Sunday, June 26, 2011
Observing and taking Yoga classes are part of my yoga teacher training. I've heard about Bikram's Yoga for more than a few years now. Until this point, I was never curious enough to take it. Maybe the 105° temperature was too much of a deterrent. I read an article about Chodury Bikram many years ago, and from what I recall nothing about him moved me. What I do recall is that he studied hatha yoga with my guru Paramahansa Yogananda's youngest brother Bishnu and that he owned several Rolls Royces. Also his yoga studios in America required students who wanted to become teachers to pay $5000 to become certified in his methods and if yoga studios wanted to teach his methods and bare his name and style of yoga, it had to become a franchise. Names don't impress me nor do fancy cars, but the effects of yoga certainly have impressed me for years. I am sure that as a teacher I will have students who will ask me about Bikram's and many other types of yoga. Since one can only speak from experience I decided to take the plunge. I started in sivasana before the class began so that I could acclimate myself to the heat of the room. Class began in Tadasana. There I stood in my tall mountain sweating as if I had been transported to Mysore in the midst of summer. We began breathing in a way that was not familiar to me. Hands clasped under the chin palms facing down. The elbows started out above the shoulders pointed towards the left and right respectively. As you inhaled you drew your forearms upward lifting your head backward while making and audible sound with the breath as your elbow pointed toward the ceiling. As you exhaled you brought your head back down and drew the forearms together while keeping them away from the chest, with the elbows pointing toward the floor while making an audible expiration. By the time we finished about 20 rounds of this breathing my body was dripping sweat. Yes, there is a reason why they tell you to bring a towel for your mat. You actually need one towel for your body and another one for the mat. My 17 ounces of room temperature water was not sufficient, I am sure I sweated out three times as much water before the class ended. I don't want to sound whinny but the class was killer. Don't get me wrong, I like sweat inducing yoga. I actually love sweating (in yoga) and prefer the Ashtanga method in my own personal practice however, I'd have to agree with a fellow newbie that left the class about half way through "that was brutal!" he exclaimed as he rolled up his mat and existed the building.
I had to exist the class twice, the first time due to nausea and the final time due to a headache. I remained outside for the last 10 or so minutes breathing and resting. I have a fairly strong daily practice but the holding of the postures in that heat was killer. I did notice that I was able to do forward folds deeper and my head almost touched my knee. I hadn't been that close to kissing my knee in a long time. I saw some students in postures doing some amazing things, but I am reminded of what one of my teachers tells us all the time: "stay in the room. If your mind is elsewhere, you're not practicing yoga, you're getting a good workout. Yoga is here!" (as he points one finger toward his head.) I could not be in the room. It was too overwhelming for me. The postures were choppy, we held most of them for a long time and the heat just wore me out. I'd been in high heat before though, in classes with multiple teachers on a regular basis so I think that this style and the temperature didn't agree with me. After the class I said to myself that I'd go back and try it one more time since I bought a week pass. But the truth of the matter is that I needed to listen to my body. It was screaming "Oh no you don't". The headache lasted for half of the next day. I kept drinking water in hopes that it would subside. Eventually I recuperated and shortly after noon the next day I was back to normal. Obviously there are lots of people that love Bikram's yoga. That's the only style they've practiced and it agrees with them. I however am not one of them. I'd tell my students to try out different styles and see what they like. Would I encourage them to try Bikram's? Yes, with a caveat! Here's my experience, yours may be different, go see for yourself, what works.
This is yoga on the mat!