Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bickering at Bikram

On Thursday night I got to hang out with my friend Katie. We planned to catch up and sweat our asses off...courtesy of Bikram yoga. It wasn't my first time doing it but I was nonetheless nervous. Bikram yoga calls for its participants to engage in an hour-and-one-half session of 26 poses, done twice, in a room heated to 105 degrees. Each time I do Bikram I wonder if I'll make it through. Will I faint? Will I hurl? My mind races a bit too. What have I gotten myself into? And why the hell am I doing this...again?

My interest in trying Bikram started with Oprah. I was flipping through a friend's old O Magazine at the beach, reading about some chickadee who was using Bikram as the jumpstart to her life makeover. I don't remember what about that article made me look into it. Perhaps it was an interest in seeing what all the hype was about or pushing myself to the extreme. Mark my words. It doesn't really get more extreme than Bikram.

Normally when I do yoga it's as chill as can be. My favorite yogini was sweet and soft-spoken, encouraging her students to "play" on their mats. It was a great I was in kindergarten. We were only to focus on ourselves and not compare our skill set or poses with those next to us. The room was dimly lit with candles and gentle music and the temperature was comfortable. In fact, when this particular yoga studio started heating up their rooms, even to 70 degrees, I stopped going. It made me nauseous.

So why on earth would I try doing yoga in 105 degrees? Why would I pursue a yoga practice without music, with stern instructors, in a bright room that makes me feel like I'm melting and a room that reeks of people's sweat? I still don't know the answer to that. And yet I go back.

Bikram Choudhury founded this style of yoga on the principle of health; the hot temperatures are meant to increase flexibility throughout the various poses, which engage all of the muscles, veins, glands (you name it) in the body. One of the Bikram teachers I've experienced said it best: "Suffer for 90 minutes, live for 90 years." And trust me, it is a full 90 minutes of suffering. I go to Bikram on occasion, thinking that eventually it will get easier. But it doesn't. And I find myself bitching about it in my head. Why am I here? Why does the instructor seem so mean?

I think about running out the door within 10 minutes to the start of each class (I've confirmed that other people think this too). I pray the instructor hasn't noticed that she left the window opened...or that I've gotten out of some of the poses before she has said the magic word "change." I get bummed when the instructor has noticed that the window is indeed opened...and promptly closes it. When all this has passed (30 minutes into the session) I hear select words in my head. "Breathe" and "focus." "Breathe" and "focus." And "I'd kill for an iced tea right now." Part survival mode, part what I'm going to do if I survive (minus the killing).

But despite the attempts to settle my thoughts and focus and breathe, my bitchy feelings have not quite dissipated. I'm frustrated with the person at the front of the room, the person keeping me here. Still sweating...still a little dizzy. I'm ready to be done. The instructor jokes about the clock being 10 minutes fast. She tells us not to worry...she'll make sure we don't miss those 10 minutes. I'm not amused at this or her feigned attempts at soothing us, telling us to look up at the soft periwinkle ceiling. "You're almost done."

And then it's done. Amen.

I immediately down 32 ounces of water as fast as I can, spray the mat, peel off the clothes, and bada bing, bada boom. My skin and lungs are clear. I feel like a new person. I entered the studio in the midst of a heat wave and left that studio feeling like I was in air conditioning. And I slept like a baby. I will have to remember all the positives (including those unseen) the next time I venture into the desert. It might be a while before I want to feel the heat again. But one thing is certain. I will feel the heat again.


Holistic Insurance said...

this is some thing new. i never read about this yoga before. Does these yoga classes are costly, can you tell me the admission fee and other facilities that are provides in that place.

Jen said...

Hello! The classes are $20 for a drop-in rate and you can get class cards that average $12 per class. Uber reasonable! Where are you located? Most major cities have Bikram.