Learning Mindset and the October Bikram Yoga 30 in 30 challenge

Since April 4, 2008, I’ve been a regular student and participant in Bikram Yoga classes which is a series of 26 yoga postures practiced in a room heated to a minimum of 105 F with around 40% humidity.

Each class is 90 minutes. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve grown to love it and know I’m doing my body, mind and spirit a load of good by regularly getting hot and sweaty and fully stretched!  I know I’m a much better person, and coach, for practicing Bikram Yoga. That’s me in the photo demonstrating Standing Head to Knee in my home courtyard.

Every October at my Bikram Yoga Studio, there’s a 30 day challenge, which means to complete 30 classes in 30 days. That’s about twice as many as I usually average per month. There’s a great energy in the studio as many of us ‘stretch’ ourselves further. My yoga buddies have become an important part of my support team in life.

I went back to a blog I posted at the end of October 2013, and I had just completed my first ever 30 day challenge! It took me over 5 years to decide I’d participate, but I did it! And here I am 6 years later. I think I’ve done 4 of the past 6 years of October challenges!

Bikram Yoga has supported me through a major medical challenge a few years ago; my doctor said to keep doing it as much as I wanted to, no matter what treatment I was going through! I love him forever for that! For awhile I could only do about 20% of my capacity, but I did it to 100% of my best ability. That is the Bikram Yoga philosophy, and one I take into life; give 100%, even if on some days that is less than my full capability.

Here are some further insights and parallels between Bikram Yoga and coaching. You may have your own version of my Bikram Yoga practice, that supports you be a better person, better coach and keeps you fit and healthy in the process!

Stretch Your Skill Set

I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga on average 3 times per week for 11 and a half years. So far, I’m 14 days into the challenge and have completed 13 classes, and do doubles on the weekends to get back on track when needed. Last weekend, I did doubles on both days (10am and 4.30pm classes). I never usually do 2 classes in a day, ever! So this is my stretch, and I know I can do it. I pace myself through the day. I’m in awe of those who can do two classes, or more, back-to-back!

I use the focused time of the challenge to see what I can do to improve my hard-to-stretch areas with daily practice, and I already have some new improvements! The shifts are more subtle, yet each time, I’m so delighted that there is improvement. I ask some of the teachers who know me well to give me further corrections (a shout out to Tiffany…!).

The same applies as coaches. Just because we might be very experienced doesn’t mean we can’t stretch our coaching skills to new levels. In this vein, I’m currently a student in a coaching program called The Neuroscience of Change.

And I’m currently leading three mentor coaching group/individual programs with 10 coaches in each program. All these coaches are engaging in upgrading their skills; 20 are moving toward mastery (MCC skill level). The other 10 are a combination of those moving toward intermediate (PCC skill level) and newer coaches (ACC skill level). It’s so gratifying to hear these coaches say they are stretching themselves and their coaching skills to places they haven’t been before!

The point is we can always improve and stretch ourselves to grow, no matter what level we are at. It’s a Continual Learner Mindset that keeps us moving to the next level of mastery.

Everyone Can Improve

Those participating in the 30 day challenge can take as many classes as they want during the month, whether that’s 10 classes, 30 classes or 60 classes (as many do!). I spoke with one woman last weekend who did 5 classes on Saturday and 5 classes on Sunday. Ten classes in two days, just to challenge herself! Oh my gosh! That’s not something I ever aspire to. Yet she was having a fabulous time.

This is a similar point to the one above. We’re never too experienced as coaches to take on the challenge to improve our skills, so we can be even better coaches for our clients. The day I stop learning, is the day I’m no longer in this human form. 🙂

Note: I do not intend to do 10 classes in 2 days…!

Below I’m in Standing Bow Pose..in my home courtyard. There is still so much improvement for me to make in this posture, which I find exciting!

Learning and Beginners Mind Every Time

Bikram Yoga is the same 26 postures every time, which might seem repetitive and boring. Yet it is fresh every time because my body and mind are different every day (and at different times of the day). Each teacher emphasizes something different. I get to refine my yoga practice whenever I approach each class with beginners mind.

