“Look in the mirror, lift your chest, find your ribs!”
Find my ribs? I haven’t seen my ribs since middle school. I am pretty sure I am dying. I am pretty sure I lost some common sense somewhere. Why? Because I am voluntarily in a room heated to 105 degrees (40% humidity) doing Bikram yoga. None of the other participants look as though they are dying but sweat pours off of everyone freely.
“Lock your knees! Lock your knees! Lock. Your. Knees!”
I, too, am dripping with sweat. I hate sweating. I don’t know if my knees are supposed to lock on their own or if I was supposed to get a lock for them at the front desk. I hate the heat. Yet here I am paying for this. I try twisting myself into a pretzel position without much success. I find I have lousy balance as I tip over, right myself, tip over again. I am frustrated yet something about this appeals to me: I feel surprisingly challenged.
“From the side, you look like a Japanese ham sandwich! No gaps between your body, your head to your knees, your arms on your sides. No gaps!”
What the hell is a Japanese ham sandwich? Do the Japanese eat ham? When I first saw that there are only 90 minute classes offered at Bikram studios, I gulped. Ninety minutes in heat? I enrolled last year in a 30 day yoga challenge with disastrous results. It took me 15 months and Xanax to return to yoga. I had heard of hot yoga (also called sweaty yoga for very obvious reasons) and thought trying that instead of my previous type might help me transition back into a practice. My first try was a languid session of sweating. The main challenge in that studio seemed to be to fight boredom.
“Savassana! Find your stillness. Do not blink!”
My first Bikram class stirred a challenge: two sets of 26 poses done the same way each and every class. Huh, I thought, I could see my progress in each class since I’d be doing the same thing each time. Yet, entering into my first class I can’t help but notice two things: 1) most of these people are in great shape, and 2) they wear very little clothing. I briefly wonder if I missed something, I know there is nude yoga, but little clothing yoga? Ahh, the heat. We’re going to sweat.
“Lift your leg! Higher! Lifffft, lifffft, release!”
I huff and puff in my corner (where else would I go with all these mirrors?). I pull and stretch and try not to look at my watch. How much longer does this go on? I perform wind-removing pose and sure enough, some around me do release wind! It’s hard not to giggle like a schoolgirl. Grateful to be on the floor and no longer standing, I twist and bend through a series of animal poses. I’m a tortoise, a rabbit, a camel. Then I hear the magic words, last series! Last! Finished, we are invited to return to savassana, or corpse pose. Corpse is correct. I am amazed to find I am still alive.
“Bikram called his classes ‘torture chambers’, saying you did 90 minutes of hard work for this: Lay down, let the floor hold you and relax.”
I sink into the floor, still panting, still sweating. And a little voice says to me, You go, girl, that was some tough shit!
Images from BikramYoga.com