BBL Gets a Makeover!

In 2012, we started a program at Bikram Yoga Portsmouth called Bikram’s Biggest Loser. This program was motivated by my older sister’s inspiring story. Read it here.

In a nutshell, my sister, Gina, found her way to the yoga on a regular basis nine years after taking her first class and hating it/herself. She battled self-hatred and obesity most of her life and found love and respect for herself on her yoga mat.

In the world of yoga, fat people are greatly underrepresented. Did you notice I said fat? I said it on purpose. “Overweight” implies that there’s “right” weight and, frankly, I’m done with that dogma.

While more than a third of Americans are categorized as “obese“, the percentage of practicing yoga students who fit those characteristics hover near the single digits. I wanted to change that.

Around the country, “Fat Yoga” studios have opened catering to obese yogis. Studios added “Curvy Yoga” or “Yoga for Round Bodies” and that never sat well with me. At our studio, we never differentiated between kids and adults. We don’t offer special classes for athletes or the elderly. Why would we exclude people from our regular schedule based on their weight?

How would it serve anyone to isolate fat people to a single class once a week?

A beautiful thing happens when all yogis practice together. It promotes the understanding that we are all the same on the deepest levels. I wanted something different for BYP. I wanted inclusion.

I wanted people to know that BYP was a safe place to practice yoga for anyone. I wanted students who had a BMI over 30 to know they wouldn’t be the only fat person in the room. I wanted to spread the word that my teachers knew how help people get into poses if there were big breasts or big bellies in the way, or how to approach a pose if thick thighs made the traditional execution impossible. I wanted people to understand that no matter who you are and what struggles you face, we were not going to judge you.

We modeled the program, at first, after the popular TV show The Biggest Loser. Not for the rapid (and reportedly dangerous) weight loss, but for the trainers’ intense belief in the participants’ abilities to achieve that which they did not yet believe in themselves. On TBL people’s ideas of themselves as quitters and losers transformed to that of achievers and athletes. We saw that happen in our students every day at yoga.

We knew the tantalizing draw of weight loss would bring in lots of clients. We were featured on the morning news and 43 people registered for our first challenge. Nationally, most people report that they try their first yoga class for either weight loss or fitness goals.

And people did lose weight. A lot of it. Our first winner lost 71 pounds and cut his cholesterol in half. One woman dropped eight dress sizes, four inches off her thighs. In five years, participants have lost nearly a collective ton of weight.

Some people didn’t lose weight. Not a pound. A few students even gained weight, but something else important was happening. People’s lives were changing. They were standing up for themselves at work. They were lowering dosages of blood pressure medication or going off anxiety meds. BBL participants found community, made friends, and felt a part of something. They rallied each other when they wanted to quit. They quieted that evil critic in their own heads. They learned to look in the mirror with pride, not shame.

I have a secret to share. I never cared if anyone lost any weight.  

I only cared that people found health and wellness and happiness. I knew that the potential for weight loss would draw people to the program because that is the song of our culture. Lose weight and be worth something! My vision was that if I could get them to show up, people would learn to love and respect themselves on the mat and the rest would fall away.

My vision came true. It worked.

Everything I thought the program could be, it was and even more. Last year, we added the Fueled and Fit program with nutritionist Erin Holt. Erin’s life goal is to get everyone in the world to stop dieting forever and learn to eat and listen to their bodies so they can fuel themselves and feel good. She strives to help people heal their convoluted relationships with food.

With Erin’s work, the program dug even further into our deep-seated beliefs about food, body image, and self-worth. Last year’s program pushed us to make a big change in how we structure and name the program to better represent the power and efficacy of dedicating three months of your life to healing your self and setting your life on a new path for good.

Last season, we had optional EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) sessions with Cheri Keirstead. This year, we’ll offer these tapping sessions as a criteria of the challenge. EFT is a psychological acupressure tool that allows you to practice calming your limbic system while simultaneously talking through issues and thought patterns that underlie your biggest challenges. Some participants worried that the tapping was a little too woo-woo-weirdo for them, but the folks who actually attended the sessions saw amazing results. Hey, sometimes the crazy hippie stuff works.

