It’s easy to romanticize bikram yoga if you haven’t done it in over a year. I made good on my promise to myself last night and got my 168-pound girl body downtown to get my bikram on. I was all excited to go – you know, except for the dealing with people (social anxiety), parking, traffic, mat-etiquette, skimpy-clothing parts. But the exercise I was confident I could get through this time – I would skip out of the studio – like LITERALLY skip – exhibiting that lightness-of-existence Mary Tyler Moore had in the opening sequence of her eponymous TV show.
Yeah, not as magical as I remember. 1.5 hours later and I felt like I had done pretty much all the exercise required of me for the next two years, all the while facing a mental challenge I have no interest in facing – watching my puffy, scantily-clad body (because each garment of clothing means you are one step closer to death when practicing bikram) perform the postures in the floor-to-ceiling mirror that spans the length of the studio. Bikram, please remove the mirrors.
Our teach was Loren – a bald, gay, thirty-something Swedish guy, yes – wearing only a blue/white/black speedo, who talked about how he had run down most of the cartilage in his back by his early 20s. Practicing bikram allowed his body the space it needed to let the cartilage heal and grow. Not sure if that is scientifically accurate, but I like to pretend that little outburst of info was aimed at me since we had just done a posture that never sits well with my knees, and I had verbally expressed incredulity that I would be expected to perform it.
So, the temp is 105. The humidity of the room is – ideally – 40%. You’re basically in Florida in the dead of summer and someone says – hey, let’s sustain a series of postures and repeat each twice until an hour and thirty minutes has gone by! Oh, and our warm-up should probably last 45 minutes – meaning no “mat work” (sitting down) until we hit the tail-end of our fun!
I wonder if Mr. Bikram knew what he was getting into when he decided that this workout was the way to go. I mean, there are just so many disturbing aspects to it. It elicits the most primitive-sounding breath; I like to call it “dinosaur breath.” It’s essentially a result of breathing in and out only through your nose. We all know the nasal passages don’t offer a lot of in the way of physical room for inhaling that much-needed oxygen and exhaling its painfully sad brother carbon dio. Since the violence of the dinosaur breath is much more pronounced in some bikram goers than others, I am operating under the assumption that we are working with some deviated septums as well.
Or maybe people just don’t care what they sound like. The truth is, when you do bikram, you are dying a little. Your heart is beating so quickly and violently that it feels like it will expand to such a size that it will crash into the back of your chest cavity, shattering the latter to pieces. So now you are a hot sweaty mess who has just torn her heart muscle and whose dying stomach is forced to attempt to digest the shattered bone fragments that are a result of the rib-cage accident.
When all was unsaid and done last night, I did leave bikram feeling differently. Just not the “right” differently. I felt like 1) I was going to barf, 2) I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted for the rest of the night and 3) having watched myself in the mirror for the past 1.5 hours, I had no choice but to continue to pay to engage in this type of activity for the next two months in an effort to look better in a bathing suit for my cruise to Jamaica alongside my negative size-8 bestie.
If what the bikram peeps say is true – that “practicing yoga in a heated room reveals to us our present condition,” I am clearly hanging on to life by a thin, thin thread. It has been nearly 24 hours and I still have a headache that, if it could speak, would say: “Excuse my German, but what in the fucking sam-hell fuck is going on?” But if I have to endure seeing an Asian woman stretch and contort for an hour while one of her shoulder-length black hairs sticks to the skin of her pale bare foot, my declining health is ok with me. Sticky skin and hair absolutely do not mix, and I don’t want to live in a world where they do. I will stay bikram-focused with my eyes closed for the next two months, listening as often as I possibly can to the French deej Kavinsky and his dark, intriguing “Nightcall” beats. I will wear my bathing suit on the cruise. Then I can die.