Seventeen weeks of spinning 3-5 times a weeks should have me in shape for pretty much anything life can throw at me, right?
Not Bikram yoga.
Raised by a yoga teacher, I was mortified that I can’t even grab my slippery feet for the bow pose, a pose I once demonstrated in a book called Yoga for Children. I have the photograph in my mind. Nothing on the ground but my hips, auburn ponytails hanging down, freckled, upturned nose pointed to the sky.
Turns out, from all those spinning classes, I am perfectly in shape for: spinning. My friend Kayla, a physical education teacher, laughed at me kindly, “The Principle of Specificity,” she explained.
Bikram yoga is 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. You do everything twice. The room is 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 Rest of the World Degrees, 313.7 Kelvin) with about 40% humidity. I think it’s the painful heat that makes Bikram such an inaccessible type of exercise. First, it’s yoga, which eliminates a huge portion of the population (mostly men) from doing it at all. Second, it’s expensive, so no poors. Finally, it’s bloody hot. Not desert hot like Havasu or Los Angeles. Mid-west hot. Florida swamp hot. That’s what kept me away from it for years, despite a conveniently located studio. I abhor the heat.
I’m a pasty Scotch-Irish girl built for gloomy skies and frigid winds. I’m at ease in scarves, jeans, and motorcycle boots. It’s the end of summer so my husband and children are brown like toasted loaves of bread while I am a slighter pinker shade of pale.
My first class was Tuesday, two weeks ago today, and my second class was today. I meant to go back for the 6:00 a.m. class Thursday, but I couldn’t move. In fact, that first Bikram class had me out of commission for spinning as well. I would have shaken my fist at the Heavens and grumbled, “Bik-RAM!” but I couldn’t lift my arm.
Poor me, poor me, pour me a margarita.
The heat is repugnant, but the biggest challenge for me is my own frustration. My big, inflexible, fleshy body. It helps that my legs are strong from spinning. I can lock my knees and stand like a motherfucker. My Aries nature makes me angry when I cannot do something physical. As I reach for my foot and miss by a foot, or make contact but feel the slippery grip give way only seconds later, I feel the rage bloom in my chest where the peace is supposed to go. I can’t do this! My inner child fumes.
“If you fall out of a pose, don’t be hard on yourself,” the teacher says soothingly as if reading my mind. More likely reading my frown and body language.
During class, I thought, “I hate this. I don’t think I can continue a workout I hate.” I have a $49 unlimited first month, but will I be able to do this after that? The classes aren’t early enough in the morning to go before work, so can I truly see myself leaving work and coming here to this hell hole and sweating my way through a frustrating NINETY minutes of failure?
What do I tell my students? You have to fail. If you don’t fail, you’re doing it wrong. Angela M. Davis’ words bounce around in the rubber room of my mind: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
The inner child stamps her foot, But I HAAATE it!
Lying on my back in the heated room after 90 minutes of exertion, I can feel my heartbeat in at least seven different places. I did it. And I did it just a little bit better than the first time I did it. Maybe I can do this. Do I want to?
I think there is a worthwhile lesson for me in an exercise I’m not immediately good at. It hurts my ego, but I think my ego could use it.