BYD Workshop Notes

Self-Study for Self-Realization Workshop

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” —-the Bhagavad Gita

*These are my WILD AND RAMBLING notes that capture some of what we covered in the workshop…Most of these concepts are explained in detail in my Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self-Study Guide where I give you rationale for self-study for self-realization and practical ways to know yourself better– to travel that path as the self, through the self, to the Self– to discover that you are Divine and have been all along!!

  1. Attention (concentration)
  2. Self-awareness (mind-body connection/personality)
  3. Challenge (to stay vulnerable in present moment/fear/pain as guru)
  4. Choice (mindfulness; self-control; emotional regulation; personal responsibility)
  5. Learning (attitude toward life– every experience is for learning; process vs outcomes/results; humility and flexibility)


In addition to my book that contains loads of resources, here are a few more: 

Eckard Tolle Link to Free podcast (where he describes the Vertical and Horizontal and more)

Recovering the Self/Gabor Mate

Science of yoga video

Smith, H. (1991). The World’s Religions.  HarperOne. New York:New York.


3 Overly-Ambitious Workshop Goals

(Bikram says at training, “Yoga. Big subject.” It’s tough to cover it in one hour!
Stay tuned for more workshops throughout the year at Bikram Yoga Danvers!)


1.Explain Bikram’s Yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy; that is, to explain where Bikram is “coming from” with this form of yoga. This will be about the notion of “self” and the meaning of yoga both from an American/Western cultural worldview and the Eastern/Indian worldview. 

2. Hopefully, the information above will offer you a new way to look at your practice, expand your understanding of it, and enrich or renew your practice (and/or invite you into this practice if you are new to this).

3. I will make some concrete connections for you between what we/you do in the BY class, what your teachers say/do, and how this can be applied in “the real world” of your life “off the mat” to help you be well, love your life, and inspire and motivate you to live it to the fullest– as uniquely you. In other words, I will talk about how the hotroom is a lab for self-study for self-realization. 


  • SELF
  • YOGA


What is Self-realization?

-We have to define “self” (little self- ego/conditioned image/mask/personality vs. Atman/Self/Divine/Being)* SEE HINDUISM BELOW

-We have to define “realization” (direct interior experience; in-sight, direct experience of your liveliness/aliveness; people vary in their “bent” so will realize in ways that resonate with them)


A method of training designed to lead to integration or union. Integration of what?

“Unite the human spirit with the God who lies concealed in its deepest recesses” (Smith, p.27) 

How to become divine while still on earth, through the body; asanas– for Indians– were about control of the body for spiritual; not beauty and performance as in the West. Hindus were interested in the infinite housed within the finite. (Body with its brain inside, little self, is a temple for God/Atman/Self). Hindus allowed for multiple paths to self-realization because they understand that a variety of kinds of people exist. And not everyone is starting from the same point and various modes of transport (walking, driving, flying) can get people where they need to go. “Multiple paths to God, each calling for its distinctive mode of travel” (Smith, p.30).

Types of People/ 4 paths/ yogas

  • Reflective/Intellectual/Learning
  • Emotional/Love
  • Active/Work
  • Scientific bent/Experimentally inclined

The aim of all four paths/yogas is to render the surface self* transparent to its underlying divinity.  One’s essential being is Being itself.   

Ways to get there: 

Raja yoga— “royal road to reintegration” for-scientific bent/psychophysical experiments– direct personal experience of the beyond that is within; introversion/to study the real self; works through the body [breathing/senses are distraction] to the mind (monkey mind); deep concentration/close doors of perception; 

Karma yoga–work; human machine made for action;  work is psychological not for economic gain, can be reflective/intellectual work or love/service depending on the person; 

Bhakti yoga–love/passion/emotion; religious-bent 

Jnana yoga–knowledge/contemplative/learning

The “little self” crowds the forefront of attention, so we “don’t know who we are.” We remain disconnected and separate from our Source/Being/Atman/Truth.

“Science tells me that there is nothing in my body that was there 7 years ago, and my mind and personality have undergone comparable changes. Yet through their manifold revisions, I have remained in some way the same person, the person who believed now this, now that; who was once young and is now old. What is this something in my makeup, more constant than body or mind, that has endured the changes? Seriously pondered, this question can disentangle one’s Self from one’s lesser indentifications” (Smith, p.30) 


“What is this ‘I’ that possesses my body and mind, but is not their equivalent?” (p.30)  Again, I think of this as we are “spirits having a human experience.” 

