February 8, 2012

Bikram 10-day Challenge: Day 3

Today's class was much more difficult than yesterday's.

First, despite the fact that I finished lunch almost 4 hours before class, the residual food and digestion did not treat me well (and I'd even specifically requested that my business meeting serve mediterranean food, hoping that veggie would be easier). I found I was much more likely to become nauseous in today's 4:30 - 6 PM class than I had in the 2 previous AM classes I'd attended with an empty belly.

Second, this class was crowded, so there was much more heat and humidity than the last one. Also, I arrived close to starting time, so I found a place in the corner, far from the cooling door of welcome breeze that is opened a few times to allow fresh air to bathe the practice. Talk about incentive to arrive earlier!

I did a very ugly bargaining about quitting/leaving with myself a few times.

I would have done so in the first class, but then, Cynthia Wehr, the owner, had me in her sights. She made it clear that she really wanted me to stay in the room and I didn't want to let her down, plus for no good reason I could identify, I inherently trusted that she wouldn't try to keep me there if I really couldn't handle it. After the class, on my way out, she confirmed that she was very happy I'd been able to stay in the room.

I've never had a yoga instructor who was so personally attuned to my struggle. I've also never struggled so much in a class. But that was then, Class 1.

This afternoon, class 3, she was not the instructor (she did her own practice), and I was not the new student targeted for special attention. So I struggled even more and the quitter/protector in me tried to convince the more committed one that I should leave a few times ("It's so hot... this can't be good for you." "40 More minutes? How can you possibly do that? Do you want to?" etc.).

Success. I stuck it out. 3 down. 7 to go.

And, thanks to the re-introduction to the practice at this local studio, I'm even more fascinated by the Bikram practice than ever before. In particular, I'm finding the lessons I learned in my other Yogic studies to be so much more powerful in the Bikram setting than they were in the normal (non-heated) yoga room.

The first time I did Bikram, I was *just* an ex-athlete. It was an awesomely demanding athletic endeavor. It drew me into yoga. I followed through and explored.

And now, after that exploration, I've got 8+ years of regular study of Ashtanga, Iyengar, Power-yoga, Vinyasa, restorative, yoga-shakti, blended-personal-whatever under my belt. I can reach deep and use tools I've built to work through the difficult stuff. And, I'm realizing, it's a good thing I can, because the original Bikram studio I attended was much less militant than Mountain View's.

I have no idea if I could have been a Bikram follower in the Mountain View studio without my previous studies. Of course, I see others in the classes that are clearly just meeting yoga for the first time, and they are inspired and committed, so perhaps I am unreasonable.

But, this time around, what I'm finding is, the heat is a ridiculous equalizer. My original introduction to Bikram was nowhere near as hot as this studio. It was perfect for me then (typically maxing out at 100F), but it didn't require anything close to what this studio requires (often maxing out at 108F). This studio puts me into survival mode and I drop all extraneous thoughts other than getting through the class and the occasionally self-aware thought about how I am doing, how my body frame looks in the mirror (and how to modify it), how I could probably push the current pose further, etc. There is just no space for thoughts about anything outside of my physical body.

If I'm honest, I have to admit that I made many more comparisons of myself against other students in a non-heated yoga room when I was developing a more "traditional" practice. I often felt pride in my flexibility, my strength, my ability to keep up with those doing teacher-trainings even though I wasn't.

But here... sheesh, I'm just happy I manage to stop myself from running out of the room screaming for cool air. Also, I find that I close my eyes in relaxing poses and when they remind us that Bikram is 90 minutes of eye-open meditation, I feel lazy. Because, damn, it feels so good to close your eyes and try to escape in the Shavasana before you have to start moving again... but no, this studio's Bikram is truly about forcing you to be present in a *very* *uncomofortable* reality.

For the first time ever in my yoga practice, I often catch myself *just* breathing with a calm mind (usually right before I freak out about how difficult the class is).

I feel like I'm learning more about myself, my honesty with myself about how uncomfortable I actually am in any given moment, and what I'm capable of than I've learned in a very long time.

Also, I'm just so grateful such a challenging practice opened so close to my home. In the locker room today, I chatted with a runner who had done her first Bikram class -- she asked me for confirmation, "I mean, this is harder than a half marathon, right?" I hadn't thought about it on those terms, but when challenged, I had to agree. If you don't put a pace goal on a half, and you just have to finish -- oh, hell yes, a Mountain View Bikram 90 minute yoga session is much harder (**full and fair disclosure, at your edge race pace, I think a half is probably slightly harder because you can slack between poses in the class, but that's not what this woman wanted to discuss**)

In short, I don't know where this will lead, but I fully expect to finish my 10-day self-challenge of Bikram and, given the benefits I've already experienced, I suspect I will be developing a long-term relationship with Bikram Yoga Mountain View.

(Today's pose summary: skipped 2nd triangle, 1st tree, 1st 1/2 lotus, 1st camel -- 48/52 completed. Touched my forehead to the ground in separate leg stretching and sat all the way down in fixed firm.)

Here's a video of how hardcore the owner is (a year ago, 3 years after she won the world yoga championship) to help you understand where some of my awe for this studio comes from:


Arvay said...

Wow. I bet girlfriend has no trouble whatsoever taking off her shoes while standing up, without hopping all over her house while doing so in order to avoid falling down. Me, I'm still working on that.

bt said...

Arvay: Right?