Torture Chamber

I’m doing the Bikram Yoga 30 day challenge. I’d never done Bikram yoga before. I’d heard horror stories about it. I don’t like to sweat or be uncomfortable temperature-wise. I don’t like exercise that isn’t active, jumping around, moving. Nobody I knew would sign up for the program with me. But I’m sucker for a good deal, and bikini season is approaching so I thought, “Why not?”

Today marked day 8 of 30. After day 1- correction about 20 minutes into day 1- I convinced myself that I would not be back for day 2. I called my mom that night (many hours after I got home and finally had the energy to pick up the phone) to gripe about how awful it was and how I got so dizzy and felt nauseous, and was just glad I made it through without leaving class (a huge no-no in Bikram). I expected my mommy to sympathize with me, perhaps to even ask what possessed me to try such a torturous thing, and advise me to have a cup of hot cocoa and relax, it was all over now. But instead she said “That’s good for you. You have to go back tomorrow.”

And so I did. And it wasn’t so bad – I only once felt like I was going to die. I got through it and vowed to come back for day 3. One day at a time, I told myself.

After the heat, dealing with the instructors is the most challenging part of class for me. They talk incessantly and refuse to be tuned out.  But I think it’s not their fault, I think they’re supposed to be that way. I’m learning more about the practice from first hand experience and also from some light reading I’ve been doing, and it seems that the taskmaster persona is part of the uniqueness of Bikram yoga. I saw a video of Bikram himself, who is a business GENIUS by the way, patenting yoga the way he has. For his interview on the Today Show, he sported an outfit I can only describe as something the average WWF fan would wear while working out at Gold’s Gym in 1982. But that’s nothing compared to what he wears in class – or rather, it’s a LOT compared to what he wears in class – a black Speedo. And nothing else. *insert shudder here* He paces the stage overseeing his students in what he calls his “torture chamber,” sweating out their entire body weight whilst contorting like they’re in Cirque de Soleil, all the while he’s got florescent lights beaming in their faces, the heat blasting, and his voice in non-stop “PUSH, PUSH, BREATHE, GO BACK, WAY BACK, FALL BACK!” mode. It’s utterly exhausting. Cathartic. Cleansing. Wicked. And wonderful.

It’s the polar opposite of the regular yoga world, where it’s all love and zen. This is straight up military style, and any affection shown is the tough love variety. My teacher on Saturday was the creme de la creme of the drill sergeants. There was a first-timer in class, a wimpy sort who attempted to leave class after the second posture (of 26). The teacher physically stopped her in her tracks, made her sit where she was standing, and forbid her to leave. I sat there drowning in my own sweat sending sympathy vibes to her and praying she would not hurl (that room does not need any additional aromas, believe me). She was fine, as everybody is, even though it legitimately feels like death is imminent at the time you’re going through it. I don’t know if it’s the toxins leaving the body, as they like to tout ,or simple dehydration and heat stroke, but whatever it is, the first day sucks. Then it gets better. And yesterday for me, it got good. I don’t question whether I will make it to day 30. I know I will.

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