I finally tried Bikram Yoga. OMG. I have avoided Bikram for years. I have known several of his devotees that swear by this sequence, but I always was just too weirded out. The carpet? 105 degrees? AN HOUR AND A HALF???
All the controversy around Bikram the man and his ownership of yoga... seemed dramatic and just not my vibe. A good friend of mine recently started the practice and hilariously was calling it “torture yoga” which I thought was adorable and pretty accurate sounding. But she kept going and seemed to really like it. I decided, "Fuck it. Now is the time to try." Also the studio we were going to was not carpeted, and a good friend of mine had just started teaching Vinyasa there. Seemed like a good vibe.
So, she wasn’t being cute when she called it torture yoga. Bikram himself actually refers to the class as a torture chamber. And it is fucking no joke. I have come to the conclusion that for me, this practice is a lot like taking acid. If you go into it with doubts or fear, its gonna be fucking hell. But if you go into it with curiosity and an open mind its totally fine. Bikram didn’t make me hallucinate or anything; that is not what I am saying. But mentally this is a very intense yoga practice, and I think that is where I saw the most benefit. For me, my practice has always been about pushing past fear, going beyond my own self imposed limitations and beliefs. Of all the esoteric practices I have dabbled in, or the different holistic teachings I have studied- yoga has truly shown me the most progress.
Yoga is healing. It makes you face who you are. It makes you sit with yourself. Bikram’s method of 26 postures in 105 degrees in a bright lit room staring at your reflection in the mirror is a really straight forward approach for getting you to deal with your shit. At least that is what it felt like for me. Right away I had to make a choice- I could either become very focused and calm or I could freak right the fuck out. I chose to be calm. This is a major breakthrough for me. Thank you yoga.
If you have never been to a Bikram class I totally recommend it. Twenty-six postures including two very intense breathing exercises. Honestly the Pranayama in the beginning of class was what I found the most challenging and terrifying. I had never seen or heard anything like it. My teacher had an interesting way of speaking to it though. She said the Pranayama was like a release or shedding whatever it is you are carrying with you.It was like a gate you had to pass though to step into your practice. It is an integration. Not my usual cozy Balasana, no. Bikram is a no bullshit kind of practice. No fluff. There is no down dog or Chaturanga. In a way its physically less demanding than my Vinyasa practice, which my body has been really craving. No music, which is nice- -I appreciate the space for silence. And the only consistent word that the teacher repeats is “change”, which is them referring to changing your pose, but after about 45 minutes and the only word you really recognize is “change” its kind of a profound experience.
I also very much appreciate how it has changed my relationship to water. I signed up to do two weeks for $30 (great deal if you live near Capitol Hill, the studio is The Sweatbox Yoga and the
teachers are super nice) so I have now been to 3 classes. If I know I am going to class I start hydrating the night before. I feel that that alone has helped me to feel better. And every time I have left class feeling super accomplished, lighter, and very, very, very calm. A really nice practice to start the day. I am curious where this practice will lead me. It has been refreshing to switch up my practice and the intense focus and concentration required to get through those 90 minutes is just what I needed in my life right now. So namaste Bikram Choudury- your torture chamber is pretty awesome.
About Emily:Emily Denton is a local Vinyasa teacher and founder of the zine and yoga class series “Poseurs”. It is her passion to merge the practice of yoga with the arts, and bring affordable yoga classes to the community. As a true believer in the healing medicine of yoga she is certified to teach many styles including Hot Yoga, Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra and leads the Hatha based Noise Yoga series at the Frye Art Museum. She is committed to holding space for contemplation and meditation in our urban life. Join Emily at The SweatBox for a Free Mother's Day Vinyasa class- Sunday, May 8th 11:30-12:30pm.