My friend Jordan has often spoken about the wonderful benefits of Bikram yoga. After doing some research, I wasn’t sure I could handle it; the idea of practicing yoga for 1 1/2 hours in a 105*F heated room sounded pretty terrible. However, Jordan’s passion for Bikram became quite convincing, and I decided to commit to 1 month of classes.
What I like about Bikram is that it’s quite militant. I love walking into the studio knowing exactly what to expect—a sauna like room wherein I’ll execute the same series of 26 poses for a standardized amount of time, twice on each side. The instructor clearly explains how to correctly perform each pose, giving encouragement only when deserved. They’re direct, to the point and give just the right amount of instruction (in my humble opinion, Bikram yoga is the perfect companion for any zen seeking control freak).
I’ve practiced yoga for about 10 years (obviously I enjoy it). Sometimes though, I’ll take classes that feel a little too “granola:” I begin to wonder if the instructor is truly that spiritually and mentally free or if they’re just faking it. Sometimes, I’ll find myself suddenly jealous. As I’m in downward facing dog — saluting the sun — I think, “Well I’m doing my yoga! Why am I not feeling relaxed?!” I can get frustrated when I’m surrounded by yogis who breathe and can actually let go wherein I can’t seem to follow suit. This triggers anxiety and the whole point of coming to yoga seems to be unattainable.
The thing about Bikram is, there’s no need for this sort of panic. It’s balanced in a way that is realistic. The teachers promote awareness, demanding that you don’t close your eyes to find that inner sense of balance, but to search for it with your eyes wide open. The poses demand an intense kind of focus, one that requires will power and discipline. It’s within this focused state, while kneeling on one leg, trying to balance on the ball of one foot, that I finally find the sense of freedom that those granola yogis promised.
The difference is, I’m able to find a sense of peace in a place of struggle. A moment where I could potentially fail—and often times I literally do by falling over.
When leaving class, dripping sweat, I’m balanced, in a way that makes me feel like I can handle the ups and downs, thee imperfection of daily living. When something goes wrong, it no longer feels like a catastrophe. It’s just another challenge, another balancing act. Yes, I’ve fallen, but there’s always a second chance.
As one of my Bikram teachers says before taking on a tricky pose for a second time, “You’re lucky… you get to do it again.” This is a mantra I will carry with me for a long time.
PS For more information on Bikram, check out these helpful sources. I highly recommend doing your research as there are some risk: