Thursday, 26 June 2014


I'm on a bit of a fitness kick these days.  The move from Melbourne to Perth was consuming and emotional and there might have been a few too many Tim-Tams eaten for comfort.  I've always exercised regularly but in the last year or so I've been battling injuries, time, and Tim-Tams.

Anyway...since arriving in Perth, I have been running regularly taking advantage of the cool Western Australian winter.  People tell me that once the long summer arrives, it is too hot to run, even in the mornings.  However, as my injuries are still nagging, I'm only running twice a week.  To fill the gaps, and to complement running, I decided to try Bikram Yoga.

Now a couple of qualifiers.  I've done yoga regularly for two years.  First, I practiced Ashtanga, the cardio-intensive yoga and really enjoyed it.  For the last 6 months or so before leaving Melbourne, I moved to Vinyasa Flow yoga which focused on strength and completely hated it.  Flow's intensity wasn't great for my injuries plus it was stinking hard!

So now Bikram.  Let me describe Bikram: it is hot yoga, 26 poses plus two breathing exercises always performed in exactly the same order over 90 minutes in a hot room heated to 40c with 40% humidity.  Yup, you read that right.  My only intimate knowledge with the practice was through my sister-in-law who tried it once and is still traumatized.   However, there was an elegant Bikram studio close to my house in Perth and they were offering a one-month special so I decided to try.  I was warned upon arrival that I would be miserable uncomfortable for the first 4-5 sessions, would likely feel light-headed, dizzy, and/or nauseated and that I should pace myself carefully.  Wow, where do I sign up!   I've now been practicing for over two months.

This is what Bikram feels like to me.

1.   An utterly non-relaxing form of yoga since it is practiced in intense heat and under intense lighting.  There are no flickering candles nor soft chanting.  The teacher talks non-stop describing every pose in great detail, and not in a gentle, soothing voice.  Throughout the first two sessions, the running soundtrack in my head was "shut up shut up shut up shut up", but apparently it's the Bikram way.

2.  Bikram smells.  Depending on the size of the hot box, there can be 40-50 very sweaty bodies and feet, dong very strenuous exercise.  The smells, can be, upon occasion, overwhelming, especially if a glass or two too many were consumed the night before.

3.  Bikram is hot, like crazy hot.  This morning, for example, I was lying on my mat for the 10 minutes or so that we acclimatise before beginning, and all I could think was "if I was lying on a beach, this would be the time I'd think it was time to jump in the water since I'm overheating".  The practice hadn't even started yet.

4.  Bikram is counter-intuitive.  Every other form of yoga I have ever practiced has counselled "soft knees, soft knees".  Bikram insists on locked knees.  The goal for everyone of the 26 poses is to complete it with locked knees, like concrete-locked.

5.  You have no idea how much the human body can sweat until you do Bikram, seriously NO IDEA.

Given all of the above, you'd think Bikram would be awful, but here's the thing; it's awesome, and  inspiring, and requires such intense focus to keep everything together: mind, balance, form, breath,  that the 90 minutes is over almost before I realize it.    I have never felt more flexible or strong, I am able to bend and move in ways I haven't been able to in years.  My injuries, while not healed, are managed and not bothering me during my runs.  I have lost weight, and the bits around my middle that I've been eying suspiciously are disappearing fast.  That being said, I can't say that I love the whole experience while I'm in the middle of it but, wow, the post-practice endorphin high is amazing and seductive.

Don't judge it till you try it....4 or 5 times.  Namaste


Melissa Miller said...

So, I've been wondering about all these hot yoga places around here. Thanks for the tips. I'll be bringing ice water and maybe a little Vicks for under the nose. ; ))

DL NELSON said...

I won't judge it, but I won't try it. I've a philosophy of not paying to make myself uncomfortable and payment can be more than money.

Melissa Miller said...

I did my first hot yoga session today. The guy next to me with the chiselled chin and arms was sweating so much, it looked like he was standing under a shower. I come out looking like a steamed dumpling. I am willing to bet the chiselled look takes more than one session and fewer frappuccinos.