Our personality– root word is persona-  the mask an actor wears in a drama; we make the mistake of thinking our mask for our role in our life is who we TRULY  are. The task of the yogi is to correct this FALSE identification by turning our awareness inward, hack through the layers of personality until you reach the anonymous joyfully unconcerned real “Self” who stands beneath (Smith, p.30)


Yoga as Union: Reconnection to Self through the self

In our American culture– we are conditioned/raised/educated to cultivate this self, this personality, this mask– we can spend our whole lives primping it, sculpting it, fixing it for others’ and projecting from behind it. We are told who to be, what to think and how to behave and to a certain degree this is necessary to live civilly in a social world, but when we internalize scripts and narratives about ourselves that limit us or make us sick. It is our responsibility as adults to 1. Notice this (awaken to our true nature). 2. Understand how and why we suffer. And 3. Work to heal/change/replace old with new. This is a continual, ongoing process. You can discover this process in Bikram’s yoga practice (and other yoga and meditation too!).  

“In the Upanishads, “there is a rider who sits serene and motionless in his chariot. Having delegated responsibility for the journey to his charioteer, he is free to sit back and give full attention to the passing landscape. In the image resides a metaphor for life. The body is the chariot. The Road over which it travels are the sense objects. The horses that pull the chariot over the road are the senses themselves. The mind that controls the senses when they are disciplined is represented by the reins. The decisional faculty of the mind is the driver, and the master of the chariot, who is in full authority but need never lift a finger is the Omniscient Self.” (Smith, p.31)

“A lamp that lights the room is unconcerned with what goes on within it” (p.33).

“One becomes in full what one always was at heart– the true Being” (p.33)

Look in the mirror and who do you see? You see how you think/stories and sensations/body/emotional being; you see how you treat yourself; you see how to strive and push away and use distraction etc— to manage the present moment of existing. Bikram invites you to, through practice, come to awareness of the present moment and whatever it brings you, accept that present moment (which takes courage and attention and discipline to not run/squirm etc) as it is (not as how you would prefer it to be– this is suffering from preferences and expectations) and BE 100% in that moment to experience directly your own being/your own life  (He says, “your life is your life”). See also (Michael Singer’s work and others listed in References in my Classic Wisdom for Modern Human, 2019)

The more you concentrate and meditate, your self will reveal itself to your observation — those observations ought to be without critical judgment but more about discernment– learning in the true sense  (without pushing anything away; with a welcoming attitude; a bit of detachment or “joyful unconcern”); when you come to know how your mind works, your habits of thinking and behaving, you can see how to a greater or lesser degree, you cause your own suffering and you can learn to let go or replace those habits to suffer less and to suffer better.  Some pain comes from the outside/external and some comes from the inside/internal. These are the landscapes of life. Yoga encourages you to travel inward– to “go vertical” rather than only horizontal. See podcast by Eckard Tolle on this metaphor of vertical and horizontal. It’s worth a listen!!

Our culture teaches us to run from pain; yoga teaches you to practice the opposite– to face your suffering and little by little (exposure therapy) come to be comfortable with discomfort. In this way, through practice, you can be free where you are– in each moment- unconditionally.

Ego is the mask. When yogi identifies with Spirit, he “rises above” the self of the ego and transcends this limited way of being.  TRANSCEND/RISE ABOVE

Yogis experience calm in the midst of intense activity because they repose in the Eternal/Being/Spirit. They accept loss, pain, and shame with equanimity knowing that these things are teachers. 

SO the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019) is my wisdom curriculum which is self-study for self-realization that offers insight into this process and the results of practicing (the main result being vitality/aliveness/ gratitude/ purpose/ discovery of your value and connection to truth–a life of integrity and wellness. To experience and live this way is to be wise. It is to be yogi.) 

Below is a bit about PART 1 Attention of the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness (2019)

  1. Awareness is the first step. By understanding the nature of “ATTENTION,” this is the starting point and the middle point and the end point. 
    1. What are we paying attention to in Bikram Yoga? (the self)
      1. Why we tell you to focus on yourself;look in mirror!! Distraction plagues you throughout the series, just as it does in your life outside the studio/off the mat. 
      2. Noticing your own attention, distractions– nature of these– what, when, where, whom, why, how? Get to know them is getting to know yourself! Nonjudgmental/compassion/Honesty.** if you continue to fool yourself, you’ll continue to suffer more than is necessary.
      3. What you pay attention to is linked to what you value– and your values are your “Why” for struggling through life. What do you value? — find out by auditing your attention– where is it most of the time? Is this how you want to “spend” your time? (think: bank account)
      4. Who or what steals your attention (or your peace?) the world– modern life is crayyyyyzzzyyyy busy and distracting…some of it cannot be avoided– this is why we deal with what life hands us and we let go of the suffering that comes from it as quickly as possible– just like going from the “active posture” ie stress/contraction to savasana– release of tension/stress as quickly as possible to develop that habit in mind and body. That will enable us to have that in our muscle memory for life outside the studio.
      5. Conscious application of these principles will reduce stress and improve the way you care for yourself, interact with the world/others, and quality of your experiences are more positive than painful and negative. Yes– there will be challenges and pain, but we can develop the practice of discernment (do I want to spend my attention and energy on this any longer than is necessary? Do I want to remain stressed? Lose my self in the drama and BE drama?) and then practicing “letting go” relaxation.  Rather than being dragged along into the drama, you can “rise above it” or transcend it, become neutral (balanced charge/ joyfully unconcerned) and observe to learn. Each challenge is an opportunity to see how you fare– without criticism but noticing how well you stayed with the moment/challenge without trying to fix or alter it or push it/wish it away; learn something about yourself from it and then let go of it. It’s all okay. No big deal (Pema Chodron
      6. Better  listening and loving attention to self= better for others=world better.
      7. People who show up for themselves in these ways can show up for others (service) NURSES, TEACHERS, PARENTS, PARTNERS etc..

