Private Bikram Coaching Sessions

Private Bikram Lessons

Courtesy of
Courtesy of Pixabay

Have you ever asked yourself these questions during a Bikram class?

  • What did the teacher mean with that instruction?
  • How on earth do you manage more than one class per week?
  • What adaptations should I do for an old injury?
  • Why does it feel like I am sometimes making an old injury flare up?
  • How will I ever do the camel pose without feeling like my last meal is coming up?
  • Why are my ankles weaker than everyone else’s?
  • How on God’s green earth do these people get so flexible? Do I have a shot in hell in getting that way?
  • Why can’t we talk or fidget during class?
  • Why do I have to keep my elbows locked & triceps flexed so much?
  • How can I possibly relax my shoulders & steady my breathing during a pose?
  • What should it feel like when you are doing a certain pose correctly?
  • Why does Bikram teach some of the poses differently than other types of yoga?


Check Your Brain at the Door

I think the first thing I learned was to check my brain at the door. After one class, I had so many insights and ideas that I was bursting to share several with the owner of the studio. I just could not get the ideas out of my mind so I emailed her about them. That is what led to my taking four private coaching sessions.

At our first meeting, she laughed and said her brother had a similar experience of getting lots of inspiration during Bikram classes. But that was not the goal of class. Bikram yoga is an active meditation. The goal of class is to not use your mind during class. Leave your mind at the door. Like a puppet, use the words of the teacher to guide your body. Nothing else. No internal dialogue.

When your body or your mind is revolting, use the teacher’s voice to block out all the internal noise. Her voice is this thread I grab onto to pull me through. In a world where we are constantly looking at a screen or listening to something through ear buds, it is a very foreign concept. Think of it as SatNav yoga.


How it Worked


Intake – Mama’s Back

We started by my explaining my current and past injuries or relevant health issues. I have had a weak back that began in university after years of high impact sports. Yoga is the only thing that really worked to take away the pain in my lower back, hip and leg pain. And then, after two child births, my core was just shot. I of course wanted to lose some weight, but mostly I wanted to be able to keep up with my kids. I hated telling them that I couldn’t lift them or run with them because “Mama’s back hurt today”.

But Bikram seemed to trigger a shoulder injury I had from softball. So my back felt better than ever, but my right shoulder pain was worse than ever. Everything is connected. So it turns out that I was overusing my shoulder to compensate for my back. It wasn’t Bikram. She watched me do a few poses, suggested some changes, and the pain started to subside as the weeks went by. This was an issue I had even been to a physical therapist for months to help with. Five minutes of instruction and in a matter of weeks, the pain was gone.

I also had the goal of attending Bikram yoga three times per week. For more on that, read this.


Courtesy of Pixabay

Slinky Lessons

Once a month, I would meet with the studio owner after class. I had emailed her about five poses with my questions or difficulties. And, gradually, I got answers to all the questions above and many more.

In the coaching session, we would first talk through a pose and my questions. She would say,

“If your spine were a Slinky, what should it be doing during this pose? Why?”

Umm. What? I had never thought of yoga like this. You usually hear yoga teachers say, “Breathe into the pose. Feel the energy of your life force. Observe how your body is feeling.” And other some such vaguery.

“When you hear this instruction, show me what you do.”

She’d watch me do the pose and take a picture of me in the pose. That was quite intimidating for me. But she seemed to consciously and effortlessly give feedback in a non-judgmental way.

She’d usually tell me a funny anecdote about her learning the pose or what she sees as a teacher. This was key for me for remembering what to do in class. She’d also do the pose herself, talk me through the mental prompts she gives herself, and show me the right and wrong ways to do a pose.


Practice in a Plastic Bag

She would draw stick people to demonstrate the mechanics of what my body should do in a pose and write key words. I kept these notes in a plastic envelope in my yoga bag and looked at them before each class.


“If your lower back hurts or you feel yourself collapsing into your lower back, lift everything above your lower back.”

Prior to each class, in the yoga studio I would try to stand on my mat with my body in perfect alignment, pelvis tucked in, shoulders relaxed and arms straight over my head with elbows locked next to my ears. I would look in the side mirror at how that looked and focus on how my body felt in this position. Then I would take deep breaths and try to raise my ribs higher as if I were a Slinky trying to stretch myself vertically. It is essentially a spine stretching and strengthening exercise. During class, I then try to do this before each pose. It feels like it makes more space or lightens up the load on my lower back. In turn, that gives me more comfort in each pose and I can go deeper into a pose or hold it longer.

