Yoga for Existential Crisis: How Bikram Yoga Saved My Life

Written by Mary Menzer.

Sometime in the Fall of 2008, I slipped into an existential crisis; I wasn't aware of it until a wise friend packaged my flailing thoughts and emotions into a thematic box that included such famous philosophical writers as Kierkegaard, Nietzche, Kafka, and Sartre. Yes, indeed, I had been searching for God, a higher power, a reason for being, my place in the world, truth...but then again, wasn't everyone?

Bikram Yoga

In March 2009, I had a complete nervous breakdown, and my life, as I knew it, was imploding. After eleven years with one company followed by a very short stint with another, I found myself unemployed; in financial distress; physically unfit; with high blood pressure; depressed; filled with self pity; lacking faith and devoid of vim and vigor. I crossed a threshold of humility and phoned a friend who owned a local Bikram Yoga school, and requested a work/study arrangement; I knew I needed yoga back in my life, with or without the financial means to pay for it.

I first practiced Bikram Yoga while training for a marathon several years ago. It was the perfect complement to the extensive pavement-pounding on my joints and bones. It was "love at Pranayama" for me; I truly believe there is a yoga practice for everybody, and that practice for me is the Hatha series of breathing and Asanas in the heat as programmed and directed by Bikram Choudhury. Last year, I returned to the practice for several months. I was practicing nearly every day, but faltered once my career grabbed a hold on my life 24/7. I knew that step one out of the darkness was to get back into my practice, a step toward restoration of my self-confidence, faith in God, balance, and renewal of my spirit.

From the Bikram website: "According to Bikram, the mind has five aspects which as they develop, bring equanimity to the mind. These are: faith, self-control, determination, concentration, and patience." My daily moving meditation practice exercises and hones these skills which are innate but lost by many; the moment I hear "please stand in the middle of your mats, heels and toes touching," my mind goes to a place of intense focus and peace. My health has improved immensely after only several months back into nearly daily practice; my blood pressure is normal, my sleep patterns are normal, and my appetite is normal.

More importantly, my spirit is healing. Our Bikram instructors often say to us when transitioning from Camel into Savasana: "acknowledge everything that is coming up right now, and let it go." Words of such wisdom are inspired from my daily practice and now applied to all facets of my life. I am able to fully embrace each new day with a sense of peace, tremendous focus, and as Bikram says: "Bengal Tiger Strength."

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