In Deep: Too Hot To Handle

A beginner discovers that Bikram Yoga is not as easy as anticipated

“Hot yoga – hah!” I remembered saying. “Stretching in a hot room: How hard can it be?”
That was my attitude as I confidently walked into Bikram’s Yoga College of India’s Cambie St. location, to make my first journey into the unique world of hot yoga.

While I’m far from what you’d call an athlete, I exercise daily. I’m a regular face at the Fitness World Langley’s cardio kickbox classes, I lift weights, I hike, and I play ice hockey twice a week. None of those activities prepared me for the torture I endured in downtown Vancouver that evening.

Bikram yoga is a designed series of 26 postures, which gives the body a total 90-minute workout. Hot yoga takes place in a room that’s heated between 35C and 38C.
Hot yoga’s popularity is growing on the west coast. Bikram’s Yoga College of India has three Vancouver locations, with 20 certified instructors leading 110 classes per week.

Bikram’s website (www.bikramyogavancouver.com) states, “It works the entire body from the inside out, from the micro to macro level, using every system of the body. It stretches and strengthens every single muscle, ligament and joint in the body.” It also states that the series is “challenging, exciting and vigorous.”

Those aforementioned adjectives are all too true, as I found out moments after entering the studio.
The room felt like a sauna, and as I looked around, I saw men and women of different ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds. One common trait they all shared was, they all appeared in fairly good physical condition.

The men wore gym shorts and nothing else; the ladies were dressed in sports bras and spandex shorts. I thought I was in decent shape, but staring at my reflection on a wall-sized mirror while doing unflattering yoga postures can definitely give me, at 220-plus pounds and 36 years old, a complex. But how I appeared, and how people saw me, were the least of my worries.

Each participant is required to have two large towels and a washcloth, and is urged to bring at least two large bottles of water. One of the two towels covers the yoga mat.
Two bottles of water is nary enough. Within seconds of lying down on my mat prior to the start of class, sweat was pouring out of my body. By the time I did my first posture, a simple standing torso bend to the right and left, with arms outstretched and fingers clasped together, I looked like I had jumped into a lake.

Less than 45 minutes later, I was lying in a pool of my own sweat, flat on my back, my hands by my side. I was a beaten man. My lungs felt like they were filled with wet cement. A large snare drum was pounded incessantly in my head, and I could taste the gyozas and sauteed chicken I had devoured just an hour-and-a-half earlier as I stared at the ceiling, fighting for air.
I quivered from head to toe.

It is strongly suggested that beginners try to last until the bitter end, and I was several feet away from the door. I was told by a friend that packing up my yoga mat, towels and water bottles and getting the heck out of dodge would bring “bad energy” into the room.
But I couldn’t stand another second. I made eye contact with the instructor, and as speaking during the class is strongly discouraged, I pointed weakly towards the door, towards precious, beloved oxygen.

“Please lay down, Troy,” she said in what can only be described as a firm, yet gentle, tone.
Finally, with more than a hint of embarrassment, I rose to my feet and trudged out the door. My excuse: “It’s better to walk away, so I can live and try hot yoga another day.”
And I might just do that, if I can stand the heat.

 

Troy Landreville
Langley Advance, British Columbia, Canada

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