"Keep your eyes on the mirror, Lauren. Eyes on the mirror. "
Maybe a directive like this would be easy to obey if I weren't so distracted by the man positioned diagonally from me. His shorts literally drip with sweat that has formed a small-scale Genesis flood beneath his feet. My own sweat has thrown a foggy glaze over my contacts.
Or, if my body weren't so perplexed as to my whereabouts: It's 105 degrees, but it's November. Ten minutes into the class and I have already been reprimanded twice for drinking water at undesignated times. And then there's the inescapable smell hanging over my head, calling to mind a chicken parmigiana combined with a wet sponge.
This is Bikram Yoga
, in all its hot, 26-posture glory.Click here to read about Lauren's first experience with Hot Yoga.
Hot Yoga is a series of poses and breathing exercises done in a heated room -- usually at a temperature of 110 degrees. With this torture-chamber approach to the practice, founder Bikram Choudhury has built a multimillion dollar empire on the sweat of legions of his followers (he's known to don only a tiny Speedo and head-set during his classes -- oh, and a Rolex).
A vigorous 90-minute yoga session at this temperature promotes profuse sweating (hence the smell) which allegedly rids the body of toxins. It also makes the body very warm and therefore more flexible. Bikram is the fastest growing style of yoga, but it's been controversial -- it's often referred to as "McYoga," garnering criticism for Choudhury's fervent monopoly on the practice (he has copyrighted the "hot" style and threatens to sue anyone who teaches it without permission).
I am no stranger to yoga. After a year of near-obsession with Vinyasa yoga (a form of classical yoga that focuses on flexibility and strength), I was ready to try a new "school." I had been meaning to try Bikram for quite some time, but was slightly dissuaded by warnings from friends, including "I almost barfed" and "I sprinted out of the room as if I were being chased by a madman."
Conventional wisdom advises you to refrain from eating for two to three hours, hydrate before and after the class, dress appropriately for the heat, and, of course, check with your doctor. I went to my first class fully hydrated, lightly clothed and ready for the sweat-box.
Contrary to the soothing music and zen-inspired lighting of most yoga classes, Bikram instructors are known to announce "You come to suffer" at the beginning of classes. My yogavincibility was immediately put to the test fifteen minutes into the practice, as I indignantly cursed myself for shellacking my body that morning with self tanner.
I was no exception. But, after 90 minutes of breathing, intense stretches and 67.7 ounces of Smart Water, I felt like an enlightened marshmallow. During savansa
(the finishing "corpse pose" meant to relax the body), I felt as though my body would fall through the floor and divinely land on the street. What it costs:
I took my class at Bikram Yoga Lower East Side
in New York, which charges a pretty standard $20 a session for new students.How to find one: Click here
for a list of locations.Bottom line:
I may have taken a sip of Bikram's Kool-aid, but reveling (and glistening) in the masochism, I plan to return for some more sweaty self-liberation. Sans self-tanner.
Lauren Bohn is a yoga enthusiast, NYU student and frequent Lemondrop contributor.
Have you tried Bikram? Have any thoughts? Let us know about your experience in the comments!