I went to a Bikram Yoga class this week. This is the famous and controversial school of yoga, called McYoga by some, that has swept the globe. It involves doing yoga in a hot room. In a really hot room.
The room I lay in, waiting for the class, to start was 40 degrees C with 40% humidity. It was somewhat smelly, as the large space was filled with other people who were also lying there sweating. This yoga studio has been running for a while. Three classes a day, seven days a week for five years, in a room that rarely gets an airing? You do the sweat maths.
The idea is that the hotness allows you to stretch more deeply as muscles and tendons are relaxed, and the sweating speeds up the excretion of toxins. Hence the smell. I got really dizzy a couple of times, nearly yo-gagged, and had to lie down on my drenched towel. They say that the fact Bikram Yoga is so hard, the very challenge itself, gives rise to a increase in self discipline and self confidence. I say, Hhhhhmm.
It was very hard. If the instructor hadn’t asked me, to stay in the room if I felt unwell, ‘so I can keep an eye on you,’ I would have hot-footed it right out of there. Through the class I heard, amongst the usual groans and puffs, a series of guttural almost desperate i’mgoingtodie moans coming from a brunette somewhere in the middle of the room. I was thinking, ‘you go girl, I’d be groaning like a troll if I didn’t have this stiff-upper-lip-english-reserve thing going on.’ Afterward I saw her talking to a friend in the changing rooms. Turns out she is deaf and those are just her noises. Sometimes I wish I weren’t so dumb.
Another older women to my front right was wearing leggings with no underpants. You may wonder how I knew she wasn’t wearing underpants. Well I think these may have been her favourite leggings as they were – shall we say – worn in the seat area. During one bending forward pose I could see more than I’ve ever wanted to see, of a middle-aged woman’s rectum.
As well as ‘don’t look at ladies leggings when they are bending over’, my other tip would be not to wear a white top to Bikram Yoga. Mine went completely see through after about one second of intense sweating, so my friend with the leggings wasn’t the only one flashing it about.
But it was so hard, and I was concentrating on just doing at least some of the asanas without keeling over, I didn’t really give a flying shoulder-stand if the toned and tattooed yogaboy behind me could see my nipples. I don’t think he did either.
Everyone was sweating. The water bottles were sweating, the walls were sweating, even the curtains were sweating, but I have never seen a person sweat so much as this uber-bendy woman in the front row. At one point she was standing on one leg, hands in front of her chest. Her elbows were pointing down and sweat was dripping of them. Actually I think the correct description would be ‘running off them.’ I don’t see how she had any water left in her body. She should have just been a empty meat sack in lycra shorts and an Ohm tattoo.
Afterward I did feel strangely accomplished, though it took three hours of water sipping and melon eating to get rid of the pounding headache once I was back in the flat. No doubt my enthusiastic, kindly, though vague-on-the-science, instructor would say it was the toxins I was expelling. She did also say that by breathing deeply I would release more iron into my blood stream. I’m pretty sure that is not how hemoglobin works.
I paid $20 and can come as often I like for 10 days. I feel compelled to go again, despite the headache and the fact that I was a ravenous hosebeast the following day. I had to run out at 10.30am the next day to get a slice of toasted banana bread as my stomach was groaning like a deaf girl doing yoga and disturbing everyone in the office.
One last tip. Cycling to Bickram yoga on a hot summer day in Australia is almost too stupid to consider. Don’t.