Hot Hot Heat

Posted by on Aug 14, 2012 in Breath and Body | Comments Off on Hot Hot Heat

Hot Hot Heat

I did it.  I took my first Bikram yoga class.

I had been meaning to try it for some time as students had asked me what I thought about it, and while I’ve taken hot yoga classes before, I’d never done the Bikram style.  Last night at the playground I was talking with a dad who had just returned from taking his Bikram teacher training and it was that conversation that tipped the scales and led me down the street and around the corner for my first go.

The studio was hot.  I got changed into yoga shorts and a light tank, and carried my water, hot yoga towel and mat into the practice space.  It made the studio feel chilled by contrast.  It’s a difficult kind of heat to describe though heavy, oppressive, and punishing seem like reasonable approximations (edit: I looked it up, it was 41 C).  I laid out my mat and began sweating while I awaited the room to fill up, all the while being forced to stare at myself in the wall of mirrors in front of me.  (Just how many forms of torture are involved in this practice?!)  The teacher walked in, closed the doors, seemed to somehow turn up the heat, and stood upon a little raised platform at the front of the room.  From her perch, she began talking.  And she talked incessantly for 1.5 hours.  The word push must have been used at least 25 times, each time making my yoga teacher ears prickle.

The actual postural series begins with 2 rounds of 10 breaths wherein you fold your hands beneath your chin and inhale to turn your neck up to the sky drawing your elbows together.  Exhales bring you back, face to face with yourself.  I started to get itchy in my skin during the first 10.  My neck did not feel good.  This movement did not feel good.  Being told to push my throat further forward didn’t either.  After pranayama, we began moving through standing postures.  Each little mini-series of about 3 or 4 poses is then repeated again before taking a few breaths and moving into the next mini-series.

I found it interesting that at no point in the entire practice did I find the actual asana pose to be challenging (okay, their salabasana was a bit killer, my legs pathetically hovering together mere inches above the ground), yet I was challenged to even exist, to breathe, to simply stay on my mat in this torture chamber of smelly bodies.  I had decided before I even began the practice that I would hold back any judgments until I got home and was able to sense the ways in which the practice made me feel afterwards.  Besides sweating and feeling at times dizzy and/or lightheaded, I never got to a place where I didn’t think I could do what was coming next.  But I was happy when it was over.  A strange ending, we were told by the teacher that this was our last moment in savasana, enjoy it if you want, leave anytime.  Namaste!!!  And then people just got up all around me, slipping and sliding out of the room while I tried my best to center.

I left the room, quickly got changed (a short walk around the corner to my home where a shower awaited me!), and left.  I felt headachy and weak.  Rather than feeling recharged as I had heard I might, I felt depleted with a capital D.  A bit sick.  It was garbage day today, and the stinky open bins made my stomach churn and I found myself having to breathe through my mouth to avoid being sick.  Maybe this is just detox, I thought to myself, hoping that everything would subside and my sausage fingers would soon return to human proportions.  I sat on the porch, red-faced and exhausted, wondering how I was going to pull together and finish my day.  My feet were dragging, my energy was on the floor.  I can’t remember the last time when a yoga class, any kind of yoga class, has made me feel anything but better afterwards.  A vigorous, sweaty Ashtanga class leaves me nearly euphoric, but this?  Not so much.

It’s probably fair of me to admit that I’m not a fan of really hot temperatures at the best of times.  I am usually the one that ends up having to sit in the shade on hot days.  But I like my yoga warm.  Sometimes even really warm.  The perfect temperature for me is toasty enough that muscles open up and sing, but not so hot that the entire focus of the class is spent resisting the body’s fight or flight response.  Think yoga in hot climates… in a palapa, shaded by thatched roofs.  That’s for me.

Bikram has a following of fierce defenders.  It does provide something transformational for some people, or so I’ve read.  It might be you.  Or it may not be.  I’m happy to have tried something new, to have dipped my toe in the lava and have survived with yet another piece of awareness about what I need and what I don’t.


All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.