Bikram Choudhury (love him or loathe him) is the world’s most infamous yoga instructor who built a wildly successful business based on just 26 yoga postures. So what can Bikram yoga teach us about writing a book?
‘People come to me and think yoga is relaxing. They think little flower, little ting sound, some chanting, hanging crystal … No! Not for you! Waste of time! Here I chop off your dick and play Ping-Pong with your balls. You know Ping-Pong? That is yoga!’ – Bikram Choudhury
The above quote from gonzo-journalist Benjamin Lorr’s book, Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga, sums up the experience of Bikram yoga (direct from the man who invented it).
Bikram’s designed to be excruciating. Some people even describe it as torture.
Every bestselling author – Seth Godin, Chandler Bolt, David Allen, Jeff Goins, Steven Pressfield, Chris Brogan, Brené Brown (who confesses to 'loathing writing' in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic) – will tell you that writing a book is a challenging and often painful process.
Like Bikram, a book pushes you in ways you never thought possible, further than you’ve ever been before.
Mainstream media and TV shows like Sex and the City will lead you to believe you’ll be sitting under a gumtree on an autumn day, the sunlight warming your face, the breeze tickling your legs, as you tip-tap away at your keyboard … but c’mon, how many people do you know who have written a book like that?
So why on earth do we bother, and continue to bother, going to Bikram or writing more books? After all, I don’t know any author who after writing their first book proclaimed, ‘That’s it I’m done. Never doing that again’.
The answer lies in the feeling afterwards. Both the disciplines of writing (because that’s what it is, a discipline) and yoga are a metamorphosis of sorts.
We chase the endorphin high, the anticipation of reaching a goal, the results we physically see – toned abs, new clients – or feel – a clear head, the adrenaline high.
It’s pleasure; but it is pain. Satisfying, but addictive. You feel amazing!
It doesn’t mean you need to transform into a whippet-thin back-bender with a 15-hour day writing regimen. The point is that writing is an arduous journey, and when it’s hard, it means you’re learning, and pushing into new terrain.
When it’s hard, dig deeper, and remember: you’ll feel fantastic when you’re done.