“Change,” he bellowed.

“Change,” he bellowed.

Written by Wrenn Skidmore, LCSW-C

Okay, maybe not bellowed.  But the heat of the Bikram Yoga studio seems to amplify things. Every spoken word hangs loudly in the humidity – accompanied only by the noise of sweat dripping off the glistening bodies of your classmates.

“Change!” It came again.  But this time it felt different. This time it brought welcome relief from a particularly challenging pose.

I only recently began practicing Bikram Yoga; looking for a way to bring more mindfulness, movement, and quiet into my day. Therapists need reminders of this too. I quickly realized that the hotter the room, the harder it is to focus on anything other than my breathing. My mind has no choice but to be quiet. It’s true for me at least.

Bikram Yoga classes are structured. You do the same thing every time, no matter which studio you go to or which instructor you have. Each instructor uses their personal style to lead the class through the same routine, calling out the word “Change” when it is time to move from one pose to another. For ninety minutes, the class completes a series of breathing exercises followed by twenty-six poses done in a room around 108 degrees and at 40% humidity. No way around it, it’s hot.

So I could go on about the mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga, but we can save that for a later blog post. Let’s talk about this practice of announcing change. How does this translate to our lives outside of the studio? What if we really got some sort of sign letting us know that it was time to move into something big, scary, exciting, or possibly tragic? What if we really heard a powerful voice – like that of the yoga instructor — announcing “Change” when big, exciting, scary things were about to happen for us? Sometimes people come into my office hoping that I can do this for them; hoping that by coming, I will be that big booming voice that tells them to change.  That the time is now.

But we all know that’s not really how it works.

Maybe the announcement of “Change” in our daily lives could mark the beginning of something exciting: a new job, school year or fresh perspective on a relationship. The courage to leave the discomforts of something that no longer serves you. Alternatively, “Change” could mark the beginning of a period of struggle. Of something that makes it difficult to catch your breath. A “pose” that makes you want to run out of the room, give up, throw in the towel.

Maybe we don’t need the booming voice of the yoga instructor to announce to the world that we are ready to make a change. Maybe all we need is the nudge of something within us that is much quieter, but equally as powerful, to signal that something new is coming. Not always something comfortable, but something new. 

Within the yoga studio, the word “Change” can conger up some anxiety, as it often marks the end of a comfortable pose and the beginning of something more difficult, more challenging.  Yet, that same word can mark the end of that challenging pose and the opportunity to move into something less strenuous, something that feels more comfortable. Change is inevitable in our lives.  How we deal with it is the challenge.  It can also be the reward.

When it comes to yoga, each pose is equally important. Without the struggle, of change you’re not be able to experience the relief.  Similar to my practice, in the yoga studio, the decision to change can bring both relief and dread.  But when it comes, I move.