To Bikram or not to bikram? Or, is it possible to die practicing bikram? That da question…


Here I am. Tuesday afternoon. Sitting on the couch, pulling on my dirty, ratted hair.

I’m sick. No, I don’t have the flu or the runs or conjunctivitis. I did bikram last night.

I swear…I absolutely do not know why I go. Bikram yoga is cocaine, and baby, I’m freebasing.

not a product placement until Downy contacts me

To be fair, I’ve done it three times in the past two weeks, so I’m kind of a recreational user. But the first two times I did it, I noticed that that sticky part in my neck/upper right shoulder/trapezius where vertebra or other body things are probably fused together and at which point I don’t really have mobility isn’t hurting anymore. And I can kind of move my head through the knot now. Furthermore, the feeling that through the bikram asana I’m wringing my body like a sponge and squeezing out all the “toxins” (aughts’ buzz word if ever there was one) for eventual “elimination” is as delightful as the feeling one gets when her just-showered body steps into a set of Downy-Infusion-fresh pjs.

So now that I’m getting somewhat used to the idea of becoming a bone fide Bikram practitioner, I’m asking the hard questions, mostly out of necessity. How close can one come to death while practicing bikram?

Last night, so as not to frustrate myself with unwelcome glimpses of my fleshy flesh, I wore my “Free Love” t-shirt from 2007 with my Lucy track pants. Both are black. Keep in mind, no one else is wearing pants. And really no one is wearing a t-shirt. In fact, when teach started the class, he asked if any of us were coming in for just our second, third or even fourth session while looking at me directly, presumably waiting for my little goth bikram hand to go up. My choice of attire communicated a certain innocence and naiveté in my practice, and I felt like others wanted to pounce on my vulnerability. The truth was I was willing to look a little confused as long as there was no chance I would show anything that I really had absolutely no interest in showing anyone if you know what I mean.

corpse pose, or savasana (in sanskrit DUH)

Fifteen minutes into the class, it happened. The overwhelming feeling of needing to barf. It’s not the stomach-flu-needing-to-barf feeling. It’s one that has a slight tinge of death in it, like it doesn’t matter if you have anything in your stomach. Your body is saying, get yourself the eff out of here because I have a feeling the aliens are getting ready to nuke this place, but since it doesn’t speak English, it communicates everything through that queasy stomach. I stood there. For a good six minutes. Standing. While everyone was posing. Thinking our teacher would notice that I was in death mode. That he would then save me. The social panic – do I take off a garment? Do I leave the room? But wait – I can’t! They said if you leave the room it makes the nausea worse! AND it means you didn’t trust your body. You didn’t just breathe. You didn’t live in the moment. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.

So I hoped for the best and got back on track after a bit, but after surviving the incident, I couldn’t help but feel like serious bikram practitioners must turn into cat-like humans in that they have about nine lives, and through bikram, transition through at least six of them.

I thought my troubles were over when I drove home. But then I woke up this morning – AGAIN with the bikram headache. Will we never learn? *makes fists, falls to knees and looks up at sky in desperation* It’s that headache where it feels like someone took a slab of concrete and hit you smack dab in the middle of your forehead with it. (How this person hauled the concrete and then performed the act without you knowing is a mystery.) I like to think the headache is a result of the release of toxins into my bloodstream, but that seems a little like quackery/pseudo-science/psychobabble.

No matter – I still sit here, home sick with a bikram hangover.

whole thing, one sitting

At this point, I have faced death, social embarrassment and potential unemployment all in the name of bikram. I also had to have a pint of Ben & Jerry’s DELIVERED to me this afternoon because it’s best to stuff uncomfortable feelings down with food. But I’m armed with knowledge now and am still planning to go back to bikram. Now I know I must eat to prepare for that kind of intense exercise. I must occasionally drink water. I must “take care of myself.” Because the high I get after class, driving from the studio to Subway while gazing at the downtown LA skyline, is so totally worth all of the pain. The moments I have to myself in the car when my mind isn’t yelling at me, and I can low-ride it to tasty thumping beats are priceless. Oddly and perhaps ridiculously enough, bikram has turned into the best gift I could give myself. You know you’re on the right track when you’re not thinking about losing pounds, but about feeling better. WESTERN CULTURE, JUST KNOW THIS:  In that small percentage of time throughout the week that I’m not binging and/or feeling badly about my body, it totes means I’m off cheating on you.

copyright my iPhone, God and people of LA


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