Friday, July 02, 2010

All the Crazies, Get Funky

Maybe you’ve taken Bikram yoga. Maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, all you need to know is this: Bikram yoga is yoga done in a sauna.

Intriguing, yes?

I’ve never been a super fan of yoga. I want to be a super fan of yoga. I want to be Zen-like and capable of bending my body into positions worthy of a Cirque du Soleil performer. I want to mindful and meditative. But mostly—let’s be honest—I just want to have the svelte figure of a practiced yogi. I mean, is that too much to ask?

When I’ve tried yoga in the past, I generally end up sorely disappointed when I leave with a headache, but without the religious experience I was totally expecting to have. Bikram sounded appealing because with the room heated to approximately the temperature of Hell, having a religious experience seemed somewhat unnecessary. There are a lot of warnings that start with the words, “If you feel dizzy…” and “If you feel nauseous…” Nausea? Lightheadedness? Who needs religion when you might pass out in your own vomit? Sign me up!

Truth is, I was nervous to try Bikram. I asked my sister and Keni, who have both taken the class before, about 40 questions: Will I pass out? How much water should I drink before the class? Does everyone wear booty shorts? Do people fall over? Ok, so if I fall over, I won’t be the first person to ever fall over in a class?

I arrived at Bikram Yoga Andersonville 25 minutes early hoping that someone would hold my hand and tell me everything was going to be OK. Instead, the studio was a madhouse. They recently offered a 20 classes for $40 Groupon—which I signed up for—and half the people there were brand spanking new just like me. The instructors and owner were just trying to manage the crowd so hand holding was not going to happen. I found my way to the locker room, hung up my stuff, and decided I had nothing else to do, but head into the studio.

So let’s get one thing straight… in case there was any question… the studio is hot. It is 105 degrees hot. Is it walking into a sauna in a desert hot. Going in early is a good thing. You can just lay on your mat and pretend you are at the beach, which is exactly what I did. Until we had to get up and start class, which pulled me out of my little napping on the beach fantasy.

The class takes you through a series of 26 poses and begins with this bizarre breathing exercise where you lift your head up while breathing in through your mouth and making a noise similar to the “Ahhhhh” sound that happens when you stick out your tongue for a doctor. Then you breathe out through your nose bringing your head back down. Of course, being new, one feels a little ridiculous, but clearly the more seasoned participants are totally into it. Because they are Zen like.

Then the standing series begins. I don’t know the “terminology” that goes along with these poses, but let me give you an idea of how this half of class went for Lou: Pose, pose, dizziness, sit down, sit, sit, stand up, pose, pose, dizziness, sit down, sit down through entire pose, finally stand up again, pose, pose, stand there not doing the pose deciding whether or not to sit down, sit down, stand up, pose, pose, pose. It sounds worse than it was. I walked into that room determined to listen to my body, to not be embarrassed when I needed to sit down, to not push myself and try to be a hero (who was I going to be a hero for?) or prove something to absolutely no one. I did exactly that. The second part of class is the floor series. There’s a lot of laying around and stretching. It’s still challenging, but not quite as challenging as the standing series. Now this, I can get on board with.

The class is an hour and a half. Because its yoga, we are all supposed to be Zen like, there is no clock. I had no idea how far along we were in the class at any given time. But ultimately, the pace of the class was pretty good, and I was not praying for sweet release. In fact, the heat of the class became wallpaper, in the background, not really something that I was focused on. Sure, I was drenched. My hair and clothes looked like I had just run through a rainstorm, but sweating makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something so the more the better. Moreover, there was something unique about my sweat in this class. It felt clean. I don’t know how else to describe this, but if you run, particularly if you run in humidity, you end up sweating like crazy. You taste like salt, and when (if) you eventually stop running, you are sticky, gross, icky. But in Bikram, my sweat felt like water. It didn’t taste salty, and it didn’t stick to me. It just rolled off.

I fully expected to leave class barely capable of driving myself home due to severe exhaustion, but that wasn’t the case at all. I had energy… enough energy to run back to my illegally parked car after I picked up a Pocket for dinner. I did have a slight headache, but that disappeared after about 20 minutes.

All in all, I’m hesitant to say I loved it because some people seem to think I’m crazy and of course, I would be all too willing to jump on board with this nonsense. I’m reserving the right to make that call at a different time. But I did like it, more than other yoga classes I have taken. And I will be going back.

Namaste.

Just kidding.

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