Sunday, October 21, 2012

To Hell and Back in 90 min

"It's hot! Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking." Well, tell me what it feels like. "Fool, it's hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It's damn hot! It's so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It's that hot! Do you know what I'm talking about?" What do you think it's going to be like tonight? "It's gonna be hot and wet! That's nice if you're with a lady, but ain't no good if you're in the jungle!" 
 -Adrian Crounour in Good Morning Vietnam
I’ve been to hell and back.  It’s a 105 degree sauna that smells of cat urine and sweat.  They make you do yoga in there, yelling at you to stay in a precise line, to" lock your knees", and to constantly give more of yourself.  Satan’s real name is Bikram.
In a continued attempt to “flex my risk muscle” while saving money, I bought the Groupon for 20 classes of Bikram yoga.  I’m welcomed by a perky girl in a Lululemon outfit who informs me that the class will be 90 min. “I’m an ultra-runner,” I think to myself.  “I’ve got this.”  I watch as the previous class exits with drenched bodies and exhausted faces.  Many of them leave the room and just sit in the lobby dripping of defeat.   I’m becoming a little more nervous.
I find myself instantly nauseous as I enter the room and the rancid smell and humid heat penetrate my senses.  I cover my nose with my hand and watch from the back as other class members lay down their mats halfway across the lines on the carpet, layering them with thick towels.   It’s obvious that there is an unwritten sign pointing the beautiful people to the front of the room and the rest of us to the back.  Barbie with her long blond ponytail and red sports bra is on the first row, joined by the Marlboro Man, the Chinese Olympic diver, and the petite runner in her bikini swimsuit.    I find my spot in the back left hand corner, where it is said to be "cooler."
Beginning Bikram Yoga Classes consist of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises.  Water is allowed during class, but Bikram suggests that your first water break should only take place after Eagle Pose.  You can then take water as needed, but only in between poses.  Hand towels are optional (not be used as a crutch or security blanket), and students are encouraged to stay in the room, no matter how badly you start to feel.  By pose 13 I am completely dehydrated, and sitting on my mat with my hands on my forehead to keep from passing out. 
I find myself getting angry.  I mean really pissed! “Does it REALLY need to be this hot?  How can this even be good for me?  The teacher is a strict b*tch.  I don’t need this sh*t, I ran 10 miles this morning!”  And that’s when it hits me- why exactly does this make me so upset?  This is about being non-reactive.  It’s about coming to terms with distractions and pain.  It's about finding balance between what your brain tells you and your body believes.  Ultimately it’s about experiencing nirvana…in any situation.  Yet even though I'm supposed to lie in savasana at the end of class to “reap the benefits of the exercise,” I can’t stand it.  I want out like a kicking and screaming toddler and head to the nearest exit, sucking in oxygen like a drowing victim.  
I could write the same story for the  2nd and 3rd classes, but like an addict I find that I’m becoming hooked on the way I feel after class- as though I’ve had a great massage and every bad toxin has been purged from my body.   After two weeks, I start to see changes in my muscles, and by the 3rdweek I've moved to the middle of the room and can make it through a whole class without collapsing into fetal position in a hot mess on my mat. 
Bikram says: “try the way and eventually you will make it."  And so the dance with the devil continues.....I'm a glutton for punishment. 


  1. I think I'd like to try it. I think.

  2. I guess I'll try this after I try running 100 miles over a mountain.

  3. Great description. Being at it for 13 years!