Have you ever tried Bikram yoga? It’s a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises done in 40 degree celsius heat for 90 minutes. Sounds kind of like hell, no?
It totally feels like hell when you enter that carpeted, pungent, humid room for the first time. The teacher gently says you’re not allowed to leave the room. You panic look at your water bottle wondering if you have enough. You can’t decide if you need a wee. You hope you don’t fart. All the while breathing in and out through your nose only. No talking. Lights on.
When you finish the class and realise that you didn’t pass out or fart or die, you feel actually amazing. Like all those endorphins in your body are having a party. You feel as zen as this fox. Zen is the word I’ve used from the beginning and I’m sticking with it. Personally I felt kind of impressed with myself that I’d done the whole thing, good from stretching my muscles and I left wondering when I could go back and do it again. After about three classes I realised it was something I wanted in my life regularly.
I’ve never felt like a yogi. Partly because I felt I wasn’t flexible enough. Spiritual enough. Relaxed enough. I’m not a fan of ‘Oms’. I feel silly and don’t get any kind of release from it. I did a yoga class in Goa where the teacher told us we were bananas. Be a banana. And all I could think was…I’m not a fucking banana and what am I doing with my life.
Bikram is kind of perfect for me. The postures in each class are exactly the same every time. What changes is how I feel. Most of the time I have a good class, sometimes a great-I’m-on-top-of-the-world class. There are times when I think the teacher is trying to personally torture me. Regardless of how I feel in the class, I pretty much always leave feeling energised and good. And sweaty. Always sweaty. It’s so hot in the room that you have to focus on your breathing, which in turn calms your mind and body and pushes away any thoughts of ‘get me out of this hell hole’. In fact, on a good day I don’t think about anything. The teachers often say it’s ‘moving meditation’ and they are so so right.
I’ve been going for over a year now – anything from once to four times a week. I’m slowly making progress in the postures. I’ve gone from being not at all flexible to a bit flexible. I can work with that! Plus, I can finally touch my toes without too much effort. Huzzah! The physical effects of regular practice are pretty cool. My posture has improved. My skin has improved (all that pore-opening sweating is working wonders). My body is getting more toned. But do you want to know the best thing I’ve noticed about it? My patience for people and life has increased enormously. I have this sense of calm about my life and the fact that I’m not quite sure what I want to be doing that I used to find totally overwhelming. I’m coping with stress at work much better. I think I communicate better with people. I’m kinder to myself and others. I appreciate this body of mine a hell of a lot more than I ever have. I feel like I could go on and on about how good finding this yoga has been for me. And maybe in a parallel life I’d be swimming or running or tennis-ing – you have to find what you like doing, look after your body and keep it active.
The other thing about yoga is that you have to practice kind of regularly for a long time to really see benefits. You can’t just go to one class and be disappointed that you can’t fold your body perfectly in half. Or that you don’t feel less stressed. Or if whatever you’re trying to achieve doesn’t happen instantaneously. It takes time. But it’s so worth it. The great thing too is that there are so many different types of yoga that you can try a few to see what you like. If being a banana works for you, go be a banana.
Namaste, lovely humans.