Overthinking so you don't have to.
Updated July 17, 2011: This. Post. Is. Way. Old. And I let the comments run for much longer than my interest in the threads. If you’re curious, I stopped reading the actual comments a while ago, basically skimming the first couple of sentences of each, just enough to confirm whether or not the commenter had any inkling of this post (and the general fact that my life and this blog go beyond just disliking Bikram yoga) and my stance that: It’s just not for me.
So anyway, I’m releasing this ghost to take leave of its limbo, and have locked further commentary on the issue. I don’t know why this is so popular, and frankly, I don’t care to be an expert in an anti-Bikram movement. Feel free to relive the undeservedly controversial magic in the past comments. Like I say on the About page: Don’t get your panties all up in a bunch.
I’m a bit of a physical activity snob. My repertoire of hobbies includes dance (ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop, Pilipino, bhangra, Chinese…), rhythmic gymnastics, taiko, hurdling, and wushu. Being that I was actually pretty good at all of these things, I feel I have the right to wrinkle my nose at fitness fads.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, people like to show off how health-conscious they are. Yoga mats, rolled up and wrapped in the most stylish over-the-shoulder bags possible, are like badges of honor. It’s as if having ever considered purchasing a Lulu Lemon product makes you 15% more aware of the energy housed in your core than the average person signing up for pick-up games of baseball.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think yoga is a great form of exercise. It engages your mind and increases your body awareness. Its slow pace is probably more appropriate for the masses and better for our aging bodies than the pounding of improperly-supported sneakers on asphalt. It is more recreational than it is competitive, which is perfect for the many people who simply want to build a healthy habit.
Bikram yoga, however, I think is the devil. It’s the one where they turn the heat up like crazy and you push your way through numerous postures, all the while negotiating your fellow yogi’s sweaty ass in front of you as you try to stabilize your stance. Some people may as well not be wearing clothes in bikram yoga classes, drenching themselves in so much sweat that all you can think is “Write to Nike. Tell them new microfiber material does not prevent transparency when in contact with sweatwater.”
If you like saunas, if you like working out, if you like working out in saunas, then be my guest, but you’re putting your body in a lot of danger by subjecting yourself to intense workouts in extreme heat. Again, it is not the practice of yoga that I am against. It is the false sense of having “warmed up” that bikram followers use as a crutch that I am against. Your body is meant to build upon its own kinetic and potential energy. We are designed to release whatever chemicals are needed to make our way through aerobic and anaerobic workouts. Introducing heat throughout an entire exercise session is foreign and dangerous.
If it’s not what you’re used to, what makes you think it’s right for you?
Consider this: Pain killers. Pain killers and athletes must be mixed with caution. Take too much Ibuprofen and you may mask the pain more than is advisable. Injuries often occur when pill-popping people “feel fine” (thanks to pain killers) and end up pushing their bodies more than they can physically take. Maybe your knee problem wouldn’t be chronic if you didn’t keep overdoing it while your muscles are numbed.
I apply the same theory with the un-ordinary conditions of heat that are introduced to bikram yoga. Sure, you feel all flexible and bendy as you twist and turn, but once you walk out of that heated room, your muscles go into shock. Even if you cool down, your body is probably not ready to maintain the progress you may have made at yoga, nor is it ready to adjust at such an unnatural rate to your normal, daily environment. You increase your chances at snapping or pulling muscles because this type of conditioning was not meant to be for everyone’s body.
Yoga doesn’t need heat. Bikram simply puts too much of a strain on your system. Yo-yo dieting is not a good idea, and neither is yo-yo climating.
I speak from experience, having gone through a trial of bikram last year. I dug up an old journal entry on my first experience of bikram that you can read below, and I have to say my thoughts haven’t changed since then.
That said, excuse me while I go to my first day of training as a front desk receptionist at a bikram yoga studio. Irony abounds.
Editor’s Note: For the record, I refuse to consider myself “employed” just because I was able to bullshit my way through a front desk application process. I am far overqualified for this position and it is a temporary commitment.
It was like Coachella but wetter.
Mayka tries bikram yoga
Yesterday I joined a pack of post-9-to-5ers in a room filled mat-to-mat with sweltering air and sweaty bodies. With Hawai’i coming up in March I figured I’d work out for “spring break” – my first attempt at doing so – and that the best way to do that was to try a fad thing that everyone claims instantly shaves pounds off your body. And thus we meet again, Funky Door, next door. In considering a trial month of Crunch versus a trial month of bikram, I figured the latter option was the way to go, because with all the oft-denied health risks in bikram yoga, I’d be less likely to continue membership there anyway. I just want to take off some weight, not actually commit to anything.“Celebrate the silence…”
“There is strength in serenity…”Yeah yeah fuck you.So anyway, Mayka doing bikram yoga turned out to be a horrible idea. I was that newcomer in the back who got totally nauseated and couldn’t breathe for crap. I felt so sick. It’s not that I underestimated myself in being able to do any postures, it’s that I COULDN’T BREATHE. And that’s it. If I fall over in bikram, it will not because I’m not flexible or stable enough, it will be because I CAN’T BREATHE. I didn’t fall over last night simply because I took, oh, about four or five mini-breaks. At some point I just gave up on everything involving standing on two feet and joined back in with the lying on our backs stuff. It didn’t smell bad in there. But then again, maybe it did. I couldn’t tell, because I COULDN’T BREATHE.
I kept thinking “Where’s my inhaler? Where’s my inhaler??”
But I don’t have asthma. And I don’t have an inhaler.
Though it definitely felt that way and I definitely wish I did
I just couldn’t breathe.
I bothered to stick it through because I had just bothered to pay $29 for a wham-bam-thank you-ma’am month of the worst idea ever to hit American fitness centers. I’m just going to do as many of these sessions as I can with the ultimate goal being to make it through an entire 90-minute class and be as svelte as my 5’3″ frame can be on the beach. Now that I’ve tried it, I can totally knock it.
So basically, I suck. (That’s hard for dancer, former rhythmic gymnast/hurdler to admit.)
I love breaking a sweat, and I think I did kinda like looking at myself sweaty in the mirror, but then this little bird of a reminder flitted in and peeped “You’re not the only sweaty person here.”
Bikram yoga could potentially be a really great place to pick up on a date. Although it took some adjustment, I can kind of see why people would find all of the room’s heavy breathing somewhat arousing. If you’re trying to coax your honey into orgies in the steam room, you should totally start ‘em off here.
I then had to hustle to NDC [Nguyen Dance Company], and by the time I had reached BART (where I had never found the sudden gush of an inbound BART train so inviting…) I had a really nice rosy flush in my cheeks. Also kind of erotic if you think about it. No wonder hippies and uptight businesspeople love bikram. Then again, it’s not like all the Indians in South Asia are running around with all this pent-up sexual frustration after they meditate.