In this blog post, Erin Holt addresses the intersection between woo-woo weirdo and science. Tapping works because you calm unconscious stress responses to emotionally-charged thoughts and memories while allowing yourself to put words to your feelings. Studies clearly show a naming emotions reduces neurological and biochemical response to them.

We made the choice to model the program after our successful Sober Yogis program as a challenge, no longer a competition. The challenge is to commit to yourself for 90 days. To dig deep into the parts of your life that are holding you back. To look at food as your fuel, not your enemy. To stop dieting forever. To heal your body and your mind. To gain control of chronic illness. To let go of patterns that no longer serve you. To create habits that will drive the rest of your life.

Participants who meet the requirements of the challenge win a month of unlimited yoga at their host studio. There’s no longer a BBL winner. With our new program, we all win. The goal is to take three months of your life to make changes to the way you move, eat, and think that will lay the groundwork for how you live the rest of your life.

We won’t be taking weights or body measurements. Instead, we’ll measure depression and anxiety scales, and social-connectedness.

This new format allows us to expand our reach with this program from obesity to a myriad of challenges like: PTSD, disordered eating, chronic illness, debilitating injury, depression, anxiety, self-hatred, trauma, addiction, anger management, stress-reduction, body dysmorphia and more.

It is with great pleasure that our team introduces to you the new and improved Commit to 90 program.

Commit-to-90-logo-FINAL_03

Visit our website for more information and details on the challenge rules and resources.

We look forward to welcoming you to this supportive community,

Sara, Jaylon, Emily, Erin, Cherie and all of the teachers at Bikram Yoga Portsmouth and Epping

BBL 3.0 Yeah

 

Advertisements

Pregnancy Blog 2: Ten Months Postpartum

Stay Strong, Team

It’s three years today since Bella was born. Judah is nine months old. We made it, team.  Some days (today) I don’t know how. It’s not the day-to-day, it’s the sleep.

At first, you’re so hopped up on hormones and excitement that you can ride on them for a good week. Then, by two weeks, you start to think, “Wow.  This no sleep thing is no joke.”  Dragging, grey, tired. And then it just becomes your reality. You’re just tired all of the time. That’s parenting. People say, it will get better at three months, six months, nine months, when they start eating solids, once the molars come in. I think for some kids it does, but I know for a lot of kids it doesn’t.

That’s one of the secret lies of parenting. In yoga we say, the biggest lie in Bikram Yoga is “Balancing stick is ten seconds.” In parenting, the biggest lie another parent will tell you is “My kid sleeps through the night.” Means something different to everyone and it doesn’t last for anyone. One of my good friends did cry-it-out at four months. She said her son slept through the night.  “It works, Sara. You have to do it.”

At sixmonths he was getting up twice a night and at nine months once and at 12 months four times and at 18 months he was sleeping in her bed. We’re all just trying our best. Doing what we can. And we all have different kids. They all respond in different ways.

I’m not going to lie. My kids don’t sleep. Bella was up every 60-90 minutes, every single night for a good 18 months, didn’t STTN until after Judah was born. Judah slept last week from 10:30 pm to 4:30 am and so did I. It was the first time I’d slept six hours in over three years. I felt so good that morning. The next night, he woke up every 30-60 minutes.  I felt so terrible that morning. Up and down. Up and down. And if you have some advice for me, please keep it to yourself. I’ve heard it all from people I know and from people I don’t. And I’ve tried it all. If you want to commiserate, give me a call.

So, I’m humming along with life in my reality of tired all of the time, coping pretty well, keeping most of the balls in the air and all of a sudden, there comes a moment when I think, “How am I not a danger to society? How am I operating a motorized vehicle? Running a business? Cooking dinner without losing a finger or burning someone?”

I’m SO tired. Drained. Exhausted. Brainless. Hopeless. I think its the brainless that’s the scariest.

And then the next day, I’m all right. Take class. Change my outlook on life. Feel better. Keep moving. That’s what my sister and I always say to each other: The only way to keep going is to keep going.

And you know, someday these sweet, little muffins won’t even live in my house, let alone wake me up every two hours and I will be very sad. Some days that’s enough to keep a positive outlook. Some days.