Instead of thinking during a pose, “Oh shit! I am stuck! This hurts my lower back.” Or, “Oh, my hamstrings!”

I began thinking, “Suck in my gut. Flex my quads. Flex my triceps.”


  1. I was able to do more of the instructions the teacher was giving.
  2. I enjoyed class more.
  3. It felt like that 90 minutes without my thoughts had been like a hard reset on the mother board of my brain.
  4. I saw real results in muscle tone in my stomach, arms, and thighs.
  5. I became more conscious of my posture throughout the day.
  6.  I feel more balanced physically.

For more about Bikram yoga in The Netherlands, click here.

2016 Resolution in Review: Bikram 3 Days per Week

So it has been a year since my 2016 resolution to go to Bikram yoga three times per week.


Image credit: Pixabay

Last January, I had the clarity and relief that comes with complete failure – rung out like a wet dish rag after failing at something I poured every last drop of myself into.

Instead of rushing into the next thing, though, I carved out a few months to recover and think. For the first time in my life, I really tried to answer the question,

“What do I want to do?”

I was 36 years old.

I had been asked the question countless times, but had answered, instead, the question,

“What do you think I should do?”


“What are people telling me to do?”

And I take complete responsibility for that mistake. It took me some time to have any answer at all. Frankly, I still don’t have a big, magical quest-like answer. The first thought that rose to mind was,

“I want to do Bikram yoga 3 days per week.”


Image credit: Pixabay

Once I stopped questioning it and got my butt to class, I started to realize why. Now, nearly a year after hearing my Self answer, I know the reasons why.

  1. Power Posing
  2. You are who you surround yourself with.
  3. It is physical, spiritual, hormonal, mental and weight loss therapy all in one.
  4. I am a mother.
  5. No more hiding.
  6. It is a lifestyle.


Power Posing

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 


cuddy tedglobal.jpg

Image credit: Harvard Business School


Amy Cuddy

Have you seen Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk? Click here to watch it. What struck me most about this talk was (3:30):

“There is another audience that is influenced by our nonverbals. And that is ourselves. Our thoughts and our feelings and our physiology [are influenced by our nonverbal communication].”

Whoa. What?!

Later (7:24), Cuddy says,

“Do our nonverbals govern how we think and act about ourselves?”

“We know that our minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change our minds?”

Cuddy then goes onto describe a study she did that tested how people perceive themselves when asked to pose in dominant or submissive positions. In a nutshell, her study found that power posing in private for two minutes significantly increased testosterone (dominance) levels and decreased cortisol (stress) levels. Just posing one’s body for a matter of minutes changes their biochemistry.




Image credit: adapted from


The concept of power poses made me think of yoga poses – specifically poses known for opening up the chest and shoulders. Could it counteract the passive body language of folding in on oneself with slumped shoulders and wrapped arms? And I wondered how this related to the ancient idea of chakras – in particular, the third, fourth and fifth –  the throat, heart, and solar plexus, respectively. You can learn more about them here. Maybe Cuddy’s study was (indirectly) proving the science behind chakras and yoga poses.


Cuddy does indeed dig into the yoga connection in her book, “Presence”, and it is from the eyes of a long time skeptic of yoga so it makes for an interesting read.

But, getting back to Bikram yoga. I realized that the Bikram sequence of 26 poses includes many that open the heart, chest and shoulders – the Bow, Standing Bow, Camel, Cobra, Half Moon, Awkward, Full Locust, Fixed Firm. Could Bikram improve my posture – not just my chest and shoulders, but overall? Could that make me appear more dominant and confident? And, finally, could that make me internalize a belief of dominance and more self-confidence?

Simply put, yes. It is not a 100%, overnight change, but I would say at least a 10% increase. This based purely on the science of my gut feeling. So it is the most successful thing to date for me.


You are who you surround yourself with.

Business tycoon Jim Rohe said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who you surround yourself with matters. Literally.

Have you been to a Bikram yoga class? If not, check out the video here from the studio I attend. This is what a typical class looks like. Don’t you want to look like these people; be these people? Yes, it is intimidating as hell at first to be surrounded by so many svelte people, but, stick with it. It is very motivating.

You will notice people of all ages in the class. And they all looked so balanced physically. There are no men with huge pecs and bird legs. The women do not look like body builders.


It is physical, spiritual, hormonal, mental and weight loss therapy all in one.

