04 March 2009

Bikram Says

"Is that the one that made you a bitch?" That was Brad's initial response when I told him I was planning to do Bikram yoga in Chicago. Not only was I going to sign up, I was planning to go 31 days in a row. Which prompted his next response: "yeah, right." So, with that, we made a bet (more than just the hand shaking we often do).

I chose Bikram yoga because I wanted a cheap exercise option in Chicago, other than walking into the wind. We had just spent over two months snow shoeing and skiing in Vermont, and I wanted something challenging to do in Chicago. So, Bikram was my answer. For $29 I could suffer through 31 days of unlimited Bikram yoga classes.

True, last time I signed up for Bikram yoga I was a bitch every time I came home. Not a raving bitch - I didn't have enough energy to be raving. And, I spent most of the class thinking: "fuck you Bikram," "take your happy smiling face and shove it you stupid bitch," and ... well, you get the picture. Not exactly the intended effect. But, in my defense, I cannot stand heat, and humidity makes me melt. Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures done for 90 minutes in a 105 degree 40% humidity room with a bunch of other people dripping sweat. Obviously a challenge for someone who thinks it's getting too hot out any time the temperature rises above 85 degrees.

Bikram yoga is also scripted - only Bikram approved dialogue is allowed. The script is painfully grating at times: I want to vomit each time I hear that I should want to look like a "Japanese ham sandwich" when I am sweating in 105 degrees. Bikram has copyrighted his style of yoga, and aggressively enforces his copyright. It's a well paying franchise for Bikram, who apparently collects Bentleys and Rolls Royces in Beverly Hills. Scripting and franchising what is supposed to be a spiritual practice makes the entire experience seem gimmicky. Which annoyed me more and more with each class last time.

This time around, however, I am surprised with myself. I don't think I told anyone (mentally) to shove anything. And, I think I only cursed Bikram a handful of times during the first few classes. Part of the reason I liked this time better is the instructors. They keep the Bikram-isms to a minimum - in 31 days I've only heard the "ham sandwich" bit once, and I have not once heard "Bikram says." They focus on the form of the postures instead, and each one has a different way of going through the Bikram approved script. It works. It keeps me from wanting to kick the instructors in the head repeatedly, or, to take a more reasonable course of action and just stop going.

Another reason I might even say that I enjoyed it this time is the studio itself. Last time the yoga room was carpeted. I cringed every time any part of my body touched the carpet. I would imagine all the other bodies that dripped sweat all over the carpet before me, and I could feel the slimy germs multiplying and spreading up my limbs the longer I stayed in class. I don't think the carpet was shampooed, or even vacuumed, very often. Here, the floors are a fake wood, and are cleaned before I get to class in the morning. Going every day makes the heat easier to deal with as well.

I do admit that I would have stopped going a week ago, out of boredom, if it had not been for the bet. Today was my last day, and by far the best and easiest class to get through. I think that's because I chanted "this is the last time I have to do this" during every posture today. And, because I win $100.
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