We are on borrowed time— how do you want to spend it is the same thing as asking yourself what do you want to give your attention and energy to? Bullshit drama and negativity or meaningful and fulfilling love affirming experiences??? Things that make you feel more alive and well!

SO WHY should you study yourself? To survive and thrive in the time and place you find yourself living! Modern world is fast, complicated, busy, and full of distraction (including information and advertising)= stressful and an attention-stealer and manipulator; pulls you away from your inner world/wisdom. 

Yogis are emotionally still even when intensely busy (Smith, p.32).

Bikram says, Kill or Starve the ego– not focused on outcomes or feeding itself/its desires for this small self, but entirely living from the place of higher, wiser Self. 


“eventually, in the future and one day…you will touch your head to your feet;” Everyone needs an aim– guidance/direction. This is simply how we are built. It doesn’t mean getting there is the point! It means, aim in a distinct direction and take steps forward; the path will likely be crooked.

This is what it means to enjoy the journey– it’s all journey (no final destination; your goal in yoga is not the outcome of the full expression of the pose; it’s trying via baby steps– one step at a time and being fully present for each step! THIS IS HARD! This is the same for living in the world. Unfortunately we are a results-focused and outcome focused culture and we pay attention to the end instead of savoring the experiences of the path. (we literally are always “getting ahead” or “getting ahead of ourselves”) Stay with the Dialogue and enjoy each aspect of your yoga class– whatever happens, as you practice with that open, flexible, joyfully unconcerned attitude toward it. You may even smile and say, look at me just being here, alive, now. I am grateful to be alive!! I am happy to have this opportunity.


Who am I (as a human being– not constantly compared to some ideal or anyone else or in light of expectations someone/society/parents/tv put on you, just within your interior– what are you like, without critical judgment) and what I am like? What is your nature? Who is the unconditioned, unconditionally LOVED YOU?

HUMAN NATURE: we are all good and evil– every hero story shows us that we have weakness and strength; we have assets and liabilities– know what they are, own them, let go of shame or comparison to others or even perceived attitudes about yourself, and just learn how to accept and manage them and then perhaps improve weaknesses and capitalize on expressing assets!  

*See conversation between Steven Pinker and Yuval Harari.

THIS IS YOGA– to discover how to “BE” as a body and as a mind. What’s going on?

Humans (you) are a body and a mind (*and a spirit).

How does your body work? — what’s happening in your body (emotions, sensations, pain, strengthening, weakening)? Observe it to collect information. 

How does your mind work? Observe it to collect information

Noticing the mind and the body and the relationship between them without concern, but joyfully unconcerned- BEING WITH rather than only DOING for SOME OUTCOME. 

Interpreting the information about yourself gives you “in-sight” into yourself and your experience of being you. 

The challenge of yoga: 

Be honest in your interpretations. Don’t fool yourself– don’t lie. Tell the truth. Be compassionate– you will discover some things you don’t love and allow yourself to love what you do love! Some people reject their strengths and assets because it is an added responsibility to implement them which requires actualizing your potential and often involves great attention, energy, and risk; you may also experience criticism and judgment from others for being who you ARE, but you will be healthier expressing your truth rather than suppressing it out of fear of judgment and criticism. And, of course, you have that inner critic and your ego telling you often untrue or destructive stories, to manage as well!

*Can you think of a personal example where you wanted to express a part of yourself but did not for fear of rejection or judgment or responsibility?

Bikram’s Yoga is designed for you to recognize, become aware of, wake up to the light within you– to embark on the path to the true Self (Atman); the true Being that you are. 

You can “realize” the difference between the small “self” and the Observing I or the Witness that persists. This requires concentration, discipline, practice and radical honesty and it is a challenge/hard— 

Bikram says:

“My class is one long, hot meditation. We put incredible pressure on you to teach you to break your attachment to external things and go within. Instead of blaming others for your own weakness, fear and depression, you will learn to take responsibility for your own life. You’ve got to face yourself in the mirror, every part you don’t like, every mistake you make, every excuse your mind creates to limit your potential liberation–there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. No escape from reality. With these kinds of demands on your abilities and attention, you will soon forget that there is anyone on the next mat in the classroom, much less notice what they are wearing. After you learn to discipline your body and mind under these conditions, you will truly be able to concentrate; no external will be able to break your powerful focus. That’s why I say the darkest place in the world is under the brightest lamp. In…my class, you will find a beautiful light, and the source of that light is within you.”

