Why I Will Still Practice Bikram Yoga

I’ve written before about Bikram Choudhury and the  charges levied against him, but the situation has changed.  While the criminal charges have been dismissed, more women have come forward and are filing civil suits against him.  Now, we still don’t know what is true – and anyone can file a civil suit – and to be completely politically incorrect, some of the described incidents sound completely avoidable to me – there’s a lot of talk, and some have asked me what I think.  Some have even suggested that I should change my practice to avoid any association with Mr. Choudhury and his name.

So, I’m taking a stand.  I will continue my yoga practice.  I will seek out studios when I travel, and vacations that incorporate this yoga.  524089_649930008373225_1489855080_nAnd I will not hide that practice by calling it other than what it is – “Bikram Yoga”.  After all, it’s the yoga, not the guru, or as a wise friend of mine pointed out, not everything has to be a cult of personality, and not everything has to be destroyed if an idol is toppled.

Bikram Yoga has changed my life in only positive ways – I am healthier, more disciplined, happier, and I have a circle of friends and a community at Bikram Yoga NYC and the other studios I visit when traveling that I would have missed out on without this practice.

Making this decision might be easier for me than some; I’ve always tended to assume that anyone – anyone – can disappoint me.  But when they do, I’ve also been able to acknowledge the positive elements (assuming there were some) from our interaction.  Even the Evil Ex taught me some things.

I don’t have some profound ending statement to make – and there may be those who see this as a defense of the man, not of my Bikram Yoga practice.  But that’s theirs to figure out.  I’ve made my decision, and I’ll be in the hot room.




There’s been a lot going on in my life lately.  Some things have been ironed out – yay! – and are back on track.  But some medical issues are just going on… and on… and on…

I’m a good patient usually.  I come in with all the needed information; I am always on time for my appointments; I follow up appropriately; and I’m really, really, really nice to the staff.  But recently, the colossal incompetence of a particular radiology department has sent me over the edge.  Back story:  after a check-up, my doctor advised me to see a neurologist.  In order to rule out some very scary things – like, oh, cancer or a brain tumor – I then had an MRI.  So far, so good.  No cancer.  No brain tumor.  But not normal.   Okay…time for further MRIs.  Sure, I’ll go.  To make this long story short, I never had the tests.  I tried.  Twice.

So now what?  Well, it took several years for me to get a correct diagnosis for my Sjogren’s, given poor diagnostic skills at the major teaching hospital where I went to grad school.  It took a full year and every test known (it seemed) for the best gastroenterologist in New York to diagnose the cause of a severe abdominal pain.  Clearly, I’m stubborn enough to do the work that it will apparently take to find out what is going on now.1044343-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Scared-Woman-Curled-Up-In-A-Fetal-Position

But in the meantime…I’m scared.  I don’t like uncertainty.  I am not bothered so much by change, but not knowing makes me crazy.  I just want to curl up under the covers with the cats and not come out until I have answers.  But we all know life is not like that.  There’s work to be done, cats to be entertained, yoga classes to attend, and drinks to drink.  Plus I’m just far too stubborn (yes, I said it again) to allow fear to immobilize me.  And stubborn will beat incompetent every. damn. time.


“So this was betrayal. It was like being left alone in the desert at dusk without water or warmth. It left your mouth dry and will broken. It sapped your tears and made you hollow.” ― Anna Godbersen
I don’t fully trust many people, but I always believed that there were some standards of behavior to which anyone with a scrap of human decency would adhere.  thCAPF8AH8Note the past tense, because earlier this week, I was forcefully proved wrong.  And it was both public and humiliating.   I sobbed.  Not cried – sobbed.  And there were intermittent tears the next day until after my Bikram class (boy, that was one interesting savasana) and a long, long walk…
I guess at my age (which is none of your business), I should know better.  But I didn’t, and now I am trying to decide how to deal with the fallout.  These are people I thought of as my friends – even my close friends – and for whatever “I am pathetic and afraid to be alone with no friends” reason, I cannot yet accept that those friendships might have to be over.  That they failed, in fact.  That I failed.
And in the meantime, I got some not-so-thrilling, though not too horrible, medical news. 
All in all, it’s been quite a week. 

My Ripley’s

Believe it or not, I’m pretty easy to embarrass.   I’ll blush in response to compliments; to shows of concern; to questions that most might not consider awkward.  And also believe it or not, I’m shy.  Given my druthers, I’ll be the person at a party standing in the corner nursing one drink and watching the clock until I have been there long enough to sneak out without saying goodbye.  However, the work I do does not allow me to indulge myself in my easily embarrassed and anti-social tendencies.

It’s not easy – I still have to work hard to take comments lightly that I find wounding; to smile and make party talk when I feel like the ugly fat girl that’s only there because someone felt obligated to include me  (you know, like the parents that make their kids invite everyone in the class to their birthday party).  Alone in my house, I’m pretty okay with the way I look – thanks to Bikram Yoga, Weight Watchers and a slight level of maturity gained after many years.    But set one foot outside the door, and all bets are off.

Why right now?  Well, one result of my Sjogren’s is that I occasionally get flare-ups of one of two skin diseases that lurk in my body.  Luckily, neither is contagious – but they’re ugly.  And they are usually on my face.   Of course.  This started in 2001, and for several months, I had at least two open sores, about the size of a quarter each, right on my face, with smaller ones in other locations.  People stared, but no-one asked except a young girl on the subway.  Her mother was mortified, but I was pleased.  She asked politely, listened respectfully, then patted my arm and said, “I hope you’re all better soon”.  It was the best thing that had happened to me in quite a while.

