Bikram=S&M (And not in a good way)

This just in from someone who read my vitriolic post detailing my most recent bikram experience: I am NOT the only one who reacts violently to Bikram philosophy and practice. My fellow Bikram-critic offers a particularly scathing account of her own experience in the torture chamber, confirming my belief that this yoga causes its students physical and emotional harm.

Plus, Jill’s post is hysterical. She compares bikram to sadomasochism, an apt and sexy metaphor, though I simply cannot abide dignifying this practice with any kind of appeal.

Healthy S&M:

Unhealthy S&M:

Written by Jill in Queensland, Australia:

I’m just home from my second and last ever Bikram yoga class. I hate it. Maybe it’s for some people–competitive sadomasochists–but I’m not one of them. My experience was gruelling and miserable.

First of all, the room is heated to ridiculously hot temps–around 40* C or 105* F, and it’s humid in there. So take that into consideration first and foremost. Secondly, the class lasts 90 mins (Supposedly. Today’s was actually about 105 mins.) On top of that you’re doing yoga. So you sweat A LOT, like more than you’ve ever sweated in your life. The heat works with the poses to really get deep into your muscle fibers, and like a good massage, it can bring up all sorts of latent repressed emotions. I didn’t realise I had latent repressed emotions until I found myself crying halfway through the class. I sat down to have a rest, and I got reprimanded for not trying hard enough. It wasn’t about the intensity of the stretches; I was crying because of something else–I don’t know what else, but something old. And then I wiped my face with the towel and I was reprimanded again. She said, “Jill, that’s the last time I’ll let you wipe your face with that towel. You are trying to make this easier on yourself.” And then she goes on about how when Bikram himself comes here in November he’s going be looking for this and that and yada yada yada about perfect poses. Jesus, lady, I’m just trying to stay in the freakin’ hot as hell room and understand your accent and follow your machine-gun-of-an-instruction-series-speech here. I’m not trying to win any yoga competitions. And she continues about how when the competitors are up on stage doing yoga—wait a minute, on STAGE doing YOGA? What kind of yoga is this?! Every other yoga I’ve ever tried has been gentle and non-competitive and relaxing. I realised from the get-go that this was not a relaxing form of yoga, but I was not expecting it to be stressful! How the hell are you supposed to relax when there’s not for one second a break in the instructions—talking, talking, talking–the instructors don’t actually demonstrate the poses because then they couldn’t talk you through them. So you have to listen and hopefully understand them when they say weird things like “Make yourself look like a Japanese ham sandwich.”

So anyway, I’m embarrassed because I was already crying and then I was reprimanded in front of the class for wiping my face with a towel. Excuse me. And then I get on with it, holding back the tears mixed with sweat, and after another 10 mins or so, I start to feel dizzy. My fingers are tingly, I started getting tunnel vision. I thought I was gonna pass out from dehydration. So I took a sip of water between poses and was told off again. Seriously? You can’t wipe the sweat off your face or take a sip of water unless she gives you permission? Nazi yoga. That’s what that is. Nazi yoga.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I tried to modify a pose so as not to further strain my ankle, which I twisted about a month ago and is still sore. There are apparently no modifications allowed, well, according to her anyway. I tried to modify the posture so it wouldn’t hurt and she reprimanded me. I said aloud, “I have an ankle injury,” and she ACTUALLY SAID to me, “Don’t give me backchat! When I was in India, I helped a girl with cerebral palsy do yoga, so I don’t want to hear about your sore ankle…” and went on a diatribe about her experiences which completely humiliated me in front of the rest of the class. I am an adult woman. I am not to be talked to like an 8-year-old child. Maybe it works for some people, but public humiliation is not motivating for me. From then on, I kept my mouth shut, endured the rest of the class, left as soon as it was over and sat in the car and cried.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the idea of that kind of yoga is to preen participants for competition and by making it hard, you weed out the ones who don’t want to go on stage and “perform” yoga in front of a panel. That is NOT for me. That is NOT what I have ever experienced yoga to be. I had an awful experience and I will NOT be going back. F*cking backchat. Grrrrrr…the nerve!!!


5 thoughts on “Bikram=S&M (And not in a good way)

  1. Wow. That sounds just awful! I’ve never done Bikram myself but I know a lot of people who love it. I’ve also had a lot of patients who’ve injured themselves doing Bikram. I’m a physical therapist and I’ve been pretty horrified by some anecdotes I’ve heard about the Bikram technique.

    • Thank you very much for your comment! Wowza, I had no idea that some people who do Bikram have actually consulted a physical therapist. I think that’s a sign of how harmful Bikram can be. Also, I’m LOVING your blog. I really appreciate your dialogue about yoga from the perspective of someone in the medical field. Thank you!

      • Thanks! Truth be told, I’ve had patients who do all kinds of yoga: vinyasa, hatha, etc. Injuries are sometimes inevitable but I like to try minimize that chance.

  2. I wish you had a better experience. It sounds like the teacher just wasn’t the right fit for you. I think you will have a different opinion if you find that “right” teacher who will give you the validation and reminders that you are getting the benefit of yoga by staying in the room and breathing…or that by simply balancing in the first part of the posture is getting benefit all the same.
    I was fortunate enough to have that dialogue and was actually told that experiences, such as crying, are natural during a Bikram class and the teacher even told a personal account of such.
    Thanks for the blog…i like reading different experiences and perspectives of Bikram Yoga.

    • I’m so happy you commented, Erin. It’s refreshing to read your perspective on Bikram, especially a perspective that isn’t fueled by fanaticism, as so many opinions of Bikram are. Maybe I’ll try to find a Bikram instructor who is right for me, though it’ll be tough to get myself into a Bikram studio again! Thanks for checking out College Kid Yoga!

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