Monday, July 10, 2006

What he said:

"Go back to your mat RIGHT NOW. There is no leaving the room during my class."

- Scary-Ass Bikram Teacher to Yoga Chickie
Having skipped practice yesterday due to incredible stiffness and exhaustion due to eight hours of driving as part of the final leg of the big Sleepaway Camp Tour, I decided that today I would "do" Bikram (notice I didn't call it "Bikram yoga") instead of strictly observing the Moonday.

And boy was it fun!!!! Um, oh, wait.

The teacher was an 85 pound, 25 year old guy wearing tight short shorts (not exactly Speedos, but pretty intense nonetheless). At first, I was really enjoying his style - not too too talkative, not too too overzealous with the promises of eternal life if only one practices Bikram's yoga six times per week. However, as much as I was enjoying his style, I was not enjoying the heat. I don't understand why I can no longer tolerate extreme heat, when I was able to make it through Bikram classes just fine all through the second three months of chemo, and sometimes even the same DAY as a chemo treatment. But it is what it is, and what it is is an intense detoxification via sweat and water replenishment (can you say 80 ounces in 90 minutes) that is incredibly unpleasant and uncomfortable for me but that I feel that I must endure every now and then. And I'm using the term, "endure" quite loosely. By the time we got to the second pose - the one where you bend your spine in four different directions - I was already sucking wind. I could barely hold my arms up over my head. I certainly couldn't tolerate bending my spine in four different directions (although I did enjoy bending into Uttanasana, which they call "Dandayama Bipaktapada Paschimotanasana"!!).

But I did my best to stick with it. I managed to finish the "warm-up" portion of the class (including three different versions of Uttkatasana, and Garudasana - eagle pose), the part before which you are forbidden to drink any water. And I even got through the first posture in the standing series (a version of Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana). But when it came time for Natarajasana (which Bikram calls "Dandayamana Dhanurasana"), I found myself phoning in the first side of it, just holding my right foot in my right hand and lifting my left arm over my head, but doing nothing in the way of stretching or opening the shoulders. And then an alarm went off in my head. It was time to get the hell outta there, at least long enough to gasp some oxygen back into my system and stop the cooking process by stepping into the air conditioned lobby (the way one stops a hard-boiled egg from cooking by plunging it into cold water).

That's when Scary-Ass Bikram Teacher stood between me and the door, stared down at me menacingly and spoke the words to which I could only reply, "Sorry, but I don't want to die in your class."

I stayed out in the delightfully cool lobby during the rest of Natarajasana and "Tuladandasana" (people who practice authentic hatha yoga will know this one as Digasana, or Virabadrasana III) and then crept back into the room and finished the class with what dignity I could muster.

But it doesn't seem like this Bikram thing is going too well for me.



Tiffersll said...

lol...I haven't taken a bikram class since February I think...I think it might be too hard for me to go back!

Amit D. Chaudhary said...

This brought back memories, I did a post on my experience:

Though my own hit ratio of good Bikram Teachers is 66%! :)


Kim said...

i've never been to a bikram class and don't think i ever will go, mostly because my bodily thermostat runs high in general and i get sweaty enough in the vinyasa classes i go to that are heated to 75-80, but to be honest each new thing i hear about bikram (the guy or the practice, actually) just makes it sound worse and worse!

by the way, this is kind of a stupid question, but why does he have different names for the poses?

yoga chickie said...

I think that Bikram serves a useful purpose - it exposes people to yoga. Also, it does provide a powerful detox. Unfortunately, the drill sargent mentality is offputting to me, as is the dumbed-downness of it. But as long as I don't take it as "yoga" per se, and expect it to fill my need for yoga, then I can go once in a while and get something out of it. I think. At least for now.

I don't know why he renamed the classically named postures! Nor do I know why he mispronounces Savasana (he pronounces it Ssssah-vasanah.


Richard said...

Hey. Some of us lke Bikram...all forms of yoga started somewhere. Even will no doubt be revered at some far flung future date. :-) Anywho, glad you stared down the facist teacher!! Good on ya!

Kim said...

i don't have anything against other people getting something out of bikram... i just never want to go myself!

christine said...

does anyone have information or educated opinion on bikram for obsese people??? this may sound odd... it does, in fact, to me. i'm learning to teach yoga, so have become the touchstone for everyone at work who has ever had a thought about yoga - this is nice as our job is about 180 degrees away & the topic is a welcome change of pace. 2 folks - who each easily tip above 280 lbs - have been begging me to take them to a bikram class. they've never even been in down dog before! plus, we're paramedics, so understand physiology and how obesity and heat each tax it. i've demurred, suggesting very gentle classes to begin, telling them that it sounds dangerous unless you're already in pretty darn good shape. it kicks my butt (until i laugh out loud to myself about the prim, fatless person clapping his hands in staccato beats for us to change position.... all under the watchful gaze of a photo of a very plump, apparently jovial man who i must assume is ... bikram?!?)

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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