I’m flaring up now.  It’s just starting, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to get to the dermatologist.  See, each time this happens, it has to be biopsied, so he can’t just call in a prescription.  And in the meantime, I’ll be blushing.  A lot.  And avoiding mirrors.  But believe it or not, as much as I feel like the girl in the photo…it’s okay.

Just don’t stare.

Neti-pots, Juice “Cleanses”, Too Many Vitamins – Or Why Health Fads Make Me Crazy

I’m traveling again today.  There was a time where long flights for short trips – or short flights for long trips – would result in my getting sick. I’ve learned a few things over the years, like remembering to hydrate – a lot (which means that I have to have an aisle seat on the plane); eating properly; maintaining an exercise schedule; and so on.  I would add “get enough sleep”, but let’s not lie to each other.

All of these things are how I stay healthy when not traveling, too.   As you may recall, I live with Sjogren’s Syndrome.  Secondary to it, I have fibromyalgia, which can flare up with disruption of my routine or excessive stress – in other words,  all. the. freaking. time.

But what does any of this have to do with Neti-pots?  Juice “cleanses”?  Vitamins?  Well, when you struggle every day to stay as healthy as possible, seeing people try to rely on shortcuts can drive a person crazy.   It does me.   Like so much else in life, if you put in the work, you don’t need the shortcut.   And sometimes, you can do yourself more harm than good.  In my highly scientific survey (I asked three doctors – an internist, a rheumatologist, and an ENT), my suspicions were confirmed.

  • If you usually eat properly, there’s no need to “cleanse” unless you are having certain medical procedures.  And no over the counter fad cleanse is going to prepare you for THAT.
  • Even if you feel congested, there’s no excuse for washing out your sinuses at home.  Plus, it’s disgusting.  Admit it.
  • Too many vitamins can actually be dangerous.   This is further verified by my obsessive reading of murder mysteries, in which potassium has often been a weapon of choice.
So, my friends, be healthy, be safe, and keep your mucus in your nose where it belongs.
P.S.  I had a great photo of Neti-pot use for this, but it grossed me out.  Use your imagination.

My Mother Always Said “It Takes A Bore To Be Bored”

So, since Friday night, I’ve been pretty much trapped in my apartment, recovering.  And today, I started going stir crazy, and posted that on Facebook.  When one of my friends jokingly said I should blog about it…it made me remember what my mother always said – that it takes a bore to be bored.

So even though I’m feeling kind of like a sloth, that comment from my friend made me stop and think.


And I realized, I’m not actually bored.  I’m just used to a much higher level of activity.  And that made me remember my life before Bikram Yoga.  I started my Bikram practice in late 2005, in part as a new start after the end of a bad relationship (okay, it took me months to do it, but I did do it).   During the wasted years spent with the evil ex, my (fat) ass was basically attached to my couch.

So three days with my ass again attached to my couch brings up a lot more than boredom.   I’m panicking inside.  I was very, very unhappy for most of the time I spent with the evil ex, and I kept telling myself I was happy.  I kept telling myself that my life was good.  I kept telling myself this was the way things were supposed to be.  I was a lying liar who lies.

Bikram – and a commitment to truth – changed my life.  Even though my activity is limited by circumstances outside my control, I really am happy now.  My life is good.  And this is the way things are supposed to be.

It’s funny – I see the evil ex around town on occasion.  He doesn’t see me, or if he does, he doesn’t recognize me.  But every time I see him (or when I saw that he is Facebook friends with a friend of mine), I panic a little.  I’m working on that.

In the meantime, at least I’m not bored.

Me And Venus Williams

Yup, just like me…

Venus Williams and I have a lot in common.  I know, you’re surprised.  I was too.  But hey, we’re both talented, self-confident, stunning, and chronically ill.  (Wait, I forgot modest!)

You may recall that my twin under the skin, Venus, withdrew from the U.S. Open last year and announced that she is battling Sjogren’s Syndrome.   Hey, me too!  I was first diagnosed shortly after I turned 30, and Venus is the first famous person I’ve heard of with the same disease.  Wa-hoo!  This is great!
Okay, I know you’re thinking “WTF?  How is this great?”.  Well, Sjogren’s is not very common, and it’s very misunderstood.  Now that a celebrity has gone public on this issue, people are actually aware of it.  That’s a good thing.
I admit to not being totally thrilled with some of the coverage (we could create a lot of jobs if news organizations actually used fact checkers), but even a semi-accurate story is better than none.  And, because sometimes I’m not a very nice person, I will also cop to being a little annoyed that Venus initially seemed to be downplaying our illness.   Then just this past Monday, she was forced to withdraw from the Australian Open, and my empathy kicked in.  No, Sjogren’s has not forced me to give up a career that I trained for my entire life, and at which I was unbelievably successful, but it has stolen many things from me.  I work hard fighting this disease, and have been, according to one of my four hundred or so doctors, incredibly successful.
“Incredibly  successful” in this context means that most weeks I have five or six days during which I can live my life at about 75% of the capacity I had before.  (Like everyone I know with a life-altering illness, “before” and “after” always refer to my diagnosis, which by the way, came about four years after the first symptoms appeared.  I still hold a grudge against the doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital, just so you know.)
Living with a chronic illness changes everything.  What surprises me daily is that not all of those changes are bad.

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