Maria McBride did a great job of explaining this on her blog

Excuse #1 for not going to Bikram: 90 minutes + shower = too much time. I am too busy. It was a major mind shift when I realized that Bikram yoga could be my workout, physical therapy, weight loss coach, psychiatrist, hormone balancer, and meditation all in one.

No, I am not kidding. Bikram is just as mental as it is physical. It exercises your organs & glands as much as your muscles. Over the years, I have experienced it working its way through my body’s history of injuries – from my high school sprained ankles from basketball to my two pregnancies to yesterday’s work day spent hunched over a computer.

From this perspective, two hours total and 15 euros per class is a bargain.



Image credit:


I am a mother.

Motherhood is life’s greatest reward and greatest responsibility. It is partly my personality and partly the ages of my children – 2 and 5. As primary caregiver, I am thinking about their needs more than they are. I am the first person they reach for when they are delighted, injured, scared or tired. It is my lap they want to crawl into. I get to smell the crowns of their heads as they rest their ear against my chest and calm to the sound of my heartbeat. That much attention is a wonderful, exhausting gift.

All humans have a finite amount of daily energy. Sleep, diet, exercise, and stress add or subtract from that holy abacus. For me, touch is also a factor. As a mother, there is this ethereal balance of physical contact with my girls. Some evenings, I just cannot stand to have one of them crawl into my lap during dinner time. Other mornings, I crave pulling my daughter into my lap for a wake up cuddle.

For me, exercise is also tactile.

Bikram yoga gives me the quiet and lack of stimulus I crave. No one needing my help or my attention. My needs are first.

No loud dance music fueled Zumba or equipment dense skiing for me. No treadmill, no shoes even. I used to do that. Nowadays, I need to get out of my brain and into my body. I need to feel my bare feet touching the ground. I need one point of focus. And Bikram yoga gives me one external voice to focus on while the heat burns my ego away. By ego I mean my monkey brain that can run wild chasing after the latest stimulus or repeating a single thought over and over much like my five-year old.

I am a mother. Which means that I housed and birthed two baby humans. One’s body does not go back to whence it came without some hard work. When I realized that most of the women in my class had multiple children and could easily rock a bikini, I knew I had come to the right place.


No more hiding.

The Bikram studio has floor to ceiling mirrors on two sides. I put my mat in the back corner so that I couldn’t see myself in the mirror. I liked crowded classes for this reason. I looked at the heating pipes running along the ceiling so I would not have to see myself in the mirror. I hated it when the teacher said my name. I just wanted to be ignored and ignore my reflection until I got good enough, skinny enough….until I was enough. One day, I caught my own reflection in the mirror and thought, “There you are.” No cringe. No smile. No judgement.

I later asked the teacher how many classes I had taken. More than 100.

I only now realize that I could not begin to answer the question, “What do I want to do?” until I started from a place of feeling “Enough”.

It began to take shape tangibly on my yoga mat. It began when I could greet my own gaze in the mirror. It continued when I saw myself in a tank top and yoga capris and thought, “Not bad!” And then later thinking, “Is that muscular arm mine?”

Just that one thing- holding my own gaze in the mirror- was the real beginning. There is something very powerful about sharing your own eye gaze without any other distractions. It is an active meditation. If you suffer from perfectionism as I do, it is a break from the critic. A break from the criticism I yield on myself and others. And then that mental pattern starts to change. The criticism is 10% less. I can see him as an amusing little toddler having a tantrum or a yapping frightened little dog. And, outside of class, he shuts up sometimes. Not often, 10% less. But I notice it.

My mat is still in the back of the class, but I position myself so I can see myself in the mirror.


It is a lifestyle.

I am no yogi. I burn no incense.

But getting to a 90-minute class three days per week takes some planning. Feeling well during that 90-minute class also takes some planning. No big breakfasts. No overdoing it on drinks or dinner the night before. Getting my sweaty towel and clothes cleaned changed my laundry routine. It changed what I bought at the grocery store. It changed when I planned meetings and social events.

I don’t say this as a deterrent. People center their lives around all sorts of things.

I say this because people will naturally wonder if they will get in great shape by going to Bikram yoga classes. Yes…And. I think the changes I made to my life outside of class that enable me to get to class are a huge factor in my weight loss and health improvements. It is a package deal. It is a lifestyle.

I mention 10% a lot in this blog. If that does not seem like much. Read this book.

In full disclosure, in 2016, I did not manage to get to class 3 days per week. I averaged closer to 2 or 2.5 times. That is still more than twice the amount I attended class in 2015. The physical, spiritual and mental results were still great. 2017 – same goal. So far, so good.

