The twelve-year anniversary of my very first Bikram Yoga class is this Friday, Valentine’s Day, and so, to honor this practice that has been part of my life ever since, I’m writing my very own Valentine to Bikram Yoga.
Before I begin, I want to say it’s no secret Bikram Yoga and its creator, Bikram Choudhury are taking some flack in the media these days: he’s been accused in several sexual harassment lawsuits. Bikram teacher Jenny Boyle writes a gorgeous article on the subject, In Defense of Bikram Yoga. I hope the accusations are proven false, but even if they’re not, it will not change the way I feel about this yoga. We’d probably all rather have our gurus be democratic vegetarians as opposed to drunks or womanizers, but by those standards, one might find themselves following the likes of Adolph Hitler (a democratically elected vegetarian) and eschewing such leaders as Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy.
But I digress. I’m not here to defend Bikram or his yoga. I’m here to tell you why I personally LOVE it. Why I am ADDICTED to it and do not ever want to live without it. I am one of those students Ms. Boyle mentions: there is something I get from Bikram Yoga that I cannot get anywhere else.
Bikram is performed in a room heated to between 100 to 105 degrees. In forty-percent humidity. Class is ninety-minutes long. If sweat isn’t rolling off my elbows by Eagle, I’m bummed it isn’t hot enough. And even though I’m still sweating twenty-minutes after class ends, I feel completely detoxified. Plus I always get my own seat on the El on the way home.
Even though it’s the same twenty-six postures over and over, I’m a different person every single time I show up. Some days the back strengthening floor series slays me. Some days, it’s my favorite part. Those same twenty-six postures are never the same. I know the posture I resist the most on any given day is the one I need the most.
Bikram yoga takes me out of my own head—I hear only the dialogue, the teacher’s instructions and must focus on my breath—keeping it normal, steady, calm, or else stand-by and watch as this yoga takes me to my knees.
I’ve tried other forms of yoga. Repeatedly. They do not resonate with me in the way Bikram does. They feel too easy. Too busy. Too something else that I’m not. For whatever reason, when I walk out of a Bikram class I feel energized, happy and glowing. I feel like I’ve left whatever troubled thoughts were plaguing me before class in a pile of sweat on the floor.
After hitting the half century mark, I marvel I can stand in Head-to-Knee pose for a full minute, do a back-bend and touch my head to the floor while standing up. (In the words of one co-worker, Everyone’s wife should be able to do that.) Every single class is a celebration of my good fortune.
Bikram Yoga is my yoga. And I LOVE it.
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