a new yogi is born… first thoughts on Bikram Yoga
It has been a little over a month since I announced my (hopefully) temporary departure from trail running. I have had knee issues on and off and wanted to take some time off from the stress of up and down hill trail running. My town has a Bikram (hot) Yoga studio so I decided to give it a go, hoping for a challenging practice. I got what I asked for!
What is it? Bikram Yoga is practiced in a room heated to at least 98 degrees usually a little warmer. The thought is that the heat (close to that of the temp of your body) will help your muscles stretch more effectively. This practice consists of 2 breathing exercises and 26 poses. You begin with a standing balancing series, then move to the floor. The first set of each pose is held for 60 seconds, the second set held for 30 seconds.
So… here are my first thoughts. The hot side of the room is HOT! When I started I practiced near the door, but have since found I like the heat and moved toward the heat source. You sweat, a lot. Everyone sweats a lot. At first I thought this might be a road block for me… that the heat would bother me, in fact I have found the opposite. It feels soothing, and purifying. sweat is one way toxins are removed from the body, and boy do I definitely feel “cleaner” after practicing. I have also moved from the back to the front far right. This offers me mirrors right in front of and next to me. This practice requires such concentration that I feel I need the mirrors close to focus and meditate on my posture and balance. Morning practice is an entirely different beast than night practice. Even with the heat it is difficult in the morning to move as deeply into a pose. This is a workout, and sometimes cardiovascular, as I have to really concentrate on getting my breath back after some poses. Pose 3 above, also called “awkward pose” is extremely challenging for the quads and triceps, as you keep your arms up for 3 minutes the first time through all three parts of awkward, then keep your arms up for 1:30 the second time around.
So… what am I learning/taking away from this new practice? The first thing I noticed is that I feel in greater alignment head to toe. As the daughter of a cranial-sacral therapist and zero-balancer, I feel I can rather adequately judge what in-and-out of alignment feels like. I have horrible posture and feel that this is making me more aware of my standing posture, as well as strengthening the areas that can correct my posture. I feel challenged. The focus, meditation, and determination needed is unlike any other activity I have participated in. I feel connected to my body and breathing. I feel a slow gain of strength all over my body. I feel longer.
All of this has been aided by a great teacher that really attends to my alignment (triangle will be the death of me), and a supportive room of yogis. My teacher told me, in the beginning of your practice you will have many ups and downs, and she was right. Poses that come easy one week are hard the next. Locust post seemed like a distant dream at first, but I am now able to get my “locust tail” a good foot + off the ground! Most of all I feel fresh and renewed. I feel peaceful. I feel like I challenged my body and mind. I know that Bikram Yoga and Bikram (the founder) are controversial, but I pay no mind as for now, this is something I really enjoy and feel is benefiting my body and mind. And ps- I love the heat.