Student Story: Robert Selzer

I returned to Bikram in late April after a 13-year break.  I have an autoimmune disease (Granulamatosis with Polyangiitis, aka Wegener’s disease) that affects my larynx and trachea.  I practiced regularly in 2002 and 2003 but fell off the wagon after undergoing a tracheotomy in 2003.  I always loved my practice and rued having stopped, but between work, my disease, my four kids, etc, I never found the time/courage to dive back in.   I underwent a laryngeal reconstruction in March and was struggling with the recovery when thanks to some gentle nudging from my beatific wife, I decided to get back to it.

Bikram works for me because the heat forces me to stay in the moment.  None of the postures are as difficult as breathing, or stillness, or staying in the room, so I don’t find myself rationing energy or thinking ahead.  I listen to the words and follow the instructions as closely as I can until I cannot.  Breathing and stillness take such great effort that I draw few distinctions between postures.  I don’t have a favorite or least favorite–to me it’s like asking if you’d rather be flogged with a green shillelagh or a blue one–but there are some postures that I feel as if I’m at least working the right muscles.  Standing bow-pulling, rabbit, and camel all feel more or less how I think they’re meant to be felt.  Triangle, tree, and fixed-firm are utter mysteries to me.

The UES 9:30 AM teachers are all excellent.  Yvette speaks quietly, which I love, because it sharpens my focus on the words, and no one is better at providing specific, personalized corrections and motivation without ignoring the rest of the group.  Mel’s classes are also a personal favorite.  She’s incredibly supportive and has great rhythm, which the latter may seem like an odd thing to praise in a yoga instructor, but to me it’s vital.

Bikram is hard.  I breathe loud and hard and often sweat drips into my trach which makes breathing harder and louder.  I’m conscious of this and try not to make too much of a racket and try not to feel too bad about the racket I’m making.  On both counts some days are better than others.

One thing about having a visible and obvious affliction is that others tend to feel more comfortable about sharing with you their own less obvious and/or invisible afflictions.  So when you have a visible and obvious affliction you tend to be in a better position to understand that we all have our shit.  It just so happens that my shit makes Bikram hard in an obvious way.  But it is no harder for me than for anyone else in the room.  

Every time I practice at Bikram Yoga NYC I feel as if I’m both making and keeping a promise to live better. It is humbling in the best way: a reminder that we have so far to go, but that we can do so much more than we think.