I have a student, a sharp-dressing, sassy forty-something woman who's recently discovered Bikram Yoga. A few months ago she said to me, "Every class, I can't say when it will be, but every time I practice, I experience five minutes of profound self-love." Five minutes is a long time. It is one-eighteenth of an entire Bikram class, the length of time it takes to get a mammogram, the number of minutes most people spend eating breakfast. If you think of one side of the first set of Half-Moon Pose and multiply that by five, you realize how long five minutes really is.
There's something about the mirrors in Bikram Yoga that invites self-scrutiny, especially in the beginning of one's Bikram Yoga journey. Looking in the mirror un-self-consciously is something we lose when we're like eight years old. Lucia, who's six, has a mirror at the foot of her bed. It's remarkable how often she looks in that mirror. Several times while getting dressed for school, but even at bedtime when were smooshed into her little twin bed getting ready for stories, she props herself up on her elbows to see how her freshly washed hair is settling or to adjust her new PJ's. I have to restrain myself from saying, "Jeez, Lucia, again?!" She's unaware that such attention to oneself is regarded as vain once we reach a certain age. She's innocently full of joy at her reflection.
At some point we lose that innocence. And, sadly, for many people, that pure joy is replaced with criticism-- "Your belly should be flatter" "Your ass should be smaller." "Your legs should be longer." We all have our own lists. So, when my friend said that she feels five minutes of profound love for herself every time she practices, I felt ecstatic, especially because she's relatively new to the practice.
Seeing oneself without judgment (self-love) is the a big part of yoga, and with Bikram Yoga, the mirrors help push through some of that judgment. We see ourselves, day in and day out, working our asses off, and eventually we have to let go of the scrutiny, and when we do, that moment (or 5 or 10 or 15 minutes) of non-judgment sneaks in to fill the space. It makes sense that my friend called it "profound self-love." Five minutes of something so different, so unexpected is profound. It's amazing. And here's the good news--- five minutes is just the beginning.