In lieu of my usual Touch Your Toes Friday yoga pose description and explanation (though I realize today is Saturday), I dedicate this post to describing my first time doing Bikram yoga. Yes, up until about 9:30 yesterday morning, I was a Bikram virgin. I mostly attend vinyasa classes, along with a few ashtanga classes here and there.
I originally planned to title this post: Bikram=Boring. That sentiment pretty much sums up my reaction to this style of yoga. However, I realize that title might generalize the discipline of bikram, thus turning off any potential readers. And as a budding yoga blogger, I welcome all the readers I can get!
With the help of (another) lovely Groupon, gifted to me by my friend, fellow college grad, and bikram yoga accomplice, Jenna, we attended this class basically for free. After registering, admitting to our instructor that we have yet to swipe our bikram v-cards, and dumping our stuff in the locker room, we entered the studio.
The heat hit us hard. The 105-degree room certainly overwhelmed me at first. And my body gleamed with what seemed like buckets of sweat. However, once class started and we began to move, my body adapted. Expelling a significant amount of toxins from my body felt fantastically cleansing. In fact, the heat barely bothered me throughout the 90 minutes of asanas because there was no cardio portion or advancement of poses.
Which brings me to my next point: I was bored throughout most of the class. Not because the sign on the studio door read: “Silence.” Not because that rule was enforced, rendering me on the verge of bursting with laughter as soon as class began and Jenna and I made eye contact in the studio mirror. Not because our instructor, though very passionate and nice, repeated the same script, in a rather monotone voice, as we took each pose twice: once on the right, once on the left, on the right, then on the left.
What bored me to tears was the second half of class, after we completed our standing poses and went down to the mat to finish our last 13 positions. Wow, I’ve never taken as many savasanas as I took in that class. After each stretching or compression pose, our instructor told us to immediately release and take savasana (lie flat on our backs) for several seconds so our oxygenated blood could “do its job.”
I understand the importance of allowing blood to rush throughout our bodies and rejuvenate us (I think), but lying down immediately after taking a pose frustrated me. It also caused me some pain, as I usually release my muscles in Camel Pose by arching my lower back. But no, I had to get on my back. Jenna and I definitely exchanged a few eye rolls as we made our way from some spinal twist or kneeling pose back to savasana. This would have been fine if we were doing poses that actually demanded more stamina and visibly strengthened my muscles. Though the heat certainly challenged me, it failed to raise my heart rate and work my entire body.
However, I think bikram serves as an exercise in patience and staying present. I realize that the leaders of the bikram world present bikram yoga as a purifying practice that focuses on working the internal organs rather than an athletic practice that focuses on the externa organs. So I might need to change my perspective on how this kind of yoga can help me achieve optimum health, and what optimum health actually means.
Maybe next time (oh yeah, I’m going back-sigh, the benefits and downfalls of the Groupon), I can use this half of the class to find some peace in the floor poses punctuated by the many savasanas. Maybe I can treat bikram as a more of a mental practice than a physical one. I might use this discipline to bolster my regular practice of vinyasa and ashtanga to deepen my connection to yoga overall. Perhaps I can challenge myself to breathe deeply and consciously through every pose and every savasana and repeat some kind of mantra in my head like,”I am here.”
Or maybe bikram just isn’t for me. Though I still have 9 more classes to go…all hail the Groupon…right?