the vomit-inducing Camel pose when it came time to do it, so I did a little backbend in its place. The rest of the poses I completed as best I could, sipping water after every one. Hopefully, I'll do better tomorrow. My salvation came in the form of a delicious vegan cheesesteak from HipCityVeg.

May 5, 2014, 6:00am - class 85 with Sandy Robin - Class was held in the big studio today, the hot and humid room that the weekend yoga classes are held. I discovered that my problem with the big studio may be due to the fact that, all this time, I was standing directly in line with one of the overhead vents that circulate hot air into the room. I moved my mat to a spot in between two vents. As a result, my performance was much better today than yesterday. Today I felt like I truly deserved Sandy's compliment from yesterday. My legs were straight once again in Seated Forward Bend (Paschimotthanasana). That felt good and I almost cried from the emotional bliss.

May 6, 2014, 6:00am - class 86 with Sandy Robin - Sandy subbed for Stella today. Class was again held in the big studio because the little studio was getting repainted. I find myself drinking a lot more water in the big room because of the humidity. I finally lifted my left leg up in Standing Head to Knee. My legs were straight once again in Seated Forward Bend (Paschimotthanasana). I looked at my backside in the mirror last night and noticed I had well-developed triceps. I never had triceps before, even when I was in my bodybuilding phase. I still have a little belly I have to work on losing, but it's certainly smaller than it was ten pounds ago.

May 7, 2014, 6:00am - class 87 with Sandy Robin - I have a little 12 ounce Hydro Flask water bottle that's perfect for use in the little studio, but isn't enough for the hotter and more humid big studio, so I bought an 18 ounce one. The nice thing about the Hydro Flasks is they keep ice cold water cold for long periods of time. I managed to lift my leg up on both sides in Standing Head to Knee pose. I held one of my Standing Bows for the full count today and gave myself a thumbs up. In all, a pretty good workout. I wish I could hear Sandy's instructions better. The noise from the humidifier made it hard to hear her.

May 8, 2014, 6:00am - class 88 with Noelle Burgoyne - Except for Ajay, I didn't recognize anyone else in class today. The new faces exhibited the same beginner's mistakes as others have in the past. For example, they might overextend themselves in Half Moon and that causes them to fail to complete the later poses. These new students might be trying to impress everyone, but that is not what yoga is about. You have to find that inner peace within yourself to be able to focus on working hard at your practice and doing the best you can. As Noelle always says, "Little by little, step by step, change will come in time." Some people mistakenly believe that they can learn yoga at home by themselves, but it takes a seasoned instructor, such as those trained in Bikram, to be able to give you feedback on how to make your postures better.

May 11, 2014, 9:00am - class 89 with Sandy Robin - Something made me so tired today that I was faltering on the floor series. I got up with a few others to leave the room for more water. "Not you, too, Clare!" Sandy commented to the class in disbelief. Yes, I broke today because my body reached its limits. The high humidity got to me... or maybe it was the layoff between workouts... or maybe it was the chemical smell... or maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me, telling me I couldn't do it. Whatever it was, it felt good to leave the room to get more water, but I also felt incredibly guilty, too, because I let my fellow classmates down. I'm the underdog, the girl with an indomitable will and no athletic ability, giving it her all and building herself up from nothing. Knock me down and I get right back up, but today I couldn't do it. Shame on me. Today I didn't deserve to stand amongst the front row warriors, especially the two girls next to me, one of whom is used to demonstrate postures each week. My goal is to someday be the demo girl, but, in order to do that, I cannot let the bad days get the best of me.

May 12, 2014, 6:00am - class 90 with Sandy Robin - I'm getting better at focusing only on myself and not caring about what other people are doing. Every class I conduct a clinic on all of the postures for myself. That's why I stare so intently at the mirror. Sandy commented that I was doing very well. The culmination of all of my efforts resulted in a compliment on my Triangle Pose. Bikram Yoga has opened my eyes on what is possible with my body. It’s never too late, it’s never too bad, and you’re never too old or sick to start from scratch once again.