The same applies to coaching our clients. When we approach our clients with beginners mind every time, we are honoring who our client is today, in this moment. Not how they were last time we spoke with them but how they are today. We see their greatness, strengths, and help them to connect with their self-knowledge that will support them to find their way to move forward on what’s important to them.

Stay Present, Exactly with the Teacher

Bikram Yoga is repetitive and once you’ve done hundreds of classes, you’d think nothing could be new! Yet I’m often surprised to learn a distinction for correctly doing a posture. And especially how easy it is to get ahead or behind the teacher. To me, this is a weak mind…

About 4 years into practicing, a teacher corrected my stance in a position and I was so surprised that I hadn’t heard the distinction before, even though the teachers always say it. I was bending my wrist in a posture instead of keeping it straight. I was so surprised when he told me and also grateful. The same happened two weeks ago. A different teacher said something and I was so excited for a subtle distinction.

Getting ahead of the teacher is easy. I do my best to stay present to what the teacher says, and to do exactly what the teacher is saying, instead of thinking I know what is coming next (even though I do know what’s coming next) or that I know how to do the posture. To me, being ahead of the teacher is a weak mind, or a willful mind. It’s so wonderful to surrender to the moment and use the teachers words through my body. It’s a practice in staying fully present and trains me to do that in life more often.

Just like in coaching and being open to what I don’t know or what I might be missing about my client. When we get ahead of our coaching clients, we are not fully present to them in this moment. Our lack of being fully present communicates to our client that we are not fully listening to them, and we don’t understand them. The ICF core competency of Coaching Presence offers us an opportunity to practice being fully present with our client, in each moment.

Practice Stillness

Bikram Yoga takes place in a hot and humid room and can be incredibly physically uncomfortable. Some days feel like it’s just surviving the humidity and heat. In every class, the teacher reminds us to stay mentally present, to be physically still, and to add ‘nothing extra.’ We are to be present to our breath in between and during postures. I’ve come to realize that 99% of being present in these conditions is a practice in stillness of the mind, not what’s going on physically.

The same is true when coaching clients. We need to put anything that could distract us from being fully present with our client aside and put our attention 100% on them. Coaching is not about us; it’s always about our clients.

In Closing…

What are you doing to improve your coaching skills? Your ability to be more Present in the moment? To approach each moment with your client with curiosity and a beginners mind set? 

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso


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2 thoughts on “Learning Mindset and the October Bikram Yoga 30 in 30 challenge

  1. Carly, I experienced hot yoga several times. What a commitment by you to do three sessions a week for almost 12 years. Wow.

    I also love the idea of 30 day challenges. About five years ago when I first got into yoga I did a 30 day. It turned into 60. It’s amazing what the body can do once you commit.

    Neuroscience is a fascinating field and I’m reading more and more books on the topic.

    Last, regarding presence. I heard a cool quote this week that went “Slowing down to the speed of presence.”

    Thanks for everything you do Carly. Good luck with your 30 day challenge!

    1. Hi Steve! Thanks for your thoughts, and acknowledgement. That is amazing you stayed for 60 days instead of 30! And a cool quote as well.

      My philosophy is I just need to get myself to the class, no matter what my mind may be saying. Just get there. That is the win.

      I had no idea I’d still be doing Bikram/hot yoga 11+ years later!

      Given how much quality of life I experience, in my body, mind, emotions and spirit. I feel it’s something I’ll do until I take my last breath! My body has de-aged over the 11 years. My skin quality is so much better. For example, cellulite disappeared completely after 3 months and has never returned. I had frozen shoulder just before I started Bikram and it was so painful. I’ve never had any issues since. I have some age related aches and pains, and overuse of my typing (right) hand. Yet I feel I would be so much worse off if I didn’t have consistent and ongoing way of stretching my body. And I often process my emotions in class, literally sweating out toxic emotions I may be experiencing. For a recovering Type A personality, it’s been the biggest gift to have a healthy outlet for my emotions. That’s not all I do, but it’s a huge help to me as a person, as a mentor, trainer, coach…

      That’s probably more than you wanted to know Steve 🙂

      Warmly, Carly

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