Bikram Yoga has been such an eye-opener for me
Bikram yoga has been such an eye-opener for me these last two years. When I first began I thought to myself this is so tough, why have I chosen what could be one of the hardest, and perhaps most intense, of all the yoga practices. Bikram yoga is based upon Hatha yoga.
When I’m in that hot room, in that space with lots of people all trying their best to work themselves out it is so interesting. You find all different shapes and sizes of people. It is pleasantly surprising how flexible the human body can be!
I found pray posture a very hard position to attain, but it goes to show that some of the easier postures can be hard going, which to be honest is a kind of analogy, as I always find simple things hard and complex things easy!
Thinking back to when I first began yoga it entailed some overwhelming experiences and to this day it really never ceases to amaze me. For everyone starting yoga, myself included, the first three months are the hardest, dealing with heat, the intensity, but also dealing with the ego. The main enemy for anybody in a baking hot yoga room and in general life is our ego – how to manage it and how it transcends. Being in that environment with likeminded people, for me, was a safe haven from the very start. Six months into doing yoga I started to feel the changes. One of the main benefits for me was the internal and psychological effect of it clearing out my mind and defining my thoughts. Most artists or alchemists get really complicated, complex thought processes, which for me with doing my music and art, I felt that yoga levelled it all out, put my thoughts and feelings onto an open playing field so to speak. This most definitely spills out into my daily life – I have a little more patience, a little more time to be not so self absorbed. A great aspect of yoga is that you can take the practices out of the room with you afterward.
My main inspirations during this time were Paul Dobson, Alexis and Cindy from Sohot Yoga in Soho. I met Paul very early on anmd we would discuss the benefits of yoga. Having Paul as a yogi, teaching all of us, was very hardcore, he is a tough guy in the way that he guides and operates, alongside Alexis and Cindy. They do get the absolute best out of you though, they know what you need to do to improve.
I spent the best part of the first year getting to grips with the standing head to knee posture, which I now think is my best one – its also one of the toughest to attain! It is a lesson to myself that when I accomplished this posture I had a kind of ‘eureka!’ moment, thinking “oh! okay! You got there now!” and realised that it is not about getting the hardest posture really good, it is actually about spreading energy across that hour and a half and about focussing and attainting all of the postures equally. Some days you will achieve the postures very easily, others they will not be as good.
For those reading that do not know, Bikram yoga takes place in a room heated to 115 degrees for one and a half hours. There are twenty-six postures and you start with a breathing posture and finish with a breathing posture. Over the last two years the postures have changed for me. The advances happen very, very slowly. The best way for me to describe it is it’s a bit like watching a black and white photograph change into colour over a period of time, which if you only came for three months, wouldn’t be as bright and would start to fade. You see the best results after at least a year of attendance and then bam! – the changes are astounding!
Weight loss is a big factor in yoga and from when I first started to now I have lost around 25lbs in weight, which is a considerable amount. I have also fasted four times, I find it really helps. I fast perhaps every six months, and for anyone starting yoga I thoroughly recommend this clear out. The Lemon Detox Diet uses a mix of of maple syrup, brown sugar, lemon and cayenne pepper, and you can find a lot of information about this online. This helps to sort of re-wire my dietary needs, for example when you have a workout in the gym you can come out craving high energy foods or perhaps say you are on a calorie controlled diet you may find yourself wanting all those high fat, high calorie things, the Lemon Detox Diet resets your body’s way of needing foods. I found using this alongisde participating in yoga has been really, really fruitful. Quite literally with all the lemons ha ha!
One of the stabilisers in my life has been having Sohot Yoga, which is based on Balsover Street, with another branch based in Victoria. I feel it has been a sort of safe haven, somewhere I do not have to talk or communicate with anyone, all I have to face is myself and my inner demons and to be honest that has been quite an unbelievable process. The high heat certainly attributes to that, it brings forth so many emotions that were perhaps buried within. You wouldn’t get that in the gym! When you are in session the first half an hour is getting your body warmed up and then suddenly all of these emotions fly forth. Things from your past can hit you or you find yourself thinking ahead to the future. Every now and then you will hear a yoga teacher say “stay in the room, you are in the present” – being in the present is one of the greatest gifts, hence it being called a present! I found that being in that room at first facing past issues became incredibly intense at some moments and I felt the need to sit out of a few postures. Even now two years later I may sit out of a posture, because what I could do yesterday does not necessarily mean I can achieve it today. Sometimes I would think “how the hell can I not do that?!” but it may be that you have emotional things going on or simply that your body may be tired.
Yoga comes from an emotional level sometimes, but we need to remember that it is actually a medicinal practice originating in India. The founder, Bikram Choudhury, was a weightlifter who sustained an injury that crushed and destroyed his knee. His doctors said that he would never be able to compete again, let alone even walk properly. Lo and behold a yogi made contact with him in India and he began to practice everyday in the searing heat. This rehabilitated his injured knee and leg. He had the idea to take this form of practicing yoga in the heat to the Western World in the form of heated rooms as it helps you gain maximum flexibility. There were the foundations of Bikram yoga. This is only a very small amount of information on this and Wikipedia has a very indepth article regarding his background and beginnings.
