Friday, December 15, 2006

Make Your Brain Sweat with Bikram Yoga

I have neglected this blog because I've been on the road on business. In New York City and in between appointments, I ran across the street to a Bikram Yoga studio to try this hot (and I really do mean hot--the room is heated to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit), new type of yoga. I've heard friends rave about it in California but I've always thought it would be wildly uncomfortable and I like the more traditional yoga I already practice. But alas, I needed some stretching and the convenience factor was large. I plunked my $25 down for one and a half hours, a mat and two large towels and entered the sauna-like room. John, our instructor, greeted me enthusiastically. This was to be an advanced class. I explained that I regularly practice yoga and he assured me that most of the poses would be familiar to me. The large dance studio-like room filled to the brim with people who carefully unrolled their purple and orange mats and covered them with two regular length white terry towels, preparing for all that sweat. The room had mirrors from floor to ceiling the length of the room (unlike regular yoga, we are encouraged to look at ourselves) and windows to the 20 degree weather on E. 83rd St. on the short side. According to the brochure, "The Bikram Yoga Series is a challenging, 90-minute workout that improves physical strength, flexibility, and balance while enhancing mental clarity and focus. The practice is a sequence of 26 poses, including two breathing exercises performed in a heated environment."

John welcomed us all and explained that he would not be showing us the poses, as in regular yoga. He would be talking us through them. And wow, did he! A mile a minute, cajoling, encouraging, calling everyone in the room (all fifty of us) by name more than once. Even though the poses were familiar, the effort seemed more intense and more aerobic in part because the movements were faster and the heat facilitated the stretching and bending and holding of our muscles. Distracted by the sweat pouring off every part of my body, I had to really concentrate on each pose to make it happen. And I managed all but the most advanced. Water and a face towel--couldn't have done without them.

So how did I feel at the end of this endurance test? Absolutely great. Refreshed. Energized. Exercised. Ready for more.

In my younger days, I zoomed down rivers in canoes and kayaks, winding my way through complex technical whitewater. I hiked above the treeline and in gorges. Today, I'm trying Bikram Yoga. The same rush of discovery is definitely there. I like it. I'll be finding a Bikram Yoga studio I like in my own neighborhood soon.


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