Wednesday night, my favorite instructor EVER and I cashed in a Groupon we purchased for the same bikram studio and attended a class. Yes, I have TWO Groupons for two DIFFERENT bikram studios-one was a gift and one I naively bought for myself as mid-semester stress ravaged my mind and body. If I had any experience with bikram before I paid for 30 days of unlimited visits to hell, I would have avoided the offer.
The above statement clearly illustrates my feelings regarding my latest bikram experience, as well as my opinion regarding the
cult discipline of bikram yoga. While others warned me of particularly hard-core and strict bikram instructors, I had yet to experience a drill sergeant barking poses at me and scrutinizing my posture with the intensity of an S.S. troop. The instructor of the first class I attended used a rather soft and monotone, yet firm voice to guide us through the 26 asanas. Sure, I could tell that Henri got off on planting himself on the platform at the front of the room, calling out the guy behind me on his slightly bent knees, and rhapsodizing about the importance of oxygenated blood. But his demureness would have rendered him completely unqualified for Hitler’s regime.
Last night, however, I unknowingly patronized a studio occupied by Bikram Fascists. The minute our instructor entered the room, she ticked off the rules. Her voice boomed. 1. No one leaves the room. 2. A large towel MUST cover our mats. 3. New students, MOVE to the back. 4. Experienced students, get your asses to the front. 5. You may drink water…though there IS an official “water break” so wait until then. 6. NO ONE LEAVES THE ROOM.
Homegirl meant business. And she was taking no prisoners. Standing in front of me, dictating when we could swallow and blink, was the Bikram Nazi.
My body stiffened as she patrolled each row of her students, commanding us to adjust every part of our bodies in every pose she called in order to achieve and maintain perfect posture. She (loudly) sped through an overwhelming number of physical improvements we needed to make in each pose: Suck in, lift the chin, lock the knees, eyes forward, don’t look away from the mirror, elbows down, Heil Bikram!
Bikram Nazi even targeted a few students by name. She praised those with proper posture and the fortitude to literally “push past the pain,” and admonished those with slightly imperfect alignment. Fortunately, I escaped her direct, customized scrutiny. However, I felt paranoid throughout the entire class that she would call me out on slightly rotated front foot (toes forward!) in Triangle Pose. I remained unscathed, though the woman caused me much internal stress.
In her defense, Bikram Nazi offered the class a few words of encouragement as we took our final Savasana Pose, though I saw them as back-handed compliments. She went on and on about how surprised she was that we did so well, especially because when she walked in, she groaned at the sight of several new students who might struggle. Yes, I guess we newbies illustrated our subservience to her satisfaction.
While Bikram Nazi’s
sadistic passionate belief in this kind of yoga speaks to her authentic desire to indoctrinate immerse her students in the bikram philosophy, her aggressive, regimented teaching style completely subverts the true goal of yoga: to unite the body and mind, and ultimately to unite people, with love.
So my dalliance with bikram continues to bore AND rile me, an odd, conflicting mix of emotions. But if I’ve learned anything from my experience with this discipline of yoga, it’s that nothing makes sense.
Though I still have 28 days to enjoy my Groupon. I wonder if I can survive another 90 minutes of Fascist-inspired exercise, a regimen that dictators around the world would find effective in stifling independent thought and self-confidence.