Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just did Bikram Yoga for the first time...

I had done hot yoga before on a regular basis.  This was seven or eight years ago when I was deepening my yoga practice, before complications from foot surgeries caused hip & back problems that left me unable to balance.

I've been doing restorative (or "yin") yoga periodically since then, trying to rehab myself.  Restorative yoga, my acupuncturist, and my chiropractors have gotten me straightened out to the point where I'm game to try hot yoga again, and there's a new-ish, competitively-priced, Bikram studio not far from me, so... Bikram it is.  Can't be too different from hot yoga, right?

I. Was. NOT. Ready.

When I checked in at the front desk, the instructor (let's call him Kevin) asked me how many Bikram classes I had taken before.  I told him I had never done Bikram, but I had done hot yoga.  He chuckled and said "Well... get ready" in a tone that sounded ominous to me, under the circumstances.  I went to the locker room to stow my backpack, then went into the studio where class was to be held.

It was hot as hell in there, y'all.  I literally said "Well, gatdam!" out loud, then cringed b/c there was a woman lying on her mat in the room.  I quickly rolled out my mat right next to the door (coolest spot in the room), and went back out into the lobby.

I don't sweat readily, so if I'm sweating I'm either working REALLY hard or it's REALLY hot.  In the 60-or-so seconds that it took me to roll out my mat, put a towel on top, and place my water bottle next to it, little droplets of sweat had formed all over my body.  I sat in the lobby, marshaling all of my mental forces and preparing for the next 90 minutes.  "Should I go in and acclimate myself, or should I stay out here and soak up all of the cool air that I can?"  I did a little of both - sat out for a little longer, then plunged myself into the heat.  Strangely, it was hot and humid, but not that "I can't breathe" type of humidity (after class, I found out that oxygen is pumped into the room along with the heat).  I lay down on my towel and prayed to God to let me live through what was looking like a terrible decision.

For me, the most surprising part of the class was that there is no "flow" to Bikram - only specific poses performed in a specific order.  Kevin, bless his tiny-trunked, bendy heart, did a short spiel for me, since I was the only newbie.  In so many words, he (nicely) told me to keep up or sit on my heels, but don't be a wuss, and don't be a distraction.  I was to stay in the room and stay present unless I felt like I was going to die or pee myself.  I nodded.  Challenge accepted.

By the second of the 26 poses, I was cussing in my head, then telling myself (also in my head) that there was no cussing in yoga.  Then I'd tell both of myselves (head, still) to shut up so I could focus.  I struggled through, determined to stay in the room, even though a couple of times I felt nauseated, and a couple of other times, I felt like I was going to burst out in tears.  When I needed to stop and sit on my heels, I did so as unobtrusively as possible.  I only drank water between poses, I stayed present, I kept breathing, and I didn't die.  When Kevin told us to lie on our mats in "savasana,"  I almost cried tears of joy, but my joy was short-lived:  In every yoga class I've ever taken, savasana (literally "corpse pose") is the final pose:  you lie on your back in relief and meditate for about five minutes until class ends.

In Bikram yoga, apparently savasana just means that you lie down on your back for about 60 seconds and then do about 15 more poses on the floor with savasanas strewn in-between.  "Gawwwwd!  Whyyyyy?!"  Screamed the Head Me that had been cursing 40-ish minutes earlier.  "Just be quiet and just don't cry or puke." came the response from Me Too.  Surprisingly, I didn't do either, and my final savasana was pure moksha.  I made it through the class (obviously) - and Kevin acknowledged that little accomplishment by asking the class to applaud me for staying in the room.  One of my classmates congratulated me personally for the same thing.  "Cursing Me," ever the smart-ass, asked "If all I had to do was stay in the room why didn't I just lie on my mat the whole time?"  "Moksha Me" told Cursing Me not to ruin her high.

I left feeling cleansed and transcendent... and all of my clothing was sopping wet - it was disgusting.  I put a towel on the seat of my car to keep it from getting sweaty, and sat for 5 minutes before driving home.  Not because of the heat or any pain, but because I was feeling so chill I didn't have it in me to drive as defensively as is required by L.A. traffic.  I recovered, and I went home.

Had you asked me yesterday if I would go back, my answer would have been an honest "I don't know."  It was hella difficult, y'all.  And I did it to myself.  On purpose.  Today, however, I can tell that I stretched muscles that desperately needed it, and I'm feeling calmer than I have since I stopped renewing my Xanax prescription.  So, yeah... I'll be back, again, and again, and again until maybe one day I don't feel like I'm going to throw up or cry and the Dueling Head Mes don't fight as often.  'Til the day when I have the energy left at the end of class to cheerfully applaud the newbie by the door who looks like s/he might throw up, cry, or run away, but stays present instead.


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