“Haaaa,” we all exhale, like dragons breathing out fiery breath. Heads tipped back, hands clasped tight together, elbows touch… breathe out every last drop. Inhale.
We move as one. Breathe as one. Eyes fixed straight ahead. It’s quiet, except for the sounds of our inhales and exhales. And the instructor’s soft, predictable directions. Quiet. Deliberate. Meditative.
And hot as hell. And kinda smelly. And is that guy really wearing nothing but tighty-whiteys to a sweaty yoga class?
“Inhale 1, 2, 3… suck your belly in, see your ribcage in the mirror, take in one last sip of air, and exhale… haaaa.”
Shit. It’s hot.
Bikram yoga is hot yoga. That’s the point. The room is heated to 100 degrees fahrenheit (or so they say), and the heat keeps turning on and off, on and off throughout class. Which is 90 minutes long. The sweat drips off your nose even if you just sit on your towel and don’t move. Which is not the point. The point is to move your body in this furnace, through a fiery series of 26 poses all of which have been carefully choreographed to positively affect your organs and systems and bones and muscles, and to thus change your body and the way it works (or so they say).
The room is hot. It smells. People wear far too little and make funny noises. The sweat pours out of every crevice on every body. No drinking is allowed for the first 30 minutes, and after that only very small sips. It’s definitely some kind of torture. And every class is full. Everywhere.
I’ve been doing Bikram yoga on and off for about 15 years. More off than on. Because it really takes a particular mindset to get myself over that hot and spicy threshold. And women can’t do it if pregnant – internal body temperature rises much higher than is healthy for a developing fetus (that should tell you something right there!) – so that was three years of no Bikram. But really I must add at least two years per child onto the no-Bikram period (the mindset thing), which brings it to 11 years off. So then I guess I’ve been sweating it out intermittently for a grand total of four years. Doesn’t sound as impressive.
But anyway – I’m back on. Desperate times like aging, achy joints and a stiff back call for desperate measures. And today I thought I really must be quite desperate.
It was hot. Inside and outside. The room was full of spicy smells and spicy sounds and spicy costumes. The instructor was okay, not great. People seemed unfocused – including me – and the energy was erratic.
The woman on the mat next to me had a lot of hair, held back by a bandana. She was wearing brown yoga pants, a faded black long-sleeve hooded sweatshirt, and SOCKS. She’ll take those and that sweatshirt off soon, I thought. I hoped.
But nope. I couldn’t look to my left for fear I’d get even hotter than I already and uncomfortably was, just by looking at her.
I couldn’t keep my arms and legs kicking and stretching in equal and opposite directions during Standing Bow pose. “If you kick and stretch equally you can stay like this forever,” they say… not me! I couldn’t do two sets of Triangle, and I couldn’t do Toe Stand. It hurt to twist my arms and legs like ropes during Eagle. But I managed to stay in Cobra. And in Full Locust. I kept my back bent the entire duration of Camel. And even Rabbit felt good today.
There’s no judgment in yoga, of anyone else and definitely not of oneself. It’s time to let it all go. To just breathe (through the nose – don’t gulp air or you’re feel sick). To empty the mind. To let the heat and the postures work their magic. And they are magical. My back aches less, just since last week. I encouraged myself to stay focused today. To not push it, but to do what I can. And to not look to my left – her sweatshirt is her business. (I did notice that in a head-to-knee pose the hood of her sweatshirt was all the way over her head and she looked very cozy. And happy). Namaste.
*This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.