Today, for the tenth day in a row, I went to a bikram yoga class: you know, the 90-minute, 26-posture routine that you do in a room heated to 105 degrees. A room that the practice’s founder (Mr. Bikram himself) refers to as his “torture chamber” and that my father refers to as the thing he would rather hang by his toes than enter into voluntarily.
(Me: “I just feel so euphoric afterwards!” My father: “The word, I believe, is delirious.”)
I have hesitated to write about this because, well, normally–stray mention of an O Magazine article I read while pounding on the stairmaster aside–I don’t write about my exercise habits. But also, normally, I hate yoga. And, by extension, the people who preach its’ benefits.
Don’t get me wrong: some of my best friends are dedicated yogis. But, in my (limited) experience, the practice requires twin virtues that I gravely lack: patience and flexibility. (When I tell you that I was afraid to do a summersault as a child, it is not only neuroses of which I speak.)
And yet here I am, smiling all the way down Central Avenue on my way to yoga morning after grueling morning, wondering: if I can do this for my body, why wouldn’t I?
Well, I can think of a couple of reasons. Namely, time and money and the need to prioritize other things like work, writing, and having a dog. You know, life.
But it’s summer, and I’m therefore giving myself permission to temporarily suspend concern for such petty things while I focus on the supremely significant task of bending my spine more backwards.
(You see? I don’t even try to mock and it happens. Years of cynicism do not so easily diminish.)
Really, though, I have to tell you that I feel amazing. And, if you’ll indulge a small amount of benefit-preaching for a moment, I’ll share (part of) why.
You see, besides the perpetual battle against impatience and hamstrings, another thing that has repelled me from yoga is judgment. I’m sorry, but no matter what those hard-bodied blondes in capri leggings recite about Buddha and breathing, usually, I feel very judged. I stare at my soft, straining body in the mirror, and I see those hard, bending bodies that surround me, and I feel the opposite of relaxed.
In Bikram classes, the temptation exists. After all, clothing is minimal. Those fierce yogi forms are there, and they’re even barer than usual.
But for whatever reason–perhaps because beginners practice alongside instructors, and everyone, everyone sometimes gets dizzy and needs to sit down–that judgment seems to go away.
Also, there’s that elderly man who’s in class every morning at 9 am and who all the instructors know by name and who is just standing there, breathing, and then laying there, breathing. Attempting a posture every now and then when the urge or comfort strikes. And that helps. I won’t lie: that helps.
Most importantly, doing the practice daily has taught me to accept: to accept how far my back will bend or my balance will hold. To accept that, today my knees won’t let me keep this posture, but yesterday they did and probably tomorrow they will again. To accept that, despite over a week of daily practice, I still fall out in the first set of standing bow and, still, my belly is not as flat as that hot girl’s in the back left corner.
It isn’t easy to extend this acceptance outside the yoga room. But one can’t help but try: to accept that, even though it’s no longer cute or novel that my boyfriend lives sixty-three miles away, he still does. And that’s okay. To accept that I’m not getting as much writing or reading done as I imagined, because I never do. And that’s okay, too. To accept that not everyone will ever respond to my work, and that some of those who don’t might leave exceedingly nasty comments on silly, light-hearted blogs of mine on the Huffington Post. And that, also, will have to be okay.
(For the record, I scanned them–these aforementioned nasty comments–and immediately decided not to read any closer. I may need to accept that these people hate me, but I don’t think I need to pay them much mind.)
Are you feeling nauseous yet? I’m starting to, so let’s stop. But thanks for indulging me. You may, or may not, accept my recommendations.