Americanized yoga practice is outcome/results focused/drive; What’s in it for “me” the little self. Utilitarian/productivity. It’s enjoyed by the ego and where it can get someone in terms of beauty and performance. So you can come in and practice and reinforce your habits of vanity or self-criticism or disappointment that you don’t meet your culturally internalized expectations, or try to “fill” yourself and meet your desires; push away your aversions. 

*Remember that Practice makes permanent.  In other words, you can continue on the level of the persona/ the mask/ egoic level reinforcing unskillful habits or you can become the awakened observer and be free where you are in the present moment, unconditionally,  remaining as neutral observer and watching your practice (or your life) unfold as it will– seeing “what happens” as if in detached, 3rd person point of view. Observing, learning, non-resistance, no clinging, and letting go of what comes– flowing with constant change. As Pema Chodron says, what happens is: “no big deal.”

The Monkey Mind needs something to Focus on! Concentration and Meditation (last two steps of raja yoga)

Concentration– yogi is alone with his mind– the mind is wild…source of much of our suffering! We Practice keeping the mind concentrated on some object (when its left to focus on itself, it will never settle) until success increases. This is the purpose of keeping your mind focused on the Dialogue– to build your powers of concentration. It also keeps you grounded in the present moment. Your mind will focus on an object and be aware of itself; last step is total union– which is flow— mind is completely unaware of itself (knower and known resolved into perfect unity; next stage is existence without limits). 

That little self is the suffering self. And you concentrate, through practice, through showing up and looking in the mirror, on observing how it suffers by how it behaves– what it does, what it feels and what it thinks especially. The mind has great power over the body and stress. We watch this process in our practice.

The goal of the Dialogue is to keep you in the present moment and to observe your own presence– you will be able to observe the presence of the suffering little self and perhaps, also, one day, eventually in the future, you will experience the presence of Spirit/your true Being too, underneath the layers of conditioning that has built up over time through your life.  


MIND-Body: Moving Meditation

And hopefully, through your practice observing yourself– especially the MIND, you will REALIZE that you are way more than your mind (and your perception of yourself as a persona) thinks you are; you are way more than a body with limits; there’s something unlimited and eternal about you.    

You’ll find that Self within you– the source of that light is within you–

The HARD part of the class is your mind. The challenge is to stay in the present moment / be aware and stop struggling with distraction to discharge your discomfort (this is what Bikram means by if someone steals your peace you are the loser). It takes disciplined practice, concentration, to transcend the storms/irritations/sensory and mental distractions of the environment- both within you and external to you. 


You are taught to run from pain or take a pill or distract yourself as a member of a consumerist economy. We are sold pleasure (and answers from “those in the know”) to ease our pain rather than being taught to sit with it compassionately and use our inner resources to heal. 

B.K.S. Iyengar who writes in Light on Life: 

“…pain is an unavoidable part of asana practice…The pain is there as a teacher, because life is filled with pain. In the struggle alone, there is knowledge. Only when there is pain will you see the light. Pain is your guru. As we experience pleasures happily, we must also learn not to lose our happiness when pain comes. As we see good in pleasure, we should learn to see good in pain. Learn to find comfort even in discomfort. We must not try to run from the pain but to move through and beyond it. This is the cultivation of tenacity and perseverance, which is a spiritual attitude toward yoga. This is also the spiritual attitude toward life. Just as the ethical codes of yoga purify our actions in the world, the asanas and pranayama purify our inner world. We use these practices to help us learn to bear and overcome the inevitable pains and afflictions of life.” (Iyengar, 871-877)

Iyengar’s words suggest that we remain humble and curious, respectful toward pain, as it is our teacher, our guru. This takes discipline and practice to learn, to get better at, to master, so the repeated reminders about “hurt” and “pain” within the Bikram yoga dialogue seem not only merely warranted or justified but appropriate and absolutely necessary.

Learn more about how to face fear and deal with challenge in PART 3 of my Self Study Guide for Wellness. 

*These are only a few notes I prepared and some things that we talked about in the workshop…

In addition to my book that contains loads of resources, here are a few more: 

Eckard Tolle Link to Free podcast (where he describes the Vertical and Horizontal and more)

Recovering the Self/Gabor Mate

Science of yoga video

Smith, H. (1991). The World’s Religions.  HarperOne. New York:New York.


Thanks for coming and please, let me know how I can provide you with more educational workshops to know your practice better, which is really about getting to know yourself better and discovering who you REALLY are! Namaste!!