Bikram Basics: Stop Trying to Control the Yoga Room

Breathe into the pain

Photo by Monica Felix @

t’s tempting to expect existence to obey our wishes. To demand that the universe fulfill its obligation to make us happy. And to feel deserving of a world that reliably conforms to our wishes and desires.

But in this naïve prioritizing of I wish above it is, we only set ourselves up for disappointment, disillusion and resentment. And we rob ourselves of any chance to establish a healthy relationship with reality.

On the other hand, once we stop approaching things as barriers to success and start embracing them as facts of life, we’re free. Once we stop trying to escape things and start transforming them into our constant and instructive companions accompanying our many adventures, we’re free. Because it means we’re accepting reality on reality’s terms. It means we’re choosing to walk through the world from position of power and choice and energy and action, as opposed to pain and paralysis and apathy and helplessness.

It’s such a liberating moment. The mere thought that we no longer have to work so hard on eradicating everything we don’t like from our life, wow, it feels like a boulder off our shoulder.

Yoga is the perfect venue for practicing this freedom. Because when our muscles cramp and tighten and pulse and strain, the natural response is to deny what is. To hold our breath and contract our body and rub out the pain until it’s gone.

But as my instructor reminds us, the best way to manage the pain is to merge with it. To slow down into the sea of surging sensations and become one with it. To love it, lean into it, laugh with it, and look at it while the feeling magically fades away.

It’s a small moment in the grand scheme of things, but it’s great practice in developing a healthier relationship with reality.

And who knows? Once you master the process of merging with your pain on the yoga mat, there’s no telling what kinds of larger challenges you might be able to handle in the outside world.

What are you not doing in your life, that you could be doing, that you are blaming somebody else for not doing for you?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope. Join our community here!

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