I plunged into the hot room and committed to my first 30 day challenge at a time in my life when I had let my guilt of things past and fear of moving ahead keep me running in circles with severe back pain and a job that paid my bills but did not fulfill my passions.
On the surface everything was fine. I was a hard-working artist in a loving , healthy relationship and I felt lucky to be living in one of the most diverse and forward-thinking cities in the world. But I felt stuck in my chosen career path and finally my body forced me to pay attention to what was happening deep inside.
Sciatica had reared its ugly head in my lower spine and with it came crippling hip pain that forced me to pay closer attention to how I was treating my body, mind and spirit. I knew there had to be a way to heal that was natural and addressed the root of my condition, not just its symptoms.
I didn’t have health insurance so I had to find another way outside of the traditional medical system here in the US. I found some relief with community acupuncture & a compassionate chiropractor, but those were just temporary fixes. I knew I needed to do something more proactive. Something that would not only heal the pain temporarily, but prevent it from recurring repeatedly.
For years I had flirted with all different kinds of yoga, including Bikram yoga, but never maintained a frequent practice. It was at this time that I knew I had to make a commitment, and I knew it had to be Bikram because no other class had ever made me feel as good, mentally, emotionally and physically. In fact, I found I often aggravated my back in other classes. So after I took the plunge with that first 30 day challenge, I maintained a regular practice, 3-4 times a week.
It was never easy, but I was determined. I asked my instructors a lot of questions. I came to class even when I really didn’t feel like it and was still feeling some pain. I took it easy when I had to, but I continued to practice regularly. After one year of dedicated practice, I didn’t have to visit the chiropractor or receive acupuncture anymore. I was truly healing and truly amazed.
However, just as I was starting to experience some long term benefits and was ready to celebrate my one year anniversary with another 30 day challenge, it became very difficult for me to afford classes. Fortunately my home studio offered a work study program in exchange for classes. I enrolled and the studio owner quickly recognized my diligence and strong practice. She invited me to attend their advanced classes and I began practicing postures that only a year earlier would have brought me pain just thinking about them. It blew my mind.
As I was practicing and healing in the studio, I also found the courage and confidence within myself to pursue an artistic project of my own in India and Nepal. I created a Kickstarter fundraiser and received full support for the project, which combined photography and meditation with travel and the art of observation. In order to see the project through from beginning to end, it took enduring patience, determination and faith in my ability to persevere and succeed against the odds. All things I had improved with my Bikram Yoga practice.
After one year of advanced practice I competed in the USA Yoga Regional Championship in New York City. I choose to perform a posture that had me bend my spine so far back that I was able to grab my heels with my hands, elbows on the floor, while touching my face in between the soles of my feet. I was convinced. This amazing, healing practice, was something I needed to share with others. So I made another commitment to myself to make it to teacher training, however possible, as soon as possible.
It took quite a bit of sacrifice, but six months later, in Fall of 2013, I made it happen. I could never have done it without the support of my family and the advice and encouragement of my many teachers and mentors. Two and a half years after making that first serious commitment to healing and growing with Bikram yoga I became certified to teach it. Now after over two years of teaching, I can say for certain that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
The transformational power of this practice is evident to me, not only in my personal life, but also as I witness it improve my students’ lives and from the multitude of stories I’ve heard from other practitioners. Over time, the extraordinary physical results are accompanied by genuine mental and spiritual growth. A dedicated, consistent Bikram Yoga practice can truly help build the foundation for a healthy mind, body and spirit.
Justine is also a photographer.
Here are two links to her writing and one of her amazing photos below: