Irene commented that she was curious about my yoga experience. She’s running a marathon Sunday so wish her luck!
My yoga experience is pretty limited. I have some Baron Baptiste DVDs which I really like but rarely do. My motivation lately has been unbelievably low so I knew I needed to sign up for a class to reaffirm my commitment. I simply cannot waste money this way. I’d done one Bikram Yoga class in the past and wanted to give it another try. The convenience factor of my local studio (8 PM classes & 2 miles from my home) made it a winner, as did the 30 day introduction for $39.
In my first two weeks, I’ve now been to 6 classes. I find it to be incredibly challenging. I’m not sure when or whether I will be able to physically hold all of the poses with the correct posture for the full duration. There are 26 poses in all, done in a set order. From my Internet browsing it seems like the founder of Bikram Yoga is something of a pariah since he set up his yoga franchises to be profitable and enforces copyright and trademark protections on his practice. So, yoga purists may frown on this practice. The business woman in me thinks this is only good sense.
Controversy aside, there are many things I like. First there is the sweating. I literally sweat out 2 to 4 pounds of water each class. My clothes are heavy with sweat when done. My towel is dripping. There is something about this that simply makes me feel good, perhaps the influx of fresh clean water. Second, because the practice is vigorous, my thoughts calm. I’m too busy trying to not pass out to have any other thoughts coursing through my head. This is truly 90 minutes of bliss. Running is great for thinking things through. Bikram is great for getting the thoughts to sink into the subconscious for a bit. Third, it’s physically challenging. My muscles literally shake and tremble during most of the class as I struggle to get into and hold a pose. I’m not sure why I like this but I do. And finally, I feel like it is balancing all of those things about my body that are out of alignment. I had foot surgery a few years ago and that foot and leg is still weaker than the other side. This practice is forcing me to train both equally and not compensate with the other side. My posture is improving. I’m becoming more aware of my core.
Each class is the same series of 26 moves (pretty stick drawings of the series) done in the exact same order. Each move (except #25) is down twice. Generally the first time is held longer than the second (say 60 seconds vs. 30 seconds). Generally, people gather in the yoga room about 3 to 5 minutes before class and layout their mats and towels. Many people simply lay quietly and adjust to the heat. Others do some preliminary stretching. Then the instructor comes in, turns the lights up, adjusts the temperature and we begin. I found a great website with each of the 26 poses described and photographed, complete with sweaty bodies in various stages of ability. You can start here or click them individually.
- Standing Deep Breathing
- Half Moon with Hands to Feet
- Awkward Pose
- Eagle Pose
- Standing Head to Knee Pose (I find this one to be very challenging)
- Standing Bow Pose (My legs are really shaking by this point)
- Balancing Stick Pose
- Standing Separate Leg Stretch (ah a respite)
- Triangle Pose (like many of the other postures this one is common in other yoga styles. I HATE this one. Ouch Ouch Ouch. My hips are just not open enough and my inner thing strength not there yet so I slide across the floor.)
- Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose (another respite)
- Tree Pose
- Toe Stand
- Dead Body Pose (let there be rejoicing at the water break here & the rest!)
- Wind Removing Pose (the class gets easier from this point on since you are on the ground)
- Cobra Pose
- Locust Pose (the body is not meant to do this. Palms on ground, pinkies aligned & touching if possible, elbows under body, arms straight, laying on arms lift legs into the air. I laugh every time I try to do this one)
- Full Locust Pose (flying. I like this one)
- Bow Pose
- Sit Up (this is done between each of the rest of the postures, as is Dead Body Pose)
- Fixed Firm Pose
- Half Tortoise Pose
- Camel Pose
- Rabbit Pose
- Head to Knee with Stretching Pose
- Spine Twisting Pose
- Blowing in Firm Pose (weirdest part of the class; it’s this crazy belly snapping exhale experience)
At the end of class, we go back to Dead Body Pose (Savasana), the lights are dimmed, and we rest and reflect. Some of the teachers take us through a body relaxing exercise going through each body part. Some of the teachers part with Namaste, others quietly exit the room.
The studio is set up with a nice (if tiny) shower area with vast amenities, including plastic bags to pack one’s sweaty clothes in. Shower, dress, head home, and eat protein snack. I find that after class I’m very relaxed and fall asleep easily. I also find that I can go into class with a very bad attitude and come out feeling much better, as if I’d had a good cry and gotten the bad emotion out. I love this part.