Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Adventures at Bikram Yoga

I used to do Bikram Yoga about 5 years ago. My roommate would drag me kicking and screaming to class as she quoted all the benefits of why Bikram is good for me. Without fail, however, during the middle of class I would start to feel nauseous. My head would pound. The stench would overtake me. The nazi teachers would bark at me if I tried to rest or take water. And then after class, rather than feeling alive and energized, I'd feel exhausted and physically ill. So I stopped doing yoga altogether.

It comes as no surprise that upon receiving the assignment to take a Bikram class and write a comparative essay to Power Yoga I began to dread it. I know ALOT of people who go to the local Bikram studio and since I didn't want to have any of them see me vomit across the classroom, I chose to go on a weekday at noon when everyone else in the world is at work.

As I rolled up in front of the studio and struggled to park my bike I heard a familiar voice, "Melanie?! You don't go here!"  I turned and there was my ex-boyfriend in all of his glory heading toward the door to the studio. I stopped in my tracks completely frazzled. I couldn't even get my bike lock to close. The ex attempted to strike a conversation but I couldn't focus. All I could think of was how bad my hair looked, how my acne had exploded, how the shirt I'd chosen to wear accentuated my gut. He went inside and I stood next to my bike deliberating whether or not I should run away. But I knew my friend Jo was inside waiting for me and friends stick together and I couldn't let my ex win. So I sucked it up and went inside. Nothing tests your equanimity quite like an ex encounter (especially before a Bikram Yoga class!).

The woman at the front desk (the teacher) had a calm demeanor. She was warm and friendly - probably in her 50's or 60's. She tried to sell me the introductory special but I declined, stating that I didn't think I'd come back. "Why?", she asked, "You haven't even tried it yet!" I explained the ex situation and she reminded me that the insecurity I was feeling was just my ego trying to get the best of me. Feeling a bit more grounded from her earthiness and wisdom I decided the buy the intro pass and head inside.

Bikram Yoga only has 26 poses. Here they are.
As I walked into the classroom I noticed that it was incredibly less smelly than I had remembered. I attribute that to being earlier in the day whereas I used to go at night when the classes were jam-packed and one right after another. I headed over to Jo and set up my mat. I noticed that they'd replaced the gross carpet with a floor that reminded me of tangled up rubber bands. I spent the entire 1.5 hours focusing on drishti and avoiding looking at other people (especially someone located at the front left corner of the room) through the ubiquitous mirrors and I focused on my uji breathing even though breath was seldom cued.

The class began (and ended) with a weird pranayama, but many of the poses were very familiar to the Baptiste Power Yoga sequence. I thought the teacher's cueing was very powerful and without looking at another person I could figure out how to get into the pose using only the teacher's words. Honestly, I didn't think the class was very hard. What a change! I could see how someone who goes to Bikram would also like Power Vinyasa. After class I felt energized and not the least bit dehydrated.

So this time around I had an instructor with a kind demeanor, a less stinky room, it was hot (105 degrees) but not much hotter than a packed Power Jam class (95 degrees), and I was much stronger, more flexible, and aware of how to align my own body. Dare I say it? I LIKED it.

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