So, I tried my first “hot yoga” class yesterday.
When I tell punters what I do for a gig, I’m often met with the same response. That being, when you tell someone you’re a yoga teacher, they say –
“I’m completely crap at yoga because I’m not flexible. What do you think of Bikram?”
The 2 lines seem to always come together. The concept of flexibility being a prerequisite for practice. And then my opinion on the most extreme version of Yoga out there – that being the Bikram series.
For those a little slow on the uptake, Bikram Yoga is a lineage of yoga. Developed in the 70’s by a controversial indian chap – Bikram Choudhury. Who like so many indian men, deemed it appropriate to perform asana postures in their undies. The room temperature is set at 40* and the same series of 26 asana with pranayma techniques are taught in each class. In my experience, the practice is kind of like anchovies. That is, you either really love anchovies. Or you really hate them.
People either really love Bikram Yoga.
Or they hate it.
For me, after I’d spent 2 days confined in a car with my beloveds – my body was hungry for movement, my mind hungry for space. Warm waters and reef breaks now not so appealing as we were warned – be that repeatedly – about the sharky-ness of the beaches up here. Mick Fanning footage scarred fresh on my retina. Meaning the promise of dawn surfing up here for me is now dead. Leaving me wondering how I can fill so many hours of daylight for 3 weeks….
Enter – hot yoga.
Personally, I could think of nothing worse than doing anything (even sleeping) in a closed, stifling hot room. But I read long ago that you should do something that scares you every day. Preferably something scary that won’t kill you. Meaning surfing was out – and hot yoga was in.
Armed with my mat, my shorts and my best looking bra – I walked up the stairs to the hot class studio. I was met by a short woman with an open, bronzed smile and a clear face. She assured me the extra 2 bucks for towel would be money well spent. I entered the furnace-like room, unrolled my trusty mat and started sweating on the towel before I had a chance to find the nearest exit.
With her gentle manner, she assured me the room wasn’t 40*, only 35*. I told her I was from Victoria. Meaning that anything over 20* was deemed “hot” and required a singlet. She made me stand at the front of the room,
“So you can see yourself better in the mirror.”
I wanted to cry. But I feared dehydrating more, so just swallowed salty fear.
I was told to follow her instruction, not to make anything up and to not leave the room until the end of the practice. We, as a class, breathed deeply together, and then she moved us. We worked strongly and succinctly. I followed every cue she said. It was so different from my own sadhana. I kept urging my flexibility to draw in and my strength to move out. It was hot, so bloody hot. I silently thanked her for the advice regarding the towel. The guy next to me stripped indian style. All eyes seemed focused straight on the front full length mirror. Except mine. I kept looking at the floor as I tried to catch my sweat in my eyelashes. It felt I had pretty much lost half my body weight. With that, half of the crap that had been recently running rampant through my head. She suggested that what I was feeling was present.
Just when I thought I was going to have to take myself off for that suggested lie down in the corner, she asked us to lay on the floor. To lay in savasana. And it was here, she invited us to stay.
Think lateral side openers, standing strength series and Kapalabhati.
There is a story, about a wise one who lived alone on top of a most beautiful, sacred mountain. A mountain that many different pilgrims – from many different shades of life – attempt to climb. The christians, the muslims and the hindus climbed the mountain. The buddhists, the catholics, and the atheists climbed the mountain. The men, the women and the children climbed the mountain. They all used different routes. They all had different ideals. They all brought different stuff.
Yet when the pilgrims finally arrive to the top of the mountain, despite their background or beliefs, they were greeted the same by the same wise one. The one who is the guardian of wisdom and humanity. With an open bronzed smile and a clear face, it’s as if for their whole lives they had been patiently waited for. They are greeted with a Love. It comes from centre of the heart. The wise one says softly,
“Finally, you are here.
Now, see the view.”
It doesn’t matter what lineage of yoga that you practice. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes. It doesn’t matter that you feel jealousy. Or guilt. Or shame. It doesn’t matter if you eat meat or drink beer. If you sometimes don’t like your children or if that last night you told your lover you had a headache. What matters in a yoga practice is that we simply front up and climb. To reach a space where we are safe and a space where we are strong. To create a moment where we can feel our deepest spirit present itself. Where we are reminded that the deepest Love is inherit within us.
And permeates through all of us.
After I finished my 90 minutes of hot yoga yesterday, I thanked the beautiful teacher with the bronzed smile. She told me she was from Balaclava. I told her I was from Brunswick. We shared an open smile and a clear face.
As I walked the beach path home, I couldn’t wait to roll out my mat again. To move some of her words into mine. To explore deeper some of her sequencing into my practice. So that when the next punter asks me what I think of Bikram I can honestly answer. It’s yet another lineage of my own wise and scared practice. Yes, the room is very hot. Yes, your body gets really stinky. And the random guy next to you will possibly strip to his jocks. But as in all lineages, you’re invited to end your practice in savasana. A beautiful and scared space of Love and Humility. Hot yoga – It’s a practice I tried and I liked.
Especially the view at the end.