When I came into the yoga world it was completley new and different to me. One of the greatest things was being able to meet Bikram Choudhury alongside a few of the other teachers when they came to London. Believe me when I say he is mad – as mad as a hatter, but a really, truly inspirational guru, one of those people who make you feel overwhelmed a kind of ‘wow!’. Who would’ve thought that I, Goldie, a bad boy from Wolverhampton, with everything I have been through from childhood to the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – or rather drum ‘n’ bass, would be doing yoga! I honestly never thought that I would find anything that would improve my life in such a positive way. Its really quite funny and surreal all at once!
One of the things about this branch of yoga is that it can be practiced anywhere in the world because it has a philosophy – the practice is the same everywhere you go. I can be on tour in New York, Sydney, New Zealand, absolutely anywhere, and I can find a Bikram centre where I can go and practice exactly the same 26 postures, the same dialog and its amazing that I can do that. Just recently I was in New York where I practiced and was taught by Amanda Basinger, an incredible opportunity and experience as she is also the New York champion. To become a teacher and open a Bikram centre you have to attend a rigourous teacher training programme in Los Angeles for eight weeks, practicing twice a day which for me would be a dream to do and something I want to pursue by the end of this year. To have, let’s say, the kahunas to go and do that would an amazing achievement for me. I think that for the rest of this year though its all about practising. I have seen friends who attended with me in Soho, Nicky Copsey and Beth become teachers right under my very eyes and it has made me stop and think wow! It is so uplifting to see people you know take that leap. They are now doing fantastic lessons which I sometimes attend. It is very uplifting being taught by people you started off practicing with. The thing that I love about yoga is that the yogis still practice religiously – they really take the time to keep it up. One morning you may go into a session to find five teachers all practicing together! It really made me laugh when I saw one of Nicky Copsey’s tweets saying “I cant believe it! I have five teachers in my class from my 10am, oh my God! I had better get my ‘A’ game on!!” I really did find that hilarious!
It is a beautiful thing, I guess, that all of the work I have done in the last two years has been driven by yoga. My wife has also been a massive source of encouragement in supporting me. I will always remember David Bowie saying to me that it is important to acknowledge what rebirth is – a re-invention. I never understood at the time but over the years I have gained a definite perspective of it. I like to reinvent myself, as many of my fans and supporters will have seen over the years. Yoga has certainly changed and helped to ‘rebirth’ me – I am making a new album, my single is out this week, the video is done and I’m working on my many art projects. At the moment im working on some really, really beautiful things.
I went through a very dark period in my life about sixteen eyars ago, just as I was at the top of my game. I got married, then had a really nasty divorce, lost everything and that had an awful water skiing accident where I sustained a spiral fracture of the left femur which completley destroyed my leg – thinking of it that reminds me of Bikram himself?! – I was down and out, drinking every night, getting off of my head trying to forget all the rubbish surrounding me. I spent a long time trying to find myself with no luck. Things started looking up when i met my wife Mika and reconnected with some old friends, including Michael Copperman. I remember seeing him and sayin “Man why are you so bloody zen?!” to which he replied “Bikram baby!”. I remember being a bit dismissive until he suggested I joined him for a practice session. I started going every week and then suddenly once a week became twice, which in turn became three times a week, four times a week and eventually five days per week! I now average four days per week. For any of you thinking of making a bit of a life change or even just improving general health and fitness believe me when i say it becomes a game changer too! It has been an amazing, beautiful, at times hard even, experience. The people I have met through yoga have been inspiring.
I want to make it clear that you should give Bikram yoga, at the very least, three months of attendance, because once you start practising and take that energy away with you will understand the impact it has upon your daily life. When I wake up now I am so thankful for being alive, energised, fit, well, healthy and getting the things I need to do done! I have become a sort of a monster in all honesty, but im grateful for that! I am 46, turning 47 this year and I am in better shape than I was aged 30. I can breathe better, I sleep like a baby, I eat healthy, I feel absolutely amazing!
A friend got in touch with me, a guy called Kevin McGregor, after he saw an article in The Observer about yoga. He works for the Bikram Yoga Federation. He is a great guy, he loves music. He came out with me to one of my gigs and stayed for about four hours and we decided to go on a practice session the next day even though we were a little worse for wear, but we did it and it was fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I still go out and I may have the odd tipple, perhaps a glass of wine – (or two!) every now and then, I mean come on its yoga and i’m not the Dalai Lama alright?! Everything in yoga is about having a balance and that in turn helps to equalise everything within your life.
I have seen my whole life change doing this. Not only have my needs changed but my body has, my attitude has, my entire outlook on life has and I want to attend practice sessions. This is an amazing, ongoing journey.
Well this has been an introduction and I hope you guys have enjoyed reading it! Watch this space!
NB: I would like to take the chance to thank Bill Thwaites, Elaine Ruddock and Lorraine Bell at Sohot Yoga who have turned my life around and made it fantastic. Thanks to you guys it is now bright and rainbow filled if you like! They are my Bikram family who help me practice and took me under their wings. I have genuinely felt the love. This is now about me going out there and spreading the love for all of you. Thank you so much for everything.
I would also like to thank Paul Dobson who has been as hard as nails and kept me on the straight and narrow so to speak!
Also a big thank you to Cindy and Alexis, who I sometimes wanted to scream at ha ha!