Inspired by my friend Arielle’s near 90 days of straight Bikram Yoga, and with a desperate need to improve my flexibility if I’m going to master some of the more impressive floreios – pretty/acrobatic movements – in Capoeira, I signed up for a month’s trial at a local Bikram Yoga studio (below). I had no experience whatsoever with Yoga beyond playing as Dhalsim in Street Fighter II, so I was a little intimidated by the idea, especially as I had every intention of making the most of my $20 introductory offer and going every day for the first month.
Bikram Yoga is a formulaic class, lasting exactly 90 minutes and consisting of 26 poses performed in sequence. Whilst some people I’ve talked to complain about the lack of variety, as a beginner it was quickly reassuring that I knew what was coming next, and roughly how to do it, allowing me to focus more on the yoga and less on trying to work out how to contort my body to match those of the veterans in the front.
It takes place in a room heated to ~105°F/40°C with a humidity of 40%, which quickly loses its novelty and impact. On cold days I’d try and arrive a little earlier so I could bask in the heat before class began, and 90 minutes was enough to heat the core so much that walking back into the cold didn’t feel like hell frozen over. I lost a whole lot of fluids through sweating every class, but my cardio-vascular system was rarely strained; with only a few of the poses being intense enough to raise my heart-rate a strong focus on controlled breathing and calm.
As desired, my flexibility has somewhat improved, and I’m grateful for that, but Bikram Yoga seems almost cult-ish in the devotion to going daily and the blind belief in other benefits that, frankly, seem to have no scientific basis. The major inhibitor to my relaxation during classes was when an instructor would come up with a particularly unscientific gem, or claim that a pose I was entering would, say, cure diabetes or some other miracle of biology.
Bikram is the only form preventative medicine that has been proven to work.
After 15 days, I slipped and missed one, and since then I probably only completed 5 more, but 20 classes for $20 is a great deal and I’ll be finding more introductory offers, for Bikram Yoga or other Yoga classes and continuing with the practice, as it really is a great form of relaxation and a way to improve my flexibility. Another Capoeirista in NYC has a blog about finding such introductory Yoga offers, and I’ll be working from that as much as I can too.
First though, I need to go find a burger, because weight-loss is one of the unproven ‘benefits’ of Bikram that I have actively experienced, and I’m skinny enough as it is.