The Enlightening Mat: Surprise Yourself

Carson City Nevada Day Clown Car, Beth Hemmila

One of the most nourishing Bikram yoga instructors I've ever experienced is Cammi Vance also known as the vivacious bellydancer Darshan. What intrigued me about her instruction is that throughout her Bikram yoga class, Cammi Vance gently sprinkles the phrase "Surprise yourself!" When she would say this during class, it was like someone taking the garden hose and showering me with a mini rainstorm...ahhhhh refreshing.

Each time she would say "Surprise yourself," I looked for new ways of seeing myself in the yoga classroom. Do I pull a little harder on the bottom of my feet to see how that changes my stretch? Do I squat down deeper in a pose to see if I can locate the place just before I fall over? Do I transform my most hated pose into my favorite and see what happens next? There are so many tiny mind-body experiments to ask yourself throughout the Bikram yoga practice that it is almost impossible to NOT surprise yourself.

Moreover, my looking for and experimenting with surprises didn't stop when I walked out of the Bikram yoga classroom, Cammi Vance's teaching encouraged me to seek them in my life.

Where are all these surprises? Do they just occur spontaneously or do I have to somehow take action to see them transpire? Are they right in front of my face or do I have to go looking for them in the obscure corners of my life? Do I have to change a habit, take a new emotional risk, practice patience, or leap over the edge of reason with faith?

I'm thinking that all these methods could help locate the surprises happening in your life. Perhaps there are no straight answers. I say just dig in and start rooting around for them while at the same time building an insatiable curiosity that keeps you open to seeing them.

I posted this status on my Facebook profile last month, and it is such a universal feeling that I hope as I weave it into my life, you too are finding yourself along the same path:

The feeling you get when you lose something 
and then later find it in a surprising place...
that's the kind of day I hope you're having today. 

Namaste, Surprise Seekers!!!

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures.   


  1. I started taking yoga classes a few months ago--I am really enjoying it, although I still can't do any of the difficult balancing poses. My quads are still sore from yesterday's kick-ass class with a ton of warrior poses. :-)

  2. That idea of surprising yourself is at the heart of my mantra, Enjoy the Day. There are a million things that compete for our attention and focus, but there are always little surprises that sneak up on you and help you enjoy the day even more. I used to have to seek out my 'something good' in every day. Now they find me! And reading what you write is always a 'something good'!
    Enjoy the day!


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