May 13, 2014, 6:00am - class 91 with Emily Jane - "You there in the front row, other ear to the mat! Please respect your neighbor's privacy!" Emily said to the guy next to me who was smiling and staring right at me. He quickly turned around. I thought that was amusing. I'm beginning to see a line down my solar plexus. Whatever baby fat I had on my arms a few months ago is gone. My tummy still needs work, but the rest of me is getting pretty toned. I'm 127.8 today. That was my goal on February 17 and I achieved it.

May 14, 2014, 6:00am - class 92 with Sandy Robin - "Clare does her yoga six days a week and it really shows!" Sandy praised me in front of class.

May 15, 2014, 6:00am - class 93 with Noelle Burgoyne - Noelle's class was in the big studio today. I was able to finish my workout without problems because it didn't feel as hot as on the weekends. There's something going on with my right leg. It's not as strong as my left in the standing leg series.

May 16, 2014, 8:00am - class 94 with Malea Diehl - "Nice, Clare!" Malea remarked of my leg extension in Standing Head to Knee. I stood in front of the mirror like any other day in recent memory, eyes staring intently at myself in the mirror with sweat pouring down my face. Invoking my inner Bengal Tiger, I just went for it. I must've had the correct angle today because I was able to extend my right leg out and hold it for the duration of the pose. Unfortunately, I couldn't do much with my left leg. I believe my new lower weight makes it harder to balance in Standing Bow because my legs are smaller.

May 17, 2014, 9:00am - class 95 with Joel Pier - "Nice, Clare!" Joel remarked of my first part of Awkward Pose. I could drop all the way down with my thighs parallel to the floor. I credit this to the months of conditioning my legs in Horse Stance when I studied martial arts as a teenager. I lost steam towards the end of the workout, but stayed in the room the entire time.

May 19, 2014, 6:00am - class 96 with Sandy Robin - Sandy didn't like my Standing Head to Knee because I didn't push my heel forward and bend my toes back enough. She helped me with my back bend and the third part of Wind Removing Pose and gave me useful advice to improve my Floor Bow.

May 20, 2014, 6:00am - class 97 with Sandy Robin - Sandy again subbed for Stella, so I knew I had to be on point. Strangely, my three drinks last night didn't affect me as much as they normally do on Tuesday mornings. I'm glad the heat wasn't cranked up high as it sometimes is. That helped. Sandy liked my Eagle Pose because I could get really deep into it. People have been telling me I'm getting too thin and losing my shape.

May 21, 2014, 6:00am - class 98 with Sandy Robin - Instead of doing two sets of Fixed Firm Pose, I tried one extended set. Legend has it that some people could sleep in this pose. I think I could, but I'd wake up really achy and sore. For some reason, I can't get my elbows to touch the ground. I'm approaching 100 classes, but I still don't feel ready to take the Advanced Class of 84 postures yet.

May 22, 2014, 6:00am - class 99 with Noelle Burgoyne - There were many new faces in class today with students of all shapes and sizes. I like it when a diverse group comes together to fulfill common personal goals.

May 23, 2014, 8:00am - class 100 with Emily Jane - Today's class didn't feel different from others in recent memory. Emily rapidly zipped through the class and we were done a few minutes early. After 100 classes, I can honestly say that I am no expert at Bikram Yoga. I have a long way to go to achieve perfection. There was a time that I couldn't get my toe hooked in Eagle Pose or touch my toes in Sit-ups or press my legs flat during Seated Forward Bend (Paschimotthanasana). Standing Bow? Forget it. At least now I could do some semblance of each pose and I could hold almost all of them for the full duration. I've lost a bunch of weight and it's actually harder to do some poses at a lower weight than when I was five pounds heavier and had a lower center of gravity.

My yoga journey:
Opinions expressed are solely my own. Please consult your physician for medical advice before starting a yoga program.

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