A classmate recently confided that she was looking for an activity to help reduce stress. “I heard you go to yoga,” she said. I was more than happy to tell her about my yoga experience, and I’ll share it here in case it might be helpful to others, as finals approach.
After spring exams last year, I was thrilled that I had completed my first year of law school, but true to my Teach For America roots, I reflected on ways I could improve the experience. I decided I wanted to better manage my stress during the weeks preceding exams. Since I love to exercise and New York City is a great destination for sports-enthusiasts, I was able to find a distinguished yoga studio within walking distance of my dorm. I have been hooked on Bikram Yoga Manhattan ever since.
Bikram yoga is a 90-minute class based on 26 traditional Hatha Yoga postures. Sometimes it is referred to as “hot” yoga, because the room is heated to approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit. After my first class, I immediately understood why so many people wore bathing suits—I had sweat so much it was as if I had stepped out of a swimming pool! After my fourth class, I was delighted to notice physical changes to my body.
After my sixth class, I finally understood why Bikram yoga has a reputation for training and calming the mind. In the middle of that class, I experienced a terrible claustrophobic sensation. I felt over-heated and unable to breathe, and all I could think about was bursting out of the room into fresh air. “It’s called panic,” my instructor told me. Every element of the class serves a purpose, she said, and one purpose of the heated room is to help us learn how to conquer this panic, so we can apply a similar method to demanding situations…..like law school exam season.
This past fall semester, I noticed a real improvement in the way I managed stress. Every time I felt overwhelmed with the large amount of material or I questioned my ability to respond to an exam question, I just envisioned myself in the heated yoga room, and the pressure dissolved.
When I told this story to my friend, though, she seemed puzzled as to why I was so “hooked” on such a grueling class. Why not shorter, cooler, less intense workouts? I’d asked myself that question in the past.
The answer? For me, Bikram yoga isn’t just a stress reliever; the reason why I enjoy it so much is probably the same reason I enjoy attending a rigorous law school in the heart of New York City: I love the challenge.