It’s been almost six months since I started a relationship with Bikram yoga. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, let me fill you in on the basics:
- It’s a form of yoga created by an eccentric man named Bikram Choudury. Yes, he named it after himself. A practice many people use to help scale back their ego has the most egocentric name ever.
- What makes Bikram mainly unique from all the other yogas out there is the environment at which it is set. The rooms are heated anywhere from 90-104 degrees. This is a super humid heat. Think Florida in the summer.
- The entire 90 minute series consists of the same 26 postures, in the same succession. The teachers recite a variation of the Bikram-approved script throughout the entire class.
One or all of these factors can make Bikram yoga very unappealing to some.
The idea of being half naked and sweaty in a room of complete strangers both intrigued and repulsed me. Also, it seemed like a way I could prove my endurance and toughness. I seem to think I have a lot of it. Let me tell you, I was wrong.
Due to a moderate case of scoliosis, I had been doing plain ole vanilla yoga for a couple of years, usually about a half hour or an hour a day. My practice was becoming stagnant and I hadn’t seen too much change or improvement to my condition, so my commitment to it was subsiding. I thought, “Why not kick it up a notch by exposing myself to potential heat stroke?” Plus, everyone always talked about how haaaard it was and how many toxiiiins it released.
I did raw food diets. I fasted for four whole days once. I knew a thing or two about pushing the body to the limits. This was going to be a cake walk. I was going to go in and out-pose half the students in the class. The teacher was going to pull me aside and say, “Hey, ufosandrainbows, in my ten years of teaching, I’ve never seen someone perform so well in their first class.” And then I’d be all, “Oh stop. I’ve just been practicing at home every day for a couple of years. All this [point to self] doesn’t come naturally.”
Can you believe it didn’t go how I planned it to? The studio was tiny, smelly, and the bathrooms, in desperate need of a remodeling, were shared with the other businesses in the building. The only redeeming parts of my initial impression was the kindly instructor’s british accent and the fact that the other students seemed in shape and representative of all walks of life.
The room was crowded and I snagged a spot in the back corner, next to a fifty-year-old woman with her long, dark hair tied in pigtail braids. I surveyed the room. Men and women, clad in speedos and what resembled two-piece bathing suits, serenely laying on their backs without moving a muscle. I laid down and tried to do the same. It had been a particularly cold day, so I found myself enjoying the heat.
Forty-five minutes into the class, I felt like I was dying. I was hotter and sweatier than I had ever been in my life. I was dizzy and thirsty. Despite my usual state of self-consciousness, all I could think about is whipping off my soggy tank top and just rocking the sports bra underneath it. In fact, at that point, there was no self. I was merely a sweaty body among sweaty bodies, trying my best to stay in a humid oven.
I sucked at almost all the postures. I felt gangly and clumsy, but somehow I really didn’t care. My pride was gone. All I could think about is getting through the class. It had become a survival challenge. I can’t even describe the sense of satisfaction I felt when I had made it to the end.
As I left the studio, I didn’t feel as though I got a great stretch or even a good workout. I was exhausted from the heat, yes, but I wasn’t quite sure my muscles had been worked sufficiently. It wasn’t until an hour later, while meeting up a friend for dinner, that I was hit with a super jolt of euphoria and well-being. This Bikram thing was something. I wanted to feel this way always and forever. I went back the next day, and the day after that, and then practically every day for the past almost six months. I’ve taken a cumulative total of four weeks off and, believe me, those were the most miserable weeks of the year.
Just what has Bikram done for me? Why do I continue to practice it? Will Susie and Rex put aside their differences and stay together? Who is the father of Tamera’s baby? Stay tuned for the next post.