Thursday, February 24, 2011

My first experience with Bikram's torture

Last month, I attended my first Bikram class downtown on a week-long intro special. I went 3 times that week.

The first time I attended a Bikram class I approached it thinking "well I've done yoga many times before, so I should have no problem with this Bikram stuff." I was mistaken from the first breathing exercise. The synchronization of arms, head, breathing, AND my elbows are supposed to touch?! I hate multitasking choreography, that's why I do yoga! If the first breathing exercise was any indication of things to come I was in a for a complicated 87 more minutes. Luckily the rest of the standing series relatively reassembled other forms of yoga I've done. Even luckier that it was my first ever Bikram class and I took to heart the instructions to first timers; breathe (difficult) and stay in the room (more difficult), everything else is optional (phew! thank god). Let me add that I absolutely abhor excessive heat, summertime and otherwise. I tend to get irritable and cranky with prolonged exposure to humid heat. I have only had one experience that could compare with the environment of Bikram. It was the summer day I rode through Sixflags Safari with JW and we were instructed to keep our windows shut because we were surrounded by potentially dangerous animals. Did I mention it was summertime and our car had no AC? We were torn between driving faster (potentially hitting another species) to get out of the hell we created for ourselves and losing the experience of leisurely enjoying the sight of exotic animals in their "natural" habitat. We opted for the latter and I basically looked exactly like I had just come out of a Bikram class (angry).

Back to the yoga. I've never been one to give up during a physical challenge, so I can say that I actively made an attempt (however absolutely wrong) at every posture of the series.

I was duped.

The two minute savasana between standing and spine strengthening series tricked my yoga intuition. In all other yoga classes I've attended savasana generally means "almost over, relaxed stretching time, ie. no more challenges." But in Bikram the two minute savasana is more like "half-time" or really "third-time" because there is still lots of effort to put forth to finish strong. Uggggh, and then the 20 second savasana in between every posture had me thinking "Okay, this is it. You can't possibly have me relax for 20 more secs and then expect me to apply full effort again." But that is exactly what happened after every innumerable sit-up and muscle engaging stretch. So needless to say, the floor series had my mind boggled until the final savasana.

My first victory, and battle scars.

Coming out of my first Bikram class I felt a bit out of sorts. Like I had just been to battle with a flamethrower. My body was soaked, hair a mess, throat dry and kind of icky. I wanted to limit my movement as much as possible for fear that another muscle burn that day. When I got home I was convinced I had a fever and my throat continued to feel funny into the next day. I just kept trying to analyze my senses to figure out what virus I had caught in that humid germ breeding studio room. What I had caught- was a load of excuses. I didn't return the next day as they recommend ("for full benefits") because I made excuses about the practice making me sick.

Curiosity brought me back.

At some point during my first class I told myself "self, congrats for getting this far, if you can finish this class decently I promise, heck, I swear on iPhone that I will never think or suggest attempting this Bikram hellhole ever again." The weekend came and I fell into a monotony of lazy weekend activities. And then the thought hit me Sunday morning. "What if I went to just one more Bikram class? I mean, just to see what all the hoopla is about returning. They did say improvements would be noticeable after just one practice...hmmm" I went back to Bikram that afternoon as a personal experiment to dispel the claims that each class improves you. At least that's what I kept telling my self. The reality is there was another layer to my thought process that day. Part of me, after the ill sensations subsided, decided that my first Bikram class was fun, intriguing, challenging, and fun (oh god, why?). From then onward I approached each class with varied intentions depending on my feelings. Usually I resolved to just engage, not expect miracles and see where it gets me. Other days I set little goals of which directions to follow better (suck in stomach, weight on heels, come up more on the toes etc).

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