For the last month I have been practicing Bikram Yoga and I like it. Well actually, I love it.
It’s true. Those who know the “yoga me” and know my dedication to the study, practice and teaching of Satyananda Yoga, may be surprised at the above statement. However, no one is probably more surprised than me.
As I started with the attitude of “This is VERY different yoga.” I have now moved toward “Well, there actually are quite a few similarities.” Instead of focusing on the differences, which are obvious if you know anything about Satyananda Yoga and Bikram Yoga, I decided to make an effort to look deeply and find the commonalities instead. Probably a good approach for this new yoga experience and all of life, actually.
Bikram Yoga is a fixed set of 26 postures performed in a 105 degree heated room and was developed by Bikram Choudhury from Hatha Yoga. And prior to the last month, my only exposure to Bikram were three classes I took outside the US last year.
The first was in Madrid, Spain where I only knew the word “cambio”(“change”) which came in handy between postures, but not for much else. Luckily my very experienced friend was with me and I just followed her lead as well as my own limitations and made it through. Although it was touch and go for a while, I finished the class and as gross at it was, I LOVED THE SWEAT! The “pouring off of you, absolutely soaking wet” sweat. Can’t even remember when I worked so hard that I sweated so profusely and it felt GREAT! The next two class were a month later when I was in Singapore for a skating program and while I wasn’t yet sold on the practice, I loved the intensity and again, the sweat!
It took me almost a year to get to the local Bikram studio www.bikramcle.com which is one of only a handful of Bikram studios in all of Ohio and a short 25 minutes from my house. Pretty lame of me considering the proximity, and even more lame given that I am actually distantly related to the studio owner. What kind of 4th cousin am I?
As of today I have taken class 14 out of the last 30 days and I feel very inspired. Not inspired to abandon digging my “Satyanada hole” (See previous “One Path, One Hole” post) and become a Bikram devotee, but inspired that I can still “dig deep” (hmmm…digging in a different way…maybe it can be the same hole?) and push myself, while still listening closely to my aging body.
That is where I really feel the benefit and the power in the Bikram practice. I feel like an athlete again. Something I haven’t really felt since I ran my last running marathon almost 25 years ago.
So I started the day today at 4:45am with a morning meditation practice and spent time reading from the plethora of Satyananda Yoga books on my shelf and by 10:00am I was a third of the way through the 90 minute Bikram class soaked to the bone. Although I’m still not sure what to make of my new found “love”, I feel some kind of positive shift happening.
Is my body getting more fit and flexible? Probably. Afterall, I read that the average person burns 800-1000 calories per class plus, I’m holding postures longer and experiencing deeper range than ever before.
Am I becoming more mentally strong? Probably. I don’t think there is any other way to get through a Bikram class but to stay focused with present moment awareness-a definitive sign of mental fortitude.
But in addition to the above, and of course the sweat, which I believe I have made abundantly clear that I love, I am also learning new information and “teaching cues” for many of the postures that I have taught for years. This benefits not only my personal practice but improves my yoga “tool box” so my students will benefit as well. Another check in the plus column.
When it comes to study, practice and teaching, I am still very committed to Satyananda Yoga and to “digging one 10 foot hole, instead of ten 1 foot holes” as Swami Niranjanananda would say. I am also well aware of the controversy that surrounds the man Bikram Choudhury and do not believe a safe and optimal Bikram Yoga experience is accessible for everyone. But for me, the Bikram classes have jump started my very stale physical yoga practice in a way that I did not expect and for that, I am very thankful.
So there you have it. I am learning something new about yoga and about myself.
And it’s hot.