My husband and I were out to dinner with several couples over the weekend when one of my friends mentioned that she was planning to go to Bikram yoga the next day. Instantly all the women in our group began buzzing and gushing over the amazing benefits of Bikram and how I just HAD to come along and try it for myself. They each chimed in with an impassioned testimony on the benefits of doing yoga with a bunch of sweaty strangers, in a 105 degree room, with 40-50% relative humidity, for 90 minutes straight. Wait…what??? I don’t even go to the mailbox when it’s 105• outside! They insisted that it’s different than a hot summer’s day and that the detoxing is so worth it! Then they made me promise I would join them.
Before we continue any further, let me give you a bit of background on myself. I am a Zumba-girl. I dance to Pitbull and twerk with middle-aged women several times a week and THAT is my idea of exercise. I love Zumba. I am good at Zumba, and I have very minimal experience with any kind of yoga. At this point in the conversation I knew I needed to quickly shut down any silly notions of me enjoying Bikram. So in typical girl-fashion I politely said that I’d think about it and let them know the next day. Unfortunately, my friends saw right through my escape plan and made me commit to going with them on the spot. At this point my “cult radar” was pinged, and I told them so. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the same radar that goes off in the back of your brain when someone is trying to convince you to join Cross Fit, or buy essential oils, or drink green smoothies, or join pretty much any of those multi-level marketing online Facebook parties. And yet, you are friends with these people, you like them, and they are inviting you to join their posse—so against your better judgment you agree. I was feeling skeptical but adventurous (it was probably the wine talking), and I agreed to try out one class with them. Here is how it all unfolded—or perhaps didn’t unfold enough depending on how you look at it!
Funny Thoughts From My First Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga) Class
1. What have I gotten myself into? I didn’t even drive myself, so now I am stuck here without an escape mobile. A girl should never be somewhere she’s unsure of without an escape mobile! Okay, stay calm. You will get through this. Just register, and pay, and act easy breezy. Try and act yogaish. Blend in. Say namaste to someone. You’ve totally got this.
2. The girl behind the desk is trying to upsell me on a membership. That must be why she won’t let me pay for just this class until after class. Well, maybe she’s right. Maybe I will love this so much that I’ll actually want to buy the $125/month membership?! Gulp. How in the world will I afford a $125/month membership on top of the gym membership I already have? I better not like this.
3. The owner is talking to all the newbies and telling us that our goal for today is to just sit in the room for a full 90 minutes without leaving. Holy crap! How hot IS it in there?! She says I don’t have to do any of the moves if I don’t want to. Okay, maybe I’ll just take a little sweat nap and feel accomplished for tolerating a Floridian-esque setting for a bit. I can do this!
4. The owner just told me to spit out my gum before entering the room because I could choke on it. Noooooo! I was counting on that cool-pepperminty-goodness to get me through the dark times. But I do as I’m told while secretly contemplating sneaking another piece before entering the room. Then I think better of it. Knowing my luck, I would begin to choke on the gum and some sweaty yogi would have to give me the heimlich! Well, at least I have my water bottle if I start to panic.
5. I enter the dark room and am instantly smacked in the face with the heat and humidity. It is oppressive. There are 35 people with their mats stacked like sardines in this tiny and stifling small room. Everyone in the room is in a savasana or “dead body” pose–which simply means they are lying down on their mats. I join them in the dead body pose and darkly chuckle to myself. What a fitting name! Yep…I’m going to die.
6. Class begins and I can’t help but notice that the class has somehow intuitively and automatically grouped themselves in rows based on their level of physical hotness. The least dressed and most attractive yogis are in the front row and it descends by row from there. I’m so grateful to be in the back row with “my people”. All of us beginners share the same fully clothed terrified but determined look. Come on Back-row Bikram! We can do this!
7. The instructor is absolutely gorgeous and looks like she might be all of 18. Maybe it’s all that detoxing! Maybe she is really 72. I should ask her how old she is.
8. We are doing this weird Praying Mantis Breathing technique that sounds like giant angry bugs attacking—but strangely I’m really liking it. Oh wait, it’s called Pranayama Breathing and it is supposed to sound like the ocean. Hmmm. I think Praying Mantis breathing makes more sense.
9. I have sweat in my eyes, running between my breasts, and down my back and all we’ve done so far is pretend to be a Praying Mantis!
10. The dude next to me is down for the count. I wonder if I should ask if he is okay or just assume he is enjoying his dead body pose. We aren’t supposed to talk, so I’ll just assume he’s taking a little “sweat nap”. I secretly feel smug that I’m at least still standing.
