Last week, instead of doing my regular workout routine, I switched things up and tried my first Bikram yoga class. Info online had said to hydrate like crazy throughout the day, and to bring a beach towel along with a yoga mat to class. I showed up fifteen minutes early to fill out a waiver form, and chatted nervously with the yoga teacher, a slender man with a gray ponytail and soft demeanor. This won’t be so bad, I thought.
Once the class started, I was immediately taken aback. First, the class faced a mirror, similar to a dance studio, and we were instructed to gaze at ourselves the whole time. The lights were bright — cafeteria bright — and the guy to my right was in a very small speedo.
I didn’t realize this, but Bikram yoga is nothing like a regular yoga flow, instead, you go in and out of poses, repeating each one, and the teacher talks the entire time. I looked it up afterwards to see if it was my particular teacher’s annoying personal style, but it looks like it might be a signature Bikram thing. It reminded me of the last fifteen seconds of an infomercial; “Arms-up-by-your-ears-squeeze-your-elbows-pull-your-stomach-in-breathe-breathe-breathe-squeeze-inhale-suck-your-stomach-in-chin-forward-knees-locked-knees-always-locked-lock-lock-LOCK-THOSE-KNEES” while sneaking in phrases like, “your soul brought you here” and “if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.”
One thing: I was surprised to find that the heat element didn’t bother me as I thought it would — instead of feeling suffocated like I often do in the dry heat of a sauna, it kind of felt like we were doing yoga in the amazon (there were several humidifiers set up in the space). Fun fact: once the class starts, you can hear everyone’s sweat dripping off their bodies and hitting the floor. YEAH.
As I gathered my things at the end of class, the teacher was adamant that I come back and give it at least two more tries. “See you tomorrow morning!” he chimed as I ducked out, desperate for fresh air.
I get, or I think I get, what Bikram is about. The bright lights, the mirror, the eye contact, the focused, drawn out poses…the teacher mentioned something about it being a “moving meditation” and I can see how that’s true, how narrowing in on your own breath and experience turns it into meditative experience. Clearly, this takes practice. For now, I’m going to keep searching for my dream workout…maybe sans the speedos.
Have any of you tried it? What were your thoughts? I would love to hear!