Cake Diary Update: Devil Ate Victoria Cake

So here are pictures of the cake I made today. I ended up spelling “Older than Dirt” with gummy worms. The marshmellow fluff icing turned out great. To make the dirt along the bottom, I added chocolate cookies to the cake scraps. 

Here are the recipes I used:

Marshmellow Fluff Icing

Devils Food Pudding Cake

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Cake Diary: Devil Ate Victoria

I love to bake. I would bake everyday if I could. I truly enjoy any chance I get to bake. Cakes, like writing, and I have a love-hate relationship. I love planning them out and making th components, but by the end of it I am so over it that I have to force myself to eat the finished product. Okay, force is an exaggeration.

I love chocolate. I love it so much that I am learning how to balance it out. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing after all. I have been known to put so much chocolate into a cake that it hurts your teeth or leaves you slightly ill. Wimps. I’m working on it.

Our neighbour turned 50 yesterday and he likes baking almost as much as he likes eating chocolate desserts. So my present to him is a birthday cake. I have limited time, but I want to do something memorable. It is a special birthday so go big or go home, I say.

I have a four layer cake in mind, but as I baked the layers today, two of them are very fluffy so it might be six layers in the end. Gravity has me concerned slightly. Ah well, I will go for it. It will taste great. 

I am calling it a Devil Ate Victoria cake. It will be a Victoria Sponge cake sandwiched inside of a devil’s food pudding cake. I am hoping to alternate the layers with dark chocolate ganache and marshmellow fluff icing. I have not used marshmellow fluff before, but I have a jar of it that needs to get used. And the butter and powdered sugar icing I made this afternoon looks like curdeled egg whites so I struck out in that. 

Now, how to decorate it? I think I will make a ’50’ on top out of foil wrapped chocolate eggs. That is very typically Dutch for this time of year so I want to give a nod to the fact that he (a Canadian) is celebrating his 5-0 here. And I am thinking of decorating the base of the cake in crumbled chocolate cake that I will have from levelling off the layers. Then, I will have gummy worms crawling up the sides of this very tall cake. I want to temper some white chocolate spelling out “Older than dirt” and place that along the cakes sides, but that will be a first as well so we will see if it pans outs.

I took some short cuts this time around. I used box mixes for both the Victoria Sponge and Devil’s Food cakes. Yes, I admit it. I am not above box mixes. They are basically fail proof which is really important to me when making a cake for a special occasion limited time. I also added a packet of instant chocolate pudding to the Devil’s Food cake. And I will be using store bought marshmellow fluff. I have some great baking cookbooks and I even picked out recipes from them and bought the ingredients then shelved them and went for Betty (Crocker).

So…stay tuned. Pictures tomorrow.

On My Mind: February 9

Today marks the end of Week 21 of my pregnancy and I am feeling really good. Except for the pregnancy panel on my jeans, I do not feel really feel pregnant and that is the best I can ask for at this stage. I do love feeling Wiglet move inside me, though. We had our 20 week sonogram this week. Everything looks normal which is everything I hoped for. We are having (another) girl!

Knowing the baby’s gender, seeing her in the sonogram, and feeling better than I have in months is getting me into nesting mode. For me, that means sorting and pitching. I started with E’s old baby clothes – the premise to help me keep my clothes spending on Wiglet under control. She basically only needs a few newborn-sized items since, with E, we had overestimated a newborn baby’s size and ability to spit up. I love Carter’s one piece zip up pajamas! Thanks to my mother’s upcoming visits from the US, she will bring them over for me.

Next I take on getting our spare room ready to become E’s new bedroom. I really love the idea of lofting her bed, but I am terrified of her falling out of it. In the meantime, she will stay in her crib. I see a visit to IKEA in our future.

Thanks to my new IPhone and my ever growing use of my IPad, I am reading and listening to more books. Right now, I am reading, two books – “Notes from a Blue Bike” by The Art of Simple’s Tsh Oxenreider and “A Small Fortune” by Audrey Braun. I am listening to “The Stories of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett. My other recent Audible downloads have been the latest books by Tori Spelling, Billy Crystal, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sue Kidd, Malcolm Gladwell, and Anna Quindlen. I have an eclectic, mostly mainstream taste that is very loyal to a dozen or so authors. I am also a sucker for celebrity autobiographies especially if they will make me laugh.