11. I think I need a sip of water, but she just told us not to drink until the designated water breaks. Ugh! I wish I had risked choking on my forbidden gum right about now.
12. Okay, I’m getting the hang of this Bikram thing. I haven’t even thought about the heat for at least the last 30 seconds! Now we are doing Eagle Pose which looks nothing like an eagle and everything like a contorted snake. It consists of wrapping your limbs awkwardly all around yourself while simultaneously trying to do a one-legged squat. How in the world?!
13. My friend sees me failing horribly at Eagle Pose and jumps out of her row to come to Back-row Bikram to try and help me out. I wave her back to her spot. People are staring. You simply do not hop out of your row at Bikram! I can sense this. I just do my best to strike a pose and not fall over.
14. I realize that it’s not a lack of technique that’s holding me back from some of these poses—it’s the physical impossibility of these poses! Steel-bending heat notwithstanding, my body is not having any of it!
15. I wonder how many of these people also do Crossfit, essential oils, and drink green smoothies. I bet I’d look like Front-row Bikram if maybe I did more of those things! I need more kale in my life.
16. Dude next to me is still just sitting there. Should I say something? We were told just to sit here for our first class but no one is doing that. Back-row Bikram is representing! Dude you’re making us look bad. Get up!
17. The instructor checks in with Dude. He says he’s fine. He clearly isn’t. He should have drank more water before he came. Because, you know, I’ve been doing this for all of 45 minutes now, so clearly I am a Back-row Bikram expert—ready to dole out advice.
18. We are doing a “wind removing” pose. Oh please dear God, may there be no wind removing happening in this room! I can think of few things worse than being trapped in a 105 degree room, with 40-50% relative humidity, with 35 people’s “wind”! What kind of torture am I paying for?
19. The towel on my mat feels squishy, and I can literally see my sweat footprints on the mat. Ew. Hmmmm, but I can’t help thinking that this would be a great class to take before trying to cram into a tight-fitting dress. Maybe front row people are onto something here.
20. We do a Cobra Pose followed by a Locust Pose. I can barely do either and am wondering what’s up with all the bugs, snakes, and animals? This does feel very primal. I wonder if people enjoy Bikram because the torture of this room reminds you of how blessed you are to live in a house with air-conditioning. I feel sort of like I’m on that show “Alone” on the History Channel where all of those men had to survive extreme starvation, cold, and rain in the Vancouver Island wilderness. Pretty soon I may start constructing a guitar out of my yoga mat and crying hysterically over an existential crisis.
21. Yay! I made it through all of the poses for the full 90 minutes. My limbs feel shaky from exertion, and I feel like a boiled noodle. I can’t decide if this feels good or not. Did I just like that?
22. The instructor is coming around the room with life-giving cold washcloths, that she is calling “towels”. They are enhanced with Eucalyptus oil and look like the most delicious thing I have ever laid eyes on. I’m trying to stay calm and not frantically wave her over to my mat. Lady, give me one of those washcloths before I bum-rush you!!!
23. I place the washcloth over my face and resist the urge to suck on it. Oh bliss! I have never been more grateful for a cold washcloth in all of my life. I only wish this washcloth wasn’t so small. Is it shrinking? It’s already getting hot! This little piece of bliss is sadly not a towel. I need a cold bath sheet.
24. Everyone seems to be enjoying their last savasana, but I am beyond ready to stop feeling dead. I peek around the room with the same discomfort I have at the end of a movie when the credits are rolling. You know, when you’re ready to get up and go but everyone in your row seems to be thoroughly enjoying the black screen and white words. You don’t want to disturb their enjoyment—but come on people, it’s over. Let’s go!
25. I can’t stand it any longer. I stand up and quickly roll up my mat and break free from the oppressive sauna. I gulp in the fresh air and head to the over-exposure of naked bodies that is called the changing room. I decide that I’ve endured enough awkwardness and public sharing of bodily things for one day. I leave the changing room without changing and tell my friends to meet me up front. As I turn to escape the room, a woman from the sexy front row stops me to let me know that I did good for my first time. It’s the same encouraging posture I give first-timers who do horrible in Zumba class! I chuckle and thank her for the compliment and encouragement!
And you know what?! I feel incredibly PROUD of myself for trying something new and doing my best. Every new task takes practice and dedication to learn. I smile and wonder if maybe this Bikram thing might be for me after all!
Special shout-out to my friends who pushed past my defenses and invited me to try something new! I am grateful that they helped me take a risk, get out of my comfort zone, and push myself physically. All new experiences are strange in the beginning and all groups have customs and practices that seem funny to the uninitiated. Just ask me how I know? I do Zumba for goodness’ sake! 😉