Bikram Yoga: Shape Shifting with Mary Jarvis

I’ve been reminiscing about when we first started doing Bikram Yoga and how achy, poppy and crackly all my joints were.  The popping eventually stopped and I forgot all about it, that is, until now.

That’s because it has started happening again.  My shoulders sound like they’re grinding cartilage.  When I bend over to touch my toes, I relax my head and immediately 3 of my neck vertebrae separate from each other with a melodic crack-click-pop.

A back bend, any back bend, is met with resistance.  I feel my mid back tighten up, desperately clinging to stop my shoulders from opening up while my lower back does a little “click”.  The camel is sending me into head spins, creating pins and needles right across my chest, shoulders and in my arms, my fingers are cramping and random emotions are shooting up into my chest.  It’s awesome.  Even though it doesn’t feel or sound that way, I know this is a good sign so it’s awesome!

All those things used to happen but after some time, it stopped.  Now it’s happening all over again so I feel like I’m back to the start.  Yet, it’s different.

Evolution happens in cycles doesn’t it?  Just like a spiral.  Imagine the shape of a cone where the starting point is the bottom tip of the cone, as you circle upwards, you keep coming back to the point where you started, except one level higher.  As you improve, you circle higher, the problems get slightly harder, the circle gets slightly larger and longer to get around and at the same time it doesn’t phase you because you are equipped to handle it since you learned a few things when you passed the circle below.  And so, the cycle of improvement continues, in a never ending spiral outwards and upwards.

So here I am, in my yoga evolution, better than when I started and yet my body is complaining like when I first started.  For at least a year, I haven’t been popping but then again, for at least a year, I felt like I was getting nowhere and my practice wasn’t improving much.  The pops and clicks returning are telling me that after at least a year, something is finally starting to shift.

I’m grateful.

It means I’m at the beginning of a new level of my journey and I’ve reached the point where my body and mind are opening up to changing once again.

What started this shift?  It was starting a little over the last couple of weeks already but a workshop with Mary Jarvis has pretty much sprung it forward.

It had been over a year since we last saw her.  Tony and I first saw her last year in June.  On the weekend just passed, we attended her Shape Shifting workshop for 2 full days.  It was intense with 2 x 2 hour classes per day and a workout for 3-4 hours of shape shifting exercises in between them.  What did it involve?  Everything that Mary did in order to get herself walking, mobile and healthy again after a car hit her and left her in a state where all the doctors said she’d never walk again.    It was lots and lots of backbends,  “Mary Lunges” (how cool that she’s named an exercise after herself), handstands, ballet bar work and all sorts of other things.  It was pretty much a mini Yoga Bootcamp!

We only went for 2 days, others have gone there for 7 days!  I am definite that their shapes have  shifted in that time!  After 2 days, I was already having a hard time getting down the stairs without my quads cramping and believe it or not, my bingo wings disappeared!

Last time we went to see Mary Jarvis, I was supposed to make camels my new best friends and do 6 camel postures a day.  That was my homework.  The homework I never did.  This time around there was so much more “homework”.

It just highlighted that if I want to improve my practice, for any visible improvements to happen like they did at the beginning,  it’s no longer just about going to classes.  It really does need some extra work and that weekend showed us just how much extra work it involves!

Going back to the cone analogy, the circle for this level is bigger, which means the challenges are harder and without momentum and effort,  it will take even longer to get to the next level.

Still, all my excuses come up and if I let those excuses win, then something that could take me a year or less to accomplish might just end up taking me 3 years instead.  Well, if it is to be, it is up to me.  It’s my choice, it’s my improvement and it’s my own patience I’ll be testing.

As for Tones, Mary remembered him.  Last year she helped him with his floor bow.  This year, she gave him a one-to-one lesson on his standing bow.  We all got to watch him do a demonstration while she instructed him and we watched his bow transform from butt ugly (I exaggerate but it wasn’t pretty) to beautiful, right before our very eyes!

She truly is an amazing teacher – extremely detailed, meticulous, precise, giving, patient, gentle, encouraging and most importantly, she gets results.  She teaches in such a gentle way that you have no idea how hard you’re actually pushing!

In that one weekend I probably did more backbends than I ever did in my entire life.  I definitely spent more time upside down than I’ve ever done in my whole life and I did my very first wheel on tip toes (I’ve always attempted wheel with feet flat on floor) and I even managed to do some side planks without falling over.  My triangle has definitely improved and although I can’t see or feel it yet, she said that my chest was finally starting to open up.  I think the biggest achievement was getting rid of my bingo wings which I’ve had since I hit puberty.  I can’t believe it, you can actually get rid of them in 2 days!!!  Who knew?!!

If ever you get a chance to spend some shape shifting time with her or any time with her for that matter, it is well worth it.

We’ll be seeing her again this coming weekend for 1 more workshop day and then, it’s all up to us to keep the momentum.

Tony will have to put up with my picture taking because I’m going to start taking posture progress and shape shifting progress pictures just to see how much improvement we have this year compared to last year.  It will be interesting!

Until next time, keep loving life!



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