Put your yoga where your mouth is

big smile yoga

Source: Pinterest

“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late, and never too sick to start from the scratch once again.”
~ Bikram Choudhury

I absolutely believe Bikram’s words to be true and repeat the above quote a lot on my social media status updates and with friends.

As a result of my wonderful yoga experiences, I tell everyone I know and meet about the healing and strengthening powers of yoga.

Most people seem genuinely interested in learning more, but few have actually taken me on my word and tried yoga for themselves. The few who have tried all agreed that their experience was positive and left an impression. They were thankful for all of my talk about yoga.

So last fall, when I learned that I would be laid off from my job, I put my talk to the test: could I persuade myself to not give up and “to start from the scratch again?”

There is absolutely nothing more humiliating than losing your job. I worked for a Federal contractor and knew the reality of contract work: nothing is guaranteed beyond the initial contract period. I was given a two-day notice that I would be losing my job; I was devastated.

I drove home that evening feeling like a complete failure and wondered if there was something I could have done that would have helped extend the contract. There was nothing. I did my job. I did my job well. The end of the contract was the end of the contract. It had nothing to do with my performance.

The worst part of that evening was breaking the news to my husband; we had just purchased and moved into a new home a month before, and the last thing I wanted to do was let my husband down at this early stage in our mortgage responsibilities.

Fortunately, he took it well and reassured me I will find a new job in record time. He said to me, “You’ve got skills, Baby. No worries.”

But I worried. I sat down and figured out a budget and what bills I needed to pay and which ones I could defer. On paper, things looked a bit bleak. I stepped away and decided to go to an eight p.m. yoga class—if there was one expense I didn’t mind paying, it was my monthly yoga membership.

Arriving at the studio, I decided to choose a spot in a corner of the room I normally avoided, because I always thought it looked too hot. (I know—it’s Bikram—every spot is too hot.) I did my pre-practice warm up and took a quick sip of water before the instructor entered.

Transitioning through the 26 postures, I thought a lot about being unemployed; I thought about how much of a loser I was and wondered how I was ever going to get a job fast enough in this economy and job market.

I was really beating myself up during this practice.

I took many savasanas and opted out of the second set for each of the balancing postures. I kept thinking that my practice was suffering along with my career; all of the self-esteem I had built and gained over the past 10 months was quickly dissipating in less than 10 hours! Where was my mind going? And how could it go there in the yoga room?

The final savasana arrived. I lay there on my back, with my body stretched out and my eyes closed. I may have looked relaxed, but I was anything but relaxed. The instructor sweetly repeated the words he always repeats at the end of his class:

“Feel free to take what you need and leave behind what you don’t need.”

In the instant those words hit my ears, I knew I had to let go of the negative thinking that had been consuming me; I needed to gain a positive attitude and leave behind the bad one. I had to start from “the scratch,” and “the scratch” just happened to be the last savasana of the evening.

I was okay with that.

I left the yoga feeling less stressed and renewed—I was ready to be jobless and do what needed to be done to land a new position.

I practiced yoga sporadically; I went during the morning and early afternoon, times I normally wouldn’t have practiced while working. If I had an interview scheduled, I went to class before the interview.

A few weeks later, I started a new job…I barely had an opportunity to collect unemployment!

During those weeks of job searching, I put my yoga practice where my mouth is, which allowed me to ease my stress and be reminded of what’s most important to my family and me—our health and happiness.

With those two things, anything can be accomplished.


© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.

Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.


The Problems with Bikram Yoga from a Lover of Bikram Yoga

Yoga Sparkle from Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

I began my yoga transformation on October 14, 2011. I didn’t know it was going to be a transformation; I was just looking to avoid knee surgery for a right knee injury that had been causing me great pain for nearly 9 years following a nasty car accident in 2002.

My intro to yoga was at a Bikram Yoga studio. (Not a hot yoga class offered at your corner yoga studio, but at an “official” Bikram certified studio with instructors who participated in the grueling 9-week intensive teacher training.)

I hate the heat and the humidity, so the idea of entering a 102-degree temp room with humidity added was not exactly appealing to me. But testimony after testimony that I read online gave me the strength to temporarily suspend that hate.

I won’t bore you with the details of my first experience but will tell you that within 5 consecutive practices, I was hooked and my knee pain had miraculously disappeared!

I could explain it away and say it was due to finally breaking up some scar tissue with a more effective exercise outside of walking, speed walking or elliptical training. I could claim it was just the heat. I could claim I hadn’t worked hard enough up until that point in my physical therapy. Sure. I could take the skeptical stance and say it was something other than the actual sequence, the holistic aspect of everything about Bikram yoga, that “fixed” me.

But I am not a skeptic…at least not any more. I truly believe Bikram yoga healed me, and I will be eternally grateful to my amazing instructors who brought and continue to bring it to me.