Needless to say, I am not watching much tv, but that is mostly because I have worked my way through all of the series I follow. Ann Patchett and Tsh Oxenreider, though, are pushing me to leave the tv off and make more time for the things I always wish I had more time for. So far, Ann Patchett’s book “talks” mostly about becoming a successful writer. Writing is probably my first passion and, if I am honest with myself, the one skill I hold most dear. I would love to do it for a living, but have always stuck to my more practical, more reliable and more marketable skills – namely accounting.

Ann’s advice is basically, stop the excuses and start putting in the time. And Tsh says basically the same thing about blogging, the way I could imagine myself writing for a living. So here I am, forcing words to (web)page.

I bought Tsh’s book, what I think of as “The Blue Bike”, because of a lot of parallels I see in our lives. She has (and plans in the future to) live with her family overseas. Partly from this experience, she now values living a more simple and intentional life. These are popular catch phrases especially with the 30-40 something crowd, but I like her perspective. I do not intertwine my perspective with Christianity like Tsh does, but we were raised going to church so I understand where she is coming from. Living simply and intentionally are ideals of all religions and, in my experience, the mind, body and soul’s most contended state.

For me, living in The Netherlands means living in a house half the size I’d have in the US, but three times the price and in general having far less choice on everything from cereal to diapers to shoes to cars. Having less space and choice has forced me to live slower and more intentionally. And thanks in large part to the Internet, I can digitally access as much or as little from the world as I choose. I have my bad days, but overall I am very contend. So in the coming weeks, I plan to write about what that looks like for me and my family.

Triple Threat

This weekend I tried three different recipes – muffins, scones and waffles.

Last weekend I made banana peanut butter muffins. They turned out perfectly – except my husband and daughter hated them. My husband lives by a tenant that peanut butter belongs only on bread and he seems to have passed it along to our daughter. Oh well, more for me.

So this weekend I went back to flavors passed success. I tried a carrot, zucchini and banana muffin. They did not rise as much as I wanted, but they were a big hit with my panel of two judges.

Periodically, I slip down the rabbit hole of buying new cookbooks. Amazon and the Kindle app for my Ipad make it far to easy (and relatively cheap, thank goodness). I watch tv and search through Amazon. Before I knew it, I’d bought two new cookbooks and sampled several more. I bought. “Baking: From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan and “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook”.

So far, I am really enjoying Greenspan’s book the most. I found it inspiring that she bakes something nearly everyday. I thought I had begun to go overboard lately on baking, but clearly there is a whole other echelon of home bakers out there. And as strange as it sounds, I like the writing in the book. Her explanations seem clear and friendly.


That said, the first recipe I tried out did not turn out as I expected. I tried Toasted Almond Scones. They just did not rise like the ones I have eaten in the past. I think it must go back to the difference in what she refers to as all-purpose flour and what the Dutch call self-rising flour. I (obviously) have not figured out the difference completely yet, but I think I need to substitute one tablespoon of cornstarch into every cup of flour. That means I take one tablespoon of flour out of a cup of flour and replace it with a tablespoon of cornstarch. Does anyone else have any ideas?

For lunch today, we christened our new waffle iron. My husband’s Holiday bonus this year from his employer was a choice from a huge online catalog of gadgets and experiences. We chose a waffle iron (that we are going to try to multiple purpose as a panini maker). It was between that or a chocolate fountain. I could use a chocolate fountain every day, but SHOULD I?

For our first try, I found a Sour Cream Waffle recipe. I know it sounds weird, but it was the winner because it used up some spare sour cream and whole milk I had left over from other recipes. You do not actually taste the sour cream at all which is a great thing. The cinnamon and flavoring (it calls for vanilla, but we used almond). Since the iron is heart shaped, I am already searching Pinterest for waffle dessert recipe for Valentine’s Day.


Baking This Weekend

The weather turned colder today. It is the perfect day to sink into some warm oatmeal. It is a great comfort food. Today, I tried Shutterbean’s Banana Walnut Baked Oatmeal


I nearly doubled all of the spices and served mine with maple syrup & butter. Thank you Tracy Shutterbean!

This weekend, on my path of baking therapy, I made After Dinner Mint Brownies from the Domestic Sluttery website. I love the name of that website, but cannot keep from giggling when I think it.


I had to borrow her picture because I took these to a Girls’ Night In and there was not much left of them to afterwards. I adjusted the recipe by putting them in a smaller, round spring form pan so I could put in a double layer of mint chocolates. It was gooier and yummy in the middle.