In 2003, after 16 years as a professional athlete, I was ready to try new things. When curiosity led me to sign up for my first class in Bikram, the “hot yoga,” it was love at first “om.”
I wasn’t put off by the authoritarian instructor, demanding that I ‘only look into my own eyes’ in the steamy mirror for the strength to hold poses. The pert teacher’s strictness and call for self-discipline felt normal, yet refreshing—her bra top and shorts were a pleasant distraction—especially after so many years of suffering under mullet-topped, over-caffeinated basketball coaches.
For me, the beauty of the Bikram yoga’s 26-pose series is that it’s just as challenging and beneficial to a tri-athlete with a type-A personality as it is to a couch potato.
My favorite poses (asanas) are backbends, which unblock energy in our bodies. I never know what will come out in Utraasana (camel pose): it has opened a floodgate of tears, and other times unleashed expansive and revitalizing “prana” (life force energy) that left me in a state of euphoria for hours. Conversely, a forward bend like Uttasana always calms and soothes me. I recommend three minutes of forward bends over popping a Xanax any day.
Bikram yoga’s precise movements in the sultry heat tones your muscles and help flush toxins from your system. The re-awakening of your body’s intelligence will have you craving fresh healthy food, drinking more water and sleeping better. After just three classes I noticed the benefits: improved digestion, clearer mental function and super-soft skin thanks to proper hydration and detoxification. Yoga gives me a sense of accomplishment and renewed self confidence—and there’s nothing sexier than confidence!
You will work every muscle in a 90-minute Bikram class, and the transformations I have witnessed are amazing tributes to yoga’s power. It’s tailor-made for life in the city. We need a sanctuary from the stress of urban living, and yoga is the perfect respite. When my friends complain of tension headaches, stress at work or demanding social lives, I say, “you know what’s good for that? Yoga.”
Go With The Flow
Some of my athlete friends find yoga silly—they ask me if it’s a cult—and tease me for being such a booster. But yoga has been a process of learning and discovering for me. Starting a brand-new mental and physical journey after finding success as a pro athlete was, and still is, exciting. When I master one level of practice, I move on to the next, exploring ever deeper. The practice has taken me from Brooklyn to Costa Rica to Bali to study with yoga teachers.
Rather than the practicing-to-win, goal-oriented rhythm of pro basketball, yoga is focused on practice for the sake of practice—and there is a lengthy menu of yoga classes to sample. I have tried many styles of yoga, and I’ve always come away with new insights that make me want to try to live my life in a better way.