With that said, I must admit that Bikram yoga is not the end all and be all of yoga styles…not even close! I have a few complaints, let’s say, about Bikram yoga which explains why I have ventured out of my yoga comfort zone to become a yoga instructor of a yoga style other than Bikram.

1. There is no chance of being lulled into deep meditation in Bikram yoga, because there is no chanting or music in Bikram.

The absence of music might be seen as a good thing to anyone who suspects yoga is a religion or filled with “shining, happy people” oblivious to reality. When you enter a Bikram studio, don’t expect to be bombarded by Zen music in the practice room or by chimes or gongs or bells. Bikram yoga isn’t “pretty” yoga. It’s as serious as yoga can get without being serious yoga, if that makes any kind of sense. Even if you do get hooked on Bikram yoga, there will surely come a time you’ll want to venture out into the world of “pretty” yoga to experience the peace of a low-humming group “OM” to bring stillness. Bikram gives you stillness but not with music, and don’t we all love music on occasion?

2. There is no chance you’ll ever say, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to take a quick Bikram class.”

After spending 90 minutes in a sticky, hot room with a bunch of other sticky, hot AND smelly folks, you’ll definitely need and want to take an immediate shower, wash your hair and dump your clothes into the washing machine. There is nothing worse than tossing your just-used Bikram gear (towels, pants, top, etc.) into the backseat or at the bottom of your landing and tripping over them the next day. Why? Because you’ll pass out from the rancid odor and need smelling salts to be revived! Your olfactory will be screaming “Oh, f#@&!” I guarantee. I don’t even like sitting down on the seats of my car after a class without laying down a dry towel first. The drive to my home is less that 5 minutes, but the dry towel is nearly soaked through by the time I reach my front door.

3. There is no chance of building your upper body from a Bikram yoga practice, but your ass will be fabulous!

Unlike a Vinyasa flow or any class where you are doing up dogs and down dogs and planks, there ain’t nothing like that in Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga tends to focus more on lower body strength and balance and flexibility in your upper and lower back. The anti-arthritic grip used repeatedly throughout the series is great. But none of the postures will build your shoulder or bicep muscles. How can I be certain of that considering I am relatively new to yoga? Well, I had been practicing nothing but Bikram yoga for 12 months straight. Then I accidentally stumbled into an advanced Vinyasa flow class one Saturday morning. After 90 minutes of planks and dogs and crow poses and pigeons, I couldn’t raise my arms for three days. Yes. Three days. Although I had been actively participating in Bikram classes 3-4 times a week, nothing prepared me for the intense workout my arms and shoulders received that fateful Saturday.

Regardless of these few complaints, I recommend that everyone try Bikram yoga at least once. And if you’re a Bikram yoga fanatic like me, consider supplementing your practice with different yoga styles every now and then. Your arms will thank you.


© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.

Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitterand check out her other blog.

Not just another yoga blog. ~ Paula Carrasquillo

Paula and son

Me and my biggest inspiration

Almost two years ago on October 14, 2011, I took my first yoga class. In a few short days on September 7, 2013, I will embark on my first yoga teacher training class!

Yoga was not a natural choice for me. I actually had an aversion to it after a brief encounter with a few yogis as a freshman in college many, many moons ago. Luckily for me and my body and my family and my friends, I let go of my negative first impressions and finally tried yoga at the ripe, young age of 39.

To say that I am happy with myself for taking that initial leap would be an understatement. I thank myself often for flushing my negativity about yoga down the proverbial toilet. If you’re interested in learning more about how and why I was able to do that, you can read my article online at Places to Yoga:

Overcoming Yoga Phobia by Paula Carrasquillo

In addition to writing in the past for Places to Yoga (above) and elephant journal (here), I currently contribute actively to my other blog and my column Living Inside Out Loud over at The Washington Times Communities.

(Needless to say, I like to write. It’s an outlet, and I’d like to think I’m good at it and won’t bore you.)

I specifically created this blog to chronicle the next chapter in my ever-changing life: my 200-hour, yoga teacher training journey which will hopefully take me deeper into my practice.

With my writing on this blog, I hope to motivate and influence someone (maybe many someones) out there to try yoga, continue practicing and maybe even consider becoming a yoga instructor, too, one day.

I am a very yoga-centric person. If you were to ask my close family and friends and even the followers of my other blog about me and yoga, they might start with something like, “Paula thinks yoga is the cure for everything.”

I can say that they are half right.

Yoga has definitely had a positive impact on my life and my faith and spirituality. By no means do I want to push my practice upon anyone. I must admit, however, that I do have a problem with asking everyone in ear shot Have you ever tried yoga? about as often as some people say hum and um when speaking in public.

(It’s a habit I don’t know if I’m capable of breaking.)

If you found my blog by accident (or if I succeeded in twisting your arm enough for you to follow the link I shoved on your news feed), I hope you consider “following” and contributing to the conversation. I look forward to sharing and learning with you all.

Class begins in three days. See you soon!


© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.