Bikram Yoga in New England

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a Bikram class but I’ve thought about it often in the last couple of months. I injured my ankle last Christmas and it’s taken a long time to heal during which time I’ve been lifting weights and doing Crossfit. I was good about rehabbing my ankle and didn’t push it hard for several weeks but after just one Bikram class, I wished I’d been doing yoga in addition to Crossfit.

Crossfit is great for muscle building and I’ll talk more about it later but yoga, especially Bikram with the heat and extended pose holding, gets more deeply into my joints. My ankle HURT during poses like fixed firm and bow pose but the pain feels stretchy and elongating instead of impactful.

There’s no Bikram in Kennebunkport, Maine. You either have to go north to Portland, Maine or south to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. So, in the course of the last few days, I did both.

Maine Hatha Yoga

Maine Hatha Yoga in Portland offers a Bikram method class without the dialogue that they call the Hot 26. My favorite yoga studio in the country also offers Bikram method classes without the Bikram dialogue and I really love it. It’s Bikram with yoga talk. Fantastic.

The Maine Hatha Yoga studio is small, low ceilinged and carpeted and they run the heaters and humidifiers to get the space SUPER HOT. I went to the community class on Saturday where you pay what you can afford, a lovely offering to a yoga community given how pricey Bikram can be, and the class was pretty full and REALLY INCREDIBLY HOT. My best guesstimation is somewhere around 120-130 degrees. I spent most of the class just enduring the heat and telling myself it would be over soon. Which it was. I’ve gotten better at leaning into the discomfort of heat, reminding myself that I won’t be burning up in this humid hell for all of eternity (even if it feels like it) and pushing myself to do all the poses and breathing, breathing, breathing.

Non-Bikram people are right now asking themselves why I bother if it’s so awful and to them I say “because a really hot Bikram class that takes it all out of you produces an endorphin rush afterwards like no other.” It’s the most satisfying, wrung out, high flying feeling in the world. Like I climbed Everest or finished a marathon. Delicious. I feel like I’ve done something impossible that was also good for me. Deeply satisfying.

I would definitely recommend this Portland studio. Good teachers and good prices. The bathroom/shower area is communal for men and women with some curtained off changing areas but everyone using all the same facilities. I thought it was very yoga spirited but if stripping in public is a deterrent for you, be warned.

The Portsmouth studio is a certified Bikram Studio

Portsmouth Bikram Studio

The studio is on the small side of average but in both classes I attended there were 50+ people in the class (!) definitely the most crowded classes I’ve ever been in. Despite that crowd the heat level was tolerable, the thermometer said 108, and there was a nice range of people from beginners to yoga competitors. The teacher, Sara, was easy on the dialogue, told lots of stories and had a lot of wise things to say. Here are a few that I’m still thinking about.

1. What kind of tone does the voice in your head have? Not what does it say, but what kind of tone does it use?

WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THIS FOR A YOGA CLASS??

And yet, I’ve thought about it a lot. The voice in my particular head is a drill instructor. Lots of yelling and commands and very little mercy. For anything. I have to continually remind myself to be patient because I can get wrapped up in the internal yelling… I don’t think I’ve ever realized before how judgey and bossy my internal voice is.

2. Unless you’re dying, don’t skip camel. Calm in camel, calm in life.

I usually skip camel the first class (or two) back to Bikram. I hate the nauseous feeling and by that point in class everything else has been so hard that I give myself a break on the last really hard thing. But this time back, I didn’t have trouble with camel. Even in the really hot Portland studio. I don’t know why this might be but I’m hoping for the “calm in life” part.

3. The kidneys can only process 24oz of liquid in 90 minutes. If you need to drink more than that, you’re just using water to make yourself feel better mentally. Trying breathing instead.

4. Challenge yourself to do hard things. That’s how you grow.

Isn’t that last one the truest statement ever? So there you have it, a little science, a little encouragement and a little food for thought. The perfect Bikram happy meal.

Maine Lighthouses

Turns out this is as close as I got to Maine Maple Sunday

1802 House pancakes

Blueberry pancakes with Maine syrup at my b&b . Pretty solid breakfast so I’m ok with not seeing more sugar shacks.

Crazy cold today. The thermometer said 28. And this is the second day of spring! So… what to do in March when it’s 28 degrees out? If it had been cloudy, I’d have felt completely justified staying in watching movies, reading books, napping… You know, vacationing. But it was sunny and beautiful and I just didn’t think I could be inside all day. Plus, I didn’t really believe the weather could be that cold because the sun looked so great from a warm vantage point in the house while eating pancakes and sausage.

Note to self: in the future, believe the weather forecast.

I decided to get out and see Maine lighthouses, figuring that the drive along the shore would be gorgeous and I’d be in the car for most of the trip. This was all true until I reached Portland Head Light and realized that lighthouses, by their very nature, are not easily accessible by car so I’d have to climb up to them, which means being outside. Outside where the 28 degrees enhanced by 26mph winds actually feels like 9 degrees.

In a word, freezing and very windy.

Portland Head Light

It is lovely, though. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a native of Portland, thought so too because he spent a lot of time here and even wrote his poem “The Lighthouse” about this particular light. This is Maine’s most photographed lighthouse. Now you don’t have to brave the 9 degree temps to see it. You’re welcome.

The advantage to freezing weather is I had no trouble parking but it didn’t make me want to stay long. So I wandered about until I couldn’t feel my fingers and then hopped in the car and headed off to the next lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth.

Lobster Shack lighthouse

This lighthouse is on private property but allegedly is visible from the public Two Lights Park. I didn’t find that to be true and instead stumbled upon it looking for The Lobster Shack. The Lobster Shack wasn’t open so I’m calling this the Lobster Shack Lighthouse. I don’t know what it’s really called.

The next lighthouse was the most brutal experience and all my pictures are crappy and out of focus because the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t keep my phone steady.

Spring Point Ledge Light

Spring Point Ledge Light down a very cool granite rock way but this is as close as I got. I simply couldn’t stay warm or focus my camera so it seemed like a waste of time. In summer, this is probably amazing because that rock causeway is all giant pieces of granite with big spaces in between requiring a bit of good jumping judgement to get down there.

The final lighthouse of the day was the smallest cutest most petite lighthouse I’ve ever seen in my life.

Bug Light

And it’s called Bug Light! Adorable! I wanted to just scoop it up and put it in my pocket. The winds weren’t quite as fierce here, even though it’s just on the other side of the bay from Spring Point, so I walked up and around and stayed awhile with the bug. Seriously, so cute.

After a freezing lighthouse expedition, a beer and a dog sounded like heaven.

The Thirsty Pig

The Thirsty Pig in Portland specializes in local Shipyard brews and hot dogs of all flavors and compositions including a vegan dog, probably filled with flowers and berries. Mine was a hot Italian dog with Thai chili sauce to mix all my ethnicities and I washed it down with a porter. Warmed me right up. I highly recommend this place. Their bar is a tiny place full of copper and wood tables as well as bartenders that know their business.

If you happen to be in Maine looking for lighthouses in warmer weather, head down the coast to Kittery and see the Nubble Lighthouse

Nubble LighthouseYou can’t get close but the view is pretty, as is the drive down highway 1.

Let’s see if the third day of spring ends up any warmer, shall we?