Hot? Sweaty? It’s Bikram Yoga Day!

I don’t think that Bikram Yoga has an official day, so I’m creating one for today:

5 for the minimum number of tattooed people in any Bikram class
2 for the number of times you do each posture
0 for the percentage of fluid left in your body after class.

Welcome to Bikram Yoga day!

I’ve decided to post my journal entries from my first week of Bikram. If you’re thinking of starting Bikram and you read this, remember that your mileage may vary. This is only my experience.

Day 1:
When you are going through a period of intense transition, does it help to spend time doing the same thing each day? Will that same thing change? Even though it’s the same, because I am different does that make the experience different?

Class 1:
I don’t feel like a yoga newbie but I’ve not spent time developing yoga skills beyond taking classes here and there for the past 20 years. I chose Bikram because people I like and respect love it, because it sounds like a challenge and because I want to go into a studio and follow directions. No thinking.

After a week of saying I was going to go but not going, I finally figured out how to get there and got on the subway today.  Weirdly, the studio didn’t feel as hot as I expected. It was warm and humid but I expected almost steam room type heat and it didn’t feel that extreme. The front desk guy came in and it seems he’s the teacher. He explained a few things for us newcomers and said the main rules are to try and to stay in the room. If we have to sit or kneel down, do it, but don’t leave the room.

I found the first breathing exercise difficult, coordination of movement and breath to a 6 count is tough for me. After that, we jumped into the poses and holy sweat-tastic batman! Sweat pouring off every inch of my skin. Muscles and ligaments and tendons pushed and pulled, falling over in the balance poses, cramming my sweaty face against my sweaty legs, trying to keep my eyes open and my chin up or tucked and my palms glued together in prayer position literally took every bit of brain power I had in me.

By the time we got to savasana, I was radiating heat. Like a furnace. Like someone lit me on fire from the inside. I could feel the blood pounding in my head and even sweat didn’t cool me down. The last half of the class was the worst. Every lying pose is separated by savasana so you get a brief moment of lying down listening to your heart pound and then you straight leg sit up and go into the next pose.

Internally it goes like this:

Pose: “Oh god oh god, I can’t bend down…
Savasaa – Oh thank god. I think my head might explode. I wonder how cool it is outside.
Pose: Literally.can’t.make.my.body.go… argh
Savasana: Can’t wait to get outside
Pose: I think I’m going to die
Savasana: Don’t make me get up again
Pose: I just… it won’t… I… oh god…
Savasana: The outside of this hellish room is a mythical place I’ll never visit again. I bet it’s cold out there. If I survive it’s going to feel SO good.

I did survive and it was so good. It took me 15 minutes to stop sweating as I poured cold water down my throat. Then I crowded into the tiny changing area with 17 times as many girls as before, some leaving this class and others getting ready for the next class. Pulling on tight jeans over wet skin? Good times. Left, still sweating. Got to the train, still sweating and now shivering too. Got home, still sweating.

Class 2:
So much easier. HOT and SWEATY but didn’t feel like I would die. I do wonder how I have managed to stay alive for 39 years when clearly I can’t breathe properly. Those breathing exercises take it all out of me.

Class 3:
OMG. Wanted to die. Was it the bourbon I had last night? Was the room hotter? Was it because I felt hungry going into class? The teacher opened the door a couple of times to let cool air come in. That has to be an indication that the room is too hot.

SO HOT. I sweated like crazy and spent my usual time looking around to see if anyone else was sweating as much as me. I’m always convinced that I’m sweating more than anyone else in the room. But then class ended and I heard water pouring onto a yoga mat. A guy near the door picked up his towel and a liter of water fell onto his mat. He then dropped the towel back onto the mat, rolled it all up together, tucked it under his arm and carried it out as water poured out of one end  creating a river all down the hallway behind him. How is he alive after sweating that much? I’ve never seen so much sweat from one person. Ever. Even I didn’t sweat that much! Crazy.

When people at work ask me what I did today and I say “Bikram,” they all nod and say “Ah.”  No one ever says “What else?”

Day 4
WORST CLASS SINCE THE FIRST ONE. So angry about the heat. Fighting it so hard. Hating it so much. Literally laying in Savasana with clenched fists trying to let the tension go. Terrible.

I was also annoyed by the curvy flexitron in front of me whose half moon pose was an actual half moon. She could nearly touch her head to her butt. But I got the feeling that she wasn’t feeling it today and mostly came to show off her flexibility. I found her very distracting.

My envy of her flexibility, my rage at the heat and my lack of tolerance twisted up into this giant thing that I fought with until we got to savasana. I think the heat opens your emotions too. It’s hard to be in your own space when the heat and the other people in the room all encroach on it. I suppose if I were a proper yogi I would say that I ALLOWED her to encroach on my mental space. But really, I think she just did it on purpose…

End of week one.

I next practiced Bikram on my road trip with a class in Virginia and you can read about it here. I still struggle with the heat but it’s so different now. Funny how a couple months of classes can change you. I will leave you with a phrase from my teacher in Bellingham that I think applies to life, not just to pushing yourself harder and deeper in Bikram:

If you can, you must.

Hmm? Hmmm? Deep thoughts…

Happy Bikram Yoga Day!

The weather outside is frightful

I woke up to rain falling on top of snow, turning back to snow, turning into hail and then to rain. An icy hazy crust stuck to everything but the freezing watery slushy disaster of the streets didn’t seem to hamper traffic or pedestrians. And so it continued all day.

The perfect day to be inside with a coffee and a good book.

But instead I wandered all over the city running errands, seeing people and fighting the elements. But late afternoon after I’d gone the wrong direction twice on Houston looking for the train station (how is this possible? You’d have to be me to find out…) and had my umbrella turned inside out three times, dousing me with hail each time, I gave up on NYC and started thinking about leaving.

Tomorrow marks the official first day of my road trip and also the first day of my Bikram yoga challenge. I plan to do Bikram yoga every day for 30 days while I’m driving across the country (with one excepted weekend that I’ll talk more about later). It will likely take me longer than 30 days to make this trip and I may decide to do Bikram every day that I’m on the road, but I’m going to see how I feel after 30 days.

Bikram yoga – for those of you who don’t know – is a codified form of yoga consisting of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises done in 90 minutes in rooms heated between 100 and 105 degrees.

You can see a 3 minute time lapse video of a Bikram yoga class here.

That’s the what, and here’s the why.

I find Bikram incredibly difficult. I don’t like being hot. I started classes in Toronto and I find that it’s hard for me to be in the moment. I want to think about all the things that I’d rather be doing instead of Bikram. And how cool it must be outside. And wonder how much longer I have to lay here and sweat before I can get up and go. And how the girl standing in front of me got so flexible. And why no one seems to sweat as much as I do.

Something about the heat forces me to my wit’s end. It breaks me down. I find my emotions coming to the surface and I have to remind myself to let things go. To be in the moment. To be mindful. That the benefit of any exercise comes from being present while I do it. I want to do Bikram because when I do something this strictly codified that’s supposed to be exactly the same in every studio, if something is different from one class to the next, the difference is in me. Will that actually be true? We’ll see.

And besides, why wouldn’t I take an epic road trip and make it even more impossible? It’s what I do!

First stop: Falls Church, Virginia and along the way, possibly a castle.

Stay warm. See you tomorrow.