“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
– Muhammad Ali
Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …
I’ll start by admitting there was no bigger yoga skeptic than me. I thought yoga was pretend “exercise” for emotional vegan women only. My body was getting pummelled playing soccer, hockey and softball. But I hated stretching, which is why I suffered. My physiotherapist warned that if I didn’t stretch, I’d only increase my injuries. So, about a year ago, LivingSocial had a deal on for Bikram Yoga and I decided to try it …
I lost my yoga virginity to Danny, so you can bet it was memorable. When I first entered the hot room at Kits I thought I’d walked into the desert and found all these dead bodies lying in the sand. The whole scene was so surreal. Then Danny burst in, talking a mile a minute. I was expecting a quiet, “Kumbaya” lady – I worried I’d accidentally walked into some “clothing-optional” auction house. I was waiting for Danny to say, “Sold! To the hairy guy in the Speedo for $10,000!” I almost burst out laughing but something told me to hold it in … while I thought Danny was hilarious, he also scared the crap out of me. Especially when he walked by, looked at me and said, “All your life you’ve been using sports as your exercise. This is wrong. Yoga should be your exercise and you should do sports for fun.” All I could think was, “How the hell did he know that?”
Turned out Bikram Yoga was just what I needed for my tight, inflexible body. During that first class I was a bull in a china shop while everyone around me was beautiful, masterful. I felt completely out of my element (I still do). But afterward … I felt incredible. It was also a lot of fun. And there were actually guys in the class! Very cool.
What finally got you “hooked” on Bikram Yoga?
After a week straight I decided to keep going – one, because my body needed it and, two, because I accepted a bet to see if a commitment-phobe like me could last longer than a week at something. Plus, I looked forward to my daily “yoga life lesson” – that light-bulb moment when a teacher says something that not only applies to yoga but to life and you finally get it. So I did Bikram Yoga for 182 consecutive days, won the bet and then took off to Australia for a couple of weeks!
Now, I fluctuate between five to seven days a week but try not to do less than five … except for the past two months. I’ve been working on a screenplay and struggling to finish it, so the last couple of months have been like Trainspotting (with writing replacing drug use): sleep deprivation, “babies” (i.e., ideas) crawling on the ceiling and toilet diving (I dropped my favorite pen!). As a result my practice has been very sporadic. But I’m slowly getting back on track … with both my script and my yoga.
Got a fave posture? One you could live without?
Camel is my favourite pose. It’s like being suspended in “bullet time,” like in the Matrix. And one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life is a guy in full Camel. My favourite pose to watch (besides Camel) is Standing Bow. Some people, like Rea, Michelle and Kirsten, blow me away with that posture. They should make a statue of Standing Bow and put it in the Louvre next to the Nike of Samothrace.
I loathe Pranayama Breathing; it kills my shoulders and I feel like I’m drowning and I’m going to pass out. I wish we could skip it.
Besides the breathing, what do you find most challenging about Bikram Yoga?
The most challenging thing for me is the flexibility and staying present. I know I’m supposed to get out of my head, but the hot room serves as a wonderful sanctuary for a writer. It’s just too tempting to drift off to my fantasy world in Savasana. As for flexibility, I have NONE. After a year I’m still at least an inch away from touching my toes (but I will do it, don’t worry). The heat is the best part. I love the heat. I’ll take surfing over skiing and baseball over hockey any day (sorry, Canucks). I used to live in Vegas, so I’m well acclimated. Bring on the heat!
What benefits have you gained from practising Bikram Yoga?
I watched this great documentary called Art & Copy, which stated creative people are screwed the moment they wake up and have to venture out into the real world. It’s so true. As a socially inept geek I’d much rather live in my creative world than have to face the real one. Yoga teaches me to get out of my head and stop avoiding social interactions. Like Cedric says, “You have to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”
Physically, yoga has not only healed my sports injuries but also greatly enhanced my game-play. Since starting to practice Bikram Yoga I’ve become Forrest Gump on the soccer field – I could run forever. If I fall, I bounce right back up. You honestly do become bulletproof. I’ve also started doing Parkour and I can’t believe how high I can jump. We jump over cars, climb walls and monkey bars and I swear I’m Spider-man. I’ve always wanted superpowers, so maybe Bikram Yoga is the way to go …
What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned in the hot room?
Yoga is like baseball. People complain about how boring and useless baseball is, but those people simply don’t get it. And you can try to explain it to them, but it’s no use. They have to figure it out for themselves. But we baseball lovers understand. We know all about the magic that unfolds on that diamond. It’s exactly the same with yoga. Those who condemn yoga don’t really get it. But you can’t explain it to them. Everyone’s journey is different and they have to experience it for themselves. But those who do get it know just how powerful and special yoga truly is.
After over a year of practising, how do you get through the tough classes?
It’s all about putting things in perspective. Joseph Merrick, Jackie Robinson, Malalai Joya – these people have struggled. Compared with what they’ve dealt with, Bikram Yoga is a walk in the park. Still, when my hamstrings turn up the music at their pity party, I sometimes call for backup. I have an endless bag of fun and helpful tricks, but my top five fallbacks are:
1. I divide the class into three teams: the Front, Middle and Back-Row team. Depending on where I am in the room, that’s my team. If an opposing team member avoids a posture or leaves the room, that’s a point for us. To win, my team must do all the poses and stay in the room.
2. Gabe made this great reference in class one time. He said, “Remember when you were a kid playing baseball and when you got hit by the ball, your coach would say, ‘Just walk it off, walk it off.’ Do the same with yoga. Whenever you feel it’s too painful, just walk it off. It’ll pass.” As an avid baseball player (who often gets hit by the ball), I can totally relate to this. So whenever I’m struggling I just remember to “walk it off, walk it off.” And I get through it.
3. I pretend I’m in training to become an elite ninja assassin and, suddenly, all the other students transform into possessed evil mercenaries hell-bent on killing me. My only option is to take them all on – kind of like that scene in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 when the bride takes on the Crazy 88.
4. I think of the Chilean miners: 33 men stuck underground for 69 days in 100-degree heat, 24 hours a day with no reprieve. They certainly didn’t have the option to “leave the room.” So I never leave the room, either. I figure I can suck it up for a measly 90 minutes.
5. When all else fails I picture the teacher naked. It takes away some of their intimidation powers and it’ll give you a smiling happy face – guaranteed.